Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

SDCC: CBLDF Convention Kit FREE For All Members!

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Are you a CBLDF member?

Do you attend conventions, and are tired of the standard badge and lanyard combo?

Do you wish you had more “flair” to show everyone that you support free speech?

Do you find yourself pen free when you need your favorite artist to sign or sketch in your favorite book?

The CBLDF has solved these problems for you! If you are a current member (or want to join up, with levels allow as $25), just come by booth 1920 at any point during Comic Con International in San Diego, and claim your CBLDF Member Convention Kit!

This Member Appreciation Assortment is making its debut at Comic Con, and includes a “Support Free Speech” lanyard, a CBLDF badge ribbon, a vinyl “Proud Member” sticker, and a Pentel Artist’s Pen set. Free to all current members, including anyone who signs up on the spot at our booth throughout Comic Con.

A great way to show you support Free Expression in comics, and that you are part of the movement to protect our rights! The CBLDF Member Convention Kit is waiting for YOU!

SDCC: CBLDF’s Comic-Con Welcome Party!

Friday, July 6th, 2012

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, the CBLDF Comic-Con Welcome Party is jam-packed with amazing people and cool stuff! This party is sponsored by Image Comics, TFAW.Com, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, & Threadless!

Experience Creativity with Image Comics greats including:
Ales Kot, Amanda Conner, Ben McCool, Ben Templesmith, Brandon Seifert, Charles Soule, Chris Giarrusso, Cory Walker, Dan Brereton, Darick Robertson, Deborah Vankin, Dexter Weeks, Dirk Manning, Edwin Huang,Eric Shanower, Eric Stephenson, Erik Larsen, Gerry Duggan, Glen Brunswick, Jim Mahfood, Jim McCann, Jim Valentino, Jim Zub, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Keatinge, John Layman, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Joshua Williamson, Kody Chamberlain, Kurtis Wiebe, Mark Poulton,Matt Hawkins, Michael Moreci, Moritat, Nate Bellegarde, Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto, Richard Starkings, Ron Marz, S. Steven Struble, Scott Tuft, Sina Grace, Steve Seeley, and many more!

Get The Exclusive Goods: Free gift bag, featuring a CBLDF party exclusive edition of Revival #1 by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton from Image Comics, and other special thank yous from CBLDF supporters including ...

Controversial Purdue Professor Wins Battle Over Publishing Public Documents

Friday, July 6th, 2012
Professor Maurice Eisenstein, who was ganged up on for months by some of his faculty colleagues due to his protected expression, has won another battle for free speech at Purdue University Calumet.

After investigating nine complaints of harassment and discrimination against Eisenstein, Purdue University Calumet dismissed all of them. Among other comments on his personal Facebook page, Eisenstein had criticized "‘moderate' Muslims" who he believed had not condemned violence after an attack by "a radical Muslim group" had killed Christians in Nigeria. Although Eisenstein was cleared of all charges after intervention from FIRE in January 2012, he was found guilty of "retaliation" due to other protected comments, violating his free speech rights. He filed a lawsuit in May 2012.

Meanwhile, on March 5, 2012, Eisenstein described his case on his personal website and posted public documents that he received in response to a public records request. It appears that the publication of these public documents became the basis of a new retaliation complaint against Eisenstein on April 17. In yet another public document, it appears that the complainant "states that when her name is ‘Googled' the e-mails [see link above] appear. This has the potential of interfering with possible business ...

China’s Internet ‘Cut Off’ From Freedom

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Chinese Internet users gave a mixed reaction to the passage this week of the first United Nations resolution on Internet freedom, which called on all states to support individuals' rights online as much as offline, with many expressing pessimism that the vote would affect them.

The resolution from the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva passed on Thursday in spite of opposition on  from China, Russia, and India, although it garnered the support of dozens of countries ahead of its adoption.

"It's the first U.N. resolution that confirms that human rights in the Internet realm must be protected with the same commitment as in the real world," U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe told reporters after the vote.

She said the resolution had the support of 85 co-sponsors, 30 of whom were members of the HRC.

Chinese Internet analyst Zeng Ning said Chinese Internet freedom was still a remote dream, with most netizens restricted to seeing only content behind the system of blocks, filters, and human censorship known as the Great Firewall, or GFW.

"There hasn't been much progress in Internet freedom in China," Zeng said. "The Chinese Internet is a totally different thing from the Internet in countries that ...

Miami federal judge sides with ‘Docs’ over ‘Glocks’ in Fla. gun rights case

Friday, July 6th, 2012

*Note:  The Thomas Jefferson Center previously awarded a Jefferson Muzzle to the Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott for their involvement with this law.  You can read more about the Muzzle award here.


A federal judge has blocked the state of Florida from enforcing a new law pushed by firearm advocates that banned thousands of doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, who had already issued a preliminary injunction last September, made her decision permanent late Friday when she ruled in favor of groups of physicians who asserted the state violated their free speech rights. She said the law was so “vague” that it violated the First Amendment rights of doctors, noting the legislation’s privacy provisions “fail to provide any standards for practitioners to follow.”

The physicians’ lawsuit, an ideological battle between advocates of free speech and the right to bear arms, has been dubbed “Docs vs. Glocks.” The state Department of Health could appeal her summary judgment, which addressed legislation signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Scott.

In her 25-page ruling, Cooke clearly sided with the physicians, saying evidence showed that physicians began “self-censoring” because ...

ERROR 451: This Page Has Been Burned

Friday, July 6th, 2012

It’s just another average day of internet browsing. You’re doing your thing, checking the news, maybe taking a detour to your favorite webcomic. Then, WHAM (or rather, the internet version of said sound effect).

ERROR 451.

What happened? Did the servers overload? Did the connection crash? Is the address wrong?

No; this page has been burned.

Error 451 is a new HTTP Error status code proposed by Google developer advocate Tim Bray. The code would pop up the same way an Error 404 code does — except instead of being told a page could not be found, a viewer would be informed that the site is being censored.

The number is an homage to Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451, which takes place in a dystopian future in which firemen burn books because the government has declared reading illegal.

According to Wired’s WebMonkey blog, the biggest advantage of the 451 code is that it would explain why content is unavailable — such as which legal authority is imposing the restriction. This would let visitors know that the government, not the Internet Service Provider, is the reason for the page’s malfunction.  Currently, 403 errors are most often used when blocking access to censored ...

A Moment to Celebrate: No Data Retention Mandate in Smith’s New Child Protection Bill

Friday, July 6th, 2012

It’s a very good day for Internet freedom – a controversial, anti-privacy data retention mandate is notably absent from the child protection bill recently introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith. SOPA-author Lamar Smith had previously introduced H.R. 1981, which would have mandated that ISPs collect and maintain data on Internet users not suspected of any crime. Under the bill, ISPs would be required to keep historical records on IP address assignments, which raised serious civil liberties concerns. We’re heartened to see these troubling provisions are not present in the replacement bill, Child Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6063).

EFF, ACLU, Demand Progress, and other civil liberties organizations worked together to articulate the grave civil liberties implications of this short-sighted legislation. More importantly, tens of thousands of Internet users contacted Congress to protest H.R. 1981. EFF extends our heartfelt thanks to the Internet community for their efforts to stop provisions that would have had dire consequences for online freedom.

We know the battle isn’t over – there are data retention mandates to be fought around the world, state level bills could crop up, and it’s quite possible Congress will try its hand at mandating data retention again in the future. ...

Court in OWS Twitter Case Gets it Wrong Again

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Despite Twitter's (and our) best efforts, it has been ordered to disclose to the government all of the information it has on an Occupy Wall Street protester. 

We've been following the case of Malcolm Harris'  -- arrested in connection with the OWS Brooklyn Bridge protest in October 2011 -- very closely. Charged with disorderly conduct, New York City prosecutors sent a broad subpoena to Twitter, seeking to obtain any and all information it had on Harris -- tweets, subscriber information, email addresses. From the very beginning, we suspected that the government was really after location information. And sure enough, after Harris challenged the subpoena, the NYC prosecutors admitted they wanted the information to show he was on the bridge at the time of his arrest.

In April, the court denied Harris' motion to quash, writing an opinion filled with troubling legal conclusions, finding Harris had no legal standing to challenge the subpoena since he didn't own his tweets, and allowing the government to access content and location data without a search warrant. Thankfully, Twitter stepped up to challenge the subpoena since the court ruled Harris couldn't do it himself, and together with the ACLU and Public Knowledge, ...

Top 10 Takedowns in Google’s Copyright Transparency Report

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

When Google released its new Copyright Transparency Report on takedown requests of its Search results, we got new insights into the massive number of complaints the search giant receives. We also saw that there are many requests that don't seem to meet the standard of a "good faith belief" of infringement. Google said in the report that it refuses to comply with requests that are obviously inaccurate or intentionally abusive, which accounts for about 3% of the total. While Google deserves to be commended for that example of good citizenship, they can't catch everything.

The following list shows the Top 10 takedowns that stood out as looking like misuse of the DMCA.  It's by no means exhaustive, and compiled simply by looking through some of the listings that caught our eye. We've said before: in practice, the DMCA's notice-and-takedown procedures are ripe for abuse. These takedowns show how that abuse could happen.

  1. Microsoft sent a takedown for a Chilling Effects report on a prior takedown. As you can imagine, the original takedown notice can hardly be considered infringing.  Microsoft has informed us that it has changed its process, so hopefully this will be its last takedown of ...

UC Violates Journalist’s Rights; California Taxpayers Lose $162,500

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

In another example of universities violating individual rights and leaving taxpayers with the bill, Californians are out $162,500 following the University of California, Berkeley's settlement with a photojournalist whose photographs of a protest on Berkeley's campus were wrongfully seized during the December 11, 2009, event. 

David Morse, a journalist with Indybay, had been covering the protest against fee increases and budget cuts outside Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's on-campus residence when things turned violent and protesters began breaking windows and throwing torches. As UC police started arresting people, Morse was approached by an officer who, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland, ignored his press pass and told him "[W]e want your camera. We believe your camera contains evidence of a crime." 

While Morse was initially arrested and his photos seized, the charges were later dropped and his photos returned after a court rescinded the search warrant that was issued to collect the photos, due to state and federal laws that prohibit such warrants for unpublished journalistic materials. 

The fallout from the ordeal began when Morse asked the UC police for compensation for infringing his rights, including his First Amendment right as a member of the ...

And the D(EFF)CONtest 2012 Winner Is…You!

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Support Coders' Rights With EFF!Thank you to all of this year's D(EFF)CONtestants and to the individuals who donated in support of digital civil liberties!  We topped last year's fundraising total bringing in $8,572 — well done! Every penny helps fund the legal briefs, research, educational resources, and activism campaigns necessary to protect freedom online, so in that sense we are all winners here.  In a more immediate sense, here are the winners who will walk away with some super-1337 prizes:

Grand Prize Winner: ArmyTra1n3d!
Congratulations! Your training paid off. You've won a suite at the Rio Hotel and Casino, two DEF CON 20 Human badges, two tickets to Vegas 2.0's (in)famous kickoff party theSummit, two badges for the ultra-exclusive Ninja Networks Party, two passes to the iSEC Partners party, AND an EFF Swag Super Pack!

Second Place Winner: InfoSec Daily Podcast (ISDPodcast)!
Way to go! ISDPodcast, winner of last year's contest, will receive two DEF CON 20 Human badges, two tickets to the Vegas 2.0 Party, two passes to the iSEC Partners party, and an EFF Swag Super Pack!

Third Place Winner: The Holy Handgrenades!
Sweet! THH will receive one DEF CON 20 Human badge, one ticket to the Vegas 2.0 ...

Wanted: Easily Offended Students

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Two days ago we informed you of an absurd situation in New Jersey in which two high school students had their diplomas temporarily withheld after giving a graduation speech containing jokes about fellow students and school administrators. The school administrators were present for the speech, but no one from the audience complained. Nevertheless, the administrators seemingly did not like being the target of even mild, joking criticism and, apparently in retaliation, initiated an investigation into whether the two students violated New Jersey's anti-bullying law. While the case was dropped, even opening an inquiry here was abusive. 

Reason's blog has picked up the story, making an interesting point that augments our previous critiques of the New Jersey anti-bullying law

What FIRE didn't say is that the law also incentivizes speech-averse officials to go hunting for the hecklers' veto, by seeking out somebody - anybody - who can claim to be offended. That's usually not too challenging a task, so it's a minor miracle that Dominach and Sebastiano weren't ultimately confronted with thin-skinned "victims." 

This is an important observation. Some laws chill speech by being overly vague: speakers don't know what speech may be punished, so they keep ...

Animated Parody Removed from Canadian Newspaper Website

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

A Canadian political cartoonist who works for the Vancouver Province newspaper says that his animated parody of oil pipeline company Enbridge’s ads was removed from the newspaper’s website, apparently due to pressure from the corporation.

According to a blog post from The Guardian, Dan Murphy’s video was removed by the paper’s owner, Postmedia News, which felt that its lucrative advertising contract with Enbridge could be threatened. Murphy says his editor, Wayne Moriarty, was also led to believe that his own job was in jeopardy as long as the spoof remained on the website.

Moriarty himself claims that the video was removed due to copyright concerns. Unlike in the United States, Canadian copyright law does not specifically protect parodies under its fair use/fair dealing provisions.

Enbridge denies pressuring Postmedia into removing the video but does say that it received an apology from the media conglomerate.

Murphy’s video, which criticizes a project to build an oil pipeline from the oil sands of Alberta to Canada’s west coast, can be viewed here.

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

Maren Williams is ...

Open Source Developer Bassel Khartabil Detained in Syria

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

This weekend, EFF learned that Bassel Khartabil, a longtime member of the open source software community and Creative Commons volunteer, has been detained in Syria since March 12, 2012, as part of a wave of arrests made in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. For months, Bassel’s family has had no knowledge of his whereabouts or the reason for his arrest. Only recently have they heard from previous detainees at Kafar Sousa that he is being held at this location. This news is especially alarming in light of a recent Human Rights Watch report documenting the use of torture in 27 detention facilities run by Syrian intelligence agencies.

In addition to his work as technical director on several projects, including efforts to restore the Palmyra Atoll and the publication of Forward Syria Magazine, Bassel contributed his time and expertise to countless organizations including Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, the Open Clip Art Library, Fabricatorz, Sharism, and the Arabloggers community.

More than a thousand people from all over the world have already signed a letter of support for Bassel addressed to the Syrian government, requesting information about his detention, health, and psychological state, and demanding his immediate release. They are also tweeting ...

British Government Considering ISP Censorship Mandates

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Is it the job of the British government to legislate ISP-level censorship of adult content? On the heels of an April parliamentary inquiry, Prime Minister David Cameron seems to be giving the question a disconcerting amount of consideration, at the potential expense of double-entendre web content everywhere. Says technology news site Computer Act!ve:

The Government is considering whether to force internet service providers (ISPs) to introduce network-based filtering measures to block porn.

Despite the technical difficulties this would pose, it appears David Cameron is taking these calls seriously and is expected to begin a consultation process in the next few weeks.

April’s cross-party inquiry calls on government mandate, rather than voluntary efforts by ISPs or parents to implement opt-in filtering, as the means to stem underage access to adult sites, and prevent what they consider the “negative impact” of this content:

The Inquiry concluded that the Government, while urging ISPs to reach a collective solution to introduce single account network-level filters with Opt-In functionality for adult content, should also seek  backstop legal powers to intervene should the ISPs fail to implement an appropriate solution.

We also concluded that the Government should consider a new regulatory structure for online ...

New Arizona Law: Schools and Libraries Comply or Lose Funding

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Public schools and libraries in Arizona will be at the mercy of a new law, effective August 1, that requires the institutions to block “obscene” materials on the internet or they will lose 10 percent of their funding, according to articles posted on the First Amendment Center and The Arizona Republic websites.

From The Arizona Republic article, by Lindsey Erdody:

House Bill 2712 specifies the types of material the schools and libraries must block and includes a tough penalty — the state can withhold 10 percent of its funding if the school or library doesn’t comply.

The new law has several requirements: Schools and libraries must filter and block questionable websites from minors and the general public; they must establish a policy to enforce the ban on these materials; and they have to make the rules available to the public.

Rep. Steve Court, R-Mesa, who sponsored the bill, said he pushed for the funding penalties to give schools and libraries more incentive to have strict filters in place. If a school or library is notified that it is not in compliance, it has 60 days to change the policy. After that, the state can withhold up to 10 ...

For the Fourth: Benjamin Franklin (Kind Of) on Freedom of Speech

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

On this Independence Day, FIRE would like to quote Benjamin Franklin, favorite son of our own hometown of Philadelphia, on free speech. 

Actually, that's not 100% true. This particular statement of free speech was not written by Franklin but rather quoted at length with approval by Franklin from an "Abstract from the London Journal." But even this didn't appear under the name "Benjamin Franklin"—Franklin printed it under the name of Silence Dogood, a fictional middle-aged widow that Franklin made up. Why did he do that? Because Franklin was only 16 when he wrote the letters from Silence Dogood to his brother James' newspaper, the New England Courant (where Franklin was an apprentice printer), and James refused to print anything his little brother wrote.

It gets weirder: this issue of the Courant, from 2-9 July 1722, was printed by Benjamin Franklin, not James Franklin. Why? Because James Franklin was in jail at the time for printing something that offended government officials in Massachusetts—and the 16 year old Benjamin Franklin went on publishing the paper without him! 

So we have Ben Franklin printing something written by someone else under another someone else's name in yet another someone else's paper that was ...

Political Prisoners Freed

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Burma on Tuesday released a new batch of political prisoners imprisoned under its former military regime, as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for the release of remaining dissidents.

At least 20 political prisoners were among the 80 prisoners released on the orders of President Thein Sein, following a previous amnesty in January.

Activists who had been detained under the former military regime were freed from prisons across the country, including Insein, Kalay, Myin Gyan, Thayet, Katha, Pa-an, Tavoy, and Kawthaung.

Among the released was Thant Zaw, a former youth member of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party while it was banned by the then-ruling military junta.

He said he had suffered torture during his 24 years in prison and felt that even being released was not much consolation after his ordeal.

"I'm not happy because with the reduced sentence I had already served most of my time. I was charged with something I did not do, and I was tortured and interrogated for so many years."

Another of those freed was former student activist Aye Aung, who had served out nearly 14 years of his 59-year sentence under illegal printing charges.

He ...

Is Joking in a Graduation Speech Now Bullying in New Jersey?

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

FIRE has long warned of the dangers of increasing administrative power and burgeoning speech regulations. Time and time again, we have seen how college administrators use their positions and restrictive policies to punish speech they dislike—all too often, speech that is critical of those in power. Hayden Barnes' experience at Valdosta State University is perhaps the most extreme example of just how far university administrators will go to silence those who challenge an administration and criticize its actions. Now, we have news out of New Jersey that confirms this sad fact yet again-news that is particularly worrying in light of the state's new anti-bullying legislation.

In a truly ridiculous example of administrative overreach, officials at Middletown High School South in Middletown, New Jersey, withheld diplomas from seniors Eric Dominach and Mike Sebastiano following their commencement address to this year's graduating class, claiming that their speech might have violated anti-bullying guidelines. What, you might ask, could have possibly crossed such lines? During their speech, Dominach and Sebastiano joked about the school district and fellow classmates. Some of these comments included a joke about the number of vice principals at the school and a satirical complaint about failing to be accepted to ...

UCLA Drops a Speech Code

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

When students return to the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) this fall, they'll have one less policy restricting their First Amendment rights to worry about. That's because UCLA has revised an unconstitutional posting policy after receiving a warning letter (PDF) from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).

Before ADF's involvement, UCLA's policy (.doc) prohibited registered student groups from posting materials that "tend[] to promote demeaning social stereotypes based on race, ethnicity, culture, gender, or sexual orientation." As written, the policy presented two central problems. First, it was overly broad, restricting student groups from voicing a vast amount of speech protected by the First Amendment. For example, under the terms of the policy, student groups would be unable to post a flyer advertising a debate about whether European attitudes toward vacations are enlightened or simply evidence of sloth—because so doing arguably furthers a "demeaning social stereotype" about Europeans. Nor could a student group advertise a showing of Rocky IV (anti-Russian), Deliverance (anti-Southern), The Godfather (anti-Italian), Borat (anti-Kazakhi), South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (anti-Canadian), or Buffalo ‘66 (anti-Western New Yorker).  

While these examples may seem implausible, FIRE's case archives demonstrate that students have been punished on campus under similar rationales. For ...

Speak With EFF Attorneys at HOPE Number 9

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

HOPE Number Nine is fast approaching, and EFF staff members are excited to give a slew of talks on everything from drones to location privacy to privacy tricks for web developers. We'll also have attorneys on site to provide information about reverse engineering, vulnerability reporting, copyright, free speech, and more.

If you're planning to attend HOPE Number 9 and you'd like to set up an appointment to speak with us there, please contact us by Monday, July 9. If you'd like to discuss any concerns about talks you plan to give at HOPE, let us know by Friday, July 6. If we can't assist you, we'll make every effort to put you in touch with an attorney who can.

Related Issues: 

Tibetan Woman Sets Herself Alight

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

A Tibetan woman set herself ablaze last week in western China’s Qinghai province in protest against what she said were unjust Chinese land confiscation policies, according to local sources.

The woman, whose name and age are unknown, is a resident of Qinghai’s Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and self-immolated on June 27 in the township of Jyekundo, also called Gyegu, residents told RFA’s Tibetan Kham service.

“The woman is the daughter of a local man named Petse,” said a Jyekundo resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“She moved to the area a couple of years ago and the self-immolation was in protest against the confiscation of her residence,” the man said.

He said authorities had spared homes in the neighborhood of those who maintained good relations with local authorities, but had singled out her residence for demolition.

“The woman’s protest was against this Chinese injustice,” he said.

Ngawang Topden, a source from Jyekundo who currently lives in southern India, said that the woman had set herself on fire in an area near the Jyekun monastery sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m.

He said that after the woman self-immolated, authorities extinguished the flames and rushed her to a ...

Authorities Target Bloggers at Protests

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Police in Vietnam attempted to prevent bloggers from participating in two anti-China demonstrations over the weekend, prompting rights groups to criticize the government for its heavy-handed tactics in obstructing peaceful protests in the country.

The rare demonstrations, which came in response to growing tensions over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, saw protesters on Sunday march to the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi and to the Chinese Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.

More than 100 protesters attended each rally, waving Vietnamese flags and shouting “Down with China.”

Police largely stood by and watched the demonstrations, but in some cases bloggers in both cities reported being harassed by police and even detained to prevent them from spreading information about the event.

In Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, protesters marched on the Chinese Consulate, but police prevented them from accessing the area, according to witnesses.

Bloggers and other participants also complained of police harassment and detentions before and during the rally in the southern city.

Blogger Huynh Cong Thuan said he was under police surveillance ahead of the rally.

“The police are watching me closely,” he said. “However, I will try my best to evade them and go to [the ...

EFF Joins Coalition Urging EU Parliament to Reject ACTA

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Today EFF has joined a coalition of over 50 organizations from across Europe and around the world in a call for the European Parliament to reject ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The European Parliament vote on the plurilateral agreement is set for this Wednesday, July 4, and follows deliberations from five different parliamentary committees that each urged rejection.

Like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), under discussion in San Diego this week, ACTA has provoked protests around the world for its secretive drafting and negotiation process. Details revealed through leaks and with the ultimate release of the document show that the agreement threatens fundamental online freedoms, consumers' privacy, and basic civil liberties. Moreover, it does so in the name of ratcheting up intellectual property (IP) enforcement above the established international standards.

We don't yet know whether a defeat in the European Parliament would spell the end of ACTA, but it would certainly mark a major milestone in the fight against it. Combined with its recent trouble in the U.S., where the State Department admitted after an EFF Freedom of Information Act request that it did not follow certain Constitutionally-required procedures, it looks like there is still ...

Internet Users Again Shut Out of Secret TPP Negotiations

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Secret, undemocratic trade agreements could put shackles on our free open Internet and they need to be stopped before they do. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is being negotiated behind closed doors in a process that not only excludes civil society and public, but also elected representatives that already have proper security clearance are denied the ability to view and participate in the negotiations. Meanwhile, corporate representatives have full access to the text online. This process is not only lacks any transparency, it’s completely incompatible with our democratic notion of society.

This week, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will host the 13th round of negotiations over the TPP in San Diego at the Hilton Hotel. EFF will be attending the first days of the meeting, both to engage with the negotiators at the USTR-run stakeholder events and to speak and rally outside the meetings to raise public awareness of these shady proceedings.

The TPP carries provisions that would enact the global norms of copyright policy lobbied for by content industry lobbyists. Those provisions would override sovereign national laws and prevent countries from passing, or even retaining, pragmatic copyright legislation appropriate for their own national needs. ...

Three NSA Whistleblowers Back EFF’s Lawsuit Over Government’s Massive Spying Program

Monday, July 2nd, 2012
EFF Asks Court to Reject Stale State Secret Arguments So Case Can Proceed

San Francisco - Three whistleblowers – all former employees of the National Security Agency (NSA) – have come forward to give evidence in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) lawsuit against the government's illegal mass surveillance program, Jewel v. NSA.

In a motion filed today, the three former intelligence analysts confirm that the NSA has, or is in the process of obtaining, the capability to seize and store most electronic communications passing through its U.S. intercept centers, such as the "secret room" at the AT&T facility in San Francisco first disclosed by retired AT&T technician Mark Klein in early 2006.

"For years, government lawyers have been arguing that our case is too secret for the courts to consider, despite the mounting confirmation of widespread mass illegal surveillance of ordinary people," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Now we have three former NSA officials confirming the basic facts. Neither the Constitution nor federal law allow the government to collect massive amounts of communications and data of innocent Americans and fish around in it in case it might find something interesting. This kind of power is too easily abused. We're ...

Mass Protests Greet New Leader

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Hong Kong's incoming leader Leung Chun-ying vowed on Monday to listen to the city's citizens after thousands of people took to the streets at the weekend in protest at the official start of his tenure.

Hours after Leung was sworn in at a ceremony in front of Chinese president Hu Jintao, crowds poured down the main thoroughfares of Hong Kong's central business district in the biggest demonstrations in eight years.

Organizers said 400,000 people turned out, while police, whose estimates are typically far lower than participants', said 63,000 took part. Both were the highest figures since 2004.

The annual July 1 demonstrations have become a pressure valve for political and social discontent in a political system which is strongly weighted in Beijing's favor.

Leung said in reaction to the protests, "My government and I will seriously and humbly listen to the people's demands, no matter through what means or how many people were there."

"We hope we can fight together with the people to fulfill the people's demands," he told reporters.

Even before his term began, Leung, a Beijing loyalist, had already attracted protests drawing thousands of people decrying Chinese interference in the March election.

Anti-Beijing sentiment has peaked since ...

Join FIRE in Las Vegas at FreedomFest, July 11-14

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

FIRE staff, including President Greg Lukianoff, will be in attendance at this year's FreedomFest, taking place July 11–14 at Bally's Las Vegas. Be sure to catch Greg's speech introducing his upcoming book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate on Friday, July 13 at 10:30 a.m. in Skyview 1. 

FIRE will also be featured in the Anthem Film Festival taking place throughout the week and weekend. FIRE's video "Don't Mess with Firefly," documenting the controversy surrounding our case at the University of Wisconsin–Stout, is up for an award and will be shown in the "Provocative Shorts" category Saturday, July 14 at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in Palace 6/7. 

For festival-goers who want to know more about FIRE, we'll be hosting a table in the exhibit hall Wednesday through Saturday, while Greg himself will be on hand to answer questions following both screenings of the film and will be taking questions on his book at the conclusion of his talk.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Is Harvard More Repressive Than the Town That Banned Swearing?

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

That's the question FIRE Chairman and Co-Founder Harvey Silverglate asks in his latest letter to The Boston Globe about Harvard University and the town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, which recently banned curse words (punishment: a $20 fine). Harvey makes the connection between the two: 

[I]t should come as no surprise that a municipality makes the assumption that it has the legal power and moral authority to dictate what its citizens may not say.

Since the mid-1980s our institutions of so-called higher learning have been instituting ever-stricter speech codes that make it a punishable act for one student to offend another by uttering anything deemed by the listener to be demeaning.

Indeed, Harvard went a shocking step further this past year when Thomas Dingman, dean of freshmen, sought to get all first-year students to sign a "kindness pledge." ...

Harvey's letter is worth a minute of your time to read, and his point that repression at universities is leading people to more easily accept such limitations in our larger society is also a theme of FIRE President Greg Lukianoff's upcoming book, Unlearning Liberty.

Time For Members of Congress to Pledge to Uphold Internet Freedom

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Today, EFF joins a broad, international coalition of civil society groups calling on elected officials to sign the new Declaration of Internet Freedom and uphold basic rights in the digital world. The Declaration is simple; it offers five core principles that should guide any policy relating to the Internet: stand up for online free expression, openness, access, innovation and privacy. Sign it here.

For too long in the US, Congress has attempted to legislate the Internet in favor of big corporations and heavy-handed law enforcement at the expense of its users’ basic Constitutional rights. Netizens’ strong desire to keep the Internet open and free has been brushed aside as naïve and inconsequential, in favor of lobbyists and special interest groups. Well, no longer.

That all changed on January 18th when users around the country joined together in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—the misguided copyright legislation that would have allowed for censorship of broad swaths of the Internet, while stifling innovation and threatening Internet security. SOPA, though its passage was once characterized as inevitable by the deep-pocketed content industry, was stopped in its tracks when millions of ordinary citizens told their representatives in one voice: Don’t ...

A History of Censorship: Richard Felton Outcalt and The Yellow Kid

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

by Joe Sergi

Many people know about the great comic book scare in the late ’40s and early ’50s. You know the one that started with individuals like Dr. Frederic Wertham and Senator Robert C. Hendrickson and ended with the creation of the now defunct Comics Code Authority. But what many people aren’t aware of is that comics had come under fire long before Dr. Wertham conducted his juvenile delinquency case studies in the Lafargue Clinic in Harlem, New York. This is a tale that goes back to very creation of the medium in the late 1890s, and starts with what many people consider the first comic: The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Alley, published in 1897. (I should note that there is a debate as to whether The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, created in 1842, more than fifty years earlier, is in actuality the first comic.)

Like many early comics, The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Alley did not have original material, but was a reprint of a newspaper strip. The material in The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Alley first appeared in Hogan’s Alley, which starred the Yellow Kid and, debuting in 1895, was also one of the ...

Bears Good, Cancer Bad. Also Bad: Trying to Punish A Critic by Preventing Him from Giving Money to Charity

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

In the latest twist in a bizarre lawsuit targeting The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman and his “BearLove Good, Cancer Bad” fundraising campaign in support of the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation, attorney Charles Carreon has run to court to try to stop the distribution of the fund. Today, with the help of EFF and co-counsel Venkat Balasubramani, Inman fought back with an opposition to Carreon's demand for a temporary restraining order.

Inman started his campaign last month as part of his response to a legal threat letter he received from the website FunnyJunk.  In 2011, Inman published a blogpost condemning FunnyJunk for posting hundreds of his comics without crediting or linking back to The Oatmeal.  A year later, Carreon – the attorney for FunnyJunk – served Inman with a letter claiming the post was defamatory and demanding The Oatmeal pay $20,000 and agree to never speak the words Funny Junk again. 

Inman crafted a humorous and creative response, publicly annotating the cease and desist letter with a scathing critique of its facts and logic. He could have stopped there, but he also tried to make some good come of the situation. Instead of paying the baseless demand, Inman decided instead to ask ...

Why won’t the Obama administration reveal how many Americans’ emails the NSA has collected and reviewed without a warrant?

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Since last year, a few members of Congress—led by Senator Ron Wyden—have been trying to get the Obama administration to answer a simple question: how many Americans’ phone calls or emails have been and are being collected and read without a warrant under the authority of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA)?  Unfortunately, no one else in the government  seems to want that question answered.

The question arose soon after Congress passed the FAA, which among other things sought to create immunity for telecoms that helped the NSA conduct warrantless wiretapping and gutted privacy protections for Americans communicating overseas.  A New York Times investigation described how, under the FAA, a “significant and systemic” practice of “overcollection” of communications resulted in the NSA’s intercepting millions of purely domestic emails and phone calls between Americans. In addition, documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU, although heavily redacted, revealed “that violations [of the FAA and the Constitution] continued to occur on a regular basis through at least March 2010”— the last month anyone has public data for.

The FISA Amendments Act is currently up for renewal, and Sen. Wyden, along with Sen. Mark Udall, wants the ...

University Lawyers Frustrated by OCR Mandate

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Articles this week in both The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Harvard Crimson indicate that policymakers and lawyers on university campuses continue to struggle with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR's) mandates regarding campus procedures for sexual harassment and sexual assault. As the articles showcase, not only has OCR's directive forced schools to sharply reduce students' due process rights, it has left many on campus frustrated with OCR's top-down approach and lack of stakeholder input.

The Chronicle piece (subscription required) discusses the general response of campus counsel as they work to bring their schools in line with OCR's new requirements, the most significant of which is the imposition of the low "preponderance of the evidence" (or "more likely than not") evidentiary standard for adjudications of sexual misconduct. As the article relates, even though more than a year has passed since OCR's April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" letter, colleges are continuing to experience difficulties in adopting this and other major changes to their campus policies and proceedings. At many schools, this revision process has proven to be complex and difficult:

Janet P. Judge, an expert in the legal aspects of college athletics, said many in higher ...

FIRE on the Supreme Court’s Landmark Decision

Friday, June 29th, 2012

We at FIRE are very excited about a Supreme Court decision that we know will have a profound impact on our nation for years to come.  

OK, now that I have your attention (and web traffic), I feel I should confess that I am talking about the seminal campus free speech case of Healy v. James, which turns 40 this week.

The facts of Healy dealt with the attempt by Central Connecticut State College (now University) to deny recognition to students who were organizing a campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). While a college committee approved the organization for recognition, the college's president, Dr. Don James, refused to approve the group for recognition on the grounds that, among other things, the group would be a "disruptive influence" on campus. 

In rejecting this rationale, Justice Lewis Powell, writing for the court, famously stated: 

[T]he precedents of this Court leave no room for the view that, because of the acknowledged need for order, First Amendment protections should apply with less force on college campuses than in the community at large. Quite to the contrary, "[t]he vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the ...

Celebrate the Launch of FIRE’s New ‘Guide to Free Speech’ July 18 in DC

Friday, June 29th, 2012
FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus

Join FIRE and Students For Liberty as we celebrate the launch of our newly revised Guide to Free Speech on Campus with a happy hour in Washington, DC on July 18 from 5:30 – 8 p.m. The event will take place at The Laughing Man Tavern, located just a few blocks from Metro Center. 

All attendees are welcome to enjoy free drinks, free appetizers and, most importantly, free copies of our newly revised Guide while they last!

First published in 2005, FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus has been distributed to more than 138,000 students, faculty members, alumni, administrators, and citizens across the country as a tool to fight censorship on campus. The new second edition of the Guide has been fully updated for today's students, paying special attention to student expression in the Facebook era and providing readers with fresh examples from FIRE's case archives, important updates from state and federal case law, and incisive analysis.

More information on the new Guide will be available as July 18 nears. In the meantime, join the Facebook event page and invite your friends! And don't forget—FIRE President Greg Lukianoff's new book, Unlearning Liberty (available for pre-order) ...

‘An Expression of Personal Power’

Friday, June 29th, 2012

A recent post by Shanghai Metro via the popular microblogging service Sina Weibo called on women to dress more conservatively when riding subway trains, so as to avoid sexual harassment. The post sparked a fierce, online debate, with 80 percent of respondents to an online poll saying they had been sexually harassed or assaulted on subway trains. Ai Xiaoming, literature professor and gender theorist at Guangzhou's Zhongshan University, adds her view to the debate, saying that women should have the right to wear what they like, without fear of assault:

I think this sort of rubbish is very self-disparaging. Surely to say such things is to turn all men into sexual perverts. Does this mean that if you can see that someone is carrying a purse, that you can steal it, or that you can go and snatch a large amount of money from someone taking it out of a bank? It's no sort of argument, is it? You would be a thief, and someone with no self-respect.

The expression of their own beauty or sexuality springs from the right of women to sovereignty over their own psychological life. It is also an expression of their personal power. It doesn't ...

Ad Biz Claims It Must Disregard User Privacy Choices to Safeguard "Cybersecurity"

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Senator Rockefeller dismisses "cybersecurity" claims as "red herring"

At a hearing yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee took up the issue of online tracking, the browser-based Do Not Track flag, and, in an unlikely turn of events, cybersecurity. The hearing included testimony from Ohio State University Law School’s Prof. Peter Swire, Mozilla’s Alex Fowler, the Association of National Advertisers’ Bob Liodice, and TechFreedom’s Berin Szoka. While there were a number of heated moments in the hearing, the most surprising was the advertising industry’s claim that respecting consumer choice will harm "cybersecurity." This new argument from the advertising industry only raises more concerns for the civil liberties implications of online tracking and was, as Rockefeller aptly noted, little more than a "red herring."

Quick Recap: What’s Do Not Track and What’s at Stake

Do Not Track is a signal that users can set in their browsers to tell websites they don’t want their online web browsing tracked by companies with whom they have no relationship. Momentum for Do Not Track has been building over several years, inspired in part by high-profile privacy scandals as well as a comprehensive expose series by the Wall Street Journal showing that the nation's 50 top websites ...

TFAW Posts SDCC Auction Images: The Marvel Edition!

Friday, June 29th, 2012

For the past three years, Things From Another World has played a pivotal role in collecting original artwork for CBLDF’s annual Comic-Con International charity auction, helping the Fund raise more than $75,000 in the process. If you head over to their blog, they posted The Marvel Edition of the auction preview: six amazing pieces of art featuring some of our favorite Marvel characters, from Black Widow to Thor. The pieces are by Cat Farris, Francesco Francavilla, Jeffrey Brown, Natalie Nourigat, Patric Reynolds, and Rahsan Ekedal, and they will be auctioned off Saturday, July 14, in room Sapphire AB at the Hilton Bayfront, starting at 8:00 p.m. All proceeds benefit the important First Amendment work of CBLDF!

The image you see here is just a teaser! You can view the rest of the images here. If you’re curious about who’s donated to the auction so far, you can view the list and see their pieces here.

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

With Facebook’s "Reporting Guide," A Step in the Right Direction

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Crossposted from Techpresident

We are living in an era where transparency — be it from government, corporations, or individuals — has come to be expected. As such, social media platforms have come under scrutiny in recent years for their policies around content moderation, but perhaps none have received as much criticism as Facebook.

The platform, which boasts 900 million users worldwide, has been the object of ire by LGBT rights advocates, Palestinian activists and others for its seemingly arbitrary methods of content moderation. The platform’s policies are fairly clear, but the manner by which its staff chooses to either keep or delete content from the site has long seemed murky — until now.

Recently, Facebook posted an elaborate flow chart dubbed its “Reporting Guide,” demonstrating what happens when content is reported by a user. For example, if a Facebook user reports another user’s content as spam, the content is referred (or “escalated”) to Facebook’s Abusive Content Team, whereas harassment is referred to the Hate and Harassment Team. There are also protocols for referring certain content to law enforcement, and for warning a user or deleting his or her account.

Facebook should be commended for lending transparency to a process ...

Sinclair Community College: Enforcing Unconstitutional Sign Policy for Decades

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

This month, FIRE uncovered an outrageous unwritten policy banning all signs from events held on campus at Sinclair Community College (SCC) in Dayton, Ohio. The policy came to light when students and other demonstrators peacefully holding signs at a religious freedom rally were asked to take down their signs by campus police earlier this month (video included).

Shockingly, FIRE has learned that the problem goes back much, much further—over two decades! A March 28 article published by SCC student newspaper The Clarion quotes SCC Chief of Police Charles Gift confirming that enforcement of the policy dates back to 1990:

According to Chief of Police Charles Gift, Sinclair has enforced a no-sign policy since 1990. The rule is covered by Sinclair's Campus Access Policy, which sets parameters for the use of campus facilities.

That same article also documented another instance of SCC campus police enforcing the "no signs" policy against students—specifically, a crackdown on girls holding signs in support of gay rights.

Unfortunately for student speech at SCC, there are more incidents where that came from. Indeed, a recent search of The Clarion's online archive turned up a recent instance of demonstrators affected by the unconstitutional ban. In June 2009, ...

Widespread Participation Is Key in Internet Governance

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Several governments are pushing for proposals that seek to draw borders around the global Internet. With big decisions at stake, it’s critical that Internet users understand the threats and have a meaningful say in the final outcome. At a panel held in Washington, D.C. June 26 to highlight global threats to Internet governance, much of the discussion revolved around multistakeholder processes, or the involvement of all stakeholders in Internet policy making discussions on equal footing.

Hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy and the Center for International Media Assistance, the forum brought together Emma Llansó of the Center for Democracy and Technology; Rebecca MacKinnon of the New America Foundation; Emin Milli of the University of London; and EFF’s own Katitza Rodriguez.

As several panelists pointed out, there’s still a long way to go before millions of Internet users can truly achieve representation in intergovernmental forums. It is at these largely inaccessible conventions that standards affecting the future of the Internet come into play and are ultimately determined. While some intergovernmental bodies, like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), have officially embraced the concept of including a range of stakeholders in the decision-making process, other treaty-writing ...

Federal Court Dismisses Counseling Student’s First Amendment Suit

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

In a ruling (PDF) issued late last week, a federal district court dismissed graduate student Jennifer Keeton's First Amendment lawsuit against Georgia's Augusta State University's (ASU's) school counseling program. 

Keeton had clashed with program faculty members over her religious views and their impact on her ability to conform to professional counseling standards. After a series of meetings with faculty over a proposed "remediation plan," Keeton told ASU faculty that her personal religious views would prevent her from abiding by professional counseling standards when interacting with certain clients, including those who chose to have abortions or were in LGBT relationships. Keeton's complaint challenged the program's requirement that she complete the remediation plan or else leave the program as a violation of her First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of her religion. Additionally, Keeton challenged several sections of the program's policies, including portions that directly incorporated professional counseling standards issued by the American Counseling Association and the American School Counsellor Association. 

In rejecting Keeton's claims, the court found that "the challenged policies target only professional conduct, not expressive activity as such," observing that "the policies are functionally akin to state professional regulations." (Emphasis in original.) Dismissing Keeton's argument ...

Stolen Valor ruling a win for free speech, common sense

Thursday, June 28th, 2012


Today’s Supreme Court decision in United States v. Alvarez is a victory for free speech and common sense.

The Supreme Court in a 6-to-3 vote struck down the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime to falsely claim military honors. The Court concluded that the act violated the First Amendment by criminalizing lies without a showing of fraud or other criminal conduct.

“Permitting the government to decree this speech to be a criminal offense, whether shouted from the rooftops or made in a barely audible whisper, would endorse government authority to compile a list of subjects about which false statements are punishable. That governmental power has no clear limiting principal. Our constitutional tradition stands against the idea that we need Oceania’s Ministry of Truth,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the plurality opinion.

That reference to George Orwell’s novel 1984 is appropriate. The Stolen Valor Act would have given government the right to weigh the truth or falsity of someone’s statement and prosecute the person even if no one had been defrauded and the liar had obtained no material benefits.

Xavier Alvarez, the defendant in the case, has quite a track record of lying. He once claimed ...

EFF at Hackers on Planet Earth

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE), one of the most creative and diverse hacker events in the world. HOPE Number Nine will be taking place on July 13, 14, and 15, 2012 at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. Several EFF staffers from the legal, tech, and activism teams will be giving presentations. Stop by the EFF booth at HOPE for an invite to our Speakeasy meetup at a secret location on Friday night. Here is a round-up of talks you should make sure not to miss.

Destroying Evidence Before It's Evidence
Hanni Fakhoury, Staff Attorney
Friday 5:00pm Sassaman Room

Covering your tracks out of fear of getting caught with your hands in the digital cookie jar can sometimes get you in more trouble than whatever crime the feds think you may have committed in the first place. This presentation identifies three specific scenarios where the act of trying to cover your digital footprints - oftentimes in innocuous and legal ways - can get you into trouble: the nebulous crime of “anticipatory obstruction of justice,” which can cover something as mundane as deleting an email before you’re even suspected of committing (let alone charged with) a crime; the ever-expanding ...

CBLDF Contributes Additional $10,000 to Ryan Matheson’s $75,000 Legal Defense Costs Thanks To Donors!

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is pleased to announce that thanks to the support of its contributors, the organization has disbursed an additional $10,000 to Ryan Matheson to help pay off the $75,000 legal defense costs that he incurred defending himself against false charges brought by Canada Customs in a case involving manga comics on his laptop computer.

Earlier this year, charges against Matheson were dropped in a case where Canada Customs illegally detained and wrongly charged the American with importation of child pornography for humor and fantasy manga on his laptop. The CBLDF came to Ryan’s aid in 2011, providing substantive and financial support for his case, including arranging expert testimony that contributed to the charges being dropped. With this most recent disbursal, the CBLDF has provided $30,000 to Ryan’s $75,000 legal defense costs. Last year, Canada’s Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund contributed $11,000 towards Ryan’s defense. CBLDF seeks contributions to help pay off Ryan’s remaining $34,000 in legal expenses.

In a message to CBLDF supporters, Matheson says, “Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the CBLDF! The donations raised so far have given me enough financial stability to finally get back on my feet and ...

CBLDF Applauds Supreme Court’s Defense of Free Speech In Rejecting “Stolen Valor” Act

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The Supreme Court today held that the Stolen Valor Act, a federal law that makes it a crime to lie about having received military honors, violates the free speech protections of the First Amendment.

“Fundamental constitutional principles require that laws enacted to honor the brave must be consistent with the precepts of the Constitution for which they fought,” Justice Kennedy wrote in a plurality decision.

Earlier this year, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case by Media Coalition, a trade association that defends the First Amendment rights of mainstream media. The brief argued that while defamation and fraud are recognized historic exceptions to the First Amendment, there has never been an exception for false speech. In his opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote, “The Court has never endorsed the categorical rule the Government advances: that false statements receive no First Amendment protection. Our prior decisions have not confronted a measure, like the Stolen Valor Act, that targets falsity and nothing more.”

David Horowitz, Executive Director of Media Coalition welcomed the ruling, stating, “Ultimately, the question before the Court was whether the government has the power to prosecute people who tell lies, even if there ...

One More Week to Win the D(EFF)CONtest!

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Protect Coders' Rights!D(EFF)CONtestants have until Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 11:59:59 PM PDT to claim one of the top prizes in our third annual DEF CON fundraising contest! Included with this year's l33t loot for the top three: a stay at the Rio Hotel and Casino, DEF CON 20 Human Badges, Ninja Party badges, and passes to theSummit.  In addition, every D(EFF)CONtestant who encourages their peers to raise at total of $500 or more will automatically receive a limited edition EFF DEF CON 20 Script Kitty t-shirt! So far, D(EFF)CONtestants have raised more than $5,000 to promote Coders' Rights and support freedom for all!

Why should you care about funding digital civil liberties protection? Donations to EFF make a difference. Every membership helps us advocate for online freedom and shed light on unjust policies in the U.S., in the European Union, and all over the world. Right now nearly 20,000 EFF donors are sustaining significant work ranging from our patent reform campaign to fighting warrantless surveillance to the defense of online comic artist Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal. You ensure that EFF is there when we all need it. And the swag is pretty sweet, too!  It's ...

LGBT Characters and the Comics Code Authority

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

by Maren Williams

The last decade has seen a spate of LGBT characters introduced, ‘outed,’ or united in marriage with same-sex partners in mainstream comics. In 2006, DC’s Batwoman was reimagined as a lesbian. In 2011, Archie Comics introduced its first openly gay character, Kevin Keller – and less than a year later celebrated his wedding. Marvel’s Northstar, a member of the X-Men who has been openly gay since 1992, will be married in Astonishing X-Men #52, to be published later this month. And finally, DC recently revealed that the new parallel-Earth Green Lantern is also gay.

Unfortunately, these LGBT storylines have drawn criticism and calls for censorship from some quarters, particularly the group One Million Moms, a subsidiary of the American Family Association. The moms have pressured retailer Toys ‘R’ Us not to stock the Life With Archie issue featuring Kevin Keller’s wedding, and later blacklisted both DC and Marvel for “placing these gay characters on pedestals in a positive light,” according to a post from ICv2. But as Alan Kistler points out in an extensive post for Comic Book Resources, LGBT characters and themes have a long history in comics, despite the self-censorship that ruled ...

Supreme Court strikes down Stolen Valor Act in a plurality decision by Justice Kennedy

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The Supreme Court has affirmed the decision of the 9th Circuit in United States v. Alvarez, striking down the 2005 Stolen Valor Act as unconstitutional.  The Stolen Valor Act previously criminalized the making of false claims about receiving military honors.  Justice Kennedy, writing for a plurality of Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Chief Justice Roberts, concluded that the act infringes upon speech protected by the First Amendment.

Justices Breyer and Kagan wrote separately to conclude that “because the Stolen Valor Act, as presently drafted, works disproportionate constitutional harm, it fails intermediate scrutiny, and thus violates the First Amendment.”  More information on the case will be available on this site throughout the day.

Josh Wheeler, the Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center, issued this statement in response to the ruling:  ”I have yet to meet anyone who condones lying about military honors, but this case is about far more than that. The larger issue is whether the government should have the authority to determine the truthfulness of speech and criminalize any statement that fails to meet the government’s standard. Justice Kennedy got it exactly right that in a free society “[t]he remedy for speech that is false is speech that is true.”

You can read the ...