Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

This Crystal Ball is Clear: OCR Cannot Issue a ‘Blueprint’ Without Following APA Rulemaking Procedures

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013


Fortune cookie - Shutterstock 

In an article published today in Inside Higher Ed, Allie Grasgreen reports on efforts to force colleges and universities to respond to sexual misconduct cases more aggressively. Grasgreen provides an overview of the efforts of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in this vein, including OCR's April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" letter (mandating use of the low "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof in campus hearings for sexual misconduct allegations) and the "blueprint" for sexual harassment policies issued last month by OCR and the Department of Justice.

In the article, Daniel Swinton, senior executive vice president of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM), believes that university officials should take the blueprint "into account when reviewing or revising their own policies." According to Swinton:

"A lot of those letters tend to be talismans to help us understand how OCR interprets the law, and they say it's specific to that institution, and it's true, but you can see a general set of principles and approaches in those letters that are transferrable to many institutions. ... We look to those as more informal guidance."

The Greeks had ...

FIRE Cases Figure Prominently at This Year’s AAUP Conference

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Starting tomorrow, I'll be in Washington, D.C., attending this year's national conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Scanning through the conference's schedule, I'm pleased to say that not one but two professors with past FIRE cases will be giving presentations inspired by their experiences.  

Tomorrow afternoon at 3:45 p.m., attendees will hear from University of Wisconsin-Stout professor James Miller, the professor at the center of FIRE's famous Firefly case, set into motion when he was ordered to remove a poster image of the sci-fi show's lead character, along with a well-known quote from the show. Here's how Miller's presentation appears on the schedule:

Free Speech Under Fire: The Firefly Poster Affair 

When the University of Wisconsin-Stout police chief removed a television show poster from James Miller's office door and threatened him with criminal charges, an international outcry from advocates of academic freedom as well as fans of the beloved Joss Whedon space saga Firefly was sparked. James Miller (University of Wisconsin-Stout)

You can watch FIRE's award-winning short video on Miller's case below: 

On Thursday at 2:00 p.m., University of Denver (DU) professor Arthur Gilbert will share with attendees the story of his deplorable treatment ...

Campus Progress Emphasizes First Amendment Concerns in UNC Honor Code Case

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Campus Progress' Jenn Nowicki reported yesterday on the recently dismissed honor code charges against University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC­–CH) student Landen Gambill. Gambill was charged with "disruptive or intimidating behavior" after publicly criticizing UNC's handling of sexual assault cases, including her own. 

In dismissing Gambill's case, and all other pending cases brought under the same honor code provision, UNC–CH Chancellor Holden Thorp acknowledged that he was taking action in order to "protect the free speech rights of [UNC's] students." 

Nowicki quoted FIRE's Will Creeley on why the code was problematic:

In the Honor Code, [an external review] found, harassment and intimidation are so vaguely defined that they could be applied to a large number of student behaviors and speech, including those which are constitutionally protected. 

"Unless you have a harassment code that is specific and precise, and matches the Supreme Court's definition of harassment in the educational context, you're going to have a code that prohibits protected speech, and that code will be used eventually to crack down on speech that you support," [FIRE's Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will] Creeley said. "It's important to remember that the First Amendment protects all kinds of speech, ...

TFAW Supports CBLDF’s Annual SDCC Auction

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

FrancisManapulFor the fifth year in a row, Things From Another World (TFAW.com) is proud to partner with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for their annual CBLDF Auction at San Diego Comic-Con! With the help of creators including Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Tim Seeley (Revival), and more (see below), the comic book retailer has been able to help raise more than $100,000 to help support the First Amendment rights of the comics community.

As in years past, TFAW is asking professional comic book artists* to create original sketches to donate to the CBLDF auction at San Diego Comic-Con. Artists can choose to sketch their own creator-owned characters, or up to ten artists may sketch DC Comics’ proprietary characters and up to seven artists can create sketches featuring Marvel’s Mighty heroes! (NOTE: Artists wishing to sketch DC and Marvel characters will need to contact TFAW in advance so that they can limit the number of submissions. Also, these pieces are subject to publisher approval.)

In exchange for their original sketches, participating artists will receive 300 free limited-edition autograph cards of their pieces.

New this year: Instead of an original sketch, artists may choose ...

For Free Expression, Privacy is a Must

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

screen-shot-2010-01-22-at-112049-am1The nation is abuzz this week following Edward Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s comprehensive (and fully unconstitutional) surveillance program (Click here for the Guardian’s live feed of Snowden-related news). Those of us who spend our time protecting civil liberties are appalled at the behavior of this administration and its intelligence and security agencies, and perhaps even more disturbed by the rhetoric coming out of the white house following these crucial leaks.

(This is a REALLY big deal, so please check out what our Coalition members are doing about it. The ACLU is launching a variety of countermeasures and suits against these illegal surveillance policies– check out their homepage. UPDATE: ACLU files lawsuit against the Obama administration. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has put together a letter that NCAC has signed on to. And PLEASE, everyone, check out the Stop Watching Us campaign and sign the unified letter to congress!)

But there’s something that makes this news even more shocking to us at NCAC and to anyone out there concerned with free expression, and that’s the timing of this story. Just last week, Frank LaRue of the UN Human Rights Council gave a report confirming that privacy is absolutely essential ...

Illinois School District Lifts Ban on The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

wallflowerIn a victory for free speech, the Glen Ellyn, Illinois, school board reversed course, rescinding a ban on acclaimed novel Perks of Being a Wallflower!

With a vote of 6 to 1, the Glen Ellyn school board returned the book to classrooms, thanks in large part to a grassroots campaign that garnered the support of students, teachers, parents, and even bestselling author Judy Blume. By signing a letter of support and promoting a letter writing campaign on behalf of the book, CBLDF and its supporters added their voices to the cacophony of people who wrote letters, made videos, and contacted the Glen Ellyn school board to oppose the ban.

The school board meeting, which took place Monday night, was packed with students, teachers, parents, and other members of the Glen Ellyn community. Most were there in support of the book.

Among the most prominent supporters of the book was Blume, who is no stranger to censorship herself. She spoke about the book over the weekend, during the Printers Row Lit Fest:

While at Printer’s Row, Blume won the Chicago Tribune’s Young Adult Literary Prize. Blume pledged to donate the $5,000 prize to the National Coalition Against Censorship, ...

86 Civil Liberties Groups and Internet Companies Demand an End to NSA Spying

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Today, a bipartisan coalition of 86 civil liberties organizations and Internet companies – including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks, and the American Civil Liberties Union – are demanding swift action from Congress in light of the recent revelations about unchecked domestic surveillance.

In an open letter to lawmakers sent today, the groups call for a congressional investigatory committee, similar to the Church Committee of the 1970s. The letter also demands legal reforms to rein in domestic spying and demands that public officials responsible for this illegal surveillance are held accountable for their actions.

The letter denounces the NSA’s spying program as illegal, noting:

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures...

The letter was accompanied by the launch of StopWatching.us, a global petition calling on Congress to provide a public accounting of the United States' domestic spying capabilites and to bring an end to illegal surveillance.

The groups call for a number of specific legal reforms, including reform ...

Florida Sheriff Continues ‘War on Porn’ and Sets Sights on Backpage

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is well known for his faith-based campaign against erotic entertainment.  His morality police strike again, this time with a promise to go after the world’s second largest classified ad website, Backpage.com.  The threats of prosecution come on the heels of a four day sting operation resulting in the arrest of almost 100 people, with charges ranging from offering to commit lewdness to aiding and abetting prostitution, deriving proceeds from prostitution, escape, traffic offenses, possession of illegal drugs, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest.  According to deputies, the people arrested responded to advertisements posted by undercover detectives posing as prostitutes or were prostitutes who posted ads and came to the detectives’ location to offer services.  Judd subsequently held a press conference stating that he now has permission from the State Attorney’s Office to launch a full criminal investigation into Backpage and its operators for facilitating organized prostitution and human trafficking, and plans to begin doing so. 

Notably, this is the same sheriff who declared a so-called war on porn just a few short years ago.  Having publicly vowed to eliminate all “smut” and “perverts” from his jurisdiction, by any means necessary, Judd has ...

Kudos to the Kids Right to Read Advocates of Glen Ellyn!

Monday, June 10th, 2013

–UPDATE– Last night the board voted 6-1 to keep the book. They will be instating new policies that will hopefully balance parental concerns with students rights and the professional judgments of teachers.

———————————————

The students, teachers, parents and citizens on the ground in Glen Ellyn have been working hard to spread the word about tonight’s board vote there to (hopefully) restore Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. 

Maddie Giffin and Maddie Howard, students at Glenbard West High School, made this video and have been leading a social media campaign using the hash tag #keepthebookalive. They even met Judy Blume and captured her thoughts about the ban when she visited Chicago last weekend.

Perks has been the center of debate since the end of April when the District 41 school board heard and then rejected a committee recommendation to keep the book in classroom libraries in Hadley Middle School. The book was a selection for independent or free reading which was chosen by a small group for a report. Two parents filed a complaint about their book after buying it for their daughter to read as part of the small group free reading.

Much of the debate ...

Under New Definition, U of Montana Tutorial is Sexual Harassment

Monday, June 10th, 2013

By now, Torch readers will be familiar with the Departments of Education (ED) and Justice's (DOJ's) new definition of sexual harassment, as stated in their May 9 letter to the University of Montana (UMT): "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," including speech. As FIRE has explained, under the requirements of this federal "blueprint," speech constitutes "sexual harassment" if only one unreasonably sensitive person finds the speech offensive. Indeed, the ED and DOJ explicitly rejected the requirement in UMT policy that conduct be objectively offensive to a reasonable person before it could be properly deemed "sexual harassment."

So naturally, applying this definition would mean that a video about sexual conduct that is expected to make viewers uncomfortable would qualify as sexual harassment, particularly if those viewers were forced to pay close attention or jeopardize their studies ... right?

Interestingly enough, as part of a program meant to address the problem of sexual assault on campus, the University of Montana, the very institution that is party to the blueprint, requires all of its students to watch a video tutorial on the topic and earn a perfect score on a post-tutorial quiz in the fall in order to register for spring ...

International Customers: It’s Time to Call on US Internet Companies to Demand Accountability and Transparency

Monday, June 10th, 2013

The Guardian and the Washington Post recently published slides that indicate that the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) is engaged in mass surveillance of users around the world through a program called PRISM. The NSA is extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs from nine leading Internet companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. Furthermore, the US is reportedly sharing this data with the UK government.

These major Internet companies have denied any knowledge of the PRISM program. For instance, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said, “Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers…We hadn't even heard of PRISM before yesterday.”

It’s difficult to square the companies’ denials with the leaked slides and the US government’s admission that the PRISM program does exist—and is capturing data from users all over world.

The time is now for global users of US Internet companies to demand answers, and for those companies to join them in seeking more transparency—and limits to government surveillance of their international and US users.

What does this mean for non-American users of American Internet companies?

...

KentCAF to Host Musical Benefit with P. CRAIG RUSSELL for CBLDF!

Monday, June 10th, 2013

pcr_piano-recitalOctober 18 – 19, 2013, will see the inaugural edition of the Kent Comic Arts Festival in Kent, Ohio. In addition to celebrating graphic storytelling, the festival will also feature a special piano musicale from guest P. Craig Russell, who is donating the proceeds to CBLDF for our important work in defense of the freedom to read!

Held on the campus of Kent State University, the event will kick off Friday, October 18, with an art show and opening reception featuring artwork from the graphic novel version of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Russell is doing scripts, layouts, and finishes for the adaptation, and he is joined on the project by Jill Thompson, Michael Golden, David LaFuente, Kevin Nowlan, Tony Harris, Galen Showman, and Scott Hampton. Thompson, Hampton, and Showman are also guests at KentCAF.

TGB 1On Saturday, October 19, the main show takes place. Russell will present a live version of his master class video series, Guide to Graphic Storytelling, which will be followed by a signing and the event of the day: Russell’s piano musicale! Russell will tickle the ivories for fans, and all of the tips he receives while playing will go to CBLDF!

We’ll keep ...

Government Says Secret Court Opinion on Law Underlying PRISM Program Needs to Stay Secret

Friday, June 7th, 2013

In a rare public filing in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the Justice Department today urged continued secrecy for a 2011 FISC opinion that found the National Security Agency's surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act to be unconstitutional.  Significantly, the surveillance at issue was carried out under the same controversial legal authority that underlies the NSA’s recently-revealed PRISM program.

EFF filed a suit under the Freedom of Information Act in August 2012, seeking disclosure of the FISC ruling.  Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall revealed the existence of the opinion, which found that collection activities under FISA Section 702  "circumvented the spirit of the law” and violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. But, at the time, the Senators were not permitted to discuss the details publicly. Section 702 has taken on new importance this week, as it appears to form the basis for the extensive PRISM surveillance program reported recently in the Guardian and the Washington Post. 

The government sought to block EFF’s FOIA suit by arguing that only the FISC, itself, can release the opinion.  In an effort to remove that roadblock, EFF filed a motion with the ...

In Light of NSA Revelations, Government Asks for More Time in EFF Surveillance Cases

Friday, June 7th, 2013

In light of the confirmation of NSA surveillance of millions of Americans' communications records, and especially the decision by the government to declassify and publicly release descriptions of the program, the government today asked the courts handling two EFF surveillance cases for some additional time to consider their options.

The first notice comes in EFF's Jewel v. NSA case (along with a companion case called Shubert v. Obama), which seeks to stop the spying and obtain an injunction prohibiting the mass collection of communications records by the government. While the Guardian importantly confirmed this with government documents on Wednesday and Thursday, we've been arguing for seven years in court that the NSA has been conducting the same type of dragnet surveillance. In the government's motion, they ask the court to hold the case in abeyance and that the parties file a status report by July 12, 2013.

The second notice comes in EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case seeking the DOJ's secret legal interpretations of Section 215 of the Patriot Act (50 U.S.C. section 1861), which was the statute cited in the leaked secret court order aimed at Verizon. Sen. Wyden and Sen. Udall have long said publicly ...

Wrestling with internet hate speech

Friday, June 7th, 2013

In the coming weeks we will be featuring posts from our smart and savvy summer interns. This post is by programs intern Eli Siems. Eli is a recent graduate of SUNY New Paltz with a degree in English. He is passionate about literature in all forms, particularly poetry, and his love of letters has led him to join the fight to protect free speech, both at home and overseas. 

A recent protest campaign with the twitter hashtag #FBRape succeeded in getting a series of violently sexist pages removed from Facebook under the site’s hate speech policy, even after Facebook moderators repeatedly denied abuse reports regarding those same pages. How did #FBRape get it done? Through the power of advertisers, of course: #FBRape’s mission was an overnight success once Nissan was on board.

The campaign has encountered little, if any, opposition. What moron would defend a page with the title “raping a pregnant bitch and telling your friends you had a threesome” or sites with images of women who have been violently attacked? But does the fact that something may be offensive beyond reasonable defense mean it should be banned as hate speech. Therein lies the rub.

Hate speech is a very difficult thing to define. And, much as Facebook insists it ...

Court Rules That California Prisoner Can Keep His Werewolf Erotica

Friday, June 7th, 2013

When Andres Martinez ordered The Silver Crown by Mathilde Madden, he expected an erotic novel about werewolves. What he didn’t expect is for the book to be seized and labeled obscene by government officials. Why was the book kept from Martinez? He’s a prisoner at Pelican Bay State Prison in California, and as such, the materials to which he is allowed access are closely monitored. Officials typically ban access to erotica and they decided The Silver Crown specifically was obscene due to graphic sexual depictions. So, Martinez sued for access to the book — and he won his suit.

The prison made a fatal error in labeling the book obscene. From the Court of Appeal ruling:

We conclude first that the prison failed to abide by governing statutes and regulations in judging the book to be obscene. And we go on to find that the book is not obscene applying the correct definition, and further that it is not likely to incite violence. We therefore grant the writ and order the Warden to give the book to petitioner.

The decision itself is a fine piece of writing. In ruling the book was not obscene, the court acknowledged that while the ...

New York: It’s Time to Take Action for Open Access

Friday, June 7th, 2013

The New York State Senate and Assembly are considering the Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (S4050 / A180). This bill—which would give the public access to the results of tens from millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded research—is a crucial step in the fight for open access. As we've noted before, the lack of access to state-of-the-art research affects students, researchers, and regular citizens—whether a curious mind or a patient in need. The latest research also translates directly into downstream innovations and important businesses, boosting the economy and creating jobs.

Yet, like the California public access bill before it, this legislation is subject to a misinformation campaign on the part of publishers. Grievances about lost jobs, lost funds, and lost quality remain unfounded. The bill does little to significantly alter existing journals' models—in fact, it relies on their existence and their facilitation of peer review. Publishers' lobbyists are parading through the halls of the Senate and Assembly this very moment; it is crucial your voice is heard, too.

New Yorkers, take action today and spread the word of this important bill.

Like proposed public access legislation before it on both the federal and state levels, the ...

Embattled Mexican American Studies Program Finds Another Way

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Despite a federal court ruling that upheld the law that led to the dissolution of Tucson’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program, reports continue to indicate some version of the program may be reinstated in Tucson classrooms. Two former instructors for the embattled program have taken matters into their own hands: They recently announced an after-school course at Prescott College that will offer the MAS curriculum and provide college credit.

Curtis Acosta and Sean Arce — both veterans of the now defunct MAS program — are teaching the course. Huffington Post Latino spoke to Acosta about how he has kept the MAS cirriculum available:

When the Tucson school board shut down the classes last year, Acosta volunteered on Sundays to teach Mexican American studies off school grounds at the John Valenzuela Youth Center in South Tucson.

“I started it because I couldn’t imagine the idea of the classes being erased,” Acosta told HuffPost. “As long as I’m still breathing, I’ll be teaching this.”

The Tucson school board voted to end the program in early 2012, claiming that it violates a state law that outlaws instructional material that fosters racial hatred. The decision contradicted an independent audit of the program had indicated ...

Massachusetts High Court Recognizes Right to be Free From GPS Surveillance

Friday, June 7th, 2013

In a landmark decision in Commonwealth v. Rousseau, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled this week that people "may reasonably expect not to be subjected to extended GPS electronic surveillance by the government" without a search warrant -- whether they are driving the vehicle in question or not.

Police obtained a search warrant to install a GPS device on a car owned by a man suspected in a number of arsons throughout the state and tracked him while he drove the car with his friend and frequent passenger, Rousseau, for over 30 days. After being arrested and charged, both the owner and passenger Rousseau sought to challenge the GPS evidence, arguing that due to misrepresentations in the warrant application, the warrant was invalid. The trial court agreed the misrepresentations made the warrant invalid, but upheld the surveillance anyway, finding that neither the driver or the passenger had a reasonable expectation of privacy in their movements and that for the driver, the physical installation of the GPS device didn't trigger state or federal constitutional scrutiny. 

After the trial court's decision in 2007, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2009 in Commonwealth v. Connolly that the physical installation of ...

In Response to the NSA, We Need A New Church Committee and We Need It Now

Friday, June 7th, 2013

“[The National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.” —Senator Frank Church, 1975

Following on the heels of the Guardian reporting that the NSA is collecting all US call data records of Verizon customers, the Guardian and Washington Post yesterday reported that nine of the biggest Internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, are also working with the government in a vast spying program, where a massive amount of online data flows to the NSA, all in secret.

The revelations not only confirmed what EFF has long alleged, they went even further and honestly, we’re still reeling. EFF will, of course, be continuing its efforts to get this egregious situation addressed by the courts. 

But one thing is clear.  Congress now has a responsibility to the American people to conduct a full, public investigation into the domestic surveillance of Americans by the intelligence communities, whether done directly or in concert with the FBI.  And it then has a duty to make changes in the ...

AAUP’s Committee on Women Expresses Deep Concern about Feds’ Speech Code ‘Blueprint’

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Adding to the long list of those concerned about the new mandate for speech codes issued on May 9 by the federal Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education (ED) is the American Association of University Professors' Committee on Women. AAUP's letter to the Departments praises their desire to create a "more equitable campus environment for women" but expresses deep concern with their redefinition of sexual harassment, which "eliminates the critical standard of 'reasonable speech,' and, in so doing, may pose a threat to academic freedom in the classroom."

Appropriately, the letter focuses on the adverse effects this is likely to have on faculty members, giving examples of controversial issues that have arisen in the course of their gender studies classes. For example, "[a]fter seeing a film on African culture during a class on African literature, students discuss attitudes towards breast-feeding and breasts." The AAUP correctly points out that "[u]nder the proposed redefinition of sexual harassment, each of these classroom topics, because they might offend student sensibilities, or create discomfort, could be construed as 'verbal conduct of a sexual nature' and thus be considered contributory to the creation of a 'hostile environment' in the classroom."

FIRE has made the same ...

Hun Sen in Apparent Bid to Stifle Opposition

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Ahead of key elections next month, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen is attempting to purge opposition lawmakers from parliament and prosecute a key opposition leader on allegedly distorted charges linking him to the widely despised Khmer Rouge movement, sources say.

A key committee of the National Assembly, the country's lower house of parliament, controlled by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has approved a measure to dismiss the 29 opposition members from the legislature because their parties have merged into a new group, sources said.

The parliament’s permanent committee, members of whom are all from the CPP, made the decision at a secret meeting in an alleged attempt by Hun Sen to cripple the opposition ahead of the July 28 elections, according to the sources.

The parliamentary panel had ruled that 26 opposition legislators from the former Sam Rainsy Party and three from the former Human Rights Party were no longer MPs because they had quit their old parties under which they contested their seats.

All of them had joined the new Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) led by exiled opposition chief Sam Rainsy, who has been barred from standing in the elections because of a string of convictions against ...

Greenest Night Isn’t Over — Exclusive Items Now Available in Rewards Zone

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Greenest Night: A Celebration of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern was a huge success for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Thanks to all the fans and comic book industry professionals that joined us at the Avalon Bardot Theatre in Hollywood, California, on May 25th, we had a great time celebrating Ge0ff Johns’ incredible 9-year run of groundbreaking Green Lantern comics, all while raising more than $16,000 for our ongoing campaign to protect First Amendment rights!

Of course, we owe a special thanks to Geoff Johns himself. Few writers are lucky enough and talented enough to re-popularize a classic character with nearly a decade’s worth of consistently engaging stories, so it was an honor that he chose to benefit CBLDF while celebrating such accomplishments with his fans.

Johns was kind enough to provide us with some rare and exciting items for the CBLDF Rewards Zone!

greenest_night_print_grande If you’ve ever seen one of Alex Ross’s paintings (and if you haven’t, you should), it should come as no surprise that this Limited Edition Green Lantern Print is quite pretty, to say the least. Created exclusively for the Greenest Night event and only available through CBLDF, each 17 x 9 inch poster is numbered and signed by Geoff Johns.

green_lantern_grandephoto_6_grande

Next ...

Wisconsin Legislative Committee Threatens UW Faculty, Journalism Nonprofit

Thursday, June 6th, 2013


Wisconsin State Capitol from Monona Terrace - Wikimedia Commons

Just before 6 a.m. yesterday morning, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) of the Wisconsin State Legislature voted 12–4 to add a motion to the proposed state budget that would kick the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ) off the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW–Madison) campus and forbid UW employees from even working with the WCIJ. WCIJ executive director Andy Hall said that he was "blindsided" by this striking blow to academic freedom. If the motion is passed into law, it will unacceptably restrict the academic freedom and freedom of association rights of UW–Madison journalism faculty. 

For the past three years, UW–Madison has hosted WCIJ in two offices on campus, and WCIJ has provided UW journalism students with paid internships. Working with UW–Madison, WCIJ has produced award-winning journalism that the JFC has itself relied on in its decision-making. Yet the JFC approved the following motion yesterday morning:

Center for Investigative Journalism. Prohibit the Board of Regents from permitting the Center for Investigative Journalism to occupy any facilities owned or leased by the Board of Regents. In addition, prohibit UW employees from doing any work related to the Center for Investigative ...

‘Unlearning Liberty’: Harassment Codes Often Abused to Censor

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Last month, when the Departments of Justice and Education joined together to mandate that virtually every college and university in the United States adopt speech codes that violate the First Amendment and decades of legal precedent, many were justifiably shocked. UCLA law professor and popular legal blogger Eugene Volokh said that the new mandate creates "a very dangerous situation," Washington Post columnist George Will wrote that it will encourage "censorship regimes" on campus, and Atlantic columnist and civil libertarian Wendy Kaminer didn't mince words when she called it "an educational nightmare."

Less surprising, perhaps, than the federal government's attempt to mandate unconstitutional speech codes on nearly every college campus is the mechanism it has chosen to do so. The mandate comes in the form of a findings letter and agreement among the DOJ, ED, and the University of Montana (UMT) to address several allegations of sexual assault on the university's Missoula campus. As part of the mandate, which expressly touts itself as a "blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country," the feds write that in order to fulfill its requirements under Title IX, UMT must adopt a sexual harassment policy that prohibits "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," ...

Unlocking Hearing Shines A Light On The DMCA’s Problems And The Need For A Real Fix

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

As we reported yesterday, there was a hearing this morning on Capitol Hill to talk about restoring legal protection for mobile phone unlocking that the Librarian of Congress took away last fall. The representatives and witnesses all agreed that consumers should be able to switch wireless carriers without facing civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution. The committee seems poised to move forward with Representative Goodlatte's (R-Va) bill, which brings back the legal shelter for unlocking until the next Library of Congress hearings in 2015.

We're glad to see Congress shining a spotlight on one of the unfortunate consequences of section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law that broadly bans "circumvention" of digital locks on creative works, even to make lawful and beneficial uses of those works.  The exceptions to that law are narrow and hard to use - and as the flap over unlocking illustrates, neither businesses nor consumers can rely on the Librarian to grant useful legal shields for legal activities.

Still, let's keep in mind what Rep. Goodlatte's bill does and doesn't do:

  • It shields consumers from legal trouble but not the makers of software and services for those consumers to use.
  • It protects the ...

Helpful ISP is Too Helpful: Australia’s Censorship Fiasco, And How It Could Have Been Stopped

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Australian Internet users have been cursed for over a decade by governments who appear to neither understand nor care about the consequences of Internet censorship. The current Communications minister, Stephen Conroy, has been particular notorious on this matter: after failing to get parliamentary approval for his Internet blacklist plans, he announced that government departments, including his own, had powers to block websites anyway under the ambiguously-written powers of Section 313 of the fifteen-year old Telecommunications Act.

Now he is reaping the predictable results of that decision. Arbitrary blocks on websites have been taking place without his knowledge or any transparency, by an array of government bureacracies. By one of these groups' own estimates, as few as a thousand and as much as quarter of a million legitimate websites could have been incorrectly censored. Conroy's department, supposedly in charge of both government Internet policy and censorship, knew nothing of these blocks until—quite accidentally—groups like the Melbourne Free University and EFF independently discovered evidence of the secret censorship.

His recent attempts to stonewall against a barrage of questions asked by Senator Scott Ludlam below is worth watching, to demonstrate just how such ill-considered censorship can spiral out of control, and, when ...

With Your Support, The Save Podcasting Campaign Is Underway

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Wow!

Just a week ago, we asked you to help us bust the patent being used to threaten podcasters. First, we were looking for help to raise $30,000 in two weeks to cover the costs of fighting this patent. With your help, we hit our goal in just ten hours! You can still contribute here.

Second, we asked that you help us identify prior art—proof that Personal Audio's patent should never have been granted in the first place. Details on what we need to find, and where you can send it, can be found here. We've had many fine suggestions and we're investigating each one closely to build the best case we can. Please take a look at our original request and share your ideas through our Ask Patents page or by emailing podcasting@eff.org.

We're overwhelmed with your support so far, and cannot thank you enough. Our search for prior art continues and the amount of work EFF can do to fight bad patents overall depends on your financial contributions.

There's more good news to share: not only have we accomplished much toward our immediate goal of busting the Personal Audio patent, but we've been able to raise ...

CBLDF Returns to HEROES CON This Weekend!

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

HeroesCon-LogoCBLDF is excited to return to the great state of North Carolina to attend Heroes Con, hosted by our friends at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in Charlotte.

Heroes Con takes place June 7-9 at the Charlotte Convention Center (501 S. College Street). CBLDF will be in booth #102 all weekend, where we stand ready to sign attendees up for membership, and we’ll have exclusive premiums that include everything from limited edition prints to signed graphic novels to t-shirts.

Making a convention debut, we will also have some key items from Greenest Night, the celebration of Geoff Johns’s contributions to the Green Lantern universe! You can get a preview of these rare items here.

Additionally, Deputy Director Alex Cox will be hosting the History of Censorship in Comics panel on Friday at 4:00 p.m. in Room 206. This informative hour describes the history of moral panic in pop culture and the various attacks on comics throughout the years. This has become a very popular program at conventions over the past few years, and this marks the first time we have presented it at HEROES CON, so make sure you stop by!

This is one of our only ...

Peter Wood Adds to ‘Blueprint’ Chorus in ‘Minding the Campus’

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

The drumbeat goes on as FIRE and numerous media outlets and commentators continue to criticize the Departments of Justice and Education for their May 9 "blueprint" mandating unconstitutional speech codes on college campuses nationwide. 

Joining the chorus this week is Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, who writes for Minding the Campus. Surveying the potential damage from the federal blueprint, Wood states:

I don't expect that [the ED's Office for Civil Rights] will voluntarily relinquish its new rules, nor will colleges and universities generally resist their implementation.  The rules, however, will be challenged in court, and it seems a pretty safe bet that, in light of their flagrant transgression against rights of free speech and due process, they will be overturned.

To anticipate that defeat is, however, not much comfort for the hundreds and perhaps thousands of students and faculty members who will incur substantial expense, humiliation, and disruption to their academic careers as they face accusations under this new policy. 

You can read Wood's entire take on the matter at Minding the Campus

And of course, if you haven't already done so, please let the DOJ and ED know that their recent attempt to ...

Storyline 2012: Monticello Road wins top prize

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

The Virginia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects has announced its biennial awards and gave its highest honor to the Center’s Storyline 2012–Monticello Road. The Presidential Award of Excellence is the highest award given to a project that has been deemed by the jury as exceptional for its wonderful story, clients, and design excellence.

Watch the short video on Storyline 2012: Monticello Road.

Anonymity, Encryption, and Free Expression: What Nations Need to Do

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

In his landmark report to the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council, Frank La Rue, the U.N's free speech watchdog, makes clear that anonymous expression and secure communication are critical for an open society. We gave you a quick look at that report yesterday. Now we want to take a deep dive into his support for your rights to anonymity and encryption, and what countries need to do to reflect his conclusions.

La Rue’s official title is “Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. In 2011, he called upon states to ensure that individuals have the right to express themselves anonymously online. In this year’s report, La Rue highlights how restrictions on anonymity chill free speech. La Rue urges states that they should generously err on the side of protecting freedom of expression rather than restricting it, and concludes:

Anonymity of communications allows individuals to express themselves freely without fear of retribution or condemnation. ... Restrictions of anonymity in communication, for example, have an evident chilling effect on victims of all forms of violence and abuse, who may be reluctant to report for fear of double victimization. ...

States should ...

Confirmed: The NSA is Spying on Millions of Americans

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Today, the Guardian newspaper confirmed what EFF (and many others) have long claimed: the NSA is conducting widespread, untargeted, domestic surveillance on millions of Americans. This revelation should end, once and for all, the government's long-discredited secrecy claims about its dragnet domestic surveillance programs. It should spur Congress and the American people to make the President finally tell the truth about the government's spying on innocent Americans. 

In a report by Glenn Greenwald, the paper published an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISC) that directs Verizon to provide “on an ongoing daily basis” all call records for any call “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls” and any call made “between the United States and abroad.”

In plain language: the order gave the NSA a record of every Verizon customer’s call history -- every call made, the location of the phone, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other “identifying information” for the phone and call -- from April 25, 2013 (the date the order was issued) to July 19, 2013.  The order does not require content or the name of any subscriber and is issued under 50 USC sec.1861...

Congress Moves To Protect Phone Unlockers – A Small Step Towards Fixing the DMCA

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Congress looks poised to create a new legal shield for mobile phone unlocking, making it clear that people who switch wireless carriers won't face civil suits or criminal penalties under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That legal protection was taken away by a ruling from the Librarian of Congress last October. In a hearing tomorrow morning, a subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will hear from witnesses about a bill to bring it back - at least temporarily. It's a no-brainer that people should be able to use the phones they own on the networks of their choice, as everyone from the wireless carriers to consumer advocates to the White House agrees. Congress should fix cell phone unlocking - and then it should quickly turn its attention to fixing the legislative mistake that got us into this mess in the first place.

That's because the limitation on cell-phone unlocking is just one of many dangerous consequences of one law: section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits "circumventing" digital locks on copyrighted works. It's a broad prohibition that causes problems for video artists, software developers, security researchers, and consumers of digital goods. Congress knew ...

Eight Cambodian Labor Activists Charged Over Violence

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

A Cambodian court on Wednesday charged eight labor activists with inciting violence and destroying property following clashes between rival unions at a factory making clothing for the U.S. sportswear company Nike.

Several thousand garment workers protested outside the Kampong Speu provincial court in southern Cambodia as the eight remained in detention after they were charged.

The eight were arrested on Monday after police suppressed a riot by up to 4,000 workers at the Sabrina plant, just west of Phnom Penh.

The violence followed clashes between two unions—the Cambodian Garment Workers Union (CGWU), which had urged an end to the strike at Sabrina, and the Free Trade Union of Cambodia, which had argued that the strike be allowed to continue.

Kompong Speu Court Director Khlok Pich said the eight union activists faced two charges—“intentionally inciting to cause violence and initiating damages against the factory.”

He said the demonstrations outside the court did not impact the hearing.

Release

FTU spokesman Pich Ponnray told RFA's Khmer Service that the workers had gathered in the hope that the court would free their representatives.

“The workers want the union members to be released and allowed to return to work,” he said.

About 100 riot police ...

Weapons Sales Hinge on Vietnam Rights Record

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

The U.S. said Wednesday that it would not lift remaining sanctions on weapons exports to Vietnam unless Hanoi improves its human rights record.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Joseph Yun told a congressional hearing on U.S. relations with Vietnam that Washington would not support an upgrade in bilateral ties without “demonstrable, sustained improvement” on human rights.

“While we intend to pursue closer security ties with Vietnam, there remain limits on our military-to-military relationship related to human rights,” Yun told a panel on Asia and the Pacific of the U.S House of Representatives.

Yun said however that the U.S. would support Vietnam’s efforts to modernize its military “within the nonlethal realm” to maintain peace and security in Southeast Asia.

“[W]e have made clear to Vietnam’s defense and civilian leaders that for the United States to consider lifting the remaining restrictions on defense equipment exports, including on lethal weapons, there needs to be continued demonstrable, sustained improvement in the human rights situation in the country,” he said.

Vietnam has called for the removal of the remaining sanctions, saying it would serve both Washington and Hanoi’s mutual interests and allow Vietnam to “overhaul and upgrade our weaponry.”

Experts have ...

Literature Professor Unveils Brand New ‘Blueprint’-Compliant Syllabus

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

As Torch readers know, the Departments of Education and Justice have established a new "blueprint" for sexual harassment policies on college campuses nationwide, eliminating the requirement that sexual harassment be objectively offensive and instead defining it as simply "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," including speech. 

Not wanting to be "labeled a sexual harasser by the Department of Education," Georgia Perimeter College professor Rob Jenkins shared with The Chronicle of Higher Education his plans to revise his Intro to Lit syllabus in order to comply with the mandate. Now that "the DOE has apparently decided that the ‘reasonable person' test no longer applies," Jenkins notes that quite a few classic works of literature will have to be cut from the line-up, including:

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. As everyone knows, Shakespeare was a dirty old man, unless of course he was actually a woman. In Hamlet, the prince suspects that his mother and his uncle had an affair before conspiring to murder his father. That's not just adultery; it smacks of incest, for gosh sakes. 

"Wild Nights, Wild Nights!," by Emily Dickinson. Speaking of female sexuality, do we really want young people contemplating some 19th-century poet's love life, ...

Help Defend The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

wallflowerA few weeks ago, the school board in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, voted 4-2 to remove The Perks of Being a Wallflower from district classrooms. The school board is reviewing their decision on June 10, and we need your help defending the book!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been widely praised for its candid treatment of teenagers, touching on topics such as suicide, sexual abuse, homosexuality, masturbation, and consumption of alcohol. These topics have also led to widespread challenges of the book, frequently putting it on ALA’s annual list of the most challenged and banned books.

One set of parents called for the removal of the book from Glen Ellyn classrooms, despite the fact that it is not required reading and their daughter was allowed to stop reading the book because it made her uncomfortable. A review committee comprised of teachers, parents, and administrators met to review the challenge, and the committee recommended that the book be kept in district classrooms. In spite of the recommendation, the school board — a group comprised of bankers, real estate agents, and former lawyers who do not have any pedagogical experience — voted to remove the book. In doing so, the board ...

‘Los Angeles Times’ to Feds: Respect Campus Speech

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

An editorial published in today's Los Angeles Times calls on the Departments of Justice and Education to respect free speech on campus. The editorial asks the Departments to clarify their "blueprint," issued last month, that requires an expanded definition of sexual harassment and restricts speech protected by the First Amendment. The Times' editorial board writes: "Sexual harassment on campus is a serious problem, but it can be addressed without abridging free speech."

The "blueprint" the editorial refers to is, of course, the May 9 findings letter and resolution agreement authored by the Departments and concluding their investigation into the University of Montana's practices regarding sexual assault. The Departments proclaimed the letter and resolution agreement to be "a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country." FIRE has covered the blueprint's ramifications for campus speech extensively since its issuance. 

In criticizing the federal blueprint—which the Times politely notes isn't "a model of clarity"—the editorial points out the blueprint's prohibition against "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," including "verbal conduct" (i.e., speech). The editors write that the blueprint suggests "that a college or university must punish such 'verbal conduct' if even a single, arguably oversensitive, person found ...

Speech Code of the Month: Bemidji State University

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for June 2013: Bemidji State University in Minnesota. 

Bemidji State's Student Code of Conduct (PDF) prohibits: 

engaging in any offensive, obscene or abusive language, or in boisterous or noisy conduct reasonably tending to arouse alarm, resentment, or anger in others on University-owned or controlled property or at University sponsored or supervised activities. 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, speech and expression cannot be prohibited simply because others find it offensive. In Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court held 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." Notably, the expression protected by the Court in Texas v. Johnson was flag desecration, which certainly seems to fall within the scope of Bemidji State's policy.

The Supreme Court has also applied this principle directly to the public university campus, writing that "the mere dissemination of ideas—no matter how offensive to good taste—on a state university campus may not be shut off in the name alone of 'conventions of ...

Celebrity Rights Shouldn’t Trump Constitutional Rights: EFF Supports Challenge to Dangerous Publicity Rights Decision

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

A federal appeals court struck a blow against free speech in a May 21 ruling against a video-game creator and EFF won’t let it stand unchallenged.

Working with a coalition of groups representing filmmakers, vidders, and fair-use advocates, EFF today filed a friend-of-the-court (in Latin, amicus curiae) brief with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, urging the court to revisit its ruling in Ryan Hart v. Electronic Arts. If the court agrees, the full court (as opposed to just three judges) will have a chance to consider the case.

At the center of the case is EA’s video game NCAA Football, which simulates college football by using realistic digital avatars of players.  One of those avatars resembled Hart, a former Rutgers quarterback. Although he wasn’t named in the game, Hart sued EA, claiming it violated his right to publicity. The court agreed, but what’s really chilling is that it not only came to that conclusion based on a legal test that gives too much weight to commercial interests as opposed to free speech, it applied the test incorrectly. The result: a perilous precedent for all forms of media that depict real people—including unauthorized biopics (for example Oscar-winning ...

‘Tampa Bay Times’: ‘Harassment policy infringes on speech’

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

 

In an editorial published yesterday, the Tampa Bay Times explains how the Departments of Education and Justice's May 9 "blueprint" for sexual harassment policies is a threat to free speech and how it misdirects the attention of university administrators.

By defining sexual harassment as "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," regardless of whether any "verbal conduct" at issue is objectively offensive, the blueprint will "potentially shift campus administrators from presuming offensive speech is constitutionally protected to aggressively punishing it." The editorial notes a recent student newspaper controversy at Central New Mexico Community College as proof that the threat to student speech is real:

And the overreaction of some college administrators to sexual themes is not theoretical. Just this spring, college administrators at a New Mexico community college shut down the journalism program after students released a sex-themed issue of the campus newspaper.

But protected speech isn't the only casualty. Overbroad sexual harassment policies might make it harder for schools to achieve what should be their real goal-addressing the issue of sexual assault on campus. The Times editorial board writes:

Suppressing speech deemed uncomfortable also will divert resources from rooting out real harassment and sexual assaults on ...

The Washington Post Forbids Fake F-word in Funnies

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
Barney & Clyde strip

(c) Gene Weingarten

Recently, The Washington Post opted not to print the above Barney & Clyde comic strip due to its very tame pun on a certain four-letter swear word. Creator Gene Weingarten, who also happens to be the Post’s own humor columnist, was more bemused than angry at the editorial decision, noting that the paper has a history of hypersensitivity on the comics page:

Time and again, the Post exercises more delicacy in comics editing decisions than other papers! We’ve had to rewrite or replace strips several times for the Post, but for none of the many other client papers [receiving syndicated comics.] For the record, I have no problem with a newspaper editing the comics…. I do find the Post‘s Victorian standards a little amusing, but it’s also sort of cute.

Indeed, it does seem that if readers in our nation’s capital can handle the grawlixes — AKA symbol swearing — that normally stand in for curse words in newspaper comics, they will not faint at the sight of a single-letter alternative that’s necessary to the punchline.

The Post’s extreme caution regarding comics was also in evidence in 2007 and 2010, when it chose ...

The OCR Emperor Has No Legal Clothes: OCR Can Only Enforce the ‘Blueprint’ Against University of Montana

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013


Blueprint - Shutterstock

A few weeks ago FIRE sounded the alarm on the Departments of Education and Justice's "blueprint" for campus speech codes, which defines sexual harassment as "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature" (including "verbal conduct") and thus turns virtually every student and faculty member on campus into a harasser

Since then, we've received many variations of the same question: Can the federal government do that? The short answer: Only if universities let them.

Strictly speaking, the resolution agreement that spells out everything the University of Montana (UMT) must do to satisfy the Department of Education's (ED's) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a settlement binding only on the parties involved. And OCR states on its website that findings letters sent to schools are not statements of policy and do not affect third parties. Nevertheless, in the UMT findings letter, OCR announced that it intends to impose the policy changes it has demanded from UMT on every other federally funded college and university. By labeling the letter and the agreement a "blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country," OCR has sent an unmistakable warning to institutions: If your institution's policies don't track this analysis, ...

Support CBLDF by Bidding on Signed and Rare Comics and Prints!

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Last week we told you about Giving Works, the ambitious new fundraising initiative by eBay that allows eBay sellers to give a portion of their proceeds to several charitable organizations, including Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Today, we’d like to highlight somenew and exciting items that just became available from CBLDF itself! These items are being auctioned by CBLDF, so 100% of the proceeds benefit our First Amendment legal work.

First up is Sin City: Family Values by Frank Miller, signed and sealed with a certificate of authenticity. The fifth tale in Miller’s (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) inimitable neo-noir series, Family Values won the Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Original Work in 1998. Now with an exclusive alternate cover and signature by one of the most influential and talented writers and artists in the history of graphic literature (not to mention a valued CBLDF supporter), this graphic novel should prove difficult for any Miller fan to pass up!

Next up is Peter Panzerfaust Issue Ten Convention Special, with a special edition blank variant cover. Unread and in near perfect condition, this is the place to start with writer Kurtis J. ...

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff at Museum of Sex

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

On May 14, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff visited New York's Museum of Sex to speak with The New York Times' John Tierney about how the Departments of Education (ED) and Justice's (DOJ) May 9 "blueprint" letter exacerbates the problems Greg discusses in his book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.

Greg reviewed some of the more egregious campus policies that existed even before the ED and DOJ declared that "sexual harassment" includes speech that is not objectively offensive—including policies prohibiting "expressions deemed inappropriate" or "inappropriately directed laughter." It's no wonder that according to one survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, only 40% of freshmen, 30% of seniors, and just 18% of professors strongly agreed that "it is safe to hold unpopular opinions on campus." With the ED and DOJ threatening to withhold funding from universities that do not expand their definitions of sexual harassment to include constitutionally protected speech, those numbers are bound to decrease.

Students and professors are justified in feeling nervous that their schools might enforce sexual harassment policies against those who express controversial opinions. As Greg noted, "These systems cannot exist without double standards, because ...

Help! Speak Up Against The Ban of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Over a month ago now, the Glen Ellyn school board voted 4-2 to ban the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower from middle schools in District 41. The district’s ad hoc committee of teachers, parents and administrators read and assessed the book, after the parents of a student filed a formal complaint about the its content. They advised the district to keep the book, which was not required reading but rather was selected as a free reading choice.

(If you’re already thinking “Sign me up!” skip to the bottom for ways to help.)

Now, 6 weeks later, the board (now with some new members) is set to vote on June 10. Students have spoken in front of the board asking to bring the book back. Teachers have asked again and again to reinstate the book; parents have too. Others have expressed support for the ban, calling the book “inappropriate.” In a board meeting last week, two board members cautioned against the slippery slope of censorship and against micromanaging teachers.

Today, this action alert came out from Illinois Family Institute. We’re wondering now if they weren’t behind it the entire time.

The teachers have prepared new letters to send home ...

Ukrainian Political Cartoons Displayed Despite Administration Objections

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

An art exhibition of cartoons addressing Ukrainian corruption, and other political issues, was displayed in Kyiv’s Mykhailivska Square by the Institute for World Policy on May 18th, 2013, despite objections and censorship demands by the city officials.

PASOS.org translated the article about the attempted censorship from the Ukrainian website for IWP, who wrote:

The officials had demanded that IWP remove from the exhibition 13 cartoons that dealt with such topics as corruption, selective justice, and politics as business, the IWP said.

The IWP, an organization dedicated to studying and analyzing world international relations trends as they relate to Ukrainian foreign policy, scheduled the event to correspond with Europe Day, a celebration of the formation of the Council of Europe and European Union in a continuing attempt to foster discussion between government and citizenry.

The institute described the exhibition as part of an on-going series called “Street Eurouniversity,” events where public leaders and experts have an opportunity to directly communicate with citizens. The Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine has supported the campaign, and had sent [head of the Kyiv City State Administration Oleksandr] Popov’s office a letter endorsing the project.

Initially given permission to display the works publicly, ...

Australian Student Newspaper Forced to Pull Satirical Islam Cartoon

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

WoroniWhat are the limits on religious satire? Recently, Woroni, the student newspaper of the Australian National University, was forced by the school to remove and apologize for a cartoon that satirized Islam. If the Woroni case were a routine matter of censorship, this story would be troubling enough, but looking beyond the censorship, this incident raises deeper questions about the application of censorship and the heavy-handed use of threats by the university against a student-run newspaper.

According to Australia’s 7 News, on April 18, Woroni published their latest satirical installment of an ongoing series entitled “Advice from Religion.” The subject of this installment was Islam, and previous to this cartoon, “Advice” had tackled Judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism, and Scientology. Within two days, the cartoon was pulled from the newspaper’s website.

In forcing the editors to make this decision, Australian National University’s Vice Chancellor Ian Young cited two main reasons for the censorship: complaints from international students and a fear of violent backlash. According to the Canberra Times, Young argued:

“On occasion young people overstep the mark and on this occasion, they published a cartoon which was part of a satirical set of cartoons about religion. This one ...

Greenest Night Shines A Light On The Power of Creativity!

Friday, May 31st, 2013

1369752343Last Friday, CBLDF hosted Greenest Night: A Celebration of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern in Hollywood, California, at the Avalon Bardot Theatre, where fans from all over the United States joined comics royalty to toast Johns’ franchise-defining nine year run on the series. The centerpiece of the emotional evening was an interview with Johns, who opened up on the story behind his journey through the GL mythos, being mentored by Richard Donner, and much more.  Sponsored by DC Entertainment and produced by CBLDF in collaboration with Comic Book Resources and Graphitti Designs, Greenest Night raised more than $16,000 for CBLDF’s important work protecting the freedom to read. Read on for detailed accounts and full video from this exclusive event!

The night kicked off with a VIP reception, where Johns spent one-on-one time with fans who came from all over the country to toast his work. Fans also got to rub elbows with other creative luminaries, including DC Entertainment Co-Publisher and CBLDF Advisory board member Jim Lee, Jeph Loeb, Sterling Gates, and Allan Heinberg, as well as executives such as DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson and Executive Vice President John Rood. VIPs received an outstanding gift bag that included a commemorative ...