Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

An Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the U.S. Congress

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Today, a group of 83 prominent Internet inventors and engineers sent an open letter to members of the United States Congress, stating their opposition to the SOPA and PIPA Internet blacklist bills that are under consideration in the House and Senate respectively.

We, the undersigned, have played various parts in building a network called the Internet. We wrote and debugged the software; we defined the standards and protocols that talk over that network. Many of us invented parts of it. We're just a little proud of the social and economic benefits that our project, the Internet, has brought with it.

Last year, many of us wrote to you and your colleagues to warn about the proposed "COICA" copyright and censorship legislation. Today, we are writing again to reiterate our concerns about the SOPA and PIPA derivatives of last year's bill, that are under consideration in the House and Senate. In many respects, these proposals are worse than the one we were alarmed to read last year.

If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of ...

Help EFF Protect Digital Innovators

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Protect Free Speech!When Carrier IQ threatened Android developer Trevor Eckhart with a lawsuit for publishing commentary about its software, Trevor called EFF to help him assert his rights.  EFF got Carrier IQ to withdraw its threat. What came next was a national firestorm of concerns about mobile privacy and security that could have been swept under the rug.

Whenever your rights to speak freely or innovate online come under threat, EFF is there. We fight for the users.

When you renew your support as an EFF member or give a year-end gift, you help fight not only for the greater good, but also for individuals whose voices should be heard. 

"Anyone who believes in privacy, security research, free speech, or just enjoys rooting/jailbreaking their devices should support EFF.  The work they do every day protects your rights." –Trevor Eckhart

For decades, EFF has fought attempts to squelch free speech and public debate. Support our activism and our work in the courts by donating to EFF today.

Donate Today!

SOPA Undermines the U.S. in Its Negotiations for a Free, Open Internet

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Yesterday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) approved a Recommendation on Principles for Internet Policy Making [pdf]. It contains a set of 14 principles intended as a blueprint guiding Internet policy development for its 34 member states and Egypt. Many of these principles uphold core values we have long championed: fostering an open Internet, evidence-based policy-making, multi-stakeholder policy development, decentralized online decision-making, effective global privacy protections, and limiting Internet intermediary liability.

But all is not well on the Internet. In spite of this OECD policy framework, efforts at online censorship and spying abound. Members of the U.S. government itself are attempting to push through legislation measures that would subvert many of the core principles found in this document. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) enable online censorship on a massive scale and threaten to break the Internet, all in the name of intellectual property enforcement. These bills could encompass any foreign site accessible from the U.S. They give the U.S. government and individuals the ability to leverage Internet intermediaries to ‘blacklist’ sites accused of copyright infringement. Such actions are inconsistent with OECD principles ...

The OPEN Act: The Good, the Bad, and a Practice in Participatory Government

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

We wrote last week about Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Darrell Issa’s OPEN Act, which addresses many glaring problems with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Since then, we’ve further reviewed the draft legislation and its process for submitted comments. Our original take remains the same: this proposal represents a more targeted approach to the so-called foriegn site piracy problem, but there's room for improvement. Happily, the sponsors have created a space for just that

At www.keepthewebopen.com, users can register for an account and publicly comment on the bill's language, before the bill is introduced. Unlike SOPA and PIPA, whose sponsors failed to get input from the tech community or apparently from anyone outside of the legacy content industries, the OPEN Act's sponsors invite — in fact, encourage — Americans from all sides of the political debate to weigh in.

We at EFF were pretty excited to hear about this new process (we're all over any kind of open government initiative), so we are submitting our own comments, highlighting both the good and the bad in the proposed OPEN Act. Let's start with the good (and some of our recommendations to ...

U. of Denver’s Shame in ‘Inside Higher Ed’

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Following FIRE's Monday press release, Inside Higher Ed has published an article on the poor climate for academic freedom in light of the University of Denver's (DU's) action against a professor. Following two anonymous complaints over his teaching of a graduate-level course on "The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War," DU charged tenured professor Arthur Gilbert with sexual harassment and suspended him from campus pending an investigation. DU ultimately declared Gilbert, a tenured professor with decades of service to DU's Josef Korbel School of International Studies, guilty of sexual harassment. It did so despite the reservations of its Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity and the strong objection of a faculty panel (these and other key documents on Gilbert's case are available here). 

As we've documented thoroughly here at FIRE, DU has at multiple junctures disregarded its obligation to properly weigh Gilbert's academic freedom in carrying out its case against him, with potentially dire consequences for the rights of all faculty at DU. As Inside Higher Ed notes: 

Gilbert, a tenured professor who has been teaching for 50 years, said that the references in his course come in discussion of the failure of campaigns to impose ...

The Internet Blacklist vs. The Constitution

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Last week, two leading Constitutional scholars offered detailed analyses of the Internet blacklist bills now pending in Congress, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect-IP, or PIPA. Both scholars concluded that the proposed law could not pass muster under the U.S. Constitution. So you’d think that the new version of SOPA circulated this week would have resolved those concerns.  

You’d think wrong. While the revised SOPA briefly mentions the First Amendment, the substantive text makes clear that's just lip service.  Here’s a selection of fundamental flaws that remain in both SOPA and PIPA:

First, both bills would still result in the censoring of non-infringing speech.  That is because they allow for the blocking of entire websites – even though the site may contain a great deal of perfectly legal speech.  The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed, “broad prophylactic rules in the area of free expression are suspect  . . . Precision of regulation must be the touchstone in an area so closely touching our most precious freedoms.” As Professor Laurence Tribe puts it, “The First Amendment requires that the government proceed with a scalpel – by prosecuting those who break the law – rather than with the sledgehammer approach of SOPA, which would silence speech across ...

Defend Liberty on Campus: Support a FIRE Intern or Co-Op!

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
This winter marks my second holiday season working at FIRE. As a student attending Drexel University and working through the co-op program, I have found my experience at FIRE to be most rewarding.

Ever since I started at FIRE in September of 2010, I have been witness to the inspiration and hope that this organization spreads to students, parents, almuni, and faculty alike. This inspiration is especially evident in the feedback we receive from FIRE's summer interns. Thanks to the support of FIRE's friends and donors, every summer undergraduates from across the country spend ten weeks in our office learning about how to defend civil liberties on their campuses. The lasting effects of this amazing opportunity can be seen in their enthusiastic endorsements of the program and in the work they do to promote free speech once they return to campus. 2010 intern Ginny Robinson thanked FIRE for "giving her the intellectual tools to better understand constitutional freedoms and defend them more actively" and then went back to campus and helped her school, the University of Virginia, achieve "green light" status. Another summer intern from 2011, Rachel Cheeseman, used everything she learned during her time ...

Librarians: Participate in a new survey about librarians and privacy

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Librarians and library workers are invited to participate in a survey that will measure librarians’ attitudes about privacy rights and protecting library users’ privacy.

The survey is available online, and takes only 15 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous and confidential:

http://tinyurl.com/ALAprivacysurvey

The survey, which builds on an earlier 2008 survey assessing librarians’ attitudes about privacy both within and outside of the library, will provide important data that will help ALA assess the state of privacy in the United States and help guide OIF’s planning for “Privacy for All,“ ALA’s ongoing campaign to engage librarians in public education and advocacy to advance privacy rights. The survey will be available until March 1, 2012.

The study is funded by a generous grant from the Open Society Institute and is managed by Dr. Michael Zimmer, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies and co-director of its Center for Information Policy Research.

Barbara Jones, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, encouraged all librarians and library workers to take the survey. “After three successful years working on Choose Privacy Week and related educational programs, it is essential that we test our assumptions for the remaining years ...

How SOPA Affects Students, Educators, and Libraries

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Big media groups like the MPAA and the RIAA have historically targeted college campuses with “anti-piracy” measures, and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) — the blacklist bill they’re trying to push through Congress — is no exception. The bill’s supporters insist that it targets only “rogue” foreign sites dedicated to piracy, but its vague language and overbroad enforcement methods all but ensure it could be used to stifle student and educator speech.

Open educational resources

Some sites with reason to be particularly concerned are international communities dedicated to “open educational resources” (OERs), which are created to be shared, built upon, and used in education. Sites like the Japan Opencourseware Consortium or Universia, which offer resources from more than 1,000 universities and represents over 10 million students, could fall into this category. In the past decade, these resources have become increasingly popular across the world, aided by the dropping cost of digital distribution and the availability of technologies and platforms for hosting and sharing. SOPA could reverse those changes by placing prohibitive liability burdens on sites that offer these resources and the platforms that enable them.

Educators working in the OER community have raised the alarm about the proposed ...

Only One Day Left in CBLDF’s Spirit of Giving Art Auction!

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Imagine giving your favorite comic fan original artwork by Walter Simonson, Tim Sale, Amanda Conner, Ben Templesmith, Matt Wagner, or Jill Thompson. It can happen if you act fast to bid in CBLDF’s The Spirit of Giving: CBLDF Holiday Art Auction! Items range from small sketches to finished pieces, but you better get on it — the auctions end tomorrow! To take a look at some of the gorgeous art up for grabs, visit CBLDF’s eBay page here.

When you support CBLDF’s The Spirit of Giving drive between now and December 16, The Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation will make a contribution of $1 for every donation and gift order placed on CBLDF’s website. In addition, they will contribute $5 for each new, renewing, or gift membership made from now until December 31!

CBLDF General Counsel Robert Corn-Revere on Social Science and Censorship

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Earlier this year, free speech advocates, including CBLDF, won a victory with Brown v. EMA (formerly Schwarzennegger v. EMA), a Supreme Court decision that struck down a California law that violated the First Amendment and would have included violence among unprotected expression, alongside obscenity. Had the California law stood, it would have impinged upon the First Amendment rights of minors and their parents. It would have had additional repercussions, likely leading to the censorship of violence in other entertainment media, including comic books.

In a recent article for Media Law MonitorMoral Panics, the First Amendment, and the Limits of Social ScienceCBLDF General Counsel Robert Corn-Revere analyzed the Brown v. EMA decision, discussing the lack of scientific evidence that proponents for the regulation of violent speech claimed to have.

Corn-Revere addresses the lack of scientific evidence provided by the State of California in defending the law:

Noting that similar state video game laws had been rejected unanimously by federal courts, California argued not just that social science justified its regulations, but that it did not need to cite studies at all. Rather, the state claimed that it should be able to regulate games whenever the legislature ...

SOPA Manager’s Amendment: It’s Still A Blacklist and It’s Still A Disaster

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Representative Lamar Smith, the principal sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a dangerous and unconstitutional Internet blacklist bill now working its way through the House of Representatives, has released a “manager’s amendment” that reworks some of the bill’s worst provisions.  While the new version jettisons some of the most harmful language, it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

The best thing about the new version is it no longer allows a private actor to effectively cut off payment processing for websites with a simple notice. The bill also endeavors to narrow the range of targets to non-U.S. sites.  And, the authors have had the good sense to eliminate language that would have put sites under threat if even a single page was arguably linked to infringement.

These are positive steps, but frankly, the original provisions were so overbroad and poorly written that we suspect the bill's backers had always planned to eliminate them, as a supposed “compromise.”

So let’s be clear: this new version is no compromise.  It still gives the Attorney General and rightholders the right to obtain blacklist orders.  There is new ambiguity as to how the blacklist will be enforced (service ...

Setting the Record Straight on SOPA: Some Evidence-Based Analysis

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Ever since the Internet has fought back against the the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), top supporters of the dangerous blacklist legislation have tried to mask its full consequences by misconstruing criticism and distorting the opposition’s position. On Saturday, former First Amendment lawyer and current representative of the MPAA and Director’s Guild, Floyd Abrams, wrote a disingenuous op-ed in the Washington Post that put all of Big Content’s misleading arguments and numerous strawmen in one place.

Let’s look at these claims one at a time.  First, Abrams asserts:

[M]any critics of anti-piracy legislation acknowledge that a serious problem exists…yet seem unwilling to meaningfully address the problem. Google, Facebook and Twitter…have offered little in the way of solutions.

This is both misleading and factually untrue. When SOPA was written, technology companies were not allowed to offer solutions — they were completely shut out of the writing process. Since then, a bipartisan group of Congressmen — led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — released an alternative to SOPA, called OPEN. While the bill is not perfect, it is a drastic improvement over SOPA that is narrowly targeted to the actual issue that would have significantly less ...

Some Facts About Carrier IQ

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

There has been a rolling scandal about the Carrier IQ software installed by cell phone companies on 150 million phones, mostly within the United States. Subjects of outright disagreement have included the nature of the program, what information it actually collects, and under what circumstances. This post will attempt to explain Carrier IQ's architecture, and why apparently conflicting statements about it are in some instances simultaneously correct. The information in this post has been synthesised from sources including Trevor Eckhart, Ashkan Soltani, Dan Rosenberg, and Carrier IQ itself.

First, when people talk about "Carrier IQ," they can be referring to several different things. For clarity, I will give them each a number. You can think of senses 2, 3 and 4 as being "layers" of code that are wrapped around each other.

  1. The company, Carrier IQ, Inc.;
  2. a core software library that is written by Carrier IQ Inc. and which is present on all of the 150 million handsets;
  3. a Carrier IQ application or program running on a phone, which includes the software in layer 2, but also additional porting code written by handset manufacturers (sometimes called "original equipment manufacturers" or "OEMs"), mobile network operators ("telcos"), or baseband ...

Final Stretch – Just 1 Hour and 30 Minutes Until Our Auctions End. Get Your Bids in Now!!

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

There are less than 1 hour and 30 minutes to go until the auctions end on the several unique items we have up for bid on Ebay, including 5 inscribed and autographed books by John Grisham, a meeting with Brit Hume and attendance at a taping of Fox News Sunday, an inscribed and autographed book from Larry Flynt, and a personalized chalk mural with pictures and stop motion video of the mural’s creation.  Bid on all of our items here.

All of the proceeds from our auction go toward the continuing operations of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Thanks for supporting free expression!

This Week in Internet Censorship: Updates from Russia, Venezuela, Thailand and South Korea

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Russia

On Thursday, prominent blogger and a leader of recent anti-corruption protests, Alexei Navalny was imprisoned for 15 days on charges of resisting the police. Navalny was one of hundreds arrested last week in recent widespread protests against political corruption and election fraud in the country. Navalny has been the leading voice in demanding social and political reform in Russia, spearheading an online campaign against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party for the past couple of years.

As political dissent grows in Russia, the state has started to position itself on the offensive. Last week, the Interior Ministery suggested a ban on Internet anonymity. Major-General Aleksey Moshkov said, “Social networks, along with advantages, often bring a potential threat to the foundations of society.” He claims that the goal of such a ban would be to fight political extremism, not to crack down on broader government criticism.  In light of Navalny’s arrest however, such claims are highly questionable. In addition to rehashing the same tired rhetoric often used to justify attacks on privacy and anonymity (i.e. “if you’ve got nothing to hide, why does it matter?”) this may be the be beginning of an informal campaign to pressure tech companies and social ...

Members Helped Raise Over $140,000 in 140 Hours

Monday, December 12th, 2011
Top Heroes Contribution
@lakelady $5,000.00
davesf $3,000.00
@dualcoremusic $2250.25
@AlSweigar $1,200.00
ttuttle $1,024.00
elly $1,024.00
darrin $1,001.00
@oot $1,000.00
TechFreedom $1,000.00
mlcat $1,000.00
@NeadWerx $1,000.00
mmajorek $1,000.00
@juliusz $1,000.00
lunaslide $1,000.00
@juliusz $1,000.00

The Power Up Your Donation Campaign successfully ended moments ago, having raised $140,000 from over 1,000 members.

That's an average of over $1,000 per hour for the length of the campaign.  We couldn't be more excited, or more thankful for the generous matching grants from the Parker Family Foundation, Nancy Blachman and David desJardins, and Blake Krikorian.  As well as outstanding contribution from our Top Heroes and Heroines:

Last Thursday, EFF asked friends and followers on social networks to support our work and help spread the word that donations to our Power Up Your Donation campaign could be quadrupled for 140 hours. In addition to far exceeding our original fundraising goal of $10,000, supporters filled the social networks with messages encouraging others to do the same. Here are a few of our favorites:

@Le_Ted: "Hey, do you like the Internet as much as I do? Probably not, but give to the @EFF anyway. They need us! BOTS WITH SOUL"

@iglazer: "Why I donated ...

EFF Calls for Release of Razan Ghazzawi

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Update: According to her lawyers, Razan has been charged with "establishing an organization that aims to change the social and economical entity of the state" and "weakening the national sentiment, and trying to ignite sectarian strife" and "weakening national sentiment" -- all of which, according to Lebanon's Daily Star, can lead to a penalty of three to fifteen years in prison.

Syria's crackdown on opposition, condemned by the international community, has long extended to bloggers and journalists.  In August, prominent blogger Anas Maarawi made headlines for his arrest; he was released almost two months later after considerable international attention.  More recently, Hussein Ghrer was released on $1,000 bail, after spending a month and a half in prison without charge.  Numerous other bloggers, journalists and netizens remain imprisoned.

On Sunday, December 4, Razan Ghazzawi, a blogger who also works with the Syrian center for Media and Freedom of Expression, was arrested while en route to Amman, Jordan to attend a workshop on media freedom in the Arab world.  Ghazzawi is one of the few bloggers writing from inside Syria under her real name.  Her blog, Razaniyyat, covers a range of topics but has most recently focused on Syria's ...

Stand Up and Fight: A Week of Action Against Censorship

Monday, December 12th, 2011

When the government claims the right to shut down websites by breaking the Domain Name System and forcing search engines to dump user requests to reach a site, there’s only one word for it: censorship. And when big media groups like the RIAA can essentially cut off the financial services to a website based on accusation alone, it’s censorship at the hands of corporations.

We’re not talking about China or Iran. We’re talking about blacklist legislation being debated by the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

EFF and a coalition of organizations, tech companies, innovators, and users are joining forces to fight back against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that would give the government and big content unprecedented authority to censor the web in the name of so-called copyright enforcement. This week, we need to pull out all the stops because the House Judiciary Committee is slated to hold a critical hearing on Thursday. 

SOPA's supporters are desperate to rush this bill through quickly by convincing Congress there's no real opposition to it. We know better, but we need to make our voices heard. That’s why we’re calling on you to join us in a dedicated week ...

CBLDF & ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom Speak Out In Defense of Comic Facing Removal From School Library

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Later today, a hearing in Dixfield, ME  will address a parent’s call for removal of the anthology Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age from the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School Library.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom sent a letter of support for the anthology, which was edited by Ariel Schrag and includes contributions from award winning graphic novelists Daniel Clowes, Dash Shaw, Gabrielle Bell, Lauren Weinstein, and others.  The book received praise from professional review sources such as Booklist, New York Times, and Publishers Weekly, and it was selected for New York Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age” list in 2008.

A PDF of the letter is available here: cbldf stuck in the middle letter

 

 

Dr. Thomas Ward, Superintendent
Western Foothills Regional School Unit #10
33 Nash Street
Dixfield, ME 04224

December 9, 2011

Dear Superintendent Ward:

We are writing to you and to the school board members of RSU #10, on behalf of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, to express concern about an effort to remove Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics ...

Fight the Blacklist: A Toolkit for Anti-SOPA Activism

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Congress is debating dangerous legislation that would give the Department of Justice unprecedented power to “blacklist” websites without a trial and give Hollywood copyright holders a fast-track way to shut down a website’s financial services for alleged copyright infringement, endangering sites like Vimeo and Etsy. It’s nothing short of a bill to create a censorship regime in the U.S., and it’s moving fast.

We need your help to stop this legislation before it can undermine Internet security and censor the web.  Ready to join EFF, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons, CDT, the Participatory Politics Foundation, and Public Knowledge in the fight? Here are 12 things you can do right now to help us stop the blacklist bills.

Got more suggestions for ways to fight SOPA and Protect-IP? Tell us about it through identi.ca, Twitter, Facebook, in an email to rainey@eff.org, or add them in a comment to this thread on Reddit.

  1. Call your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose Protect-IP and SOPA, respectively.  Click here for some suggested talking points. Then tell your friends about the call on social media sites.
  2. Contact Congress through EFF’s action center...

iFreedom Conference: Noting state leaders’ comments on the future of free expression online

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Netherlands - On Thursday and Friday last week, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uri Rosenthal, hosted the Freedom Online Conference in the Hague. The stated purpose of this Google-sponsored event was to forge a coalition of state, corporate, and civil society members to stand for freedom of expression on the Internet, especially for activists and bloggers. Participants included European parliamentarian Marietje Schaake, Tor Project’s Director of Public Policy Karen Reilly, and European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.

The conference may have had some degree of useful impact in bringing together activists (such as Syrian blogger Amjad Baiazy) with state leaders in demonstrating the real effects these internet policies have on real people’s lives. However, it was also disappointingly clear how much of disconnect there is between what these state leaders practice, and what they preach.

Minister Uri Rosenthal gave the opening address, calling for legislation against technology exports of mass Internet surveillance equipment and a vague promise to invest millions of euros to “help Internet activists in repressive regimes.” We're excited to see that world leaders are giving thoughtful discussion to the issue of surveillance exports and hope their stance is in accordance with the ...

Blacklist Bills Ripe for Abuse Part II: Expansion of Government Powers

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Yesterday, in part one of our series, we looked at how corporations are already abusing the current copyright system as part of their business model, and how the blacklist bills would increase their ability to do so. Today, we’ll look at how the Justice Department and private companies have already been going after domain names seizures, without due process, and how the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP (PIPA) will make this much easier.

Yesterday, Techdirt’s Mike Masnick reported on the shocking case of a music blog that was hijacked and censored by the U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE) and the Justice Department for over a year. In November 2010, ICE seized a number of domain names, including the popular hip-hop blog Dajaz1.com, based on allegations of copyright and trademark infringement. As was widely reported at the time, Dajaz1 should never have been targeted — indeed, many of the allegedly infringing links were given to him by artists and labels themselves, including Kanye West, Diddy, and a VP a major record label.

What followed was a year of frustration: Dajaz1 tried to follow the government’s bewildering procedure for retrieving his domain names, while the government abused the ...

We Can’t Afford Campus Censorship

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Did you know that as of 2008, only 46% of full-time employees on campus were faculty members while 54% were full-time "professionals"? In a recent National Review Online article, Heather Mac Donald reported that the "Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion" at UC Berkeley, who is in charge of 17 people, controls a 4.5 million dollar budget. That's more than twice FIRE's annual budget!

And earlier this week, The Chronicle of Higher Education all but confirmed how higher ed places campus bureaucracy above instruction when it released a survey showing a yawning salary gap between professors and presidents of private colleges and universities. It should come as no surprise to FIRE's supporters that some of the highest paid presidents in the country lead schools that are the most guilty of censoring and silencing their student bodies. In fact, the very first school FIRE labeled as the "worst of the worst" for violating its students' rights and added to FIRE's Red Alert list, Johns Hopkins University, paid its then-president William R. Brody more than $3.8 million in 2009, including his golden parachute.

Salaries like this are funded by your tax dollars in the form of huge government ...

China’s Online Propagandists Revealed

Friday, December 9th, 2011
How much money do China's paid commentators, the '50 cent army,' really make?

The Download.com Debacle: What CNET Needs to Do to Make it Right

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The blogosphere has been buzzing about revelations that CNET’s Download.com site has been embedding adware into the install process for all kinds of software, including open source software like NMAP.  For the unwary, some of the ads could have been read to suggest accepting the advertised service (e.g., the Babylon translation tool bar) was part of the installation process.  Users who weren’t paying attention may also have clicked “accept” simply by accident.  In either event, after their next restart, they would have been surprised to find their settings had been changed, new tool bars installed, etc. Gordon Lyon, the developer who first called public attention to Download.com's practices, found a particularly egregious example last night: a bundled ad for “Drop Down Deals,” an app that, once installed, spies on your web traffic and pops up ads when you visit some sites.  It’s hard to imagine that many users would choose that app on purpose.

This practice is not only deceptive, it directly contradicts Download.com’s stated policy, which promises users that it has “zero tolerance” for bundled adware and that “when it comes to fighting unwanted adware . . . Download.com has always been in ...

Proposed Constitutional Amendment Would Ban Editorials About Candidates or Ballot Measures by Nearly All Newspapers

Friday, December 9th, 2011

That’s one of the effects of HJR 90, proposed by Reps. Theodore Deutch, Peter DeFazo, Alcee Hastings, and Jim McDermott, and a similar Senate proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.

Section 2. Such corporate and other private entities established under law are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press.

Section 3. Such corporate and other private entities shall be prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in any election of any candidate for public office or the vote upon any ballot measure submitted to the people.

Section 4. Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own spending, and to authorize the establishment of political committees to receive, ...

30 Years Later, Supreme Court’s Ruling in ‘Widmar v. Vincent’ Still Key for Religious, and Nonreligious, Expression on Campus

Friday, December 9th, 2011
The First Amendment Center's David L. Hudson Jr. wrote a timely piece yesterday drawing attention to the thirty-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263 (1981). 

In that important case, the Court ruled in favor of a religious student organization at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) that sought to hold its meetings in university buildings, a practice the public university had allowed for several years. After the university changed its policy and denied the group, Cornerstone, building access, Cornerstone sued alleging violation of its First Amendment rights. In finding for Cornerstone, the Court struck a significant blow not only for the speech and expressive activities of religious student groups, but for free speech on university campuses as a general matter. 

As Hudson writes, UMKC's policy reversal came in the form of a regulation stating that university facilities could not be used "for purposes of religious worship or religious teaching." The university argued that this was necessary to avoid a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause-in other words, to maintain a separation of church and state. Thankfully, however, the Supreme Court did not see it that way. Hudson explains:

The ...

CFN Member and Others Erect Free Speech Wall at Arizona State University

Thursday, December 8th, 2011
Continuing a welcome trend of students promoting free speech on their campuses, Arizona State University (ASU) student groups including Students For Liberty (whose chapter president is a CFN member), the College Republicans, and the Network of Enlightened Women collaborated last week to erect a free speech wall on ASU's campus. At a free speech wall event, organizers build a temporary wall with paper and markers available for people to write, draw, or post any message they like. According to The State Press, ASU's campus newspaper, the event was a huge success, attracting students with various viewpoints to express themselves on the wall:

Anarchists, atheists, religious advocates, drug users and Obama supporters all had their say on the Wall without having to pull any punches, said Carlos Alfaro, ASU's Students for Liberty campus coordinator. 

Alfaro said everybody must not forget their constitutional rights and liberties in the U.S. and it's important for everyone to be able to speak their mind. 

"The cool thing that this wall represents is that we can all get together at one particular freedom," Alfaro said. "And that's the freedom to say whatever we want. So we work together through freedom."

Yesterday, organizers posted about ...

The Spirit of Giving: CBLDF’s EXPANDED Holiday Gift Guide

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

You can still support CBLDF, and get into The Spirit of Giving this holiday season! The Fund is still offering dozens of signed graphic novels, prints and art from the medium’s greatest creators.  Join us as we highlight just a few items available today in CBLDF’s Holiday Gift Guide!

When you support CBLDF’s The Spirit of Giving drive between now and December 16, The Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation will make a contribution of $1 for every donation and gift order placed on CBLDF’s website. In addition, they will contribute $5 for each new, renewing, or gift membership made from now until December 31!

CBLDF has signed and exclusive premiums that will please any loved one:

For fans of alternative comics:

Ice Haven by Dan Clowes: The paperback version of Daniel Clowes’s brilliant graphic novel, hailed by Time as “another of his hilari­ously slightly off-center worlds that have a vague sense of dread about them. Kind of like where you live.” Signed by the creator! http://cbldf.myshopify.com/products/ice-haven

Death Ray by Dan Clowes: With subtle comedy, deft mastery, and an obvious affection for the bold pop-art exuberance of comic book design, Daniel Clowes delivers a contemporary meditation on the darkness of ...

Tragedy at Virginia Tech

Thursday, December 8th, 2011
As many Torch readers undoubtedly already know, as of this time another shooting has taken place at Virginia Tech, leaving two dead, including one police officer. At FIRE, our hearts go out to the victims of another senseless tragedy at a campus still scarred from the last one.    

Postcards For Jailed Dissidents

Thursday, December 8th, 2011
Chinese supporters launch a new campaign to highlight imprisoned activists.

An Alternative to SOPA: An Open Process Befitting an Open Internet

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

The truly frightening legislative proposals known as SOPA and PIPA continue to loom in Congress, promising to put a big lump of coal in the stocking of every Internet user.  So we were glad to learn that a bipartisan group of congressional represenatives has come together to formulate a real alternative, called the OPEN Act, as well as a real process for including the Internet users and innovators it may affect. 

You may remember that the stated goal of the Internet Blacklist Legislation was to target foreign websites who traffic in counterfeit and other IP-infringing goods. SOPA and PIPA went far beyond that goal with extreme remedies, like allowing the Attorney General to get a court order requiring service providers to "disappear" certain sites and the ability to shut down all services - such as inclusion in search, ad revenue, and payments services - to the point that a site would essentially no longer exist. Other provisions would allow private actors to force payment processors to cut off the economic lifeblood of any site where even a single page linked to infringement, even if the site's owners comply with the DMCA safe harbors. Adding insult to injury, the bills were ...

Blacklist Bills Ripe for Abuse, Part I: "Market-Based" Systems

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Proponents of the misguided Internet blacklist legislation — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) — downplay the idea that the overbroad bills could be used for censorship. But one only needs to look at the way existing copyright laws have been abused to know there’s serious cause for concern.

From shocking examples of government censorship without due process through domain name seizure, as we've seen with both Rojadirecta and now with the yearlong saga of Dajaz1.org (which we address in the second post in this series), to bogus DMCA takedowns and actual litigation, the message is clear: the government and corporations have no problem abusing legal process to threaten or shut down legitimate speech.

In fact, many companies abuse the current system as part of their business model

Consider the case of Medical Justice, a service that provides doctors with contracts for patients to give up the copyright to any future reviews the patient may write about the doctor. If an unhappy patient posts a negative review on sites like Yelp, the doctor can serve a DMCA notice for copyright infringement and have the post removed.

Even assuming the doctor actually gained ...

Join Now and EFF Gets 4x Power Up

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Update 12/09/2012: We are proud to announce a new $10,000 matching grant from Blake Krikorian to Power Up donations, starting at 6:30AM today. Thank you to everyone who helped us fly by our first two goals and surpass $40,000 in 12 hours!

Update 12/08/2012: Thanks to such strong support, EFF members helped us surpass the first $10,000 goal in less than 6 hours! Nancy Blachman and David desJardins have powered back up our 4x Power Up Campaign with a new $10,000 matching grant, starting at 12PM.

Not a member yet? Become one here in the next 140 hours and you can help us quadruple the value of your donation! Challenge grants will match up to a total of $10,000 in new member donations between now and Monday.

We need your help to spread the word: "Join me in fighting for the users! Become an EFF member today and your donation will get a 4x Power Up. https://supporters.eff.org/donate/powerup"

Every dollar you give will provide four dollars to help EFF! The Parker Family Foundation will match up to a total of $10,000 in new donations, and the Brin Wojcicki Foundation will ...

Harvard Faculty Fires Economics Professor over Political Article Published in India

Thursday, December 8th, 2011
Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has effectively fired a controversial economics professor by canceling all of his courses due to an op-ed he published in India in the wake of the July 13 Mumbai terrorist bombing. Although Harvard's administration had defended Professor Subramanian Swamy's rights after intervention by FIRE, FAS blatantly and shamefully violated them in its meeting on Tuesday. Anyone reading the op-ed will have no trouble detecting why it was controversial, but this action by the Harvard faculty places speech and academic freedom in danger at Harvard.

On July 16, 2011, Swamy published an opinion piece in the Indian newspaper Daily News & Analysis in response to series of terrorist bombing in Mumbai on July 13 that killed 26 and injured 130 people. The column makes several suggestions about how to "negate the political goals of Islamic terrorism in India," advocating that India "[e]nact a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion," "[r]emove the masjid [mosque] in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites," and "declare India a Hindu Rashtra [nation] in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus."

In response, a group ...

Indian Authorities Try (And Fail) to Make Tech Companies Block Politically Offensive Content

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The Indian Telecommunications Minister met on Monday afternoon with top officials of Internet companies and social media sites, including the Indian units of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, to compel them to filter offensive content. The New York Times reported that Minister Kapil Sibal met with executives to discuss the possibility for their companies to create internal mechanisms that would prevent any comments the state deemed “disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory” towards political and religious figures.

The companies ultimately told Sibal that it would be impossible to put this in place, especially given the massive amount of data that they would have to oversee. In response to the companies’ position, Sibal declared that they would take policy measures to enact their strategy, though he wasn’t specific on what form this law would take. According to the New York Times, state officials there have already plans “to set up its own unit to monitor information posted on Web sites and social media sites.”

This was a follow-up to two previous meetings. In the first, six weeks ago, legal counsel from Facebook and top Internet service providers met with Sibal to address his concerns over a Facebook page that criticized Sonia Gandhi, president ...

Crackdown on ‘Thumb Drives’

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
North Koreans find new ways to access illicit South Korean pop culture.

Tweet Your Support for the First Amendment on December 15!

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
Today, the First Amendment Center reminds us that there will be a nationwide celebration of the First Amendment on December 15, the 220th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. And as if that wasn't enough, for 14- to 22-year-olds there's also the chance to win one of 22 $5,000 scholarships when you use the #freetotweet hashtag on Twitter! You can visit www.freetotweet.org for more information. Join FIRE in celebrating 220 years of free speech and the Bill of Rights on December 15!    

Belgian ISPs vs. Internet Freedom

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Last September, in a case initiated by the Belgian Anti-Piracy Federation (BAF), an Antwerp Court of Appeals ordered two major fixed broadband providers (Telenet and Belgacom) to block access to the Pirate Bay at the DNS level. In November, the BAF sent a letter to other Belgian ISPs, threatening legal action unless they also blocked access to the Pirate Bay.

Earlier this week, a Belgian Internet watchdog group (NURPA) reported that one of the three major mobile Internet providers in Belgium, Base, complied with the letter and voluntarily started blocking access to the Pirate Bay.1 Base denies these reports, but users who try to access the Pirate Bay are served a "stop page" with the following text, in Dutch, French, German, and English: "You have been redirected to this stop page because the website you are trying to visit offers content that is considered illegal according to Belgian legislation." The only way offered for the owner or administrator of the website to object is via fax. 

This worrisome trend of voluntary blocking (not exclusive to Belgium) seems to be in sharp contrast with the more recent (November 24th) Scarlet v. Sabam decision by the European ...

Calling All Lawyers: FIRE’s Philadelphia CLE Just One Week Away!

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
One week from today, my colleague Azhar Majeed and I will be holding FIRE's latest Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course for Pennsylvania attorneys: "Free Speech 101: Protecting Free Expression and the First Amendment at our Nation's Colleges and Universities." The two-hour course will take place on Wednesday, December 14, at the Omni Hotel at Independence Park in Philadelphia, beginning at 2 p.m. 

In the course, Azhar and I will provide a comprehensive overview of the state of the law regarding free speech on our nation's college campuses. We'll discuss recent legal developments and cases, answer questions about student speech rights in the social media era, and provide information about how to defend student rights from collegiate censorship.

Our course has been approved by the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board for two hours of substantive law, practice, and procedure CLE credit. The course is appropriate for both newly admitted and experienced attorneys. Registration costs $40, and financial aid is available. Members of FIRE's Legal Network may attend free of charge.

To register online, see our CLE page or click below. I very much hope to see you next week!

 

Register for Free Speech 101: Protecting Free Expression at our  Nation's Colleges in Philadelphia, PA  on Eventbrite

 

Support the TJCenter and Get Some Great Holiday Gifts at the Same Time – Bid on our Items on Ebay!!

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

We currently have several unique items up for bid on ebay, including 5 inscribed and autographed books by John Grisham, a meeting with Brit Hume and attendance at a taping of Fox News Sunday, an inscribed and autographed book from Larry Flynt, and a personalized chalk mural with pictures and stop motion video of the mural’s creation.  Bid on all of our items here.  All of the proceeds from our auction go toward the continuing operations of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Thanks for supporting free expression!

Ten Unlikely Free Speech Pioneers

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
The Society of Professional Journalists has a great article on "10 Improbable Champions of the First Amendment" that is a worthwhile read. Author George Padgett introduces readers to the people and situations behind the court decisions that led to our current understanding of Americans' right to free speech:

What do an American Nazi, a pornographer and a homophobic Baptist minister have in common? A racist, anti-Semitic publisher? A flag-burning anarchist? A Communist Labor Party organizer?

They are among society's misfits and hated targets of both the right and left. They are champions of the First Amendment. Disdained heroes. Their stories demonstrate the extreme challenge of living in and maintaining a democratic society. As Molly Ivins once said, "The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly or quiet." 

From draft protesters to muckraking journalists, these are the people whose free speech rights the courts protected—and the reason the First Amendment protects your rights today.    

Oregon Blogger Isn’t a Journalist, Concludes U.S. Court – Imposes $2.5 Million Judgement on Her

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

A U.S. District Court judge in Portland has drawn a line in the sand between “journalist” and “blogger.” And for Crystal Cox, a woman on the latter end of that comparison, the distinction has cost her $2.5 million.

Speaking to Seattle Weekly, Cox says that the judgement could have impacts on bloggers everywhere.

“This should matter to everyone who writes on the Internet,” she says.

Cox runs several law-centric blogs, like www.industrywhistleblower.com, www.judicialhellhole.com, and www.obsidianfinancesucks.com, and was sued by investment firm Obsidian Finance Group in January for defamation, to the tune of $10 million, for writing several blog posts that were highly critical of the firm and its co-founder Kevin Padrick.

Representing herself in court, Cox had argued that her writing was a mixture of facts, commentary and opinion (like a million other blogs on the web) and moved to have the case dismissed. Dismissed it wasn’t, however, and after throwing out all but one of the blog posts cited by Obsidian Financial, the judge ruled that this single post was indeed defamatory because it was presented, essentially, as more factual in tone than her other posts, and therefore a reasonable person could conclude it was factual.

The judge ...

Save the dates in 2012! Choose Privacy Week (May 1-7) & Banned Books Week (Sept 30-Oct 6)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

We are pleased to announce the dates of two major Office for Intellectual Freedom initiatives for 2012:

The third Choose Privacy Week will be May 1-7, 2012.  Choose Privacy Week posters, bookmarks, buttons, and other resources are available for sale now at the ALA Store.  To stay abreast of Choose Privacy Week announcements, follow @privacyala on Twitter or become a Facebook fan.  The theme for this year is “Freedom from Surveillance”:


Banned Books Week 2012 will take place September 30 – October 6.  2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the first Banned Books Week, and the Office for Intellectual Freedom and our sponsoring partners have a lot of terrific activities in store! Check out the ALA website on Banned Books Week and bannedbooksweek.org for more information. You also can become a fan at www.facebook.com/bannedbooksweek or follow @OIF on Twitter - the hashtag is #BannedBooksWeek.

2012 promises to be a banner year for OIF programming, so mark your calendars!

Controversial Bill “The Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) Nearing House Vote

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

During the past week, momentum against the House’s draconian copyright bill has gained steam, as venture capitalists, Internet giants and major artists have denounced it for handing corporations unprecedented power to censor countless websites and stifle free speech. In response, the bill’s big-pocketed supporters have gone on the offensive, attempting to mislead the public about the bill’s true reach. In a particularly egregious example, the Chamber of Commerce posted an attack on its website insisting that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is not a “blacklist bill.”

Before they even saw the House bill, they started calling it the “New Internet Blacklist Bill.” Blacklist?  That sounds pretty bad. But before we get carried away, let’s take a look at the actual language of the actual legislation. Can YOU find a blacklist? No? Can you find a list of ANY kind? No?

Of course the word “blacklist” does not appear in the bill’s text—the folks who wrote it know Americans don’t approve of blatant censorship. The early versions of PROTECT-IP, the Senate’s counterpart to SOPA, did include an explicit Blacklist Provision, but this transparent attempt at extrajudicial censorship was so offensive that the Senate had to re-write that part of the bill. ...

Speech Code of the Month: St. Olaf College

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2011: St. Olaf College in Minnesota.  

St. Olaf's policy on "Misuse of Computers" [.pdf] prohibits "creating or posting of material that is offensive," stating that such actions "are subject to disciplinary review." As is typical of such policies, "offensive" is left undefined, and there is no provision for who decides what is offensive, leaving students with no way of knowing whether their electronic communications might get them in trouble. Is a pointed criticism of the university offensive? What about a provocative editorial about Islamic fundamentalism? These types of expression have gotten students in trouble at other universities, and with such a vague and broad prohibition in place, St. Olaf students are almost certain to engage in self-censorship rather than risk punishment, chilling free and open discourse on campus.

Although St. Olaf is private, its Student Handbook repeatedly emphasizes the importance of free speech and expression. Among other things, the Handbook states that "[f]ree inquiry and free expression are essential attributes of the community of scholars" and that "St. Olaf College affirms its belief in the importance of freedom of expression." But freedom to offend is at the core of freedom ...

FIRE Happy Hour in Chicago Tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
A reminder to all of FIRE's Chicago friends: FIRE will be co-hosting a happy hour tomorrow evening in Chicago with The Heartland Institute and America's Future Foundation. Join us at The Kerryman from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to meet fellow liberty lovers and mingle with FIRE staff! You can find the event details here and on our Facebook page. If you plan to attend, please e-mail bridget@thefire.org. We hope to see you there!    

RIAA and AAP File Amicus Brief in Righthaven Appeal

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The Association of American Publishers and the Recording Industry Association of America have decided to cozy up to a copyright troll, filing an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit appeal of Righthaven v. Hoehn.  The Hoehn case is one of many decisions where a district court dismissed the case brought by copyright troll Righthaven. Indeed, Righthaven has lost on the merits every single time a court has considered its arguments (before six judges and counting). In Hoehn, the court correctly found both that Righthaven did not own the Las Vegas Review-Journal news article at issue and that his use was a fair use under copyright law. 

The AAP and RIAA do not weigh in on Righthaven's sham copyright assignment from Stephens Media, the publisher of the Review-Journal.  Rather, they devote their brief to civil proceedure, arguing it was error for the court to even consider whether the use was fair. They assert that the problem was "relying upon Righthaven ... to rebut the defendant's assertions" on market harm, instead of relying on Stephens Media, the true owner.

This conclusion is a bit dubious.  In another Righthaven troll case, EFF represents Democratic Underground, who counterclaimed for declaratory relief against ...

In Defiance of Restrictive ‘Carolinian Creed,’ USC Beaufort Stands Up for Black Student’s Right to Display Confederate Flag

Monday, December 5th, 2011
At the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB), freshman student Byron Thomas has won the right to hang a confederate flag in his dorm room window, after he was pressured by USCB to take the flag down because others on campus found its presence offensive. As local news site WTOC reports:

18 year-old Byron Thomas, a North Augusta, SC native and freshman at USCB, is African American. He wants the right to hang the flag in his dorm room window.  

After multiple complaints, Thomas was told the flag must come out of the window. 

"To me it is a heritage thing and a pride thing. It is not a racist thing whatsoever," Thomas told WTOC. 

[...] 

Thomas decided to do something he couldn't do at home. "No sir, because my parents have strong feelings about it," he said. 

He hung the Confederate flag in his dorm room window for the rest of his peers, with a courtyard view, to see.

[...]

Thomas said his feelings about the flag were intensified after he did a research paper on the flag in September. 

"I'm no idiot. I researched both sides but in the end I formed my own conclusion," he said. 

...