Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New Hampshire Senate Fails to Override Governor’s Veto of S.B. 175

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

On June 12, 2012, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch vetoed S.B. 175, a senate bill that would have made it illegal to use an individual’s likeness for 70 years after his or her death. This week, the New Hampshire Senate voted on the bill again in an attempt to override the governor’s veto. Only 13 of the 16 votes needed to override the veto were obtained, so the veto was upheld.

S.B. 175 was written in collaboration with Matt Salinger, the son of JD Salinger. Matt Salinger sought to stop the commercial use of his father’s likeness, but the bill raised concerns among Free Speech advocates because it did not include exemptions for artistic expression. Shortly before the veto, the Media Coalition sent a letter to Governor Lynch in opposition to the bill. CBLDF is a member of the Media Coalition, and comic book artists would have been held to the bill’s tenants had it passed. You can read previous CBLDF coverage of the bill and its genesis here.

This likely isn’t the last that we’ve seen of S.B. 175 or a bill similar to it. It appears likely that the Salinger estate will continue to ...

Northern Virginia Community College Drops Discriminatory Funding Policy

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

When it comes to ending viewpoint discrimination against political and religious student organizations, we're happy to report that sometimes history repeats itself.

FIRE supporters may remember our 2010 case at Northern Illinois University (NIU), when the student group Students for Sensible Drug Policy was subjected to discriminatory funding rules that prevented the group, by nature of its mission, from being eligible for student activity funding. If not, here's a quick summary

SSDP was first considered for recognition on October 24, 2010, as a "Social Justice, Advocacy, and Support" group because it advocates "that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society" and seeks "to reduce the harms caused by drug abuse and drug policies." After extensive inquiries into the specific nature of the group's viewpoint, the Student Association Senate denied recognition to SSDP but offered it a chance to be recognized as a "political" group, which would have rendered it ineligible for funding under the old policy.

The case at NIU, fortunately, came to a happy end. After hearing from FIRE, NIU's Student Association passed new funding guidelines ensuring viewpoint neutrality in student organization funding. Now, a remarkably similar script has played out on Northern Virginia ...

New Ariz. law filters out First Amendment freedoms

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

By KEN PAULSON

new state law in Arizona threatens to withhold 10% of funding from public schools and libraries if they don’t block “harmful” content on the Internet. The law, which goes into effect Aug. 1, requires that minors be blocked from accessing “visual depictions that are child pornography, harmful to minors or obscene.”

According to The Arizona Republic, Rep. Steve Court, who sponsored the bill, says it’s intended to refine existing law.

“It just makes it a little more clear and a little more stringent,” Court told the newspaper.

Not exactly more clear. Like other efforts at legislating Internet access, this statute is muddled and shows no understanding of the difference between obscenity, which is not protected by the First Amendment, and adult-oriented material, which is.

No one wants to see children stumble across sexually explicit content on the Internet, and our schools and public libraries have a duty to protect them. On the other hand, a filter that blocks content that could be “harmful to minors” will inevitably bar content that is perfectly fine for adults — and the blocking is largely done by third-party software vendors and not librarians.

Read more.

Chopped By The Cleaver: One Cartoonist’s Contributions to Libyan Revolution

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

by Joe Izenman

Freedom of speech is easy to take for granted in the United States. For all the effort we must spend protecting expression in some areas, political cartooning and the ability to poke fun at our own government officials are an accepted fact of life.

So it is easy to forget that even these seemingly basic freedoms — such as the ability to draw a caricature or to create a mocking internet meme out of your head of state — can be a truly remarkable and powerful tool in a dictatorial state. In a recent profile Chris York wrote for Huffington Post UK, longtime Libyan exile and cartoonist Hasan Dhaimish — also known as Alsature, or The Cleavertalks about the life that led him to a career of political irreverence:

Dhaimish spent his early childhood in Libya, living a gilded lifestyle in the port-city of Tobruk, on the North-East coast. His father, Mahmoud, was an imam and spiritual adviser to Libya’s first and only monarch, King Idris I.“We lived a good life, in a big house. We were loyal to the King, he was like a god to us,” he says.

1959 saw the discovery ...

New FIRE Legal Scholarship Now Available Online

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Andrew Kloster, FIRE's Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow, has just posted a draft of his article, Student and Professorial Causes of Action Against Non-University Actors, on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). Here's an excerpt: 

While courts have increasingly looked to contract law to vindicate the rights of students against universities and colleges, traditional contract law sometimes provides inadequate protections in situations where rights are adversely affected by third-party action... Rather than solely focusing on state law contract suits against universities, students, professors, and rights advocates should look [to section 1983 and administrative law suits] and other novel remedies to fill in the gaps of rights vindication where state contract law is otherwise inadequate.

Check it out!

Reconsidering the FCC’s Political File Rule

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

BY PATRICK MAINES

The FCC’s recently minted rule requiring certain broadcast stations to post their political ad files online rather than, as is currently the case, in their local public inspection files, is not the kind of issue that is likely to stir the nation’s passions.Regardless of how challenges to the rule pan out, very few people are going to run off and join the circus if things don’t go a certain way.

Still, it’s a more interesting issue than, on its face, it would appear to be – and there’s evidence that defenders of the rule, along with reporters, are not paying attention to some of the finer points being made in opposition to it.

As of today there are three separate challenges to the rule – one at the FCC, one at the Office of Management and Budget, and one in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  The petition for reconsideration at the FCC, signed by 11 TV station groups, is the most nuanced of the complaints.

As with the others, the FCC petitioners are mostly concerned about having to reveal online their spot-by-spot ad rates, but with this difference: The petitioners propose to aggregate ...

Amanda Tatro Dead at 31

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

There is tragic news from Minnesota today. Amanda Tatro, the student plaintiff in Tatro v. University of Minnesota (in which FIRE filed an amici curiae brief along with the Student Press Law Center), has reportedly died at the age of 31.

FIRE's thoughts are with Amanda Tatro's husband and family at this difficult time.

In Defense of Alan Moore’s NEONOMICON, NCAC Reminds People That Comic Books Are Not Just For Kids

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

by Mark Bousquet

While the National Coalition Against Censorship’s recent headline, “Graphic Novels and Comic Books, They’re Not Just for Kids” feels anachronistic to fans of the medium, a recent complaint filed against Alan Moore’s Neonomicon (Avatar Press) at a public library in Greenville, South Carolina, reminds us that such reminders are still needed. Despite Neonomicon being correctly shelved in the adult section of the library, a patron recently filed an official challenge against the book after it was checked out of the library by her 14-year old daughter, even though her daughter had both a library card that allowed her access to the library’s adult material and her mother’s permission to take the book home. At the heart of the mother’s complaint is the common misconception that graphic novels and comic books are a medium only for children.

NCAC’s article reminds us of how deep and powerful the cultural designation of comic books as a medium solely for children is to some Americans. After their headline informs people that comic books aren’t “just for kids,” the article notes that “many of them contain the sorts of things you might not want a young child to see. Like video games, ...

Friday Hearing in Megaupload Case Over Users’ Rights

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
Abraham Sofaer Joins EFF in Fight for Return of Property

Alexandria, VA - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), assisted by retired federal judge and former State Department legal adviser Abraham D. Sofaer, will ask a federal judge Friday to order the return of data to Kyle Goodwin, a Megaupload user who lost all access to his files when the cloud storage service was shut down by the U.S. government.

Megaupload.com and related sites were seized in January as part of a copyright infringement investigation. But in addition to the alleged illegal activity by some Megaupload users, many innocent customers used the service to store legal material. The government has failed to help Goodwin and other lawful Megaupload users get access to their data, despite months of legal wrangling. In Friday's hearing, EFF and Sofaer will ask the court to establish a procedure by which innocent users will be able to reclaim their property, as is routinely required in the seizure of non-digital items.

WHAT:
Motion hearing in USA v. Dotcom

WHEN:
Friday, June 29
10 a.m.

WHERE:
Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse
401 Courthouse Square
Alexandria, VA 22314
Judge Liam O'Grady – Courtroom 700

Contacts:

Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations ...

Note to European Parliament: Let Security Researchers Do Their Thing, Reap Public Benefits

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Several years ago, a professor at Holland's Radboud University Nijmegen, Dr. Bart Jacobs, landed in legal trouble. He'd attempted to publish an article exposing security flaws in the widely used MIFARE Classic wireless smart card chip, which is employed by transit systems around the world. Using an ordinary laptop, he was able to clone paying customers' cards to access transit systems for free. The point of his research was to demonstrate that the cards were vulnerable to attack.

The chip's owner, NXP Semiconductors, argued that it would have been irresponsible to make this information public. But a Dutch court ultimately ruled that clamping down on his research would have violated the scientist's rights to freedom of expression.

Scenarios like this remain highly relevant in the ongoing debate around coders’ rights that is unfolding in the European Parliament. On June 20, the Parliamentary Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) continued to debate a draft Directive on Attacks Against Information Systems.

As legislators mull over this computer crime legislation, questions about how security researchers should be treated under the law are key. Instead of being regarded like product researchers who gauge automobile safety using crash test dummies, to borrow an ...

SCOTUS Rebuffs Challenge to Citizens United

Monday, June 25th, 2012

By ALEX ALTMAN

So it will be 72 long hours until the Supreme Court renders its verdict on the future of all-mankind, a.k.a. the health care reform law. In the meantime, it has issued a short but important ruling on a case they decided not to hear. In a 5-4 decision this morning, the Court struck down a Montana law that imposed strict limits on campaign donations, declining to consider a challenge to its Citizens United ruling. For opponents of that controversial opinion, today’s decision might seem like a stinging rebuke. But it is also likely a blessing in disguise.

First, the nuts and bolts: In what’s known as a “summary reversal,” the Court’s conservative wing ruled that a century-old Montana state law barring corporate campaign donations violated the spirit of the 2010 Citizens United decision, which held that corporate spending was protected speech under the First Amendment. A summary reversal means the decision was issued without granting oral arguments for the case, known as American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock. (Steve Bullock is Montana’s attorney general, as well as the state’s Democratic nominee for governor; American Tradition Partnership is the Virginia-based anti-environmental advocacy group that sued Montana for ...

A Survey of June’s Legal Scholarship on Academic Issues

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The past month has seen a number of articles regarding academic rights published in law reviews and law journals across the country. 

  • Several articles were published relating to the application of the Supreme Court's 2006 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), in the public school teacher context. FIRE has had ongoing concerns with the impact of Garcetti on academia. In Social Media, Public School Teachers, and the First Amendment, Mary-Rose Papandrea of the Boston College Law School takes up these concerns and crafts a speech-friendly reconciliation of Garcetti for the public school context. She argues for a germaneness requirement (not applying Garcetti to curricular speech) and advises that, for curricular speech, the threshold "public concern" requirement should be discarded and that such speech should be protected whether or not on a subject of "public concern."
  • The Nevada Law Journal Summer 2012 issue compiles a number of pieces by legal academics picking their choice for the "Worst Supreme Court Case Ever." Professor Jeffrey W. Stempel at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas notably picks Garcetti v. Ceballos, in his piece Tending to Potted Plants: The Professional Identity Vacuum in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 12 Nev. L.J. ...

If Europe rejects ACTA, will it actually go away?

Monday, June 25th, 2012

On Thursday, the fifth and final European Union Parliamentary committee voted to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). This signifies a major blow to ACTA, but its standing in the EU still comes down to the European Parliament vote scheduled during the first week of July. After this final vote decides the agreement’s adoption in Europe, however, the future of ACTA for the rest of the signatory countries unfortunately remains cloudy.

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a plurilateral agreement designed to broaden and extend existing intellectual property (IP) enforcement laws to the Internet. While it was only negotiated between a few countries, it has global consequences. First of all, it will create new rules for the Internet, and second, its standards could be applied to other countries through the U.S.’s annual Special 301 process. Negotiated in secret, ACTA bypassed checks and balances of existing international IP norm-setting bodies, without any meaningful input from national parliaments, policymakers, or their citizens. Worse still, the agreement creates a new global institution, an "ACTA Committee", to oversee its implementation and interpretation that will be made up of unelected members with no legal obligation to be transparent in their proceedings. Both in substance and in ...

‘Signs of trouble for free speech at Sinclair CC’

Monday, June 25th, 2012

FIRE's Peter Bonilla has a column in the Daily Caller about Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. Its "bizarro world" policy says that students—yes, students in America!—can be prevented from carrying signs during a rally. If you can't quite make yourself believe this (which is understandable), Peter has the video evidence that shows this actually happened. Click on through and prepare to be amazed at what this college does to silence its students.

A Newspaper Should Know Better: Trademark Allegations Put Occupied Chicago Tribune At Risk

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Since late last year, independent newspaper Occupied Chicago Tribune (OCT) has been reporting and commenting on the Occupy movement. One glance at the website makes it very clear that OCT is not affiliated with the “original” Chicago Tribuneindeed, OCT is often critical of the paper and its coverage. This hasn’t stopped the Tribune from claiming OCT infringes its trademarks, and launching proceedings that could cause OCT to lose its domain name.

We’re confident a U.S. court would recognize that the allegations are baseless, but the dispute will not take place in a formal court of law. Instead, the Tribune is using a rapid response process set up under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), an international arbitration agreement to which all domain name registrars (and their customers) must agree. The UDRP is supposed to offer an alternative to litigation in local courts to settle trademark or cybersquatting complaints, yet UDRP arbitrators don’t have to respect “local laws”—such as fair use and the First Amendmentand proceedings tend to skew in favor of the large trademark holders that are known repeat players.

Moreover, the rapid-fire decision making has been abused by parties seeking to ...

Stand Up for Owners’ Rights

Monday, June 25th, 2012

If you buy something, you can do with it—and do away with it—as you want. Right? The digital age is challenging this most basic of expectations in a few ways, and EFF and its allies are on the lookout. The Supreme Court will soon review a court decision that, if upheld, could put handcuffs on our ability to sell digital goods, or even physical goods with copyrighted logos or artwork, simply because the goods were manufactured outside the U.S. This case is important, but its also just a small piece of a larger assault on ownership rights. Over the past decade, courts and copyright owners have quietly been creating a world in which digital goods are never truly owned, but only licensed.  And those licenses inevitably contain a plethora of legal restrictions on your ability to fully use the goods you "buy."

EFF has signed on to the Citizens' Petition for Ownership Rights, urging the U.S. government and the courts to protect our basic assumption that if you buy it, you own it, and can dispose of it as you please. You, too, can sign.

The petition was prompted by Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, which is ...

Defending Privacy at the Israeli Border: Information for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices

Monday, June 25th, 2012

As we’ve acknowledged before, our lives are increasingly contained on our digital devices, which makes travel—and the decisions we make about what to carry with us—increasingly complicated. 

A recent case in which two young travelers to Israel were requested not simply to provide their laptops for arbitrary searches, but to log in to their e-mail accounts and allow Israeli officials to search through their e-mail for specific strings and correspondence highlights the increasing obstacles to privacy that travelers face, as well as the increasingly global nature of security theatre.

In that particular case, the two young women—both of Palestinian origin—complied with officials’ requests but were nonetheless detained overnight before being deported.  In another, similar case, a U.S. citizen who refused access to her email was told she was probably hiding something and was refused entry to the country.  Israeli security (Shin Bet) told a reporter that “the actions taken by the agents during questioning were within the organization's authority according to Israeli law.”

Not unlike travelers to the U.S., travelers to Israel face serious privacy challenges at the border.  The government generally has broad authority to search through your personal possessions, including your laptop, for any reason at all. ...

Author of “In Our Mothers’ House” Speaks

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Patricia Polacco, the prolific children’s book author who wrote In Our Mothers’ House answered NCAC’s questions about the objections which have recently been raised in Davis County, UT. Complaints have centered around the non-traditional nature of the family depicted in the book and the fact that the family has two moms.


Now Available for Pre-Order: ‘Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate’ by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff

Monday, June 25th, 2012
Pre-order your copy of Unlearning Liberty today!

I am extremely excited to announce that my book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com. The book will be formally released by our publisher, Encounter Books, on October 23, but from now until then, we will be engaged in a grassroots campaign to spread the word about the book and the important stories it tells regarding censorship on campus. Not only will getting the message out about how bad things have become on college campuses for once-cherished principles like free speech and due process help us fight back against campus abuses, but all proceeds from the book go to FIRE to help support this work.

Unlearning Liberty is the first book since The Shadow University, written by FIRE co-founders Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate, to attempt a far-reaching and large-scale exposition of insane cases of censorship and abuse of basic rights on college campuses. While there is no way that a book even ten times as long could do real justice to conveying the hundreds upon hundreds of cases FIRE has fought over the last 11 years (the course of my career), I highlight some comparatively well-known ...

Will Sudan Pull a Mubarak?

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

The decision faced by dictators to shut off the Internet (and risk economic loss) or keep their citizens online (and risk an Internet-assisted revolt) has been referred to by some as the "dictator's dilemma." In the case of Sudan, where anti-austerity protests have been raging for five days and calls to overthrow the regime have been reported, the dictator's decision is made a bit easier by the fact that only about one in ten citizens has access to the Internet.1

Thus far, there is only speculation as to whether or not the Sudanese government has shut down--or might shut down--communications networks.  As reported by Global Voices, Sudanese activists and journalists in the country have heard rumors of an impending shutdown.  In preparation, Twitter users in the country have been sharing the numbers for  Speak to Tweet, the service that was created during the Egyptian uprising in January 2011 that allowed individuals on the ground to call a number and leave a message which was then tweeted to the public.

Also bolstering the rumors is the fact that authorities have arrested several journalists and activists over the past few days.  Among those that have been ...

(Banned) Books that Shaped America at LOC

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

On June 25, the Library of Congress will open its summer exhibit “Books That Shaped America.”  The exhibit will be on display through the end of September in the Southwest Gallery, located on the second floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, DC. Many books on the list of notable tomes won’t surprise you. And it certainly didn’t surprise us to see just how many of the 88 were challenged or banned books in their history, though it may surprise readers!

Twenty-six titles on the list were challenged or banned at some point in their history, according to the ALA’s annual Banned Books catalog. Here’s a run-down on some of those challenges:

 


Uyghur Petitioners Beaten

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

A group of Uyghur petitioners from China’s northwestern Xinjiang region have faced beatings and harassment by police since bringing their grievances over ethnic discrimination to central authorities in Beijing.

The group of some 10 Uyghurs who set up camp outside the Central Politics and Law Commission offices in China’s capital say police were sent to break up their peaceful demonstration on Tuesday.

One of the group, Rehim Yusup, said they had been camping outside the building for about three days when police came and beat them.

“About 100 police officers, both armed and undercover ones, were sent to remove us from here. When we refused to leave, they began ruthlessly beating us,” he said.

Another petitioner, Ghazi Hamud, said two women in their group had also suffered beatings.

“The undercover Han Chinese police officers dressed in casual civilian clothes also violently attacked us Uyghur protesters. They even started beating the women…. Of course they didn’t spare the men either,” he said.

The police included armed police officers, undercover police officers dressed in civilian outfits, and regional police officers sent from Xinjiang to escort the group of Uyghurs back home, the group said.

“I told [the police] that they had no ...

Global Telecom Governance Debated at European Parliament Workshop

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

In recent weeks, the corner of the blogosphere that concerns itself with Internet-related policy has come alive with posts, comments and op-eds addressing the theory that a little-known United Nations telecom agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is gearing up for an Internet power grab. Concerns about this possibility spurred a U.S. Congressional hearing last month, and across the Atlantic, a June 19 workshop hosted at the European Parliament in Brussels provided a forum to sort out “Challenges to the Internet Governance Regime” as they relate to the ITU.

The UN agency, which is made up of 193 member states and specializes in information and communication technologies, is in the midst of preparing for a December conference where it will re-negotiate an important treaty establishing the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs). These regulations lay the ground rules for how big telecoms interact with one another in an international context, setting up systems for things like revenue-sharing, and have historically only dealt with telephony and never reached into the realm of Internet architecture. At Tuesday’s workshop, representatives from the European Commission, civil society organizations, Google, and other organizations were on hand to share their insights about the how this treaty revision may ...

A Closer Look at ‘Tatro v. University of Minnesota’

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

As discussed here on The Torch, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling (PDF) Wednesday in Tatro v. University of Minnesota, finding that the University of Minnesota did not violate mortuary science student Amanda Tatro's First Amendment rights by punishing her for the content of Facebook posts discussing her classroom work with cadavers. While the state's highest court reached the same ultimate result as the Minnesota Court of Appeals' troublingly broad July 2011 decision, it did so on far narrower grounds—a much better result for free speech on campus. The court held that public universities do not violate the First Amendment by disciplining students enrolled in a "professional program" for online speech that violates "academic program rules that are narrowly tailored and directly related to established professional conduct standards."

It's worth a closer look at Wednesday's holding and its potential impact on student speech. First, let's review the difference in the Court of Appeals' decision and Wednesday's ruling.  

Last July, the Court of Appeals found that Tatro's Facebook posts were not protected by the First Amendment because they "'materially and substantially disrupt[ed]' the work and discipline of the university." FIRE was deeply concerned by this ruling ...

Sinclair CC Students: Have You Been Censored by SCC’s Sign Ban? Tell FIRE!

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

As we noted this week, Sinclair Community College in Ohio recently censored the free speech of participants and attendees at a religious freedom rally hosted by SCC's Traditional Values Club. As photo and video evidence shows, police at the event forced all attendees to put away handheld signs supporting the event—a blatantly unconstitutional restriction of their right to free expression on the SCC campus. Amazingly, SCC police say they have had a policy prohibiting campus signage in place since 1990

FIRE has written to SCC asking the college to immediately disavow the police's actions here and prevent this censorship from happening again. We also want to hear from Sinclair CC students and student organizations who may have suffered similar censorship. Has this happened to you or someone you know? FIRE wants to know, which is why yesterday I sent the following message to several SCC student organizations. Please forward this message on to students you know at Sinclair Community College, and encourage them to do the same.

Dear Sinclair Community College Students and Student Organizations:

My name is Peter Bonilla, and I'm the Associate Director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education ...

Is A Person’s Commercial Identity Inheritable? New Hampshire Legislature Says Yes, Governor Says No

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

by Mark Bousquet

On Wednesday, June 12, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch vetoed Senate Bill 175, which would have extended an individual’s right to commercially control their own identity beyond their own death by making identity an inheritable commodity. As written, S.B. 175 states that “individuals who are domiciled in New Hampshire at the time of death retain a protectable right regarding the commercial use of their identities that is descendible to their heirs or successors,” and that this right “endures for a term consisting of the death of the person plus 70 years after his or her death.” Of greatest concern to First Amendment advocates like the Media Coalition and the First Amendment Center is that the final version of S.B. 175 that was passed by the state legislature stripped out protections for journalistic and artistic endeavors, which are protected by state and federal Constitutions.

S.B. 175 marked the final product of a two-year collaboration between New Hampshire lawmakers and Matt Salinger, son of J.D. Salinger, who sought to prevent what he called “the inappropriate commercial exploitation of his father’s name and image.” The elder Salinger famously fought to keep his likeness out of the public eye, and ...

Union-dues ruling is real free-speech star

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

By TONY MAURO

WASHINGTON — Fox got the headlines, but Knox may have more long-term significance for the First Amendment.

We’re talking here about the Supreme Court’s two First Amendment rulings issued yesterday: FCC v. Fox Television Stations,  a test of the Federal Communications Commission’s rules against broadcast indecency; and Knox v. Service Employees International Union, the latest in a series of cases involving public-sector labor unions and their treatment of non-members.

The Fox decision was the marquee case of the day, with its discussion of fleeting expletives and momentary nudity on television broadcasts. But the Court’s ruling actually sidestepped the First Amendment issue of whether the FCC regulations violated free speech. Instead, the Court said that in the cases before it, the FCC had not given the networks adequate notice to let them know they were violating the rules — a violation of the Fifth Amendment, not the First.

But the Knox ruling marked a significant shift by the Court in its approach to preventing unions from violating the First Amendment rights of non-members. Some analysts immediately ranked the decision along with the recent campaign by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as a death knell for public-employee unions.

...

AAUP Censures Louisiana State for Firing Professor Who Spoke Out about Hurricane Katrina

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

In January, FIRE's Andrew Kloster wrote about Professor Ivor van Heerden's lawsuit against Louisiana State University, which has been successful so far:

In October, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ruled in favor of Ivor van Heerden, an engineering professor at Louisiana State University (LSU) who claims he was fired as a result of comments he made that were critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their design and construction of the levees that broke following Hurricane Katrina. FIRE has written about this case before. When LSU filed a motion for summary judgment, it cited Garcetti [a Supreme Court case] for the proposition that his comments about the levees were pursuant to his employment and therefore unprotected by the First Amendment. The court disagreed and denied that part of the summary judgment, noting that, partly because LSU warned van Heerden not to speak with the media, when he did speak with the media it was unauthorized, outside the scope of employment, and thus protected by the First Amendment. 

The next step in the lawsuit is a pretrial conference set for August 22, 2012.

Meanwhile, building on its July 2011 report (PDF), ...

‘Alarming’ Increase in Google Censorship Requests

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

by Justin Brown

The internet search engine Google has been subject to an “alarming” increase in requests to censor and block certain search results and content over the last six months of 2011, according to recent articles from the Huffington Post and The Washington Post.

From a recent Reuters article posted on the Huffington Post:

Google has received more than 1,000 requests from authorities to take down content from its search results or YouTube video in the last six months of 2011, the company said on Monday, denouncing what it said was an alarming trend.

In its twice-yearly Transparency Report, the world’s largest web search engine said the requests were aimed at having some 12,000 items overall removed, about a quarter more than during the first half of last year.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different,” Dorothy Chou, the search engine’s senior policy analyst, said in a blog post. “We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.”

Both articles state that a major reason for censorship requests was government opposition to content that criticizes politicians, governments, and public figures, or speech that is ...

Texas A&M At It Again

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Texas A&M University (TAMU) cannot seem to keep itself out of the spotlight, and once again it's for all the wrong reasons. As Torch readers will surely recall, two weeks ago FIRE wrote a letter to Texas A&M University–San Antonio (a branch campus) after it dismissed an adjunct professor mere hours after her criticism of the university was published in a local newspaper. Now it appears the university is violating the First Amendment rights of its students.

On June 19, 2012, the Alliance Defense Fund filed a federal lawsuit against TAMU and several of its administrators on behalf of the Texas Aggie Conservatives (TAC), a student organization at TAMU's flagship College Station campus. According to the complaint (PDF), the organization was denied funding to bring conservative speaker Star Parker to campus to discuss "poverty, race, and social justice issues" in America. 

The lawsuit alleges that TAC was denied the funding because TAMU "excludes religious and political student organizations from receiving Student Organization Funding for their expressive activities while it provides the same funding to a broad variety of other student organizations." Indeed, the lawsuit further alleges that TAMU's practices are anything but viewpoint neutral, for the NAACP, the Colombian Student ...

CBLDF Meets The Library World At The ALA Annual!

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

This weekend, CBLDF President Larry Marder and Executive Director Charles Brownstein will be in Anaheim, California for the American Library Association’s Annual Conference. The Fund will be set up on the Exhibit Hall floor handing out information about our work all weekend in Booth 786 in the Graphic Novel Pavilion! Come visit our table to learn about how you can can get involved with this year’s Banned Books Week, and take a look at our vast array of thank you items for supporting our work.

In addition to giving away great gifts to our contributors, we’re hosting a raffle where we’re going to give away Neil Gaiman’s signed badge from the 2009 Annual Conference, where he received the prestigious Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book!

On top of our space in the Graphic Novel Pavilion, the CBLDF will also be hosting a special presentation on the Graphic Novel stage on Monday morning at 10:00 AM about how graphic novel censorship happens in libraries and what the CBLDF does to help.

The CBLDF’s recent letter in defense of Alan Moore’s Neonomicon emphasizes that challenges to take graphic novels off of library shelves are still happening, and the Fund is committed to ...

Hey Congress – Executive Privilege Getting in the Way of Public Accountability? EFF Feels Your Pain. And Here’s a Way to Fix It.

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Yesterday, a House Committee grabbed national attention by voting to approve a recommendation that Attorney General Eric Holder be held in contempt of Congress. The vote stemmed from the Department of Justice’s repeated refusals to release documents concerning the handling of an investigation known as “Fast and Furious” – a botched DOJ law enforcement operation aimed at slowing the flow of illegal weapons from the United States to drug cartels in Mexico. In an effort to head off a contempt vote, President Obama asserted “executive privilege” on Wednesday in an attempt to legitimize the DOJ’s refusal to disclose the requested documents. Multiple reports noted that this was the first time the President had asserted the privilege since taking office.

If only that were true of the entire executive branch. Unfortunately, the DOJ asserts the privilege in EFF’s FOIA cases all the time. So Congress, we know what you’re going through, we feel your pain, and we’ve got a way you can fix the problem.

If Congress really wants to send a message to the DOJ, it should forget about a contempt vote and focus on a long-term solution: cabining the Executive’s ability to assert the privilege in the first ...

Voices of the Internet: Technologists, Corporate Leaders, and Academics Speak Out Against Software Patents

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

by Molly Sauter

Two days ago, EFF launched Defend Innovation, outlining seven proposals to address the egregious abuses of software patents.  Since we launched, we’ve already received an amazing response (the initial traffic overwhelmed our servers) and now we’re watching as more and more people sign the petition and leave comments. This campaign isn’t just about our proposals – it’s also about creating a space for the tech community, inventors, academics, and others to express their concerns and suggestions for dealing with the patent system. The comments we collect will be the basis for a whitepaper we’ll use to educate lawmakers and the public about the problems with the software patent system – and how we can address them.

Here is a sample of what we've seen so far:

Many people are worried about patent trolls, or corporate entities that buy up patents with no intention of ever using them for anything other than collecting rents and settlements.  We've written about the problems patent trolls pose to innovation before.

Steven Baker, a patent owner in Austin, TX, comments:

The real evils start when patents can be bought and sold by companies who have no interest in using the technology ...

Colorado College Remains in the ‘Red’

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Colorado College (CC) has long been associated with one color here at FIRE: red, as in our Red Alert list, on which CC remains for violating the free speech rights of two students back in 2008. But recent actions have demonstrated that this association is warranted for another reason: CC's continued maintenance of "red light" speech codes restricting all kinds of student expression. Despite FIRE's efforts, CC has not seen fit to improve its red light status, meaning that campus expression is constantly in danger of being censored and punished—just as was the case in 2008.

Longtime Torch readers will remember that back in '08, CC investigated and ultimately punished two male students for distributing a campus flyer called "The Monthly Bag" under the pseudonym "The Coalition of Some Dudes," parodying a flyer called "The Monthly Rag" distributed on campus by the "Feminist and Gender Studies Interns." Just as the latter covered topics like male castration, "feminist porn," and the practice of "packing" (pretending to have a phallus), The Monthly Bag satirically referenced, among other things, "tough guy wisdom," "chainsaw etiquette," the shooting range of a sniper rifle, and a quotation about "female violence and abuse [of men]" from ...

Censorship Takes One on The Chin: Campus Newspaper Print Edition Returns

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Censorship may be able to knock you down, but it never seems to keep you down—at least, that's what the newly created maxim I call the Tubthumping Principle says. Prime evidence that this exists in nature can be found at Seattle Central Community College, where the Student Press Law Center reports that the previously censored City Collegian student newspaper will return to print

Back in 2008, the City Collegian found itself embroiled in a censorship controversy after publishing several controversial articles, including one that was critical of student government spending. In the end, after its adviser was run out of town on a rail, the paper's funding was cut off, and it was placed under control of an entity called the "Publications Board" which had "general authority" to run the newspaper's operations. The board decided that the paper would only be allowed to exist in an online format.

Fast forward to 2012, and things are starting to change for the (renamed) New City Collegian. The student paper recently announced the return of the print edition, proclaiming "We're Back" in a large headline on the front page. Although this return is only a one-time run funded by a ...

Fox ruling: textbook lesson on problem with vague laws

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

*Note:  You can read the Thomas Jefferson Center’s 2011 amici brief in FCC v. Fox here.  Prior briefs filed by the Center in this case are available here.

By DAVID L. HUDSON JR.

Fox Television and ABC prevailed in the latest round of their court battle with the FCC, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the agency’s change in policy on fleeting expletives was too vague. The Court’s opinion explains clearly why it would be unfair to impose draconian fines on the television stations — because it was anyone’s guess as to when random, unscripted uses of profane words or glimpses of nudity would cross the FCC’s indecency line.

The “void for vagueness” doctrine is grounded in due process — that it is fundamentally unfair to punish someone if he or she (or it) did not have adequate notice of whether his or her conduct was permissible or prohibited.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion for the Court in FCC v. Fox Television Stations explains in textbook fashion the two chief “discrete due process concerns” with vague laws: (1) “that regulated parties should know what is required of them so they may act accordingly”; and (2) “precision and guidance ...

Can Apple Refuse to Sell a Laptop to an Iranian Citizen? Maybe.

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

“No iPad for you!”  The sentiment may have evoked the fictional Soup Nazi, but the salesperson was completely serious.  After hearing 19-year-old Sahar Sabet speaking Persian with her uncle, an Apple store employee refused to sell Sabet an iPad, stating (according to Sabet): “I just can't sell this to you. Our countries have bad relations.”

While the Apple employee was wrong here, in other, not too different circumstances, that employee may have been right.  Restrictions placed upon U.S. persons1 by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) state:

In general, a person may not export from the U.S. any goods, technology or services, if that person knows or has reason to know such items are intended specifically for supply, transshipment or reexportation to Iran. Further, such exportation is prohibited if the exporter knows or has reason to know the U.S. items are intended specifically for use in the production of, for commingling with, or for incorporation into goods, technology or services to be directly or indirectly supplied, transshipped or reexported exclusively or predominately to Iran or the Government of Iran.

While Sabet told a reporter that she had mentioned nothing about traveling back to ...

EFF Will Represent The Oatmeal Creator in Fight Against Bizarre Lawsuit Targeting Critical Online Speech

Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Baseless Suit Claims Online Trademark Infringement and ‘Cyber-Vandalism’

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is joining with attorney Venkat Balasubramani of the law firm Focal PLLC to represent The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman in a bizarre lawsuit targeting the online comic strip’s fundraising campaign in support of the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation.

“I have a right to express my opinion, whether Mr. Carreon likes it or not,” said Inman.  “While the lawsuit may be silly, the harm it can do is very real.”

Inman started his campaign last week as part of a protest over legal threats he received from the website FunnyJunk.  In 2011, Inman published a blogpost noting that FunnyJunk had posted many of his comics without crediting or linking back to The Oatmeal.  A year later, FunnyJunk claimed the post was defamatory and demanded $20,000 in damages.  Inman crafted a unique response, which included some comic art.  Instead of paying the baseless demand, Inman asked for donations for the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation.  The campaign raised more than $200,000 so far.  

An attorney for FunnyJunk, Charles Carreon, has now responded with a lawsuit filed on his own behalf.  Carreon’s ...

Street preacher topples Tenn. town’s permit rules

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

By DAVID L. HUDSON JR.

A street preacher has successfully challenged a Tennessee town’s ordinance requiring permits for small gatherings on city streets. The permitting scheme in Maryville is too broad, too vague and vests too much discretion with the chief of police, a state appeals court ruled yesterday.

Wallace Scott Langford, a member of the Street Preachers Fellowship, challenged the ordinance after being cited for failing to obtain a permit when he and his two stepsons, also street preachers, proselytized at a busy intersection in Maryville.

The ordinance provides in part: “It shall be unlawful for any club, organization, or similar group to hold any meeting, parade, demonstration, or exhibition on the public streets without some responsible representative first securing a permit from the chief of police or his designee.”

In November 2008, Langford and his stepsons were preaching at a busy intersection in town when police officers warned them that they needed a permit. Langford replied that the Constitution was the only permit he needed.

Officers cited him for a violation of the town ordinance. Langford did not appear in municipal court to contest the citation and a default judgment was entered against him. However, he did appeal ...

Coders’ Rights At Risk in the European Parliament

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Coders have never been more important to the security of the Internet. By identifying and disclosing vulnerabilities, coders are able to improve security for every user who depends on information systems for their daily life and work. Yet this week, European Parliament will debate a new draft of a vague and sweeping computer crime legislation that threatens to create legal woes for researchers who expose security flaws.

On Thursday, the European Parliament will discuss the latest agreement between European Parliament and Council of a draft Directive on Attacks Against Information Systems. Earlier this year, EFF told the European Parliament that their initial draft jeopardized coders' rights to conduct essential security research. The current version, while better, still doesn't address this problem.

As currently written, the latest version of the Draft Directive threatens coders’ ability to access information systems for security testing without explicit permission. If the European Parliament moves to enact this provision, researchers who study others’ systems in the course of good faith for legitimate research may become criminals.

Article 3 of the Draft Directive criminalizes intentional access to information systems without prior authorization where the actor infringes a security measure.  At the heart of the ...

Minnesota Supreme Court Issues Ruling in ‘Tatro’

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Earlier today, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling (PDF) in Tatro v. University of Minnesota, an important student free speech case. The state Supreme Court upheld the Minnesota Court of Appeals' problematic July 2011 decision, finding that the University of Minnesota did not violate the First Amendment rights of mortuary sciences student Amanda Tatro by punishing her for the content of her Facebook posts.  

Despite the disappointing affirmation of the lower court's ruling, the Minnesota Supreme Court's opinion is in some respects a significant improvement from the Court of Appeals' earlier decision. The Supreme Court's opinion explicitly cabins a public university's authority to police online, off-campus student speech in a way that the earlier decision did not. Specifically, the court held that public universities may only discipline a student enrolled in a "professional program" for online speech that violates "academic program rules that are narrowly tailored and directly related to established professional conduct standards." 

In announcing this narrow holding, which relied explicitly on the unique facts presented by Tatro's case, the state Supreme Court set aside the Court of Appeals' much broader ruling. In its earlier opinion, the Court of Appeals found that because "Tatro's posts ...

Comments on African Protest Censored

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

China's Internet censors on Wednesday deleted posts commenting on protests this week by Africans living in the southern city of Guangzhou after one of their number died in police custody.

One netizen said censors deleted a post he made following Tuesday's incident in which more than 100 Africans protested outside a Guangzhou police station.

"I wrote a microblog post which said that there were a lot of black people in Guangzhou, and that there was [also] an incident last year in which they got together and attacked a police station," wrote user @laolongkantianxia on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service.

"My post wound up getting deleted," the user wrote. "This is crazy."

Guangzhou television reported on the protest, which occurred after a man died in police custody Monday afternoon.

Xinhua said the man, who is believed to be Nigerian, "suddenly fell unconscious" at a police station and "died after medical efforts failed."

He had been taken into custody following a dispute over payment with a bicycle owner that turned physical, it said.

His death sparked a protest in Guangzhou which brought traffic to a halt and lasted for two hours on Tuesday, Xinhua said, citing an official from the Guangzhou ...

Read Objectors’ Complaints About Family Books

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Through records requests, the Kids’ Right to Read Project was able to get access to the official complaints filed by parents and citizens who objected to the content of The Family Book and In Our Mothers’ House. The excerpted passages below make clear some of the discomforts these individuals felt and what viewpoints they use to justify their desire to remove the book.

These documents are a matter of public record and have been redacted to protect the privacy of the complainants.

The Family Book

The two complaints NCAC received (there are others that were not released by the Erie School District) made very clear religious-based ideological objections to GLSEN’s Ready, Set, Respect and Todd Parr’s The Family Book.

The Family Book, you’ll recall, teaches about different types of families. The offending page says “some families have two moms or two dads.”

In Our Mothers’ House

Many of the complaints to IOMH had accurate and fair descriptions of the book’s theme: family love, tolerance and different types of families:

Roughly a third of the complaints responded that the book did have a valuable lesson or beautiful pictures:

Others replied that the book had no value.

Several complaints brought ...

Once You Pass the Bar, Try Winning EFF’s Cyberlaw Quiz

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

If you thought passing the bar was hard, try winning one of the coveted EFF Cyberlaw Pub Quiz victory steins. Last night, the best legal minds in San Francisco scrambled to answer 7 rigorous rounds of cyberlaw trivia (one of Fenwick & West's teams pictured left). EFF's attorneys, technologists and activists worked tirelessly for weeks to construct quiz questions, delving deep into the rich canon of privacy, free speech, and intellectual property law, and then uncovering the supremely trivial facts.

For many of the contestants, winning means more than just a fancy cup. It proves that you have lived and breathed the most important cases for digital rights of our time.  The competition was fierce, and every team acquitted themselves well in the face of tough questions.  

Please join us in congratulating this year's winners:

1st place: WikiGeeks (Durie Tangri; Ridder, Costa, and Johnstone LLP; Cathy Gellis, Keker & Van Nest, et al)

2nd place: Child Law Blog (Stanford Center for Internet and Society)

3rd place: Keeping Up With the Joneses (UC Berkeley Samuelson Clinic for Public Interest Law and Technology)

Honorary Mention: EFF the Children for being the highest ...

Will in ‘Huffington Post’: Free Speech 1, Free Speech Zone 0

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Last week, a federal court in Ohio issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the University of Cincinnati (UC) from enforcing its unconstitutional policy of limiting expressive activity on campus to a free speech zone roughly the size of a postage stamp. I joke, but the free speech zone was tiny, covering only 0.1% of the university campus. Indeed, UC's free speech zone earned the university a spot atop FIRE's 2012 list of the 12 worst colleges for free speech in the nation

FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley has written an article for The Huffington Post about this important victory for student rights. Check out the full article for his analysis of the case and what it means for campus free speech moving forward.

Free speech for computers?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Do machines speak? If so, do they have a constitutional right to free speech?

This may sound like a fanciful question, a matter of philosophy or science fiction. But it’s become a real issue with important consequences.

In today’s world, we have delegated many of our daily decisions to computers. On the drive to work, a GPS device suggests the best route; at your desk, Microsoft Word guesses at your misspellings, and Facebook recommends new friends. In the past few years, the suggestion has been made that when computers make such choices they are “speaking,” and enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.

This is a bad idea that threatens the government’s ability to oversee companies and protect consumers.

The argument that machines speak was first made in the context of Internet search. In 2003, in a civil suit brought by a firm dissatisfied with the ranking of Google’s search results, Google asserted that its search results were constitutionally protected speech. (In an unpublished opinion, the court ruled in Google’s favor.) And this year, facing increasing federal scrutiny, Google commissioned Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, to draft a much broader and more ...

Biometric National IDs and Passports: A False Sense of Security

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

People tend to think that digital copies of our biological features, stored in a government-run database, are problems of a dystopian future. But governments around the world are already using such technologies. Several countries are collecting massive amounts of biometric data for their national identity and passport schemes—a development that raises significant civil liberties and privacy concerns. Biometric identifiers are inherently sensitive data. As European privacy watchdogs have said, biometrics changes irrevocably the relationship between body and identity, because they make the characteristics of the human body "machine-readable" and subject to further use. This is why such identification schemes become particularly dangerous when used with unreliable biometric technologies that can misidentify individuals.

Regulators in several jurisdictions continue to romanticize the security and accuracy of face, fingerprint, and iris automatic recognition biometric technologies. But the existence of a significant amount of falsified biometric identification documents raises questions as to whether these technologies are too unreliable to prevent fraud, thus providing individuals and governments with a false sense of security.

Automatic Face Recognition in Border Control

Biometric data of individuals’ faces has been used since 2007 at various European border checks. Eleven airports in the United Kingdom ...

New Trojan Spread Over Skype as Cat and Mouse Game Between Syrian Activists and Pro-Syrian-Government Hackers Continues

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Since March of this year, EFF has reported extensively on the ongoing campaign to use social engineering to install surveillance software that spies on Syrian activists. Syrian opposition activists have been targeted using several Trojans, including one disguised as a Skype encryption tool, which covertly install spying software onto the infected computer, as well as a multitude of phishing attacks which steal YouTube and Facebook login credentials.

As we've tracked these ongoing campaigns, patterns have emerged that links certain attacks to one another, indicating that the same actors, or groups of actors are responsible. Many of the attacks have installed versions of the same remote access tool, DarkComet RAT, and reported back to the same IP address in Syrian address space. The latest attack covertly installs a new remote access tool, Blackshades Remote Controller, whose capabilities include keystroke logging and remote screenshots. Evidence suggests that this campaign is being carried by the same pro-Syrian-government hackers responsible for the fake YouTube attack we reported in March, which lured Syrian activists in by advertising pro-opposition videos, stole their YouTube login credentials by asking them to log in before leaving a comment, and installed surveillance malware disguised as an Adobe ...

Want to Abolish Software Patents? Tell Us.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Today, EFF launched a new campaign against software patents (https://defendinnovation.org).  In this campaign, we outline seven proposals that we think will address some of the greatest abuses of the current software patent system, including making sure that folks who independently arrived at an invention can’t be held liable for infringing on a software patent. But our campaign isn't just about our proposals — we also want to hear, and amplify, the views of the technical community.  Many engineers, researchers, and entrepreneurs have suggested that reform is not enough and that software should not be patentable, period. We want to record these views, which is why our Defend Innovation campaign is designed to solicit comments from all of the stakeholders. We'll incorporate what we learn into a formal publication that we can take to Congress that reflects the views of innovators, academics, lawyers, CEOs, VCs, and everyone else who is concerned about the software patent system.

People who have been following the software patent space know just how flawed the current system is and how, instead of promoting new inventions, software patents are being turned against everyday inventors. It’s got creators up in arms (and rightly so) and we’ve ...

EFF Launches New Patent Reform Project to Defend Innovation

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
Broken Patent System Needs Seven Big Fixes to Protect Inventors

San Francisco - Patents are supposed to foster innovation, but modern software patents have been weaponized against inventors. Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is launching "Defend Innovation," a new patent reform project to promote seven fixes for America's patent system.

"The software patent system is broken. Patents are supposed to help promote new inventions and ideas, but software patents are chronically misused to limit competition, quash new tools and products, and shake down companies big and small," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "It's time for Internet users, inventors, activists, and academics to team up and fix the problem."

EFF has posted seven proposals for software patent reform at Defendinnovation.org, including shortening the term for software patents from 20 years to no more than five years, allowing winning parties in litigation to recover fees and costs, and ensuring that infringers who arrive at a patented idea independently aren't held liable, for example. EFF is asking the public to sign on to the proposals and to make additional comments of their own. Additionally, we're calling on individual inventors, lawyers, and academics to give feedback, and we're asking technology companies to ...