Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

EFF to FCC: Consumers Face Uphill Battle in Fight for Mobile Device Privacy

Monday, July 16th, 2012

In Wake of Carrier IQ Scandal, Berkeley Study Shows Americans Have Serious Qualms About Mobile Industry Practices

On Friday, EFF filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission about the privacy and data security practices of mobile wireless service providers. Mobile privacy is an issue we've been increasingly concerned about in the wake of the Carrier IQ privacy scandal, which was part of the inspiration for our Mobile User Privacy Bill of Rights. Citing recent academic research as well as troubling industry practices, EFF called the FCC's attention to some of the major pitfalls in modern mobile privacy norms. We urged the FCC to consider consumer rights in evaluating carrier obligations to protect user privacy and called for more transparency about carrier data collection and retention policies.

Modern cell phones raise grave and well-known privacy and security issues. A recent UC Berkeley study of Americans' use of mobile phones and privacy 

found widespread understanding that sensitive personal information such as text messages, contact lists, and voicemail is stored on phones, and that substantial percentages of respondents with smartphones used them to engage in activities that might generate sensitive information, including visiting websites, using social networks, and using location services....  ...

Woman Activist Harshly Treated in Jail

Monday, July 16th, 2012

A Vietnamese woman land rights activist serving an eight-year jail sentence for “subversion” is being treated harshly in prison despite severe health problems, an opposition group said Monday, seeking “urgent intervention” by the international community.

Viet Tan, an organization banned in Vietnam that monitors human rights in the country, said in a statement that 40-year-old Tran Thi Thuy had been “singled out for degrading and harsh treatment” at her prison, citing individuals who have come into contact with her.

“The reason for the harsh treatment is that Tran Thi Thuy refused to enter into a confession or admit wrongdoing,” the statement said.

“Security police have repeatedly urged her to accept guilt in order to receive lighter punishment.”

Thuy, a member of Viet Tan, was sentenced during a one-day trial in May 2011 along with six other activists from southern Vietnam’s Ben Tre province for “subversion.” She received eight years in jail.

Viet Tan said that the activist had been beaten in the stomach by Ben Tre province security police during the investigative period prior to her trial, leaving injuries that have not fully healed.

Since her imprisonment, the group said, Thuy has been subjected to forced labor and ordered to ...

IFAction Round Up July 1-15, 2012

Monday, July 16th, 2012

What is your vote for biggest story of the week? Tell us in the comments or vote on Facebook!

OIF sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. To subscribe to this list, visit an archive of all postings to the list since 1996, visit Below is a sample of articles from July 1-15, 2012.


Five Ways Wireless Carriers Could Rein In The Government’s Surveillance Of Your Phone

That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker. 

The End of Privacy? 

Facebook scans chats and posts for criminal activity

Privacy Trumps Cybersecurity, Poll Shows

How Many Millions of Cellphones Are Police Watching?

Franken plans hearing on facial recognition technology

Google and F.T.C. Set to Settle Safari Privacy Charge – Your E-Book Is Reading You*

Three NSA whistleblowers back lawsuit over government’s massive surveillance program


Defusing ‘Mein Kampf’



Under the First Amendment, religious freedom favors none, protects all



Congress considers prosecutions of reporters over leaked information


‘Internet Freedom’

‘Internet freedom’ becomes hot cause for politicians across political spectrum

U.N. Human Rights Council Backs Internet Freedom


Silencing Political Debate: Election Season Arrives at Texas A&M

Monday, July 16th, 2012

With election season heating up just as fast as the summer weather, it seems that the urge to shut down political speech on campus has once again reared its ugly head. The most recent case in a long line of election-related controversies over the years is taking place at Texas A&M University, where student organizations have lost access to advertising space on Texas A&M computers following protests over an ad placed by the Texas Aggie Conservatives (TAC).

Until recently, student organizations on the Texas A&M campus were able to place ads to run on screensavers on university-operated computers in campus libraries. However, when TAC placed a recruitment ad featuring an image of President Obama, it was labeled "racist," "hate speech," "not consistent with Aggie values," and, preposterously, a "genuine national security threat."  (A copy of the advertisement is available here). In light of these complaints, Vice President of Information Technology Pierce Cantrell chose to shut down the advertising service completely, saying that some individuals were "offended by the ad for various reasons" and that "At least of couple of them seemed to feel it was more overtly political than a simple announcement to join a student ...

FIRE’s ‘Firefly’ Video Wins Best Short Documentary at 2012 Anthem Film Festival

Monday, July 16th, 2012

And the Browncoats have it! This past weekend, FIRE's video "Don't Mess with Firefly! How SciFi Fans Made a Campus Safe for Free Speech" was screened for audiences at FreedomFest in Las Vegas as part of the Anthem Film Festival. We are thrilled to announce that our video, which features legendary author Neil Gaiman, was named the festival's Best Short Documentary at the awards ceremony Saturday.

FIRE would like to thank director Ted Balaker and Korchula Productions, Professor Jim Miller, Neil Gaiman, and Firefly fans everywhere for helping us draw much-needed attention to the serious problem of censorship on campus. Next stop: ComicCon 2013!

First Amendment overshadowed in 2011-12 term

Monday, July 16th, 2012


WASHINGTON — On any other day, the Supreme Court’s First Amendment decision in United States v. Alvarez would have made front-page headlines and online news alerts.

The Court, on a 6-3 vote, took the rare step of striking down an act of Congress, in this case a law that made it a crime to falsely claim having won a military honor.

But the decision was issued June 28, the same day as the landmark ruling largely upholding another act of Congress, the health-care law known as the Affordable Care Act. The Alvarez case was relegated to the back pages.

That was generally the case in the Supreme Court term of 2011-12 when it came to the First Amendment docket: overshadowed by other matters and, to a considerable extent, predictable.

The Court’s six First Amendment-related rulings followed its by-now well-established pattern.

In classic free-speech cases, such as Alvarez, the Court holds its collective nose and embraces the right to engage in really unpopular expression. It does so in opinions that would warm the heart of the late liberal justice William Brennan Jr.

Read more.

This Week in Internet Censorship: Netizens Sentenced in Oman, Malaysia, and Bahrain; Maldivian Blogger Attacked; New Human Rights Watch Report on Iraqi Cybercrime Bill

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Bloggers Under Fire in the Gulf

In Bahrain and Oman, netizens are coming under fire once again. In Bahrain--where opposition activists have frequently been detained and maligned on social networks--Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a fellow member of IFEX, wassentenced on July 10 to three months in prison for a tweet.  Rajab was arrested in May and charged with inciting protest on social networks.  After being released on bail, he was then arrested again on June 6 on charges of "insulting in public" after tweeting for Bahrain's rulers to step down.  Rajab has been persecuted by the Bahraini government for more than a year for his activism as part of their broader crackdown on opposition.  EFF once again calls on the international community to condemn the persecution of bloggers and citizen journalists at the hands of Bahrain's regime.

In neighboring Oman, where a spate of netizen arrests have occurred in the past year, four young men have received similarly harsh sentences for content posted to social networks.  Hamoud Al Rashidi was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 200 rials, while Hamad Al Kharousi, Mahmoud Al-Rawahi, and Ali Al-Mikbali ...

EFF to Testify at Senate Hearing on Risks of Facial Recognition Technology

Monday, July 16th, 2012
Growing Biometric Databases Threaten Privacy and Civil Liberties

Washington, D.C. - Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch will testify this week at a Senate hearing on facial recognition technology and the privacy and civil liberties risks associated with rapidly growing biometric databases. The hearing is set for Wednesday, July 18, at 2:30 p.m.

Facial recognition technology is becoming increasingly sensitive and sophisticated, creating new ways for government and private entities to identify and track people throughout the United States. Meanwhile, databases used by law enforcement, social networking sites, and other entities both public and private are growing larger every day. In her testimony Wednesday, Lynch will discuss how the increasing use of facial recognition technology presents unique risks to Americans' privacy and civil liberties, and what we can do to protect rights and freedoms going forward.

Other witnesses at Wednesday's hearing include Maneesha Mithal, Associate Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Division of Privacy and Identity Protection; Jerome M. Pender, Deputy Assistant Director of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Rob Sherman, Facebook's Manager of Privacy and Public Policy. The hearing is part of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Privacy, ...

CBLDF Deputy Director Talks to MTV Geek

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Comic-Con International has just wrapped up, and CBLDF had a great weekend talking to supporters and new fans! You can come back here for a full Comic-Con report later this week. In the meantime, here’s a taste of what happened: During the show, CBLDF Deputy Director Alex Cox talked to the great folks at MTV Geek about CBLDF’s mission, the Comics Code, and more!

FAA Releases Thousands of Pages of Drone Records

Friday, July 13th, 2012

We just received new information today about drone flights in the United States, including extensive details about the specific drone models some entities are flying, where they fly, how frequently they fly, and how long they stay in the air. The 125 drone certificates and accompanying documents the FAA released today total thousands of pages and were released in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which has already uncovered the list of all entities licensed to fly domestic drones.

The 18 entities represented in the files include police departments from Seattle, Washington to North Little Rock, Arkansas; about 10 public colleges and universities; a few federal agencies, including the USDA and the Department of Energy—Idaho National Lab; and other entities like the City of Herrington, Kansas and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. For every entity, the files include the actual Certificate of Authorization (COA) application information submitted to the FAA (for each entity, that file is called "COA.xls"), and many other supporting records. The files go back several years and include COAs for every year that the entity has had drones. For some entities this is as early as 2004. 

We’ve included the records ...

Threadless Releases Neil Gaiman Comics-On-Tees for Comic-Con International 2012!

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Just in time for Comic Con International 2012, threadless and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund have released the newest comic project from superstar author Neil Gaiman. An adaptation of his poem THE DAY THE SAUCERS CAME, this terrific new illustrated tale features spectacular work from artists John Cassaday, Ben Templesmith, and Brandon Graham.

Also, you can wear it.

As part of the “comics on tees” line from threadless, this comic is presented across the fronts and backs of four tee shirts, adapting the Gaiman poem by way of some of comics’ top talents. These shirts are available in a variety of sizes, on high quality cotton, this weekend in San Diego, benefitting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and our continuing legal and education work. Starting next week, they will be available on, and will continue to be a fundraiser for the CBLDF for years to come!

Since joining the CBLDF as Corporate Members earlier this year, threadless has worked tirelessly with the Fund to create something truly unique. If you are a fan of Mr. Gaiman (and who isn’t?), or even just a fan of awesome tees, these shirts really are a must-have!

Available at CCI in ...

FERPA Strikes Again, This Time in Iowa

Friday, July 13th, 2012

In a close 4-3 decision, the Iowa Supreme Court has blocked a request by the Iowa City Press-Citizen to view records at the University of Iowa related to an alleged sexual assault that took place on campus in 2007. As the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) reports today, the state's highest court held that the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits the university from releasing records containing information about students—even if all identifying information is redacted—if the school "reasonably believes" that the person or entity requesting the records knows the identity of the students. In this case, the Press-Citizen sought university records, under the state's public records law, regarding two Iowa football players who were accused of sexually assaulting a female student in her dormitory.

For more about this decision and its interpretation of FERPA, check out the SPLC's full article

New England 2012 Campus Muzzle Award-Winners

Friday, July 13th, 2012

The Boston Phoenix has released its 2012 "Campus Muzzle Awards," given annually to the most egregious free speech violators in New England. FIRE co-founder and Chairman Harvey Silverglate selects the "winners" each year for the Phoenix.

This year's list, which recognizes noteworthy acts of censorship since last July, includes Boston College for failing to adequately stand up for its own scholars when faced with a court-issued subpoena, as well as Bridgewater State University, whose president, Dana Mohler-Faria, threatened student newspaper The Comment's existence for its reporting on a "Take Back the Night" rally.

But Harvard University swept the competition for worst free speech abusers, responsible for a whopping three of the most egregious assaults on campus free speech. Last summer, Harvard effectively fired economics professor Subramanian Swamy based on the content of an editorial he wrote halfway across the world. Then in September, the university sought to get all incoming freshmen to sign a "kindness pledge." And in November, Harvard locked its gates for six weeks during the Occupy Harvard protests.

Check out the full article on the Phoenix website.

Update: Russian Duma Approves Internet Blacklist Bill

Friday, July 13th, 2012

The Russian Duma overwhelmingly approved the controversial Internet regulation Bill № 89417-6. 441. A total of 441 out of 450 deputies representing all four party factions within the Duma, voted to support the bill. The regulations set forth within the bill, including the creation of a national blacklist and legal partnership with a content-monitoring bureau, are expected to go into effect in January after President Putin signs the bill into law.

Prime Minister Medvedev promoted the ruling at a meeting with United Russia party leadership in Moscow, and stated that the Internet “should be regulated by a set of rules, which mankind has yet to work out, and it's a very difficult process because we cannot regulate everything, nor can we leave [the Internet] outside the legal realm.” These remarks are quite at odds with Medvedev’s speech a year and a half ago at the 2011 World Economic Forum in Davos, where he said that “Russia will not support initiatives that put in doubt freedom in the Internet, freedom which is based on the requirements of morality and law.” At this week’s United Russia meeting, Medvedev also spoke of “basic rights and freedoms” such as the “right to be protected ...

How Pensions Violate Free Speech

Friday, July 13th, 2012


A central principle of American political life is that everyone gets to choose which candidates to support. The idea that the government could force us to support those we oppose is anathema. But this unacceptable state of affairs is one of the unintended consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 Citizens United case.

That’s because the vast majority of people who work in the public sector — state, local and federal employees — are required to make contributions to a pension plan. Nearly all states make participation in a pension plan mandatory and a “condition of employment” for public employees. To get and keep your job with the government, you have to give some of your paycheck to the pension plan.

Public pensions, moreover, are so-called defined benefit plans, which means that employees don’t have a say in how their mandatory contributions are invested. The employees cannot request, for example, that their money be used only to buy government bonds or that it be invested only in certain mutual funds or only in select corporations.

Instead, the employees’ money is invested according to whatever decisions the pension plan’s trustee makes. And, not surprisingly, pension plans ...

Terry Moore Talks About CBLDF

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Many artists support CBLDF’s mission to protect the comics industry from censorship. Few are as eloquent in their support as CBLDF Good Fighter Terry Moore. Moore is the creative talent behind the hit series Strangers in Paradise, Echo, and Rachel Rising. Earlier this year, CBLDF sat down with Moore to record a statement about why he is such a staunch supporter of the Fund:

In Las Vegas, FreedomFest is on FIRE

Thursday, July 12th, 2012
FIRE staff are currently on the ground here in Las Vegas at FreedomFest. FIRE’s booth in the exhibit hall is open for business, and FIRE will also be featured in two separate events in the coming days. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will be doing a presentation on Friday, July 13 at 10:30 am in Bally’s Skyview 1 about his forthcoming book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. Also, FIRE’s short documentary “Don’t Mess With Firefly” is being featured in the Anthem Film Festival on Saturday, July 14 at 9:00 am and again at 12:30 pm.

Please stop by our booth and any of our events if you are at the conference or in the area!

Eastern Michigan Stands By Speech Code, Defying Legal Clarity

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Despite months of appeals from FIRE, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) does not appear inclined to take its legal obligations under the First Amendment, as a public university, seriously. The university is simply not willing to revise a sexual harassment so clearly unconstitutional that FIRE named it our Speech Code of the Month in July 2011—let alone to revise its other speech codes restricting campus discourse. This is a shame for students at EMU wishing to exercise their right to free speech without fear of administrative reprisal.

EMU's Student Conduct Code policy on "Sexual Misconduct/Sexual Harassment" states, in relevant part: 

Conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive campus, educational or working environment for another person. This includes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, inappropriate sexual or gender-based activities, comments or gestures, or other forms of verbal or physical conduct or communications constituting sexual harassment. (Emphasis added.) 

FIRE named this policy our Speech Code of the Month last July due to its severe restriction of students' expressive rights. As Sam wrote at the time:

This policy's prohibition on "inappropriate sexual or gender-based ... comments" means that virtually any speech relating in any way to ...

Ninth Circuit: UC Davis Student May Sue Police Over ‘Pepperball’ Incident

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The Los Angeles Times reports that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a former student at the University of California, Davis may go forward with his lawsuit against UC Davis police, as well as police officers of the City of Davis, for hitting him in the face with a "pepperball." The student, who suffered the incident while attending a street party in April 2004, had to undergo several surgeries after injuring his eye, additionally lost his athletic scholarship, and was forced to drop out of college. The Ninth Circuit's decision upholds a federal district court's finding, at the summary judgment stage, that the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity because "the law at the time of the incident should have placed the defendants on notice that the shooting of the pepperballs under the circumstances was an act of excessive force." 

Of course, most readers are likely aware that UC Davis has had more recent problems owing to police use of pepper spray against students, namely in a response to campus protests last fall that drew headlines across the country. In light of that incident, the former student's suit for the 2004 episode ...

Police Raid Christian Summer Camps

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Chinese authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang have detained seven teachers and questioned up to 70 primary-school children following a raid on a Christian summer camp, a U.S.-based rights group said this week.

"Police...raided a house church Sunday school, rounded up 70 children and their teachers for questioning, and locked up seven women teachers in a local detention center," the Christian rights group ChinaAid said in a statement on its website.

It said the children were attending the camp in the regional capital, Urumqi, when the police action occurred on the morning of July 2.

"Police from the Qiangfanggou police station and agents from the Sha district Domestic Security Protection Department rounded up all the children and Sunday School teachers and took them to a school where they were questioned," ChinaAid said.

"Some of the children’s parents and school principals and teachers were also summoned and questioned."

According to ChinaAid, seven women Sunday-school teachers, who included Bao Ling, Wang Xingxing, Luo Qinqin, and Lu Xia, are still being held in the Xishan detention center.

ChinaAid president Bob Fu said the incident was the latest in a series of crackdowns on the region's unofficial "house" churches.

"This is another ...

Blogger Slashed by Thugs

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

An outspoken Vietnamese blogger has been attacked by knife-wielding thugs after he took part in an anti-China rally in Hanoi amid a government crackdown on activists who attended the rare public demonstrations.

Catholic blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh said a group of local thugs came to his house in Hanoi’s Giap Bat precinct on Sunday after he came from the demonstrations.

“They charged into my house to beat me and slash me with a large knife right after I was at the anti-China demonstration,” Vinh told RFA’s Vietnamese service.

Vinh received cuts on the neck, back, chest, and hands before neighbors responded to his calls for help and the thugs ran away.

He said the ringleader of the group was the son of the head of a neighborhood committee, the lowest level of local government administration.

“They were not police, but a group of thugs organized by the local urban population group head Nguyen Xuan Ky’s son,” he charged. The charge could not be immediately verified with the authorities.

Vietnamese authorities have harassed other netizens and activists who participated in or tried to attend the anti-China rallies in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on July 1 and 8.

Public demonstrations ...

When in Rome, Don’t Censor Yourself

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Renowned civil libertarian and FIRE Board of Advisors member Nat Hentoff has an article in the Village Voice excoriating New York University (NYU) President John Sexton for kowtowing to censorship on NYU's foreign campuses. Here's a bit of what Nat has to say: 

This is how NYU president Sexton responded when Human Rights Watch asked: "Is NYU going to advertise the magnificence of studying in Abu Dhabi while the government persecuted an academic for his political beliefs?"

Did Sexton, a scholar of our First Amendment, answer by quoting back Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo's classic definition of our identity as Americans: "Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom"?

Hell, no. Speaking in the (London) Times Higher Education Supplement about his venture in spreading U.S. higher education in the United Arab Emirates, Sexton glibly said: "We shouldn't behave there the same way you behave in Greenwich Village or Piccadilly in London. . . . It's about being sensitive to your cultural environment."

Gee, President Sexton, will the next NYU campus abroad be in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, or maybe, wow, in China? Or North Korea?

First, it's worth noting that Nat's rhetorical question ...

Rejection in Fremont, Year 3 and Dealing With Life Through Good Books

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

The San Francisco Bay area is not the likeliest location for a censorship debate. Or one would think, at least. The area had already come up in our censorship battles lately, but more as the Magical Free Expression Castle on the Coast. San Francisco is the home of Todd Parr, author of the recently-censored The Family Book and Patricia Polacco’s embroiled In Our Mothers’ House, restricted in Utah, takes place in Berkeley. Across the Bay, however, a different picture is emerging in increasingly fine detail, as the Fremont Unified School Board once again rejected literary works from its curriculum.

For a third year, a Washington High School English teacher proposed a new text for her AP English course. For a third year, the curriculum committee, composed of teachers and administrators–all volunteers–read and approved the book for study.  And for a third year, the five-member school board singled out a single book and rejected it, unanimously passing all the others.

This year’s censored tome is Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, a semi-autobiographical story about a young girl coming of age in the south in the 50s and the struggles of her screwed up family life. The ...

SDCC: State of the CBLDF!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

By Charles Brownstein

Another Comic-Con is upon us, and thanks to the generosity of our members, corporate members, sponsors and supporters, we’ve developed a week full of great programs, parties, and an unforgettable auction to raise money for our important First Amendment program work. From Master Sessions with comics greats Gilbert Shelton, Charlie Adlard and Jason Shiga, to booth signings with genius creators including Chip Kidd, Raina Telgemeier, and Francesco Francavilla and a huge array of guests at our Thursday night welcome party, the creative community is coming out in droves to meet our contributors.

As the week’s festivities begin to get underway, I’d like to take a moment to update you on all the important work CBLDF has done to protect comics’ First Amendment rights so far this year, and how your donations make a difference in performing those efforts!

Legal Aid

Thanks in large part to the efforts of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Canadian government dropped all charges against Ryan Matheson, the American comic book reader who was wrongfully accused of importing child pornography for the humor and fantasy manga on his laptop computer.

Ryan’s case was resolved because his CBLDF-aided ...

SDCC: Artist Events From The CBLDF!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

San Diego Comic-Con starts today, and the CBLDF is there with incredible events, including signings at our booth – 1920! Read on for a full schedule of signing & sketching events, with greats including Chip Kidd, Gilbert Shelton, Charlie Adlard, Raina Telgemeier, and many, many more!

Thursday, July 12

1:00-2:00 CBLDF Master Session: Gilbert Shelton — With his creations The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy’s Cat, and Wonder Warthog among others, Comic-Con special guest Gilbert Shelton is a master of establishing iconic characters and presenting them in scenarios that underscore his expressive cartooning abilities. Get a rare glimpse into the drawing process of this master of the Underground Comix movement, hosted by Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter. The pieces created in this Master Session will be auctioned off at CBLDF’s Art Auction on Saturday night. Room 11AB


Raina Telgemeier 2 pm – 4 pm
Francesco Francavilla 4 pm – 6 pm

Kick off Comic-Con with the greatest stars in comics to celebrate 20 Years of Image Comics and the power of free expression at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Comic-Con Welcome Party! Starting at 8:00 PM on Thursday, July 12 at the Westgate Hotel, ...

‘Starkville Daily News’ on Mississippi State’s Green Light

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

The Starkville Daily News of Starkville, Mississippi, draws attention to Mississippi State University's success in becoming the latest "green light" school in FIRE's Spotlight database. Not only does MSU's commendable compliance with the First Amendment match the work done by rival Ole Miss earlier this year, we also hope it encourages many other colleges nationwide to follow MSU's excellent example. Be sure to check out MSU's press release celebrating the designation as well.

Is the TPP – framed as a "21st century" agreement – the best way to build a 21st century society?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Last week, at the latest round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in San Diego, California, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it has proposed a new provision on limitations and exceptions to copyright.  It's nice to hear about a proposal that seems to expand limitations like fair use, and it is also nice to see that – finally - the USTR is listening to the technology industries. However, the draft treaty itself is still secret so the implications of this new provision are in fact ambiguous. We can’t know what their proposal means for copyright without knowing what’s in the rest of the chapter. It could be good, it could be bad, it could be indifferent, it could be LOLCATs.

The TPP agreement has been framed by the USTR as a 21st century agreement, but we’re still not convinced it’s an agreement adequate for 21st century society-- especially in an environment where the public, Congress, and civil rights organizations are denied access to the treaty’s official text, while corporate representatives have full access to it. In a world where you can access the complete state code of Utah in Github to engage citizens ...

Russian Websites Go Dark to Protest Internet Blacklist Bill

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Today, Russian-language Wikipedia, Livejournal, and other prominent RuNet websites have gone dark to protest Bill № 89417-6, which is currently being considered in the Duma. The bill is comprised of amendments that create an Internet blacklist  which opponents say poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in Russia. The blackout follows in the footsteps of other similar high-profile protests against Internet censorship bills, including SOPA/PIPA in the United States, and DDL Intercettazioni in Italy.

The Russian State Duma began initial hearings on the bill earlier this week. The legal amendments propose a national digital blacklist of websites with an .ru domain name that contain pornography, host drug advertisements, condone suicide, or include “extremist ideas,” purportedly to protect children. Criticism of the bill bears some striking similarities to criticism of other proposed Internet blacklists. Opponents have expressed concern over lack of effectiveness, the burden on Internet intermediaries, and lack of oversight and accountability that leaves the blacklist open to abuse.

The list of banned content is non-exhaustive; according to the draft document that was submitted last month on June 7, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, IT and Mass Media will have the power to ban ...

CBLDF’s Biggest Comic-Con Art Auction Ever! This Saturday!

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

At 128 pieces of amazing original art and signed memorabilia, and growing, Comic-Con’s 2012 Benefit Auction stands to be the Fund’s biggest auction ever, with amazing one-of-a-kind pieces up for grabs to benefit the organization’s important First Amendment legal work! See below for a full list of items, including pieces by NEIL GAIMAN, WALTER SIMONSON, PAUL POPE, BERNIE WRIGHTSON, BILLY TUCCI, CHARLIE ADLARD, JOCK, GABRIEL HARDMAN, FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA, FRANCIS MANAPUL, JEFFREY BROWN, DAVID LLOYD, SCOTT HAMPTON, TERRY DODSON, MIKE DEODATO, GABRIEL BA, JILL THOMPSON, JONATHAN LUNA, RAFAEL ALBUQUERQUE, ALAN MOORE, WENDY PINI, and dozens more!

Preview images of all items are available at or at the CBLDF’s booth, number 1920! This auction will take place at the Hilton Bayfront, in the Sapphire AB Room, at 7:30pm. YOU DO NOT NEED A COMIC CON BADGE TO ATTEND. More art will be added up til the auction begins! A cash bar will be available at the event, and surprise guests will appear throughout the evening! Sponsors include Things From Another World, Valiant Comics, and MTV Geek.

There is art for every collector at this auction… NOT TO BE MISSED!

1. Al Davison – Dr Who interior 2011, 11 by 17, ...

Censors to Control Online Films

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Chinese netizens have hit out at new censorship of online films and TV, after the government announced it would force film websites to submit each film for official approval before it can be made available to a Web-based audience.

China's State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) issued a directive on Monday titled, "Regarding further improvements in the management of online drama, microfilm and other online audio and video programming."

The directive requires video sites to arrange censorship before airing programs, official media reported, with uncensored programs prohibited from being shown.

Online commentators have hit out at the move, saying it stifles freedom of expression, and will prevent netizens from viewing their favorite items.

Punishments will be handed out to video sites that are found not to carry out the censoring task, according to a joint statement issued with China's State Internet Information Office.

"Players in the online video industry are encouraged to form an association of censors, the members of which should have training programs and tests to become qualified examiners," the statement said, adding that the directive was aimed at limiting "vulgar and violent content."

"Netizens urged the government to protect child viewers from those disturbing and ...

Meet With EFF Attorneys in Las Vegas to Discuss Your Security Research

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Thousands of security researchers, information security professionals and hackers descend on Las Vegas each summer for a trio of conferences: Black Hat USA, DEF CON, and BSides Las Vegas. We launched our Coders' Rights Project at Black Hat four years ago to help programmers and developers navigate the murky laws surrounding security research. Every year since then, our attorneys have been on hand in Las Vegas to provide legal information on reverse engineering, vulnerability reporting, copyright law, free speech, and more, and we're thrilled to return again this summer.

If you'd like to make an appointment to speak with EFF attorneys at Black Hat, DEFCON or BSides Las Vegas, contact us by Wednesday, July 18, with the name of the conference in the subject line. If we can't assist you for any reason, we'll make every effort to put you in touch with a lawyer who can.  

Related Issues: 

Speech Code of the Month: Indiana University, Southeast

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2012: Indiana University, Southeast (IUS).

According to IUS' Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct, "the university recognizes the rights of all students to engage in discussion, to express thoughts and opinions, and to assemble, speak, write, publish or invite speakers on any subject without university interference or fear of university disciplinary action." (Emphasis added.)

But IUS also maintains "Guidelines Relating to Free Speech" that amount to severe "university interference" with the rights IUS claims to value-rights which, as a public university, IUS is legally bound to uphold. The Guidelines provide, in relevant part, that

Persons wishing to express their opinions, distribute materials or assemble on campus in accordance with the state and federal constitution in relation to their right to free speech, must submit an Application to Schedule Facilities form. ... This Application should be submitted at least five (5) days prior to the event. Approval must be granted before an event can take place.

According to the plain language of this policy, students may only "express opinions" within the free speech zone. IUS almost certainly doesn't mean this—technically, if you want to tell your friend ...

Public Interest Groups to Supreme Court: Bring Copyright Law In Line With Common Sense

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

EFF—together with Public Knowledge, two national library associations, and U.S. PIRG—submitted a brief yesterday urging the United States Supreme Court to begin the process of rescuing first sale rights, which have been under assault for decades. 

The brief was filed in the case of Wiley v. Kirtsaeng, which turns on the re-sale of textbooks in the U.S. This fall, hundreds of thousands of students will head off to college, ready to fill their heads with knowledge.  What they may not realize yet is that they will also be filling the coffers of U.S. textbook publishers, which sell required college texts at exorbitant prices knowing students have little choice but to cough up the cash.

Standing in the way of this tidy scheme is the used textbook market, and that market—not to mention used bookstores, libraries and video rentals—depends on our time-honored first sale doctrine. Under this doctrine, the buyer of a book or any other copyrighted work has the right to dispose of that particular copy as she sees fit.

Unless, according to two appellate courts, those books happened to be manufactured outside of the United States. Due to an obscure provision in U.S. law, those courts ...

Mao Portrait Protesters Detained

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Authorities in the Chinese capital have detained 10 eviction protesters after they staged a protest in Tiananmen Square, kneeling en masse in front of the portrait of late supreme leader Mao Zedong.

The protesters, residents of a rural district on the outskirts of Beijing, were given a five-day administrative sentence on Friday, relatives said.

"They went to kneel on the Jinshui Bridge [below the portrait on Tiananmen gate], and they were detained," Zhou Jie, the son of detained protester Huang Yuliu, told RFA's Mandarin service. "There were 10 people in total, five of whom had already been threatened [by the authorities.]"

"They were detained on Friday evening at 6:00 p.m.," Zhou said. "We were informed [on Monday] that they had been placed under administrative detention for five days."

He said the five who had received threats hadn't been evicted yet, but had posted an 'ultimatum' notice to the authorities at the doorway of their home.

"The other five were two married couples who had already been evicted and their homes demolished, and the other person was my mother," said Zhou, whose home in Fengtai district's Shiliuzhuang village has already been demolished.

Evictions and demolitions

Zhou said the protesters had thought ...

Russian Wikipedia goes dark in protest at censor law

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The Russian version of Wikipedia has shut down for 24 hours in protest at a law that would give the government powers to blacklist certain sites.

Visitors to the site see a black line across the site’s logo and a message explaining the move.

The government says it wants greater powers to block sites that show child pornography, promote teenage suicide, and spread information about drugs.

But Wikipedia likens the proposed law to the Great Firewall of China.

Internet users and human rights activists have both argued that the scope of the law would be too wide, allowing officials to select “subjectively” which sites to blacklist.

Read more.

The Censorship Problem at Amazon

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

As a private company, Amazon has the right to determine which products are sold at its websites throughout the world. Increasingly, however, Amazon is being criticized for a lack of clarity on how they make these decisions, with advocates accusing the company of both practicing censorship and profiting from controversial texts. Complicating matters is the role of self-publishing, or print-on-demand books, that can be created, uploaded, and offered for sale at Amazon by anyone with an internet connection.

The latest controversy stems from a complaint from the Muslim Council of Britain, accusing Amazon of profiting from ebooks containing “hate, terror, and violence.” According to the Daily Mail, the ebook at the center of the Muslim Council’s complaint is Jake Neuman’s Prophet Muhammad: Monster of History, which “includes images of a Koran being burned and a woman being hanged.” In response to this book, the Muslim Council of Britain has “called for Amazon to ‘take proper responsibility’ for the content of the books on its site,” adding “‘Freedom of expression should not be unlimited, and publications that cause anti-Muslim hatred, anti-Jewish hatred or homophobic hatred should not be allowed.’”

In response to this call, Jo Glanville of Free ...

Dissident Writer Allowed to Go to US

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Updated at 6.50 a.m. EST on 2012-07-10

Chinese authorities have allowed a dissident Chinese writer, who was held under house arrest in a crackdown last year, to leave for New York with his family under strict instructions not to speak out in public or to get involved with overseas activists, sources said Monday.

The move is seen as an attempt to remove dissident voices ahead of a key Chinese leadership transition later this year.

Gu Chuan, his wife Li Xin'ai, and their two children were escorted to their flight by China's state security police and arrived in New York at the weekend.

"They arrived in New York [on Saturday night]," a friend of the couple who declined to be named told RFA's Mandarin service. "He will be a visiting scholar for a year at Columbia University."

Gu's friend said police had issued him with two warnings before he left China, where the couple was held for several months in their own home during last year's crackdown on dissidents following online calls for a Middle East-inspired "Jasmine Revolution."

"The first was not to give interviews to the media, and the second was not to get involved with [Chinese] overseas pro-democracy groups ...

Defend Innovation: The Conversation Continues

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The current patent system is flawed and makes it easy for corporations (like Apple and Microsoft) to abuse the system. Patents are being used as an anti-competitive weapon. This must stop if we are to create a dynamic economy.

– Marius Caldas, Senior Software Engineer, Atlanta, GA

EFF launched our Defend Innovation campaign to put forth seven proposals that we think would make the patent system better for software, and—more importantly—to solicit feedback from the community on how to address the broken patent system. So far the response has been outstanding: thousands of individuals have left their comments about how patents impact the future of software innovation. The wide variety of replies comfirms what we already knew: the patent system affects policy makers, legal practicioners, and engineers in different ways. In fact, many in our community think our proposals go too far while others argue that they do not go far enough.

Despite the diversity of opinions, a vast majority of commenters on both sides agree that the current patent system is simply broken. Patent trolls and large corporations repeatedly abuse software patents through frivolous litigation and licensing schemes. Change must come, and EFF will use the feedback from ...

Last Chance to Apply for the 2012 CFN Conference!

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The deadline to apply for the 2012 CFN Conference has been extended to Wednesday, July 11! Students, sign up at to join FIRE for a weekend of discussion and debate with First Amendment scholars and advocates for free speech on campus. 

Register for the CFN conference today!

Law Enforcement Agencies Demanded Cell Phone User Info Far More Than 1.3 Million Times Last Year

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) revealed that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have made an astounding 1.3 million demands for user cell phone data in the last year, “seeking text messages, caller locations and other information.” The New York Times called the new findings proof of “an explosion in cellphone surveillance” in the United States—much of it done without a warrant. Worse, the eye-popping figure is actually a significant underestimate; the actual number is “almost certainly much higher" than reported, according to the Times:

Because of incomplete record-keeping, the total number of law enforcement requests last year was almost certainly much higher than the 1.3 million the carriers reported to Mr. Markey. Also, the total number of people whose customer information was turned over could be several times higher than the number of requests because a single request often involves multiple callers. For instance, when a police agency asks for a cell tower “dump” for data on subscribers who were near a tower during a certain period of time, it may get back hundreds or even thousands of names.

This information comes on the heels of an ACLU report showing over 200 local law enforcement agencies ...

Sixth Circuit Publishes Important Campus Speech Case

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently decided to publish its April decision (PDF) in McGlone v. Bell, an important case for campus speech rights. It's worth taking a closer look at the case and its implications for free speech zones maintained by universities nationwide.

In McGlone, the Court ruled that Tennessee Technical University (TTU) violated the rights of John McGlone, an evangelical Christian who travels to university campuses to speak about his beliefs and distribute literature when it refused to let him speak or distribute literature anywhere on the public university campus outside of a small patio unless he gave 14 days notice, identified himself and his message, and then obtained permission. When McGlone attempted to speak with students outdoors and distribute his literature without first registering himself and getting permission, he was chased away by campus police. When he relocated to a sidewalk at the edge of campus, he was approached by an administrator and warned that he wasn't allowed to speak there without the university's permission. 

In response to TTU's actions, McGlone filed a motion for preliminary injunction with the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The ...

EFF Backs Libraries in Battle Over Book Digitization

Monday, July 9th, 2012
Authors Guild Suit Against Reference Uses Flies in the Face of Fair Use

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has joined several national library associations in urging a federal court to find that the fair use doctrine permitted the creation of a valuable digital library.

Although the case was filed long after the more famous Google Books lawsuit, Authors Guild v. HathiTrust presents a similar issue: whether digitization of books without granting full text access to the public is a legal fair use of copyrighted material. For the past seven years, major university libraries have been collaborating with Google to digitize their collections, with one result being the creation of the HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL). Via the HDL, more than 60 university and research libraries can store, secure, and search their digital collections. With the exception of some patrons who have disabilities, HDL does not allow for users to access books in their entirety – it simply does a search for keywords and delivers titles and page numbers as results. Nonetheless, the Authors Guild claims its members are due compensation in exchange for being included in the collection. In an amicus brief filed Friday, EFF and the American ...

UN Human Rights Council passes resolution to protect Internet speech

Monday, July 9th, 2012

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday passed the its first-ever resolution to protect the free speech of individuals online. The resolution was approved by all 47 members of the council, including China and Cuba, who have been criticized for limiting Internet freedom. The resolution is written to guarantee Internet freedom, including the free flow of information and freedom of expression. It was passed at the 20th Session of the council in Geneva. While the resolution is the UN’s first on the issue, the UN International Telecommunication Union has applied the principle since 2003. The US co-sponsored the Swedish-led motion with countries that included Brazil and Tunisia.

Read more.

By Rebecca DiLeonardo

Student Union Activists Released

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Burmese authorities released around two dozen detained student activists on Saturday after taking them into custody ahead of the anniversary of a sensitive military crackdown, provoking fears that the country’s government had backtracked on its reformist agenda.

The activists, members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), an umbrella organization for all student unions in Burma and a voice for academic freedom and student rights, were detained Friday in various locations around the country, including the cities of Rangoon, Mandalay, Lashio, and Shwebo.

Reuters news agency cited ABFSU secretary Phyo Phyo Aung, who was among those held, as saying that the group of detainees was released on Saturday.

She said that she and three other activists from the group were questioned at a government building in Rangoon because their group was deemed illegal.

The ABFSU was banned more than two decades ago but has continued to operate underground. The group was warned by the government last month to register as a political group or risk imprisonment of its members, but declined, saying that it did not qualify as a political party and did not need to register.

"Police officials told us that they just wanted to question us ...

The Free Speech Pamphlet Series: Arts Censorship

Friday, July 6th, 2012

The Free Speech Pamphlet Series: Arts Censorship
Feminism and Free Speech: Arts Censorship is part of the Feminism and Free Speech series produced by Feminists for Free Expression (FFE), a national, not-for-profit anti-censorship organization.

Recent years have seen increasing demands for censorship of artistic expression. Attacks on books in libraries, demands for censoring television and prosecutions of bookstores and museums have become a popular response to words, ideas or images that some Americans find offensive. Feminists for Free Expression is deeply concerned about this trend, for censoring disagreeable ideas will not make the disagreeable realities go away, and only distracts people’s attention from addressing the real causes of social ills. Censorship harms all groups working for social change—especially women.

see ffe web site for full document and more position statements:

TPP Stop the Trap Petition Delivered with Over 90,000 Signatures to the USTR

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Today, two representatives of Public Citizen delivered the Stop the Trap petition—which has received over 90,000 signatures—to United States Trade Representative (USTR) officer Barbara Weisel. The petition is aimed at key government leaders and trade representatives of countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and it calls on them to drop all provisions in the agreement that would place heavy restrictions on the Internet and digital freedoms. We have endorsed this petition along with OpenMedia.Ca, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, ONG Derechos Digitales, Free Press, Internet NZ, and others.

USTR officer, Barbara Weisel (left) with Burcu Kilic and Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen.

You can visit and sign this petition no matter where in the world you live.

Also, you can take our action calling on Congressional members to demand transparency in the TPP negotiations (it can be taken more than once!):

SDCC: CBLDF Live Art Auction – FIRST LOOK!

Friday, July 6th, 2012

This is the big one! The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund hosts its biggest auction of the year at Comic-Con on Saturday, July 14 the CBLDF’s Comic-Con Live Art Auction!

This year’s auction will feature items for bidding, curated by some of comicdom’s top editors, dealers, and fans. Boasting more than 120 items for bidding, this is the CBLDF’s biggest auction in more than five years! With an amazing array of everything from pin-ups, original pages, sketches, and concept art, there is something for every taste and every price range, featuring work from such luminaries as WALTER SIMONSON, JOCK, GABRIEL HARDMAN, FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA, FRANCIS MANAPUL, JEFFREY BROWN, DAVID LLOYD, SCOTT HAMPTON, TERRY DODSON, MIKE DEODATO, GABRIEL BA, FABIO MOON, CHARLIE ADLARD, and many, many more!

A cash bar will be available at the event, and surprise guests will appear throughout the evening! Sponsors include Things From Another World, Valiant Comics, and MTV Geek.

A full list of auction items will be published on Monday, with new items added up to the day of the auction including donations brought to the CBLDF at Comic-Con! A first look of preview images is available at or at the CBLDF’s booth, number 1920! ...

SDCC: What’s New At The CBLDF Booth!

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Comic Con International is the biggest week of the comics year, and it’s almost upon us! The CBLDF will be there, and aside from our annual party, our annual live art auction, multiple great programs and panels, we will also be set up for the full weekend in Booth 1920, with a full array of great membership premiums, including some great new items, and a few amazing premieres!

The summer of 2012 is the summer of new t-shirts at the CBLDF booth! Aside from the awesome new “IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE” design by the great R. Sikoryak (Masterpiece Comics), we will also have the debut of the new Comics-On-Tees set from Threadless, based on a poem by longtime CBLDF supporter NEIL GAIMAN!

These shirts were designed and illustrated by Ben Templesmith, Brandon Graham, and John Cassaday, with a fourth shirt designed by a Threadless community member, which will make it’s first public appearance at San Diego! These shirts are incredibly cool, and represent one of the more inventive and creative comic adaptations of a Gaiman work! A limited quantity will be available at the show!

We will also have a full display of every scent created for the CBLDF ...

SDCC: CBLDF Programming!

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Thursday, July 12

12:00-1:00 Censorship and the Female Artist — Attacks on women’s speech are on the rise in the current cultural climate in realms including politics and pop culture. This panel examines how censorship affects women artists, in realms including library challenges, community dialogue, and the larger cultural conversation. Moderator AdaPia d’Errico is joined by panelists Anina Bennett, Camilla d’Errico, and Olivia De Berardinis for a freewheeling discussion of their experiences with censorship and observations on how women’s speech is treated in the cultural conversation. Room 11AB

1:00-2:00 CBLDF Master Session: Gilbert Shelton — With his creations The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy’s Cat, and Wonder Warthog among others, Comic-Con special guest Gilbert Shelton is a master of establishing iconic characters and presenting them in scenarios that underscore his expressive cartooning abilities. Get a rare glimpse into the drawing process of this master of the Underground Comix movement, hosted by Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter. The pieces created in this Master Session will be auctioned off at CBLDF’s Art Auction on Saturday night. Room 11AB

Friday, July 13

12:00-1:00 CBLDF: The History of Comics Censorship — Learn the shocking history of comics censorship and how even today ...

Authorities Detain Student Activists

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Updated at 5:30 p.m. EST on 2012-07-06

Burmese authorities on Friday detained more than two dozen members of a banned political organization and raided the headquarters of a student activist group in Rangoon ahead of the anniversary of a major protest against the country’s former military regime, fellow activists said.

The detentions and raid mark a significant step backward for democratic reforms implemented by the country’s nominally civilian government since it took power in March of last year.

In several locations around the country, Special Branch police detained members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), an umbrella organization for all student unions in Burma and a voice for academic freedom and student rights, which was banned more than two decades ago but has continued to operate underground.

The ABFSU was warned by the government last month to register as a political group or risk imprisonment of its members. But the group declined, saying that it did not qualify as a political party and did not need to register.

Authorities also raided the Rangoon headquarters of the 88 Generation Students Group, a movement formed by activists who participated in student-led protests against Burma’s former military regime in 1988.