Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Dori Hillestad Butler for the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Throughout Banned Books Week, we will continue to feature videos from both the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out and the 50 State Salute to Banned Books Week. This morning, we present Dori Hillestad Butler, author of My Mom’s Having a Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, the fourth most frequently challenged book of 2011. Butler’s book was challenged due to nudity, sex education, being sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.

This video was produced by members of the Association of American Publishers who have asked some of the country’s top authors, “What banned book are you reading?”

Watch this video and more on the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out YouTube channel.

Will Creeley on Hate Speech Rules in UC-San Diego Student Newspaper

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

FIRE's Will Creeley has been interviewed for an article in the University of California, San Diego student newspaper, The Guardian. The article addresses the recent call for the University of California (UC) system to prohibit so-called "hate speech," an effort that FIRE opposed as clearly unconstitutional. Thankfully, the story has a happy ending: UC President Mark Yudof rejected the idea. Enterprising student reporter Mina Nilchian asked Will for his take on prohibiting hate speech. Here's a taste:

"I think life in a modern liberal democracy can be very challenging for many. At times our most deeply held beliefs are challenged and we'll find ourselves deeply offended by the ideas that we encounter," Creeley said. "We think that as always the idea is to facilitate more dialogue to work to foster understanding via continued debate and discussion."

Check out this excellent piece of student journalism

LGBT Graphic Novels Face Frequent Challenges

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

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Regular CBLDF readers are probably already aware that comics and graphic novels are frequently challenged or banned for content that would pass without comment in an all-text novel. Would-be censors, often clinging to the notion that any book with lots of pictures must be for children, tend to flip through graphic novels and pick out the most “shocking” images without considering context or the intended audience. At the same time, some censors seem to have a much lower threshold of tolerance for homosexuality than for heterosexuality. For instance, a single page stating that “Some families have two moms or two dads” was enough to get Todd Parr’s The Family Book removed from schools in Erie, Illinois this year. Unsurprisingly, then, graphic novels with LGBT content are often targeted for removal from library collections by those who are not content to simply refrain from reading them, but want to make sure no one else can either. Consider the cases of Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic novel memoir of the author’s childhood, particularly focused on her relationship with her closeted gay father Bruce. As Alison ...

Timeline entry for 2007: The Golden Compass

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Happy Day 3 of Banned Books Week! Throughout the week, we will continue to highlight one book from our timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature the year 2007 and “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman.

The Golden Compass“Northern Lights,” published as “The Golden Compass” in North America, is the first in Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy of fantasy novels for young readers. In 2007, it was pulled from the St. John Neumann Middle and Lourdes High School in Oshkosh, WI because of concerns about what critics call its “anti-Christian message.” It was also challenged at the Conkwright Middle School in Winchester, KY because the main character drinks wine and ingests poppy with her meals, and for anti-Christian doctrine. It was challenged at the Shallowater Middle School in Lubbock, TX and pulled from library shelves at Ortega Middle School in Alamosa, CO, in both cases due to “anti-religious messages.” Similar concerns prompted the Catholic League, a Roman Catholic anti-defamation organization in the U.S., to urge parents to boycott a movie version of the book that was released in December 2007. “Northern Lights” won the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 1995 and was voted the all-time “Carnegie of Carnegies” in ...

Speech Code of the Month: SUNY New Paltz

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
SCOTM Seal

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2012: the State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz). 

The university's "Non-Discrimination/Anti-Harassment Policies & Procedures (PDF)," which apply "to all members of the campus community," prohibit:

Distribution, display or discussion of any written or graphic material that ridicules, denigrates, insults, belittles, or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of protected status. 

Protected status includes a wide variety of characteristics including sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, and military status. While the university may—indeed must—prohibit actual harassment on the basis of these categories, this policy goes far beyond the legal definition of student-on-student (or peer) harassment and restricts not only protected speech, but core political speech of the sort that lies at the heart of the First Amendment's protections.

In Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999), the Supreme Court defined peer harassment in the educational context as conduct that is "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims' educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities." SUNY New Paltz's policy ignores this carefully tailored standard, which ...

TONIGHT IN NYC: Fifty Shades of Banned!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

If you’re near New York, you can celebrate Banned Books Week with an evening of stirring readings from erotic classics at Fifty Shades of Banned: A Celebration of Erotic Literature. The event starts tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Village Pourhouse on 64 3rd Ave (11th Street Entrance, across from Webster Hall). The reading benefits the National Coalition Against Censorship and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

If one thing attracts the attention of the would-be censor, it’s sex. Depictions of sexuality in books, comics, art and film have drawn the eager attentions of Vice Squads and Morality Police since long before the days of Anthony Comstock. Those censorship challenges continue to this day, and are fought by the important work of NCAC and CBLDF.

Fifty Shades of Banned will feature dramatic readings from censored literature, including The Story of O, Joe Blow, Howl, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Fifty Shades of Grey. Performers include sexologist and author Dr. Logan Levkoff, erotica author Rachel Kramer Bussel, comedy group MURDERFIST, and more.

Attendees have a chance to enter a raffle to win a signed copy of Fifty Shades of Grey and other exciting raffle prizes courtesy of Babeland. All door donations ...

Remembering Banned Authors: Rosa Guy

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Rosa Guy’s life, especially her childhood, was filled with the sorts of challenges, trials and loss that would have broken lesser individuals. Instead, her experiences growing up in New York fostered a fierce urge to tell the stories of those around her, leading her to craft honest novels for young people.

Born in Trinidad, Rosa Guy immigrated to the United States at the age of seven, following her parents who had already made the trip. By the time she was fourteen, both of her parents had died, leaving she and her sister to provide for themselves as they were shuffled around group and foster homes. Guy became interested in theater before turning to writing; in 1950 she became one of the founding members of the Harlem Writers Guild.

Guy wrote frankly about the experience of growing up in a way that scores of young readers, especially African-American readers, have found honest and relatable. Her books dealt with poverty, class and racial issue in a way that few young adults had before. Ruby, published in 1976, talks about a lesbian relationship between two girls.

Because of their stark naturalism and portrayals of sex, Guy’s books were challenged and removed from school ...

Shop the CBLDF Donation Center During Banned Books Week!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

If you’re having a hard time finding a copy of a banned comic, looking for the perfect t-shirt to declare that you read banned comics, or if you need a print or poster to declare your love for the freedom to read, the CBLDF Donation Center now features an exclusive Banned Books Week store!

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Donation Center is an easy-to-use online resource for supporting our important Free Expression advocacy work. You can join the CBLDF or renew your membership; donate for premium incentives such as signed graphic novels, limited-edition prints, and tee shirts; and access exclusive, one-time-only offers. All proceeds from the CBLDF Donation Center help us continue the fight for Free Speech in Comics!

New items appear weekly on the CBLDF Donation Center, and older items (some reaching back into the 25-year history of CBLDF premiums) are easy to browse, categorized and sorted for donor-friendly access. Creators as diverse as Neil Gaiman, Jeff Smith, Becky Cloonan, Sergio Aragones, Jeffrey Brown, Robert Kirkman, and many, many more have all signed books, and created exclusive materials to help the CBLDF raise money for our First Amendment defense and education work. There is something for every ...

High court spotlight misses First Amendment

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

The Supreme Court’s fall session begins today without any direct First Amendment cases on the argument docket, signaling a possible respite from free-speech and religion cases for the near-to-middle future.

Read Tony Mauro’s analysis in full.

Governor Brown Vetoes California Electronic Privacy Protection. Again.

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Location privacy took a hit in California yesterday when Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 1434, an EFF- and ACLU-sponsored bill that would have required law enforcement to apply for a search warrant in order to obtain location tracking information. Despite the bill's passing through the state legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, despite local newspaper editorials in favor of the bill, and despite more than 1,300 concerned Californians using our action center to urge him to sign the bill into law, Governor Brown instead decided to sell out privacy rights to law enforcement.

It's not the first time, either. Last year, he did the same thing with SB 914, a bill that would have required police to obtain a search warrant before searching an arrested individual’s cell phone incident to arrest.

In a short veto statement (PDF), Governor Brown recognized the need to update our privacy laws, but explained

It may be that legislative action is needed to keep the law current in our rapidly evolving electronic age. But I am not convinced that this bill strikes the right balance between the operational needs of law enforcement and individual expectations of privacy.

For Governor Brown, it appears the “right ...

50 State Salute to Banned Books Week: North Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee

Monday, October 1st, 2012

We’re delighted to share videos from North Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee for the “50 State Salute” to Banned Books Week. To view more videos from other states, check out the “50 State Salute” map.

North Dakota Library Association‘s Intellectual Freedom Committee shares this video on how North Dakota celebrates the freedom to read:

Ohio Library Council‘s Intellectual Freedom Committee partnered with Sarah Kelley Wright and created this video in celebration of the freedom to read:

See also the video from Mentor Public Library, in Mentor, OH entitled, “Books on Trial.”

Last but not least is the video the Tennessee Library Association‘s Intellectual Freedom Committee:

Note: if you’re connected to a Tennessee library with a Banned Books Week display, consider entering their display contest!

Check back daily during Banned Books Week for more videos for the 50 State Salute and the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out.

Need More Reasons to Watch FIRE’s Latest Video?

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Hopefully you don’t need us to give you more reasons to watch FIRE’s newest video about the shocking censorship last year at Sam Houston State University, where a professor used a box cutter to remove profanity from a student-sponsored “free speech wall.” In case you do, though, FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff and Robert Shibley have a pair of columns for you. Writing for College Insurrection and The Daily Caller, respectively, Greg and Robert make the case for defending expression on campus even when many might see it as having little or no value. As Greg writes, “I am in full agreement with the Supreme Court in the famous case of Cohen v. California that ‘one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.’” 

Payment Provider Stripe Levels Up on Transparency

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Fast-growing online payment provider Stripe announced on Friday that they were embracing transparency around government requests. When the company receives a legal request to shut down a user’s account, Stripe will send a copy to the transparency website Chilling Effects, a site maintained by EFF and law school clinics that accepts and publishes take down notices from across the web. Stripe is the first payment provider to participate in Chilling Effects. Stripe’s actions will help ensure that attempts by the government to silence sites by shutting down their revenue source will be open to public scrutiny and debate.

Stripe is also updating its privacy policy in order to commit to first notifying the user (when possible) if it is legally compelled to disclose a user’s private information, allowing the user to seek out legal counsel and contest the request in court. With these actions, Stripe joins the ranks of a growing movement around Internet companies to uphold free speech though transparency.

Stripe General Counsel Jon Zeiger explained on the company blog:

These issues rarely arise, and there’s no particular situation that makes this timely. We simply want to implement the right policies as early as possible, and we intend ...

New FIRE Video: College Professor Censors Anti-Obama Comment on Free Speech Wall

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Last year, college censorship took a turn for the ridiculous when a professor at Sam Houston State University vandalized a student-sponsored “free speech wall” with a box-cutting knife to remove anti-President Obama speech he didn’t like. When the students complained about the vandalism to the campus police, the police took the professor’s side and demanded still more censorship, leading students to dismantle the wall. Morgan Freeman, the student who organized the protest, recounts this amazing and disturbing story in FIRE’s latest video. (Warning: strong language.)

Free Speech Orgs Host Banned Books Reading Tomorrow!

Monday, October 1st, 2012

NCAC’s event with Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is tomorrow night! E-vite your friends, mark your iCalendars, write it on your hand, whatever, just come!

NCAC Event Flier

What: Readings from everything from “Fifty Shades of Grey” to “Fanny Hill” to “Joe Blow” by readers including sexologist Dr. Logan Levkoff, comedy duo MURDERFIST and more.

Where: The Village PourHouse, 64 3rd Ave in the East Village

When: Tuesday, Oct. 2, 8 p.m.

 


Joe Cohn on Campus vs. Civil Trials in ‘The Chronicle of Higher Education’

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Since April 4, 2011 (PDF), the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been insisting that, in order to comply with Title IX, campuses must utilize our judiciary's lowest standard of proof—the preponderance of the evidence standard—when adjudicating allegations of sexual misconduct. This means that if the fact finder believes the allegations are a mere 50.01% likely to be true, the accused is held responsible and is subject to discipline (which may even include expulsion).

OCR's and many of this policy's proponents' primary argument for requiring the preponderance of the evidence standard is that federal courts use that standard when deciding civil lawsuits, including sexual harassment claims, so it must be a fair standard for use in the campus judiciary. In The Chronicle of Higher Education, I address why the comparison is faulty. Here's a short excerpt from my op-ed:

While it is true that most civil cases in federal court are decided under the preponderance standard, due process requires that this low burden of proof be offset by procedural safeguards—lots of them.

For example, to ensure fairness, reliability, and constitutionality, civil trials are presided over by experienced, impartial, and legally educated judges. At either ...

Privacy News Roundup: Facebook, Facewatch, Data Retention About-Face

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Game Over for Automatic Facebook Tag Suggestion in Europe

In a victory for consumer privacy, Facebook has agreed to suspend the automatic use of its facial-recognition tool in Europe. The tool suggests people to tag in users’ photographs when registered users upload them to Facebook pages. Facebook Europe has agreed that by Oct. 15, it will give EU users the choice as to whether to allow the use of facial recognition software.

The “tag suggestion” tool gives Facebook the ability to build a “signature” of an individual’s face, based on photos in which they have been tagged. Face.com  an Israeli company that Facebook acquired in June, which has stated that it has 31 billion face images profiled developed the software. Facebook also agreed to delete all facial recognition data it stores about its European users.

Facebook made the announcement in response to an investigation by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) as to whether its practices adhere to a series of recommendations the DPC made last December to ensure that the social network company was in compliance with European privacy laws and taking measures to protect users' privacy rights.

Here in the U.S., EFF has urged Congress ...

Zut Alors! Stockholm Library Briefly Bans Tintin

Monday, October 1st, 2012

In the course of one day, a library in Sweden banned and then lifted the ban on Tintin comics. The comic series, by Belgian comic artist Georges Remi, is about the misadventures of a young reporter and his dog and is set in the early 20th century. A youth services librarian at the Kulturhuset, Stockholm, decided to pull the Tintin comics because of dated and frequently unflattering depiction of various races. Rich Johnston writes about the ban for Bleeding Cool:

Behrang Miri, in charge of the library’s youth sections, said that he’d made the decision because Tintin reflected a “caricature of a colonial perspective.” That Africans are stupid, that Arabs sit on flying carpets, that Turks smoke hookahs and the like. He announced that all children’s literature, even adult literature, stocked by the library should be reviewed in that light.

The ban was quickly dropped after public criticism of the library’s decision to remove the books. The library’s artistic director said the banning happened too swiftly and with little oversight. Furthermore, Miri apologized, saying that he just wanted to raise awareness to the potentially xenophobic content. From a September 27, Hurriyet Daily News article:

“The decision happened too fast,” Kulturhuset ...

Stephen Chbosky for the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out!

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Throughout Banned Books Week, we will continue to feature videos from both the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out and the 50 State Salute to Banned Books Week. This morning, we present the highly acclaimed and banned/challenged author Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky’s book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, has appeared on the top ten most frequently challenged books list numerous times over the past several years for drug use, being anti-family, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexual explicitness, suicide, and being unsuited to age group.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is now a major motion picture starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller, and is currently playing in movie theaters nationwide.

Chbosky celebrates the freedom to read this week by participating in the Banned Books Virtual Read-out:

Watch this video and more on the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out YouTube channel.

Remembering Banned Authors: Ray Bradbury

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Throughout Banned Books Week we will feature banned and challenged authors who left us in 2012. This week celebrates these great writers and their works, which helped form the identities of many readers, young and old.

A name now almost synonymous with American Science Fiction, Ray Bradbury brought that genre into the mainstream. Today, his books – which at the time he began writing might only have appeared in small pulp magazines – are major titles on the reading lists of most high school students.

Bradbury is perhaps best-known for his novel Fahrenheit 451, a touchstone for defenders of intellectual freedom that depicted a dystopian future in which a book-banning totalitarian regime ruled America. The book was, ironically, challenged and banned for its language and depictions of violence. The Martian Chronicles too, a collection of short stories about clashes between Martians and Earthlings, was challenged and banned over objections to profanity in the book. Others of Bradbury’s short stories were challenged because good did not always triumph over evil.


Virtual Read-Out: AND TANGO MAKES THREE

Monday, October 1st, 2012

It’s Banned Books Week, and bookstores, libraries, authors, and readers around the country are celebrating by participating in the Virtual Read-Out, an officially sponsored YouTube channel that compiles videos of people reading their favorite banned and challenged literature.

Stephanie Hartwell-Mandella, Children’s Librarian with the Katonah Village Library, makes a passionate plea about the importance of the freedom to read before her Virtual Read-Out of And Tango Makes Three, a frequently-challenged children’s book by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell that depicts the true story of two male penguins that incubated and raised a chick together.

We noticed that there aren’t very many videos of people reading comics in the Virtual Read-Out. If you’re feeling inspired, you can submit a video of your own! You can find the criteria here and video submission information here. Consider reading a comic from our list of Banned and Challenged Comics. Send us an email with Virtual Read-Out in the subject line to let us know you posted a video, and we may feature it here!

Given their visual nature, graphic novels and comic books are among the most-challenged books in libraries and schools. CBLDF is an official sponsor of Banned Books Week...

Energy Use Slides

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Sluggish oil demand and plunging imports are the latest signs of China's economic doldrums, analysts say.

High single-digit and double-digit growth rates in China's main energy segments have given way to some of the weakest figures that the country has generated in years.

In August, oil imports fell 12.5 percent from a year earlier to the equivalent of 4.3 million barrels per day, according to customs data.

The drop compares with a 6.7-percent rise a year before and a 6-percent growth rate for all of 2011, when oil imports averaged over 5 million barrels per day.

Sharp declines in oil imports were recorded not only from Iran, which is subject to Western sanctions, but also major suppliers like Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait with cuts as high as 42 percent.

Contributing factors like price variations and refinery maintenance can be reasons for caution in drawing conclusions from a single month. Oil imports so far this year are still up 7.3 percent.

But China's implied oil demand in August was the lowest in nearly two years, sliding 3.7 percent from July, Reuters estimated. Net fuel imports were down 90 percent from a year earlier, and year-to-date oil demand has grown only ...

Timeline entry for 2006: And Tango Makes Three

Monday, October 1st, 2012

It’s the second day of Banned Books Week! Throughout the week, we will continue to highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature the year 2006 and “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.

And Tango Makes Three book cover“And Tango Makes Three” is a picture book based on a true story of two male penguins that adopted an egg at New York City’s Central Park Zoo in the late 1990s. In 2006, it was moved from the children’s fiction section to children’s nonfiction at two Rolling Hill’s Consolidated Library branches in Savannah and St. Joseph, MO, after parents complained it had homosexual undertones. It was also challenged at the Shiloh, IL Elementary School library, where a committee of school employees and a parent suggested the book be moved to a separate shelf, requiring parent permission before checkout. The school’s superintendent, however, rejected the proposal and the book remained on open library shelves. “Tango” ranked as ALA’s most frequently challenged book for a record four years in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit www.ala.org/bbooks.

NCAC, ALA talk Banned Books on KPFA’s Project Censored

Monday, October 1st, 2012

NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin and Kids’ Right to Read Coordinator Acacia O’Connor joined KPFA radio out of Berkeley, CA on Friday, speaking about the prevalence of book challenges today and the debate over a book ratings system. Barbara Jones, Director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom  also called in, along with Tony Diaz, founder of Libro Traficante, who shed some light on the ongoing ban of the Tucson Mexican-American studies program.

NCAC joined with ALA and dozens of other national organizations earlier this year to protest the cancellation of the MAS program and removal of dozens of books.

The Morning Mix Project Censored – September 28, 2012 at 8:00am

Click to listen (or download)


BBW 2012: Most Challenged Books of 2011

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Each year, the ALA releases its list of most challenged books. The Most Challenged book list of 2011 features titles that might not surprise us at NCAC –boasting The Hunger Games again and To Kill A Mockingbird — but they may surprise you. 

Publisher’s Weekly has a list with details about challenges surrounding some of last year’s titles. Which featured book surprises you most?


New Book Details the NSA’s Warrantless Wiretapping Program, As Government Moves to Avoid All Accountability in Court

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald’s new book, published last week, provides yet more details about how the the NSA’s unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping program came about, and confirms that even top Bush Administration lawyers felt there was a “strong argument” that the program violated the law. “Officials might be slammed for violating the Fourth Amendment as a result of having listened in on calls to people inside the country and collecting so much personal data," Eichenwald wrote, and “in the future, others may question the legality” of their actions. 

Yet even today, eleven years later, the government continues to claim that no court can judge the program's legality. In the next month, the government will argue—in EFF's case in federal district court and ACLU's case in the Supreme Court—that courts must dismiss the legal challenges without ever coming to a ruling on the merits.

Eichenwald's book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, describes how the NSA’s illegal program—what he calls "the most dramatic expansion of NSA's power and authority in the agency's 49 year history"— was devised just days after 9/11 to disregard requirements in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Instead of getting ...

‘The College Fix’ Covers New “Green Light” Schools

Friday, September 28th, 2012

This year FIRE was proud to add two new schools to our list of institutions that have "green light" policies for free speech: Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi. We also were happy to add both of those schools to our Seven Best Schools for Free Speech list published in The Huffington Post last month. Online student-written news site The College Fix has a good writeup about the list and its new members. Check it out!

Bill Moyers Reads Banned Books

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Did you know that Bill Moyers is this year’s honorary chair for Banned Books Week? Mr. Moyers talks about his love of reading and libraries below to kick off the week. “Some of the most inspiring works ever written are threatened…” Every day!

Support NCAC today (check us out here) and help us continue to defend the freedom to read!


Copyright in Latin America: New Enforcement Measures Pose Major Threats to Internet Users in Panama and Colombia

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Co-authored with Carolina Botero

After years of being one of the most progressive regions in the world in terms of balanced copyright policy, Latin America is unfortunately sliding into copyright maximalism, enacting increasingly restrictive copyright enforcement measures into their federal laws.

While Chile spent years drafting their broad reform to the copyright system along with civil society groups, and Brazil excitedly discussed the reform of copyright law with unprecedented civil society participation to draft a balanced bill, Colombia and Panama have rushed to write and approve new copyright frameworks with drastic consequences for the digital generation. Why is this occurring? It is the result of top-down, harsh implementation of bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with the US, that require nations to enact far more restrictive language than what is found in the US itself.

This is precisely the kind of forum shifting and policy laundering we often blame on the US. But in these cases, Latin American governments should also be held accountable for their own choices.

Panama

Panama, which has had a long history of being susceptible to US political pressure, recently introduced a new copyright bill in order to fulfill the requirements of its FTA with the US. ...

EFF Fights for Cell Phone Users’ Privacy in Tuesday Hearing

Friday, September 28th, 2012
Government Wants to Collect Months of Location Data Without a Warrant

New Orleans - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a federal appeals court Tuesday to recognize cell phone users' privacy rights and require that the government obtain a warrant before collecting cell phone location information. The oral argument is set for 9 a.m. on October 2nd in New Orleans.

At issue in Tuesday's hearing are government requests for judicial orders authorizing the disclosure of 60 days of location data from two separate cell phone companies as part of a routine law enforcement investigation. A magistrate judge denied the request, saying the government needed to apply for a search warrant supported by probable cause to obtain the information. The district court judge agreed with the magistrate's finding, and the government appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

In this case – and in many others across the U.S. – the government claims that cell phone users give up their privacy rights because they have voluntarily disclosed their physical location to the cell phone providers every time a phone connects to the provider's cell tower. Government attorneys argue this means investigators do not need ...

India’s Gargantuan Biometric Database Raises Big Questions

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The government of India has amassed a database of 200 million Indian residents' digital fingerprints, iris scans, facial photographs, names, addresses and birthdates. Yet this vast collection of private information is only a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of data it ultimately intends to gather. The Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency that administers Aadhaar -- India's Unique Identity (UID) program -- has a goal of capturing and storing this personal and biometric information for each and every one of India's 1.2 billion residents. Everyone who enrolls is issued a 12-digit unique ID number and an ID card linked to the data.

Once it’s complete, the Aadhaar system will require so much data storage capacity that it is projected to be 10 times the size of Facebook. And while it's optional to enroll, the program is envisioned as the basis for new mobile apps that would facilitate everything from banking transactions to the purchase of goods and services, which could make it hard for individuals to opt out without getting left behind.

India’s is the largest biometric ID scheme in the world, and the masssive undertaking raises serious questions about widespread data sharing, a lack ...

The Secrecy Must Be Stopped: Congress Members Probe USTR on the Confidential TPP Negotiations

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) threatens to regulate and restrict the Internet in the name of enforcing intellectual property (IP) rights around the world, yet the public and civil society continue to be denied meaningful access to the official text and are even kept in the dark about what proposals countries are pushing in this powerful multilateral trade agreement. With users having sent over 80,000 messages to Congress asking them to demand transparency in the TPP using EFF's Action Center, Congress members have been urged into action to uncover the secrecy.

On September 20th, Representative Zoe Lofgren sent an additional follow-up letter to USTR, which EFF applauds. According to the letter, Rep. Lofgren, who has long been a strong advocate for digital rights and was a vocal opponent of SOPA, met with Ambassador Ron Kirk directly to discuss the TPP and her concerns over the lack of transparency in the process. The letter, which mentions that Ambassador Kirk told her he welcomed feedback on how to address the concerns, asks USTR to: balance TPP IP enforcement provisions with user privileges; diversify the policy perspectives on their Industry Trade Advisory Committee for IP; and be more transparent in ...

Cleansing the Internet of Terrorism: EU-Funded Project Seeks To Erode Civil Liberties

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

A new project aimed at “countering illegal use of the Internet” is making headlines this week.  The project, dubbed CleanIT, is funded by the European Commission (EC) to the tune of more than $400,000 and, it would appear, aims to eradicate the Internet of terrorism.

European Digital Rights, a Brussels-based organization consisting of 32 NGOs throughout Europe (and of which EFF is a member), has recently published a leaked draft document from CleanIT.

On the project’s website, its stated goal is to reduce the impact of the use of the Internet for “terrorist purposes” but “without affecting our online freedom.”  While the goal may seem noble enough, the project actually contains a number of controversial proposals that will compel Internet intermediaries to police the Internet and most certainly will affect our online freedom. Let’s take a look at a few of the most controversial elements of the project.

Privatization of Law Enforcement

Under the guise of fighting ‘terrorist use of the Internet,' the “CleanIT project," led by the Dutch police, has developed a set of ‘detailed recommendations’ that will compel Internet companies to act as arbiters of what is “illegal” or “terrorist” uses of the Internet.

Specifically, the proposal ...

Obama Condemns Anti-Islamic Film, Defends Free Speech At UN

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

President Obama condemned the “crude and disgusting video [that] sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world” but defended at length America’s commitment to free speech in his remarks at the UN General Assembly Tuesday morning.

Read more and watch video.

Caged Pussy Riot: Protecting the Peace or Putin’s Political Revenge?

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Between YouTube videos sparking Middle Eastern riots, and the Westboro Baptist Church continuing its ministry one hateful protest at a time, recent headlines have illustrated the unique place that Free Speech rights occupy in American society and jurisprudence.  While these particular examples of expression are obviously disturbing to many, it is just such offensive speech that is most important to defend.  By protecting the most egregious and distasteful speech, we ensure that all other expression remains comfortably within the fold of First Amendment protection.  However, this mantra of perpetual tolerance for the unpopular voice – no matter how difficult it may be – is a uniquely American axiom.  Especially true in this world of tech-based immediate gratification, we don’t think twice about the instantly accessible 140-character religious soapbox thanks to Twitter, or Facebook’s uncanny ability to spawn a political rant with one too many four-letter words at our fingertips.  Free speech is something that Americans actually dub as a right.  The unfortunate reality is that freedom of expression is often a luxury in other parts of the globe.

The most glaring recent example of this disparity comes from Moscow,  where a Moscow  court sentenced three members of Pussy ...

Come to “Fifty Shades of Banned”: A Banned Books Week Celebration

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

NCAC is partnering with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in hosting a night of Pleasure Reading, literally. In honor of Banned Books Week (Sept. 29 – Oct. 6), we invite you to join us in celebrating with readings from some infamously censored books.

NCAC Event Flier

What: Readings from everything from “Fifty Shades of Grey” to “Fanny Hill” to “Joe Blow” by readers including sexologist Dr. Logan Levkoff, comedy duo MURDERFIST and more.

Where: The Village PourHouse, 64 3rd Ave in the East Village

When: Tuesday, Oct. 2, 8 p.m.

Why: Because it will be awesome.

Additional why: A chance to win swag from Babeland

$10 suggested donation, proceeds go to benefit NCAC and CBLDF, in other words, to defend your First Amendment freedoms.

R.S.V.P. on Facebook and invite your friends! We’ll see you there!


Commentary: The Truth About Falsely Crying ‘Fire’ In A Theater

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Holmes’ famous quote is the go-to argument by appeal to authority for anyone who wants to suggest that some particular utterance is not protected by the First Amendment. Its relentless overuse is annoying and unpersuasive to most people concerned with the actual history and progress of free speech jurisprudence.

Read commentary in full.

Amid Free-Speech Concerns, Law Targets Comments That ‘Torment’ Faculty

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

After years spent trying to shield students from online bullying by their peers, schools are beginning to crack down on Internet postings that disparage teachers.

Read more.

Commentary: Defending the First Amendment in the 21st Century

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

On September 11 and the following days, violent mobs attacked Americans and American property in Cairo, Benghazi, and cities throughout the Middle East. Americans were murdered. Embassies were ransacked. Americans in the region, and even here at home, were threatened.

Many innocent victims have fallen in the path of recent violence; the First Amendment should not be among them. Make no mistake: The violence around the world is aimed not at our country as an economic power, but at America as the champion of free speech. Make America cower in fear, make us seek to silence unpopular voices, make us censor speech, and the First Amendment is not only destroyed. So too is America.

Read HAROLD FURCHTGOTT-ROTH’s full commentary on The Media Institute blog.

UK Snoopers’ Charter Draws Sharp Critique from Global Advocates

Monday, September 17th, 2012

The United Kingdom’s draft Communications Data Bill, more commonly known as the Snoopers’ Charter, has drawn a sharp critique from the Global Network Initiative (GNI). In a submission to the UK Parliament’s Communications Data Bill Joint Scrutiny Committee, the organization outlined serious concerns with the proposed legislation, which would expand governmental powers to access the online communications of all UK citizens.

GNI is a coalition of companies, civil society organizations (including EFF), investors and academics working collaboratively to advance freedom of expression and privacy in the Information Communications and Technology (ICT) sector.

GNI outlined several serious concerns with the draft legislation, which has prompted fierce opposition from privacy advocates, including EFF.

One major problem is that the UK Snoopers' Charter contains a provision requiring the generation of data specifically and only for law enforcement access, making it even more extreme than the highly problematic EU Data Retention Directive, which EFF is working to repeal. From the GNI submission:

The bill broadens the collection and retention of new data on anyone in the UK using communications services. This includes requirements to generate data—not required for business purposes and not routinely collected by providers—specifically and only for the ...

FIRE Speakers on Campuses for Constitution Day

Monday, September 17th, 2012

What better way is there to celebrate Constitution Day than to go see a FIRE speaker? None, I say! 

Today, Associate Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Azhar Majeed will be at Indiana University-Bloomington to talk with Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). The YAL chapter is holding a free speech wall event, and Azhar will be speaking afterwards in Ballantine Hall, room 005 at 7:00 p.m.

Those of you in or near Chapel Hill, North Carolina can also catch a FIRE speaker tonight. Senior Vice President Robert Shibley will be delivering a lecture at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) entitled "How UNC Stifles Free Speech, and What You Can Do About It." Robert will be speaking in the Student Union, room 3411 at 5:30 p.m. tonight.

If you can't make it to one of these events, check the FIRE Public Events Calendar for upcoming events in your area. 

We the People of FIRE Wish You a Happy Constitution Day!

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago today, in the building immediately across the street from FIRE's office, the United States Constitution was signed. We at FIRE are blessed to work so close to Independence Hall, and the sight of it through our office windows is a constant reminder to us that the sources of the individual rights for which we fight so hard are the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 

But just as the sight of Independence Hall is an inspiration to us, Constitution Day is a reminder that the rights provided by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights exist not just because of the words in these documents but because people believe in and exercise those rights, and because every day, people—military and civilian alike—work tirelessly to defend them. 

So whether you're a free speech enthusiast, a due process advocate, a religious freedom fighter, a necessary-and-proper proponent, a champion of equal protection, a no-double-jeopardy junkie, or a proud full-faith-and-credit crusader, today is a day to reflect on our freedoms, and a day to think about what we can each do to help preserve those rights now and for another 225 years. 

FIRE's Development Director suggested that donating ...

Happy Birthday US Constitution!

Monday, September 17th, 2012

September 17, 2012 marks the 225 anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution.  In honor of Constitution Day, the Thomas Jefferson Center commissioned the creation of the mural shown below on Charlottesville’s First Amendment Monument.

Professor Michael Geist on TPP and its Effects on Canadian Internet Users

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Canada had been lobbying to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and its efforts were seemingly paid off with an exclusive invite to the secretive nine-country trade agreement in June. There is no doubt that the TPP will affect many areas of the Canadian economy from agriculture to manufacturing, but the agreement would also regulate intellectual property rights and that could have big consequences for Internet users’ freedoms.

Unfortunately, the exact provisions negotiated in the TPP are still not known. In the meantime, EFF and other public interest groups have used every possible opportunity to provide analysis and inputs to policy makers about the intellectual property chapter and its impact on digital rights. We interviewed Professor Michael Geist to capture some of the main Canadian concerns specifically related to some of the most controversial intellectual property issues present in the trade agreement.

EFF: How can TPP affect Internet users in Canada? Are you concerned with the "three-strikes" approach?

Geist: If the TPP were to adopt a three-strikes approach, this would run completely counter to current Canadian law and repeated assurances from the Canadian government that it does not believe such an approach strikes the right balance in copyright. The recent ...

EFF Challenges Tracking-Services Patent Used to Threaten Cities Across the U.S.

Friday, September 14th, 2012
Patent Troll Files Flurry of Lawsuits Over Widely Used Transit-Arrival Systems

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging a dangerous patent used to wrongfully demand payment from cities and other municipalities that employ public tracking systems to tell transit passengers if their bus or train is on time.

Today, EFF with the help of the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law, filed a request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), urging reexamination of the legitimacy of the ArrivalStar patent – used as a basis for dozens of recent lawsuits against entities like the state of California, the city of Cleveland, and the Illinois Commuter Rail.

ArrivalStar claims its patents are based on an invention from 1999 and argues that many widely used transit-tracking systems – as well as some package-tracking services used by delivery and shipping companies – are infringing. But in the reexamination request filed today, EFF and the Samuelson Clinic show that as far back as 1992, public technical reports described a "Smart Bus system" that used the same methods as those included in the ArrivalStar patent.

"ArrivalStar apparently believes that the broad language of their patents could ...

UPDATE: New York Judge Tries to Silence Twitter in Its Ongoing Battle to Protect User Privacy

Friday, September 14th, 2012

UPDATE: This morning, rather than face contempt charges, Twitter handed over the data requested by the government, under seal, to the New York Criminal Court.  Twitter was faced with a terrible choice between giving ground on its fight for user privacy, or risk a potentially expensive contempt of court citation.  According to reporters at the hearing, Judge "Sciarrino said Friday that he will keep the records sealed at least until a Sept. 21 hearing." Hopefully this will give Twitter and Harris enough time to take this to a higher level court, and make sure that this Judge's dangerous decision gets a thorough review before it is too late.

Twitter's ongoing battle to demand that law enforcement request sensitive user information with a search warrant rather than a subpoena has taken a strange and dangerous turn.  An ill-advised order from the judge presiding over the case means that either Twitter must disclose data without a warrant, or risk a potentially expensive contempt of court citation.

Malcolm Harris is charged in a New York City criminal court with the trivial crime of disorderly conduct (maximum punishment, $250 fine or 15 days in jail) in connection with an Occupy ...

FIRE Speakers Championing Free Speech on Campus this Constitution Week

Friday, September 14th, 2012

FIRE has some exciting speaking engagements coming up at four colleges and universities to help students celebrate Constitution Week.

Associate Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Azhar Majeed will be pounding the pavement in Indiana with back-to-back speaking engagements. First, on Monday, September 17, he will be stopping at Indiana University - Bloomington to talk with Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) after a free speech wall event at 7:00 p.m. in Ballantine Hall, room 005. After delivering a healthy dose of liberty in Bloomington, Azhar will be barnstorming Indianapolis for another event at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 18, at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis. There, he will be taking on oppressors of student expression at another free speech wall event hosted by IUPUI's YAL chapter. 

Senior Vice President Robert Shibley will be leading the charge for freedom in North Carolina. Robert will open his campaign with a lecture entitled "How UNC Stifles Free Speech, and What You Can Do About It" in the Student Union, room 3411, at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill on Monday, September 17, at 5:30 p.m. Then, on Thursday, September 20, at 7:00 p.m. in the Duke University Reynolds Theater, ...

Freedom Not Fear: Creating a Surveillance-Free Internet

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Privacy rights face a crisis. Governments around the world have been taking overreaching, fear-based surveillance measures against essential online freedoms. Organizing an international resistance demands a complex understanding of both the latest online surveillance trends and of long-standing threats to privacy. Every year, Freedom Not Fear continues to organize a broad international protest against these threats to our civil liberties, and challenge the hyperbolic rhetoric of fear that permeates the security and privacy debate. This September 14th-17th, concerned European Internet users will descend on Brussels to participate in an international week of action against invasive surveillance initiatives. Events will also be staged in Luxembourg and Sydney. Freedom Not Fear’s slogan: Stop the surveillance mania!

This year’s street protest in Brussels has been announced for Saturday 15th at 11 a.m. Brussels time. The BarCamp schedule for the long weekend in Brussels is available here. There will be a CCTV spotting game in the city center.

EFF is joining the campaign to call attention to pervasive global surveillance measures and to spotlight the movements that have sprung up to oppose them. EFF will be posting articles regularly over the next week, starting today. You can follow our series by ...

Greg Lukianoff on Private Colleges and Free Speech at ‘RealClearReligion’

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Writing for RealClearReligion today, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has a succinct response to complaints that FIRE is "too easy" on sectarian universities: 

As an atheist, I would not attend Liberty University. And as an advocate of freedom of speech, I would not attend a college that does not uphold, in word and in deed, the protections of the First Amendment. But as someone who loves the diversity of our country, I fully believe in and support the right of such colleges to exist.

Want to know why? Check out Greg's essay!

BANNED BOOKS VIRTUAL READ-OUT

Friday, September 14th, 2012

A two-minute video produced by Bookmans, an Arizona bookstore, is helping launch a national read-out from banned and challenged books that is being held on YouTube in conjunction with Banned Books Week, the national celebration of the freedom to read (Sept. 30-Oct. 6). The video presents Bookmans’ customers and staff urging people “to turn on the light” by celebrating freedom of expression. With light bulbs burning brightly above their heads, each of them reads a single line from a banned or challenged book that testifies to the importance of reading, books and freedom of speech. “It is a wonderfully creative and inspiring video,” ABFFE President Chris Finan. “We hope all supporters of Banned Books Week will use social media to share it with their friends and the rest of the world, giving a big boost to this year’s read-out.” More than 800 people posted videos on YouTube during Banned Books Week last year. More information about the read-out is available here.

 

Bookmans, which has stores in Tucson, Phoenix, Mesa and Flagstaff, has been actively opposing censorship for 36 years. It celebrates free speech throughout the month of September. Harrison Kressler, Bookmans’ media producer, created the video. Rebecca Ballenger, ...