Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

U of Alabama Policy Draws Criticism from Students, Free Speech Advocates

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Melissa Brown wrote for AL.com (the online presence of several Alabama newspapers) yesterday to bring local attention to FIRE’s letter to the University of Alabama (UA) about its requirement that students obtain a permit several days in advance of distributing flyers and leaflets. As we reported yesterday, UA has not responded to our letter.

Brown noted that UA students share FIRE’s concerns about the school’s grounds use policy. The editorial board of the The Crimson White, UA’s student newspaper, wrote in February to advocate for policy changes after university police officers halted filming of a Harlem Shake video. The Board’s comments then ring true still:

[T]he last thing UA needs to do ... is stand behind its antiquated policy that stifles free speech and racial, organizational and cultural integration on this campus. This policy needs to change, and students need to press for this change.

At the The Volokh Conspiracy earlier today, UCLA Law professor and First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh also commented on the leafleting policy:

This policy means that student groups aren’t allowed to speak on campus — whether by leafleting or in other organized ways, such as by displaying signs and the like — ...

FIRE’s 2012 Annual Report and IRS Form 990 Now Available Online

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
You can now check out FIRE’s 2012 Annual Report and IRS Form 990! The Annual Report chronicles FIRE’s impressive accomplishments, media presence, and cultural impact in what was truly a groundbreaking year for student and faculty rights on American campuses. As a charitable, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, the disclosure of the IRS Form 990 is a mandatory filing that catalogs FIRE expenses which show over 79% of our budget was dedicated to essential program services. Thanks to all our friends and supporters who helped make 2012 a successful year for FIRE and for fundamental rights on campus!

ALA Council passes resolution on whistleblowers; government transparency

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Note: the below is the text passed by ALA Council on Tuesday, July 2. It replaces the resolution on Edward Snowden passed on Monday, July 1.

RESOLUTION ON THE NEED FOR REFORMS FOR THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY TO SUPPORT PRIVACY, OPEN GOVERNMENT, GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY, AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Whereas, Public access to information by and about the government is essential for the healthy functioning of a democratic society and a necessary predicate for an informed and engaged citizenry empowered to hold the government accountable for its actions; and

Whereas, “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic”; and

Whereas, The ALA values access to the documents disclosing the extent of public surveillance and government secrecy as access to these documents  now enables the critical public discourse and debate needed to address the balance between our civil liberties and national security; and

Whereas, These disclosures enable libraries to support such discourse and debate by providing information and resources and for deliberative dialogue and community engagement; and

Whereas, The American Library Association remains concerned about due process for the people who have led us to these revelations; ...

Chris Brown’s Monstery House, Graffiti as Art and Other First Amendment Questions

Monday, July 1st, 2013

article-2344553-1A67D6C1000005DC-833_634x397Last week brought us one of those rare occasions where Perez Hilton reported on the invocation of First Amendment rights, as Chris Brown declared he would fight a Los Angeles citation. Brown was fined $376 for “unpermitted and excessive signage” for graffiti he had painted on the outside of his Hollywood Hills home, after neighbors complained that the pictures terrified their children and might potentially lower their property values.

In his appeal to the city, Brown wrote that “the murals are a reflection of [my] aesthetic taste and a reflection of free speech and expression protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Now, Brown likely has the finest First Amendment lawyers money can buy, but the incident is a great springboard for a number of questions about graffiti, persisting cultural attitudes toward it and protections of it, as well as the extent to which your right to free expression is often limited when it comes to the “public” face of your personal property.

While zoning regulations were originally written in response to “community opposition to billboards and other types of outdoor advertising,” aesthetic zoning, or regulations that seek to maintain a certain community appearance, are pretty common today. (...

FIRE Announces New, Easy Giving Strategy: Just Use Your Credit Card!

Monday, July 1st, 2013

FIRE has teamed up with the folks at HaloCard™ to offer our supporters the opportunity to participate in charitable giving by simply using a credit card. HaloCard is an innovative new credit card platform that allows customers to select a nonprofit of their choice to receive 1% of all purchases made with their card. 

You can visit www.halocardproject.com for all of the details. Some features and benefits of the HaloCard Visa include: 

  • No out-of-pocket costs to make tax-deductible donations
  • Freedom to direct your donation to any nonprofit organization and the ability to change your designated nonprofit at any time (but we hope you designate and keep FIRE as the recipient of your donations!)
  • HaloCard is accepted at any merchant accepting Visa worldwide
  • HaloCard will not be issued or serviced by large banks

FIRE is proud to be among the nonprofits partnering with HaloCard and we hope many of our supporters will take advantage of this great way to be philanthropic. Please contact FIRE’s director of development, Alisha Glennon (alisha@thefire.org or 215-717-3473), to get your HaloCard.

‘Missoulian’ on McCain, FIRE, and the U of Montana Settlement

Monday, July 1st, 2013

The Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) have been facing increasing criticism since Arizona Senator John McCain wrote to the DOJ last week demanding answers regarding its May 9 “blueprint” for university sexual harassment policies. Yesterday, the Missoulian’s Martin Kidston reviewed Senator McCain’s letter, which echoes FIRE’s concerns about the blueprint.

In Kidston’s article, FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn explains a major problem with the blueprint:

 “The most sensitive person offended on any side of the political spectrum can claim sex harassment and it has to be treated as such,” Cohn said. “The DOJ went overboard by divorcing it from the reasonable person standard. They missed the mark, constitutionally speaking, and they missed it by a mile.”

As Torch readers will remember, the ED and DOJ wrote the blueprint after an investigation into the University of Montana’s handling of sexual assault cases. Joe notes that while “the facts described in the DOJ’s letter of finding were alarming,” UMT’s problems in dealing with sexual assault cases could have and should have been addressed without expanding UMT’s definition of sexual harassment:

Cohn believes the issues uncovered at UM didn’t arise from poor definition of sexual ...

Rewards Zone Spotlight: CBLDF Exclusive Variant Covers

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Among the many valuable and unique items available in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Rewards Zone are some rare, limited variant cover editions of single issues. Many of these are available exclusively through CBLDF, so they’re perfect for collectors! This week, we’d like to highlight the newly available CBLDF Liberty Variant for Revival #9, and two Comic Book Legal Defense Fund exclusive variants for Nowhere Men #1!

revival

Back in April, Revival writer Tim Seeley joined CBLDF at C2E2, helping us raise over $16,000 for in support of our First Amendment work! IIlustrated by Mike Norton (Young Avengers, Battlepug), we have a limited number of CBLDF Liberty Variants of Revival #9 available for fans of the acclaimed horror series!

  nowheremen_01_CBLDF_wrap

Also in the Rewards Zone is the Nowhere Men #1 CBLDF Liberty Variant cover, created exclusively for CBLDF by artist Nate Bellegarde. Premiered at Wizard World Portland 2013, this cover is limited to just 500 copies, so don’t miss out on your chance to pick up this super-rare sci-fi comic! Even more rare is the ComicsPro variant, signed by writer Eric Stephenson!

nowhere men comicspro

Other CBLDF variant covers available in the Rewards Zone include Glory #23 and Glory ...

App Store Guidelines Stifle Development of Serious Games

Monday, July 1st, 2013

App StoreRecently, there’s been some confusion over what is and is not allowed in Apple’s App Store according to its guidelines, with the fallout particularly affecting comics apps. French digital comics platform Izneo removed over half of their 4,000 titles after Apple notified them about unspecified objectionable content. comiXology chose not to include Saga #12 in their app based on their interpretation of Apple’s vague content guidelines. But there’s another category of app that often inadvertently runs up against the guidelines: “serious games,” which grapple with actual current events and issues.

Last week, Tracey Lien of Polygon wrote an in-depth analysis of a few games that have been removed from the App Store or could not get approval at all, despite modifications from developers who were trying in good faith to observe the guidelines. The apps include Phone Story, from Molleindustria; In A Permanent Save State, from independent developer Benjamin Poynter; Endgame: Syria, from GameTheNews; and Smuggle Truck, from Owlchemy Labs. The first two deal with the conditions in the Chinese factories where mobile devices are manufactured for Apple and other companies. Endgame: Syria asks players to consider the possible outcomes of choices made during that country’s ...

University of Alabama Tells Pro-Choice Group to Get Permit for Pamphlets or Face Arrest

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Here’s today’s press release:

TUSCALOOSA, Ala., July 1, 2013—University of Alabama police have ordered a pro-choice student group to cease distributing informational flyers on campus in response to another group’s pro-life event, and threatened members with arrest for failing to comply with its orders. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has intervened at UA following this blatant and chilling abuse of student First Amendment rights. 

“Yet again, a public university bound by the First Amendment has regulated free speech far beyond what the Constitution allows,” said Robert Shibley, FIRE’s Senior Vice President. “The University of Alabama has no business telling a group of students that it needs a permit just to hand out flyers on the campus’ main outdoor public area.” 

As The Crimson White, UA’s student newspaper, reported on April 17, 2013, the student group Bama Students for Life hosted a “Genocide Awareness Project” (GAP) protest on UA’s quad on April 10 and 11. GAP protests are frequently hosted on college campuses and feature graphic, abortion-related images. Members of the Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice (AASRJ) student group learned of the planned event on April 9 and decided to distribute flyers to counter GAP’s ...

Victory for Academic Freedom: Wisconsin Governor Vetoes Unconstitutional Ban on Faculty Speech

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Yesterday, in a victory for academic freedom, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued a line-item veto to strike an unconstitutional ban on faculty speech and research from the Wisconsin state budget. A late addition to the budget proposal, the broad, vague ban would have prohibited University of Wisconsin faculty “from doing any work related to” the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization. 

FIRE wrote Governor Walker twice urging this result. As we stated in our first letter, sent on June 13: 

[T]he Joint Finance Committee’s proposed prohibition is extreme in its breadth, preventing faculty from performing any number of academic functions. For example, under the ban, faculty would be unable to read or discuss articles published by the WCIJ, to comment to WCIJ reporters on issues related to their scholarship or on matters of public concern, to assign WCIJ articles to students, or to cite WCIJ work in their research. The ban’s vagueness is similarly problematic, as it forces faculty to guess at the precise boundaries of the ban on “any work related to the Center,” no matter how seemingly remote. Laboring under the chilling effect engendered by such uncertainty, many faculty will rationally choose to self-censor—a deeply ...

Musts for Monday: Intellectual Freedom activities today at #ALA2013

Monday, July 1st, 2013

First there was Five for Friday, then Six for Saturday, and Seven for Sunday! Today we’re pleased to bring you Monday’s must-see Intellectual Freedom-related events at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference. It’s the last day of Conference for many, so let’s make the most of it!

1. ALA Council II – 8:30-11:30 a.m., McCormick Place S100c

Watch the sausage get made. Freedom to Read Foundation President Candy Morgan will give her Report to Council.

2. IFRT II – 8:30-10:00 a.m., Palmer House Chicago Room

The second meeting of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table.  Learn about the activities of various Round Table committees, and find out how YOU can get involved in this essential element of ALA’s IF work.

3. IFC/COL program: “Do Not Track Me: A Cross-Generational Discussion of Personal Privacy” - 10:30-11:30 a.m., McCormick Place S401

The general public mostly agrees that personal privacy is an important issue, but there are generational differences in exactly what that means for our daily lives. University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone will present a legal background of the issues, and then lead a discussion with a panel of high school and college youth. The audience also will ...

Latest Works by Sam Welty on Charlottesville’s First Amendment Monument

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Whales

 

Wounded Vets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven for Sunday: Intellectual Freedom activities today at #ALA2013

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

We’re halfway through what’s been a fun, provocative, and invigorating 2013 ALA Annual Conference - and there’s tons more on the schedule. After 5 for Friday and 6 for Saturday, today we bring you the 7 best IF happenings today (including, unfortunately, THREE separate programs from 1:00-2:30 p.m.:

1. Intellectual Freedom Committee/Committee on Legislation Joint Meeting – 8:30-10:00 a.m., Hilton Chicago Marquette Room

The IFC  and COL meet at each Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference to discuss topics of mutual concern.

2. Now Showing @ ALA: Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder – 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., McCormick Place S503a

A documentary about the legendary poet, free speech activist, and owner of San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore. Check out the trailer at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NJZXUnurZGo

3. FTRF/CBLDF Booth – 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Exhibit Floor

We’ll be around all day with our friends at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund with books, stickers, brochures, “I Read Banned Books” pins, and lots of Carolyn Forsman jewelry (absolutely perfect for gifts).

Raina Telgemeier signing, creator of “Smile” and “Drama,” will be signing for CBLDF from 11 a.m.-noon. 

4. Ethics Program: “Ethics in Action: Addressing Conflicts of Interest” – 1:00-2:30 p.m. McCormick Place N427bc

This program will provide ...

Six for Saturday: intellectual freedom activities today at #ALA2013

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

After a wonderful evening celebrating the IFRT 40th Anniversary, we’re excited for these intellectual freedom-related goings on at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference:

 1. IFRT Program: “How a Book is Saved: Challenges and How to Fight Them” – 8:30-10:00 a.m., McCormick Place S405

What motivates an individual to challenge materials in a library’s collection and how should the library respond? Please join us for an anatomy of a challenge. Emily Knox will explore the motivation to challenge materials. Kristin Pekoll and Suellen Reimers will discuss their libraries’ experiences with challenges. And, OIF’s Nanette Perez will explain what you can do to prepare for a challenge – before it happens – and how OIF can help when it does happen. Coffee and pastries will be served.

2. IFC III & IV – 10:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:00-2:30 p.m., Palmer House Water Tower Parlor

The Intellectual Freedom Committee continues its work, with a focus on some of the resolutions coming before ALA Council this conference.

3. FTRF/CBLDF Booth – 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., McCormick Place Exhibit Floor

Stop by Booth #2650 (in the Graphic Novel Pavilion) and learn more about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Freedom to Read Foundation in the ...

Top 5 Reasons to Attend FIRE’s 2013 CFN Conference

Friday, June 28th, 2013

FIRE’s annual Campus Freedom Network (CFN) Conference is quickly approaching! Taking place July 19–21, just outside of Philadelphia at Bryn Mawr College, the CFN Conference is a weekend-long workshop designed to teach students about their First Amendment rights on campus and how to defend them. Graduate and undergraduate students are eligible to apply. If you have not yet applied, read these top 5 reasons to attend and then submit your application

1. Connect with other free speech-loving students from across the country.


2012 Conference Attendees 

2. Hear from distinguished speakers like Juan Williams, Megan McArdle, Bob Corn-Revere, and FIRE’s First Amendment experts.

 
FIRE President Greg Lukianoff addresses students at FIRE’s 2012 CFN Conference

3. Learn how to combat campus censors and challenge your school’s unconstitutional speech codes.

 

Find out, for instance, how Hayden Barnes was unjustly expelled from Valdosta State University when he posted this collage on Facebook, and how FIRE fought back in this case and many others.  

4. FREE registration, FREE accommodations, FREE food, and a travel stipend for all accepted students.


Bryn Mawr College, located just outside of Philadelphia, PA, the location of FIRE’s 2013 CFN Conference

5. “Food, Fun, & Freedom!” ...

Ball State Professor’s Flag Flies Again, Thanks to FIRE

Friday, June 28th, 2013


Professor Dom Caristi in his office

A head-scratching case of censorship involving a telecommunications professor, an Italian flag, an office window, and a policy designed to regulate outdoor signs and structures has fortunately come to a satisfactory end at Indiana’s Ball State University. 

For roughly four years, Professor Dominic Caristi, a professor in Ball State’s Department of Telecommunications, hung a flag unobtrusively in his office window. Initially, Caristi hung the Greek flag—a reference to his selection as a Fulbright scholar to Greece. Later, he replaced it with the Italian flag, a nod to his heritage.

This past February 11, however, Associate Vice President of Facilities Kevin Kenyon asked Caristi to remove the flag. Caristi complied with the request but asked that Kenyon show him the specific policy governing expression in this area. Not having a policy to point Caristi to, Kenyon referred Caristi to Leisa Julian, Ball State’s Associate Vice President for Business & Auxiliary Services. Caristi emailed Julian and asked for a policy explanation for the order to remove the flag from his window. In response, Julian pointed him to Ball State’s Use of University Property for Expressive Activities policy. Julian wrote:

In the Policy on the ...

Last Weekend for Personalized Copies of SAGA!

Friday, June 28th, 2013

sagaBrian K. Vaughan, the creative mastermind behind the hit series Saga is showing his support for CBLDF by personalizing copies of Saga Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 for CBLDF Supporters, but this weekend is your last chance to get your copy as this drive ends July 1! Get yours now!

When you donate $40 to the CBLDF between now and July 1, Brian will personalize a copy of the brand new Saga Vol. 2, or a copy of Saga Vol. 1 to you or the person of your choice!

Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, is the most acclaimed new series in comics, dominating both best of and bestseller lists. When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Now you, the CBLDF donor, have a chance to get a copy of Saga personalized by Brian K. Vaughan himself!

Here’s How Personalization Works:
When you place an order with CBLDF for Saga Vol. 1 or Vol. 2, you can have the book personalized to one or two names, and Mr. Vaughan will sign and personalize the book ...

Valiant Joins CBLDF as Corporate Member, Debuts QUANTUM AND WOODY Liberty Variant

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Valiant-logo-main-master

Valiant Entertainment proclaimed a volley of  support for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund this week by becoming a both corporate member and announcing a CBLDF Liberty Variant of Quantum and Woody #1 with a cover by Eisner Award-winning cartoonist and underground icon Tony Millionaire! The Quantum and Woody #1 CBLDF Liberty Variant will be released this July exclusively at Comic Con International in San Diego, California! Notably, this Valiant/CBLDF collaboration is the first convention variant cover ever produced by Valiant.

QW_001_VARIANT_CBLDF

Limited to 750 copies, the Quantum and Woody #1 CBLDF Liberty Variant will be available exclusively at the CBLDF’s booth inside the San Diego Convention Center and via the CBLDF website (cbldf.org). All proceeds will directly benefit the First Amendment legal and education work of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an organization that works to protect the freedom to read.

Coinciding with the release of the Quantum and Woody #1 CBLDF Liberty Variant, Valiant is also signing on as the CBLDFs latest corporate member. Valiant joins corporate members Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab,  comiXology, Dark Horse Comics, DC Comics, Diamond Comic Distributors, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, iVerse Media, Legendary, and Random House in support of the CBLDF’s ...

Five for Friday: intellectual freedom activities today at #ALA2013

Friday, June 28th, 2013

In addition to weaving through the hundreds of thousands of Blackhawks celebrants descending on downtown Chicago, here are five great programs/meetings/events going on today at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference:

1. IFC I & II – 8:30-10:00 a.m. & 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m, Palmer House, Water Tower Parlor

The ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee will be discussing some of the major issues of the day involving intellectual freedom, including privacy/surveillance issues, censorship trends, and much more. First of six sessions through Monday.

2. IF101 – 12:30-1:30 p.m., Hilton Chicago, Marquette Room

Intellectual Freedom 101, part of the Conference 101 series of programs, is a fast-paced overview of the various intellectual freedom arms of the Association, with information on how you can get involved in the efforts to protect the freedom to read!

3. The Friday Conversation – Gun Violence: Community Voices and Library Responses – 1:00-3:30 p.m., McCormick Place S105a-c

OIF helped to coordinate this interactive discussion about how libraries can play a part in responding to the tragedy of gun violence. Among the speakers will be David Horowitz, executive director of the Media Coalition, which just released  “Only a Game,” a study debunking many myths about the impact ...

CBLDF Goes Dowtown for Wizard World NYC This Weekend!

Friday, June 28th, 2013

wizardworld_2264_42733513If you are planning on attending Wizard World Comic Con NYC Experience this weekend, be sure to drop by CBLDF booth #125! We will be accepting donations for memberships and will have a booth full of awesome incentives, including t-shirts, signed graphic novels, rare variant covers, and more! Pick up graphic novels signed by comics greats like Robert Kirkman, Neil Gaiman, and many more, along with CBLDF exclusives like our popular CBLDF Grab Bag!

Saturday evening, make sure to swing by the booth to meet writer, editor, and CBLDF Board Member Paul Levitz! Mr. Levitz will be signing in our booth after this panel:

5:00 – 5:45PM WILL EISNER’S A CONTRACT WITH GOD AT 35
Will Eisner was one of the giants of the field of sequential art. A panel of Eisner-experts discusses his ongoing influence, 35 years after the publication of his groundbreaking work, A Contract With God, a book that pretty much invented the entire graphic novel category. Panelists include Paul Levitz (former DC president and publisher; Legion of Super-Heroes writer); Dennis O’Neil (Batman and Iron Man writer and editor); and Chris Couch (Eisner’s editor; professor at UMass Amherst). The panel will be moderated by ...

Join CBLDF at the ALA Annual Conference this Weekend!

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

ALA_2013_Chicago_Logo_FINAL_CLR_0

This weekend, librarians, writers, publishers, and bookworms descend on Chicago for the American Library Association’s Annual Conference, and CBLDF will be at booth #2650 with signings from Raina Telgemeier and Larry Marder, as well as the launch of CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, our new authoritative guide to manga for educators and librarians! ALA Annual Conference 2013 takes place June 27 – July 2 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. The exhibit hall is open June 28 – July 1, and the conference itself is stacked with keynote addresses and panels featuring some of the biggest names in publishing.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein will take part in Busting the Comics Code: Comics, Censorship, & Librarians on Sunday, July 30, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. in N231. Brownstein will be joined by creators Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Wonder Woman), Gene Yang (American Born Chinese, The Eternal Smile), and Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama), as well as Carol Tilley, librarian and debunker of Frederic Wertham’s research (and occasional CBLDF contributor).

The ALA website has all the details:

Just as comics were once considered a plague that converted good kids into ...

We Have an Op-Ed in Today’s “Times of Trenton” Fighting Video Game Disinformation

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Old_JoystickCheck out today’s Times of Trenton op-ed page for a piece by NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin calling out the dubious logic and “research” behind a bill the New Jersey legislature just passed that would put the state Department of Education in charge of a disinformation campaign to scare parents about the effects of “violent media.”

This kind of initiative is often a stalking horse for further restrictions, even though sales restrictions have already been struck down by the Supreme Court. And in that ruling, the majority opinion clearly stated that the studies the NJ DOE would be publishing to parents “have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively.”

For more debunking of the scaremongers, check out the Only a Game report by the Media Coalition (friend of NCAC and member of our Free Expression Network).

And today would also be a good time to tell Gov. Chris Christie to reject this bill, since his signature is the only thing needed to kick the anti-video game propaganda engine into high gear.

p.s. did we mention that the theme of our youth ...

Using Graphic Novels in Education: Persepolis

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Persepolis1CoverWelcome to Using Graphic Novels in Education, an ongoing feature from CBLDF that is designed to allay confusion around the content of banned books and to help parents and teachers raise readers. In this column, we will examine books that have been targeted by censors and provide teaching and discussion suggestions for the use of such books in classrooms.

In our first column, we’ll take a closer look at Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

The autobiographical graphic memoir Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was pulled from Chicago classrooms this past May by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett due to “inappropriate” graphic language and images, specifically, scenes of torture and rebellion. Parents, teachers, and First Amendment advocates protested the ban, and as a result — while still pulled from 7th grade — Persepolis is currently under review for use in grades 8-10. (For details, see CBLDF Rises to Defense of Persepolis.)

Persepolis is an important classroom tool for a number of reasons. First, it is a primary source detailing life in Iran during the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War . Readers of all ages get a glimpse of what life is like under repressive regimes and relive this period ...

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Releases Authoritative Manga Guide for Librarians and Educators with Dark Horse!

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

CBLDFPM-CVRThis summer, Dark Horse is proud to publish CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, an authoritative yet accessible handbook designed to help librarians, educators, and parents navigate the vast and popular field of manga. Prepared by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the freedom to read, CBLDF Presents Manga provides what you really need to know about manga from those who really know it! The book will premiere at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, June 27–July 2, and at Anime Expo in Los Angeles, July 4–7.

Made possible with a grant from the Gaiman Foundation, CBLDF Presents Manga is a handbook designed to provide a concise and informed overview of manga—its history, genres, and issues. This educational work delves into the history of manga, its major demographic divisions, its most significant creators, and the challenges it has sometimes faced in North America.

What sets this book apart from other manga guides is its expert panel of writers, including not only scholars of the medium but veterans of the manga industry itself—professionals who have worked from both the North American and Japanese sides of manga in publishing, editing, review, ...

Retailer Supporter Heroes & Fantasies Honored on Cover of GI Joe

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

GIJOE_S3_05-covREAAt a private event last March, IDW presented a unique opportunity to retailers: the chance for their store to appear in an issue of GI Joe. The retailer donated the most to CBLDF would win the spot. Heroes & Fantasies in San Antonio, Texas, took the win, donating $2,000 to CBLDF’s fight in defense of free speech.

When asked by Jennifer A. Luna with the San Antonio Express-News about why the store donated, store manager Adam Conley noted that “[CBLDF]‘s important for any store that plans to sticks around.”

GIJOE_S3_05-covREBGI Joe #5 hit shelves last week, and Heroes & Fantasies is featured on two retailer-exclusive variant covers drawn by Robert Atkins. The color version is limited to 1,000 copies, with an ultra-rare black and white variant that is limited to 250 copies. To celebrate the release, Heroes & Fantasies partnered with Alamo City Comic Con to host a Military Appreciation Day last weekend. Writer Fred Van Lente and Atkins will also be signing at the store on June 29.

CBLDF would like to thank the wonderful folks at Heroes & Fantasies, IDW, and Van Lente, Atkins, and the rest of the GI Joe creative team for their support of ...

Blast from the Past: Read Original News Articles from the Historic Island Trees Book Banning Case

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Thirty-one years ago today, the Supreme Court upheld students rights to read in the Island Trees School district in Long Island. The 5-4 decision of Board of Education vs. Pico found that the school board violated the First Amendment when they removed certain books from junior high and high school libraries after parents complained they were “objectionable.”

Check out some of the primary source materials from 1976, when the case first geared up:

Pico Anniversary: 1976 Newsday article about Robert Morrow

Island Trees Book Banning 1(1)

Pico Anniversary: Newsday Article on Island Trees Ban 1976

Seem familiar? Similar cases are happening across the country on a daily basis. Take the recent removal of The Perks of Being a Wallflower from Glen Ellyn Schools, for example:

Books Returned to Glen Ellyn

Thanks to the work of students and teachers there (surely channeling the spirit of Steven Pico) and a little help from our Kids’ Right to Read Project, Perks has returned.


Board of Ed v. Pico: 31 years of reading freely in school libraries

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

If you love libraries, you might know that today marks the anniversary of an important decision upholding the First Amendment in schools.

In Board of  Ed. v. Pico (1982), the plurality opinion stated that school libraries have “special characteristics” as providers of free access to information, and should be especially vigilant of upholding students’ First Amendment rights.  Pico began when the Island Trees School District on Long Island banned a number of books, including Go Ask Alice, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Richard Wright’s Black Boy, from its libraries, calling them “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.”  The Supreme Court ultimately found that for a school library to “prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion” is a violation of students’ First Amendment Rights.

Today, the very same rationales used to challenge books in New York are still being utilized to challenge books in school libraries and public libraries.  NCAC’s Kids’ Right to Read project (KRRP) works on cases just like the Island Trees controversy every day. The Pico books themselves continue to come under fire.   Go Ask Alice is frequently on the ALA’s lists of most-banned books.  Both Black Boy ...

Supreme Court Says Government Can’t Dictate Anti-AIDS Groups’ Speech

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that it is a violation of the First Amendment for the federal government to force groups to endorse the government’s views opposing prostitution in order to receive funding to combat AIDS overseas.

The justices ruled 6 to 2 that a requirement in a multibillion-dollar anti-AIDS program withholding money from organizations that do not have a policy “explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking” violates their free-speech rights.

“This case is not about the government’s ability to enlist the assistance of those with whom it already agrees,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “It is about compelling a grant recipient to adopt a particular belief as a condition of funding.”

 

Via: Washington Post

 

Pelosi Faces Questions, Criticism about NSA Surveillance at Netroots Nation

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Updated June 23, 2013 with links to video and additional photos.

At the Netroots Nation conference this weekend, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was questioned publicly about her stance on NSA spying. While she was quick to defend the program as markedly different from the warrantless wiretapping program established under President Bush, she also noted that more needed to be done to improve transparency around the program.

Pelosi’s comments were met with skepticism and disapproval from at least some members of the audience. Marc Perkel, a small business owner and technology activist, interrupted Pelosi when she was talking about finding a balance between security and civil liberties. According to Politico, Marc Perkel yelled, "It’s not a balance. It’s not constitutional!...No secret laws!"

Perkel urged Pelosi to "Talk to your sys admin" – a comment he later clarified as a push for Pelosi to better understand the technology behind the NSA’s surveillance.

Perkel was escorted out of the luncheon amid cries from other conference goers to "Let him stay."

Pelosi assured the audience she welcomed the debate and spoke warmly of several bills in Congress that are a response to the NSA surveillance programs. She also stated that she had reason ...

Federal Circuit gets Ultramercial wrong, again. Supreme Court needs to step in, again.

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Well, here we go.

The tortured history of Ultramercial v. Hulu continues, with a new ruling from the Federal Circuit upholding one of our favorite, most absurd patents: one that claims a process for doing no more than viewing ads online before accessing copyrighted content. How could that be patentable, you might ask. To which we might answer, good question.

Let's start with section 101 of the Patent Act, which says

Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

Courts have long interpreted this to mean that one cannot patent "laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas." The Supreme Court has recently weighed in, issuing two unanimous rulings on what is and what isn't a law of nature.

First, in Mayo v. Prometheus, the Supreme Court invalidated a patent covering a medical diagnostic test. There, the Court held that a method cannot be patented where it adds “nothing specific to the laws of nature other than what is well-understood, routine, conventional activity, previously engaged in by those in the ...

Reassured by NSA’s Internal Procedures? Don’t Be. They Still Don’t Tell the Whole Story.

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Yesterday, the Guardian released two previously-classified documents describing the internal "minimization" and "targeting" procedures used by the NSA to conduct surveillance under Section 702. These procedures are approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) on an annual basis and are supposed to serve as the bulwark between the NSA's vast surveillance capabilities and the private communications of Americans. As we noted earlier today, the procedures, themselves, aren't reassuring: far too much discretion is retained by NSA analysts, the procedures frequently resolve doubt in favor of collection, and information is obtained that could otherwise never be obtained without a warrant.

Which would be bad enough, if it were the end of the story. But it's not.

The targeting and minimization documents released yesterday are dated a few months after the first publicly known scandal over the new FAA procedures: In April 2009, the New York Times reported that Section 702 surveillance had “intercepted the private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans . . . on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress." In June 2009, the Times reported that members of Congress were saying NSA's "recent intercepts of the private telephone ...

Spying on the World From Domestic Soil: International Backlash

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

This is the 5th article of our Spies Without Borders series. The series are looking into how the information disclosed in the NSA leaks affect Internet users around the world whose private information is stored in U.S. servers, or whose data travels across U.S. networks. 

The world is still reeling from the series of revelations about NSA and FBI surveillance. Over the past two weeks the emerging details paint a picture of pervasive, crossborder spying programs of unprecedented reach and scope: the U.S. has now admitted using domestic networks to spy on Internet users both domestically and worldwide. The people now know that foreign intelligence can spy on their communications if they travel through U.S. networks or are stored in U.S. servers. 

While international public outrage has justifiably decried the scope and reach of these revelations, carte blanche foreign intelligence surveillance powers over foreigners are far from new. In the U.S., foreign intelligence has always had nearly limitless legal capacity to surveil foreigners because domestic laws and protections simply don't reach that surveillance activity.

This legal framework, with no protection for foreigners and little oversight besides, has been exacerbated by the growth in individuals now living their lives ...

German Parliament Says No More Software Patents

Friday, June 21st, 2013

The German Parliament recently took a huge step that would eliminate software patents (PDF) when it issued a joint motion requiring the German government to ensure that computer programs are only covered by copyright. Put differently, in Germany, software cannot be patented.

The Parliament's motion follows a similar announcement made by New Zealand's government last month (PDF), in which it determined that computer programs were not inventions or a manner of manufacture and, thus, cannot be patented.

This is a welcome trend. Though there have been many proposals to limit the harmful effects of patent trolls in the United States, the discussion has stayed away from addressing a larger, root issue: the flood of software patents. While many in the U.S. are bogged down in discussions of demarcation between what is software and what is not, the rest of the world is taking bold action.

The crux of the German Parliament's motion rests on the fact that software is already protected by copyright, and developers are afforded "exploitation rights." These rights, however, become confused when broad, abstract patents also cover general aspects of computer programs. These two intellectual property systems are at odds. The clearest ...

U.S. IP Enforcement Moving In The Right Direction on Fair Use and Patent Trolls, Has More Work To Do

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Yesterday, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator ("IPEC" aka the "IP Czar"), Victoria Espinel, released a new three-year plan for enforcing intellectual property laws. The 2013 Strategic Plan is more nuanced and puts more emphasis on data-driven policy that the 2010 plan, and also includes a commitment to educating copyright holders about fair use. There are still some problems with the IPEC's priorities, though. The 2013 Plan continues to celebrate the results of secret and undemocratic trade negotiations.  It pushes for more "voluntary" agreements among Internet gatekeepers to control who can be searched, receive payments, or show advertising on the Internet - agreements that are helping to create a system of "private law" that users can't effectively challenge assuming they even know the rules. In sum, there are still major disconnects between the Administration's IP enforcement strategy and its stated goal of promoting a free and open Internet. But at least it's moving in the right direction.

A New Call for Fair Use Education

For the first time, the Administration's IP enforcement plan includes a strong emphasis on the importance of fair use for copyright. "Enforcement approaches," says the report, "should not discourage authors from building appropriately upon the works of ...

FIRE Writes to Wisconsin Governor Urging Veto of Unconstitutional Budget Measure

Friday, June 21st, 2013

On June 6, we reported on an addition to the Wisconsin State Legislature’s budget proposal that would forbid University of Wisconsin (UW) faculty from working with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism organization. FIRE then wrote a letter to Governor Scott Walker on June 13, expressing our concern with this provision and explaining its unconstitutional effects.

As of this week, both the Assembly and the Senate of the state legislature have approved the budget proposal, including this provision, and it is awaiting Governor Scott Walker’s signature or veto.

FIRE has written again today to Governor Walker strongly urging him to veto this modification to the budget in order to protect the academic freedom of UW faculty. We sincerely hope that he recognizes the serious ramifications of such a limit on UW faculty and that he does not allow this measure to go into effect.

Check back to The Torch for updates on this situation.

Can the University of Montana Deliver the Constitutional, OCR-Compliant Sexual Harassment Policy It Promised?

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Last week in Escalating Registers, Kenyon College student Henri Gendreau took a critical look at the controversy surrounding the Departments of Education and Justice’s “blueprint” for campus sexual harassment policies. Despite the fact that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has explicitly rejected the University of Montana’s standards for campus sexual harassment, UMT administrators remain confident that they can find a solution that works for everyone. FIRE is skeptical, to say the least.

In Gendreau’s article, FIRE’s Robert Shibley challenged the assertion that students can engage in “sexual harassment” outside of the hostile environment context:

“What OCR has actually done here is go sort of another step, and they have defined sexual harassment as ‘unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.’ What they’re saying is that that’s sexual harassment, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of creating a hostile environment,” said Robert L. Shibley.... “Now that’s new. As far as I know, there’s never been a third kind of sexual harassment that isn’t either quid pro quo or hostile environment; those are the two kinds of sexual harassment.”

Gendreau also talked to Susan Carle, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, ...

OCR Descends into Self-Parody in Front of Incredulous College Lawyers

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Sometimes I think it would be fun to be a college lawyer. This isn’t one of those times.

Yesterday, college lawyers from across the country gathered in Philadelphia (welcome, folks!) for the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA). Of course, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) latest efforts to enforce Title IX in new, interesting, and legally dubious ways have been a hot topic of discussion, and OCR’s John K. DiPaolo was on hand to address the assembled attorneys. 

And boy, it sounds like a heck of a talk, forcing Inside Higher Ed’s Doug Lederman to resort to deadpan comedy to truly capture the nature of the proceedings. Lederman begins with what might be the understatement of the year so far:

College lawyers are far from thrilled with how DiPaolo's employer—the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights—is regulating colleges’ handling of sexual harassment of students...

Unfortunately, however, DiPaolo wasn’t there to make amends or walk back OCR’s disregard for freedom of speech and academic freedom. Granted, he only got to talk after several lawyers on the panel related some of what Lederman gently termed “highlights (or lowlights, depending on ...

CBLDF Retail Members Debut LAZARUS #1 Comics Code Variant Next Week!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

lazarus01-CBLDF

CBLDF is excited to launch a new program in cooperation with our Retail Member Stores: the CBLDF COMICS CODE VARIANT! These variant covers of today’s hottest books will include the infamous Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval and will only be available through CBLDF Retail Members!

The first issue launches next Wednesday, June 26, and the first title in this exciting new program is the highly anticipated Lazarus #1, from the hard-hitting creative team of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, published by Image Comics.

These covers will have an extremely limited print run and are EXCLUSIVE to CBLDF Retail Members. Check this list to find out which stores near you are CBLDF Retail Members!

Lazarus #1: In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains. Forever Carlyle defends her family’s holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home, Forever’s day goes downhill from there…

Don’t miss your chance to pick up the extremely rare Lazarus #1 CBLDF Comics ...

Why the University of Alabama Was Right Not to “Protect” Students From Westboro Baptist Church Demonstrations

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Yesterday, University of Alabama junior Noah Cannon wrote to UA’s student newspaper, The Crimson White, to ask why the university had not spoken out on behalf of LGBTQ students against the Westboro Baptist Church’s (WBC’s) recent demonstration on campus. Student groups and local churches swiftly organized a counter-protest and successfully countered the WBC’s picket line. Still, Mr. Cannon laments the non-response from UA:

I waited to hear what would be done to protect LGBTQ+ students from WBC’s homophobic message.

I heard nothing. No emails were sent. No statements were released. No help was offered.

It is important to remember that while the WBC’s ideas are offensive to many, the First Amendment protects its members’ expression just as it protects ours. And just as the school—which, in the case of the University of Alabama, is a state actor—may not step in and silence one viewpoint in a debate on abortion or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it may not step in to silence other viewpoints on campus either, however abhorrent those viewpoints might be to some or even many.

Advocates of censorship, however well-intentioned, might remember that Mr. Cannon’s feelings about homosexuality once constituted the “abhorrent” minority viewpoint. Those who believe that ...

Signed CHEW & All-Star Superman on eBay for CBLDF!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

eBay’s Giving Works initiative has been a source of continued success for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund since we began the campaign, and the selection of incredible products just keeps getting bigger and better! Up for auction NOW directly through CBLDF is CHEW: OMNIVORE EDITION Volume 3, signed and sketched by writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory, and ALL-STAR SUPERMAN VOLUME 1, signed by writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely!

Chew: Omnivore Edition Volume 3, signed and sketched by writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory, includes issues 21-30 of the acclaimed creator-owned series, as well as the one-shot “Secret Agent Poyo.” Layman and Guillory have received a steady outpouring of critical acclaim since their quirky crime saga’s debut, but perhaps it was through the stories collected here that they finally received what may just be the highest honor ever bestowed upon a work of sequential art: “Best Use of a Kung Fu Chicken, 2012” (from USA Today).

Did you see Man of Steel this weekend? Of course you did. But for many fans of the Man of Tomorrow, the definitive Superman story is the 12-issue maxi-series All-Star Superman, written by Grant Morrison ...

Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Daniel Chapman

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Daniel Chapman is a rising senior at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. A sociology major with minors in management and psychology, he has spent his academic career advocating for student and political interests. Daniel serves as secretary of both the Sociology Club and the campus chapter of Amnesty International. In addition, he currently serves as the Legislative Research Committee Chair for the Student Association of Michigan, a group representing over 300,000 students enrolled in the state’s 15 public universities. A long-time member of the SVSU Student Association, he has served as the student representative on several university curriculum committees and is currently slated for confirmation as the Student Association’s Parliamentarian later this summer.

On his decision to intern at FIRE this summer, Daniel writes:

Coming home after my first year of college and enjoying the comforts of my old friends and family brought me to the realization that one year in a university had done more for me than all of my K–12 schooling had. The experience had broadened my horizons and undoubtedly changed me as a person, for which I am thankful.

My experiences at SVSU taught me the real value of education. In my sophomore year I ...

Mesh Networking, Good. Overbroad Patents, Bad. Help Us Protect Mesh Networking.

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Earlier this year, we announced that along with the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, we were challenging six patent applications that, if granted, could threaten the development of 3D printing technology. We asked you—the community—for help, and your input was invaluable. We're still waiting to hear from the Patent Office on those applications, but our work is not done. We need your help again, this time to challenge dangerous patent applications that threaten mesh networking technology.

Mesh networking allows users to form their own networks without a centralized infrastructure, making them inherently resistant to censorship, surveillance, and disruption. Given recent revelations showing widespread surveillance of the phone calls and online activities of innocent Americans and others around the globe, the development of mesh networks more important than ever. Governments and commercial actors have taken advantage of intermediaries as “weak links” in order to censor, surveil, and disrupt communications and social movements. Already in the United States, cell towers have been deactivated in response to planned protest, while activists in countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Syria have suffered massive blackouts that shut down all access from within the country to the ...

In Depth Review: New NSA Documents Expose How Americans Can Be Spied on Without A Warrant

Friday, June 21st, 2013

The Guardian published a new batch of secret leaked FISA court and NSA documents yesterday, which detail the particulars of how government has been accessing Americans’ emails without a warrant, in violation of the Constitution. The documents lay bare fundamental problems with the ineffectual attempts to place meaningful limitations on the NSA’s massive surveillance program. 

Essentially, the new documents, dated July 2009 and approved in August 2010, detail how the NSA deals with the huge streams of information it receives during the collection program that gathers the content of email and telephone calls, allowing it to keep vast quantities of content it could never get with a warrant.  They may not be the current procedures - more on that in another blog post shortly.

The Guardian published two documents: one showing the procedures for determining if their target is foreign for purposes of surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) and the other describing the NSA’s “minimization” procedures when they come across United States persons, which also sets out the myriad ways they can keep Americans’ communications instead of minimizing them.

Weak Standards for Avoiding Intentionally Targeting Americans

The FAA was enacted in 2008, intending to put a veneer of ...

Obama’s Trade Rep Is Confirmed, But Legislators Remain Concerned About Secretive Trade Negotiations

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

President Obama's nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, was approved yesterday by the Senate. As we had urged, however, lawmakers used the approval process to make sure Froman knows they aren't happy with the former USTR's secretive approach to trade agreements.

Their calls for transparency echo demands EFF and other public interest groups have been making for years in response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade agreements. Earlier this year, for example, EFF joined 24 other civil society groups on a letter to the Trade Representative documenting its abuse of the trade negotiation process and calling for a baseline of transparency.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the Senators who voted against Froman's confirmation yesterday, sent her own letter last week to the nominee, criticizing the "back-room dealmaking" that has until now characterized the process.

Policies that account for the public interest may require more careful drafting than those designed to cater to the corporate interests with access to the secret texts. But in her letter, Warren outlines the drawbacks of that closed negotiation process:

But if members of the public do not have reasonable access to the terms of the agreements under negotiation, then they are unable ...

Why Won’t the FBI Tell the Public About its Drone Program?

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

FBI Redacted Drone DocumentToday we’re publishingfor the first time—the FBI’s drone licenses and supporting records for the last several years. Unfortunately, to say that the FBI has been less than forthcoming with these records would be a gross understatement.

Just yesterday, Wired broke the story that the FBI has been using drones to surveil Americans. Wired noted that, during an FBI oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Robert Mueller let slip that the FBI flies surveillance drones on American soil. Mueller tried to reassure the senators that FBI’s drone program “is very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized leads.” However, there’s no way to check the Director on these statements, given the Bureau’s extreme lack of transparency about its program.

EFF received these records as a result of our Freedom of Information lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the licenses the FAA issues to all public entities wishing to fly drones in the national airspace. As detailed in prior posts and on our drone map, we have already received tens of thousands of pages of valuable information about local, state and federal agencies’ drone flights.

However, unlike other federal agencies, including the US ...

Bad News For Patent Trolls! FTC To Look Under the Hood of the Trollmobile

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it stands ready to take on patent trolls. In a speech at the National Press Club, Commissioner Edith Ramirez made two big announcements. First, she revealed that the FTC will conduct a wide-ranging investigation into the conduct of patent trolls. Second, she confirmed that, when appropriate, the FTC is committed to using its antitrust enforcement powers. This is great news for innovation and very bad news for trolls.

In her speech today, Chairwoman Ramirez displayed a deep understanding of both the causes and the costs of patent troll litigation (although the FTC prefers the term ‘patent assertion entity’). She explained that most troll lawsuits involve software-related patents which often include broad functional claims. We agree that low-quality, overbroad software patents are a leading driver of the patent troll problem. Chairwoman Ramirez also discussed the disturbing trend of patent trolls targeting end users. She noted that small businesses are being hit with demand letters for using ordinary office equipment. And she explained that trolls are targeting online retailers for the use of simple features like drop-down menus. She noted that only a small portion of the cost imposed by patent trolls ever ...

Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Megan Zielinski

Thursday, June 20th, 2013
Megan Zielinski is a rising junior at Megan ZielinskiWashington University in St. Louis, where she is studying philosophy with a focus on law and policy. She is the president of the Pre-Law Society and an editor of The Circuit, Washington University’s undergraduate law journal. She also tutors and mentors Spanish-speaking children through the Niños program. She previously interned at the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office.

On her decision to intern at FIRE, Megan writes:

When searching for summer internships that would allow me to contribute to an important cause and get experience in the legal world, I came across the FIRE Internship Program. I was intrigued by FIRE’s mission: to fight for individual rights on college campuses. A deeper dive into the FIRE website left me appalled at the many flagrant violations of the First Amendment on campus. I was taken aback by the many instances in which administrators abused their power to punish students and professors whose speech was entirely protected.

Though no recent FIRE cases have come from Washington University, I learned that it is a “red light” school, which means that at least one policy clearly and substantially limits freedom of speech. The Residential Life harassment ...

Minnesota’s Bemidji State Axes ‘Speech Code of the Month,’ Sheds ‘Red Light’ Rating

Thursday, June 20th, 2013
Bemidji State

This press release was sent to local Minnesota media outlets this afternoon:

MINNEAPOLIS, June 20, 2013—Free speech is safer today at Bemidji State University (BSU), which has revised a policy identified by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a free-speech watchdog group, as violating the First Amendment. The revisions came after FIRE named the policy its "Speech Code of the Month" for June 2013. 

FIRE defines a "speech code" as any university regulation or policy that prohibits expression that would be protected by the First Amendment in society at large. Each month, FIRE features a particularly restrictive speech code as its Speech Code of the Month.

The rule in question at BSU most notably banned "offensive" language. The Supreme Court has repeatedly determined that speech and expression cannot be prohibited simply because others find it offensive. For instance, in Texas v. Johnson (1989), the Court stated that "[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."  

Shortly after FIRE announced the rule's selection as Speech Code of the Month, BSU ...

Cartoonist Khalid Albaih Changing the Nature of Protest

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Khalid AlbaihA recent profile of political cartoonist Khalid Albaih in The New York Times highlights the changing nature of rebellion and protest in the 21st century. Placing Albaih at the center of several different dynamics — between depiction and inspiration and between traditional and social media forms of protest — the Times‘ piece illustrates the importance of political cartoons in the Arab world. Albaih’s work depicts the problems he sees in the region, and his cartoons then inspire future rounds of protest, which often takes the traditionally rebellious form of graffiti and spreads through social media services like Facebook.

Being a political cartoonist in the Arab world in the wake of the Arab Spring protest movement is a potentially dangerous pursuit, but Albaih was raised in a household that confronted political and social issues on a daily basis. Albaih’s father was a Sudanese diplomat stationed in Romania (where Albaih was born), and his mother campaigned against the Sudanese practice of female genital mutation.

The young Albaih found inspiration in comics. His artwork mixes old school and new school techniques, “part traditional ink on paper and part computer design.” Albaih’s inspirations included the Egyptian cartoonist Sabah al-Kheir and the Palestinian ...

Aaron’s Law Introduced: Now Is the Time to Reform the CFAA

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Today, Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Jim Sensenbrenner, and Senator Wyden introduced Aaron’s Law, a bipartisan bill to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the law notoriously used in the aggressive prosecution of the late Aaron Swartz. Lofgren and Sensenbrenner's bill draws from EFF’s own proposal written in the wake of Aaron’s tragic death and fixes some of the main problems with the CFAA. You can tell your representative to support common sense changes to the CFAA by going here.

Take action to fix computer crime law.For years, the CFAA has been widely abused by the prosecutors to hamper security research, stifle innovation, and lock people away for years who have caused little or no economic harm. The CFAA was originally intended to cover the hacking of defense department and bank computers, but it's been expanded so that it now covers virtually every computer on the Internet while meting out disproportionate penalties for virtual crimes. We’ve written extensively about the need for CFAA reform and Aaron’s Law is a great first step.

First, Lofgren and Sensenbrenner's bill deletes the vague phrase “exceeds authorized access” and clarifies the definition of “access without authorization,” key fixes in a law that has for years been ...