Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Muzzling Teachers on Facebook

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Missouri Law Illustrated Dangers of Chipping Away at Speech With a Meat-ax Instead of a Scalpel

With class sizes burgeoning and many youngsters remaining anonymous to their teachers, one might think that efforts by teachers to enhance communication with pupils would be applauded. Instead, school authorities and, more recently, legislators are casting a wary eye on such practices as teacher-student “friending” on Facebook. Although some view Internet social media as ideal forums for instructors and students to connect positively, others regard them as havens for would-be child predators — wolves masquerading as educators, who inveigle kids into inappropriate and at times even illegal relationships. Proper concern about young people’s safety (perhaps coupled with public hysteria and officials’ fear of liability for Web-based misconduct) have led to crackdowns on teachers’ use of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and similar popular Web sites. Missouri’s misadventure with the first statewide law in this area furnishes a warning of the dangers of chipping away at speech with a meat-ax instead of a fine-honed scalpel.

Passed by an overwhelming margin during the summer, the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act was slated to take effect on Aug. 28. Some of its features were unexceptionable: for instance, a salutary ...

Is Limiting Hate Speech a Good Idea?

Monday, December 5th, 2011
The Jewish Chronicle, a publication based out of Pittsburgh, had an interesting article last week about how various universities in Pittsburgh and elsewhere handle "hate speech." I put hate speech in quotes there not just because nobody agrees (or can possibly agree) on what exactly it means, but also because there's no exception in American law that strips whatever "hate speech" is of the protection of the First Amendment.

That doesn't mean that some people wouldn't like to see that change, though, like the dean of a California law school quoted in the article:
... [A]dvocates of hate speech policies say they protect groups for whom "the verbal attack is a symptom of an oppressive history of discrimination and subjugation that plagues the harmed student and hinders his or her ability to compete fairly in the academic arena," wrote Gerald Uelman, dean of Santa Clara University School of Law and a fellow of the Center for Applied Ethics. "The resulting harm is clearly significant and, therefore, justifies limiting speech rights."
Dean Uelman is entitled to his opinion about what justifies limiting speech rights, of course (even if, according to him, not everyone should be entitled to his or her ...

Is Limiting Hate Speech a Good Idea?

Monday, December 5th, 2011
The Jewish Chronicle, a publication based out of Pittsburgh, had an interesting article last week about how various universities in Pittsburgh and elsewhere handle "hate speech." I put hate speech in quotes there not just because nobody agrees (or can possibly agree) on what exactly it means, but also because there's no exception in American law that strips whatever "hate speech" is of the protection of the First Amendment.

That doesn't mean that some people wouldn't like to see that change, though, like the dean of a California law school quoted in the article:
... [A]dvocates of hate speech policies say they protect groups for whom "the verbal attack is a symptom of an oppressive history of discrimination and subjugation that plagues the harmed student and hinders his or her ability to compete fairly in the academic arena," wrote Gerald Uelman, dean of Santa Clara University School of Law and a fellow of the Center for Applied Ethics. "The resulting harm is clearly significant and, therefore, justifies limiting speech rights."
Dean Uelman is entitled to his opinion about what justifies limiting speech rights, of course (even if, according to him, not everyone should be entitled to his or her ...

Outspoken Vietnamese Family Harassed

Monday, December 5th, 2011
Police in central Vietnam storm the home of a family of three activist writers and bloggers.

Tibetan in New Self-Immolation Protest

Monday, December 5th, 2011
A former monk in Tibet sets himself ablaze in a protest against rule by Beijing.

Wisconsin Governor’s Proposal Would Charge Protesters for Police Time, Cleanup

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration could hold demonstrators at the Capitol liable for the cost of extra police or cleanup and repairs after protests, under a new policy unveiled Thursday.

The rules, which several legal experts said raised serious free speech concerns, seemed likely to add to the controversy that has simmered all year over demonstrations in the state’s seat of government.

The policy, which also requires permits for events at the statehouse and other state buildings, took effect Thursday and will be phased in by Dec. 16. Walker administration officials contend the policy simply clarifies existing rules.

State law already says public officials may issue permits for the use of state facilities, and applicants “shall be liable to the state . . . for any expense arising out of any such use and for such sum as the managing authority may charge for such use.”

But Edward Fallone, an associate professor at Marquette University Law School, said the possibility of charging demonstrators for police costs might be problematic because some groups might not be able to afford to pay.

“I’m a little skeptical about charging people to express their First Amendment opinion,” he said. “You can’t really put a price tag on ...

Burma’s Mann Meets Clinton

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011
The speaker of Burma's lower house pledges to push forward democratic reforms.

Clinton Pledges Closer Ties

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011
The US secretary of state and Burma’s pro-democracy leader will monitor ongoing reforms.

School District Requests Iowa Supreme Court Review of State "Anti-Hazelwood" Law

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

The Student Press Law Center reports that the Allamakee (Iowa) Community School District on Monday filed a "petition for further review" to the Iowa Supreme Court, asking the state's highest court to weigh in on the Iowa Student Free Expression Law (ISFEL). This petition follows a November 9, 2011, ruling by the Iowa Court of Appeals in the case of Lange v. Allamankee Community School District.

The Iowa Student Free Expression Law was passed in 1989 in response to the United States Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988). In Hazelwood, the Court distinguished (1) K-12 student publications that "by policy or practice" have been opened as fora for public expression, which demand full First Amendment protection, from (2) K-12 student publications operating within the curriculum, which are subject to censorship "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns." FIRE has blogged about Hazelwood and its impact on numerous occasions, and the SPLC has an excellent white paper on the case.

As the Court of Appeals noted, Iowa lawmakers passed the ISFEL in response to Hazelwood, determining that they would grant students full First Amendment protections, even at the K-12 ...

School District Requests Iowa Supreme Court Review of State "Anti-Hazelwood" Law

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

The Student Press Law Center reports that the Allamakee (Iowa) Community School District on Monday filed a "petition for further review" to the Iowa Supreme Court, asking the state's highest court to weigh in on the Iowa Student Free Expression Law (ISFEL). This petition follows a November 9, 2011, ruling by the Iowa Court of Appeals in the case of Lange v. Allamankee Community School District.

The Iowa Student Free Expression Law was passed in 1989 in response to the United States Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988). In Hazelwood, the Court distinguished (1) K-12 student publications that "by policy or practice" have been opened as fora for public expression, which demand full First Amendment protection, from (2) K-12 student publications operating within the curriculum, which are subject to censorship "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns." FIRE has blogged about Hazelwood and its impact on numerous occasions, and the SPLC has an excellent white paper on the case.

As the Court of Appeals noted, Iowa lawmakers passed the ISFEL in response to Hazelwood, determining that they would grant students full First Amendment protections, even at the K-12 ...

Why Apple (and Sony, Amazon, Microsoft etc.) Should Support Jailbreaking

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Yesterday, EFF asked the U.S. Copyright Office to grant an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for “jailbreaking” smart phones, tablets, and video game consoles.   The exemptions are designed to dispel any legal clouds that might prevent users from running applications and operating systems that aren’t approved by the device manufacturer.  The exemptions stem from section 1201 of the DMCA, which prohibits circumvention of “a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.”

In 2009, over strident opposition from Apple, EFF won an exemption from the Copyright Office for users who wish to jailbreak iPhones and other smartphones.  Due in part to this ruling, a vibrant jailbreaking community has developed online that has immeasurably improved innovation, security, and privacy in these devices.

So why might Apple and other manufacturers still oppose the process? That’s a great question. When Apple first fought one's legal ability to jailbreak, they claimed it would cut into their business model and ruin their ability to make money. But Apple profits are at an all-time high by every relevant metric.

In fact, rather than hurting companies like Apple, the jailbreaking community often ends up helping them, as Apple and ...

USF Polytechnic Student Faces Punishment for Criticizing Fellow Student Government Officials

Friday, December 2nd, 2011
The Oracle, a student newspaper at the University of South Florida (USF), reports on a potentially troubling intrusion on free speech at USF Polytechnic (a separate institution with ties to USF, though Florida's Board of Governors is considering making it independent). Michael Nacrelli, a Student Government senator, is facing punishment for a series of emails that were critical of his fellow student government officials. 

The Oracle reports this week: 

Michael Nacrelli, a senior majoring in psychology and a member of Student Government (SG) group Poly 5, received a letter last week from Dean of Students Jan Lloyd asking to set up a meeting by Thursday about emails he sent to other SG members criticizing the decisions of SG and USF leaders. 

Nacrelli faces "failure to follow instructions" and "disruptive conduct" violations, and Lloyd said in the letter if he does not meet with her by this week, "a decision, which may affect (Nacrelli's) student status, will be made without the benefit of input from (Nacrelli)."

As to the nature of the email exchanges that landed Nacrelli in trouble, The Oracle recounts:

In a Nov. 5 email sent to USF Polytechnic SG senators, directed to Senator Joshua Ely, Nacrelli said Ely acted ...

USF Polytechnic Student Faces Punishment for Criticizing Fellow Student Government Officials

Friday, December 2nd, 2011
The Oracle, a student newspaper at the University of South Florida (USF), reports on a potentially troubling intrusion on free speech at USF Polytechnic (a separate institution with ties to USF, though Florida's Board of Governors is considering making it independent). Michael Nacrelli, a Student Government senator, is facing punishment for a series of emails that were critical of his fellow student government officials. 

The Oracle reports this week: 

Michael Nacrelli, a senior majoring in psychology and a member of Student Government (SG) group Poly 5, received a letter last week from Dean of Students Jan Lloyd asking to set up a meeting by Thursday about emails he sent to other SG members criticizing the decisions of SG and USF leaders. 

Nacrelli faces "failure to follow instructions" and "disruptive conduct" violations, and Lloyd said in the letter if he does not meet with her by this week, "a decision, which may affect (Nacrelli's) student status, will be made without the benefit of input from (Nacrelli)."

As to the nature of the email exchanges that landed Nacrelli in trouble, The Oracle recounts:

In a Nov. 5 email sent to USF Polytechnic SG senators, directed to Senator Joshua Ely, Nacrelli said Ely acted ...

New York Times Has a Sunday Dialogue on Anonymity and Civility on the Internet

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Two weeks ago, the New York Times published a letter to the editor from Christopher Wolf, who leads the Internet Task Force of the Anti-Defamation League, in which he suggested:

It is time to consider Facebook’s real-name policy as an Internet norm because online identification demonstrably leads to accountability and promotes civility.

People who are able to post anonymously (or pseudonymously) are far more likely to say awful things, sometimes with awful consequences, such as the suicides of cyberbullied young people. The abuse extends to hate-filled and inflammatory comments appended to the online versions of newspaper articles — comments that hijack legitimate discussions of current events and discourage people from participating.

The New York Times invited readers to pen replies to Wolf's letter. The paper published several excellent, on-point replies, but did not publish EFF's.  So, we decided to publish it here instead:

Opponents of online anonymity often repeat the platitude that “real name” identification promotes civility. While that may be true, it is often at the expense of free expression. Not only does anonymity enable dissidents in oppressive regimes, but it also helps the small-town kid experimenting with his sexuality or the abuse survivor starting a new life.

Internet ...

EFF Seeks to Widen Exemptions Won in Last DMCA Rulemaking

Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Copyright Office Should Expand Legal Protections for Jailbreakers and Video Artists

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the U.S. Copyright Office today to renew and expand the critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) granted last year in response to EFF's requests to protect the rights of American consumers who modify electronic gadgets and make remix videos.

In the exemption requests filed today, EFF asked the Copyright Office to protect the "jailbreaking" of smartphones, electronic tablets, and video game consoles – liberating them to run operating systems and applications from any source, not just those approved by the manufacturer. EFF also asked for legal protections for artists and critics who use excerpts from DVDs or downloading services to create new, remixed works. These exemptions build on and expand exemptions that EFF won last year for jailbreakers and remix artists.

"The DMCA is supposed to block copyright infringement. But instead it can be misused to threaten creators, innovators, and consumers, discouraging them from making full and fair use of their own property," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Hobbyists and tinkerers who want to modify their phones or video game consoles to run software programs ...

John Stossel Blogs about (Un)free Speech Zones

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Fox Business Network host John Stossel returned to the topic of free speech on college campuses yesterday with a brief blog entry at his website, prompted by a picture sent in by one of his readers of a "Free Speech Area" at California State University-Chico. The reader notes, "I thought it was ironic to have a 'Free Speech Area' with this notice about restrictions." You don't say:    

So here we have a "Free Speech Area," which is made less free by subjecting pretty much anything you would want to do in it to "regulation." As Stossel quips, "What can students do at free speech zones? Apparently, not very much."

Stossel also notes that CSU Chico's sexual harassment policy received the dishonor of being FIRE's March 2011 Speech Code of the Month for, among other things, its prohibition of "stereotyped generalizations." All certainly does not appear well for free speech at CSU Chico.

Thanks to John Stossel for continuing to bring attention to the abuses of free speech on our nation's campuses. If you missed FIRE's recent appearance on Stossel, be sure to check it out at his website.  

CBLDF Joins Celebration of Comics at The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

On Saturday, CBLDF heads across the bridge for The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, a one-day show celebrating comics and graphic design. This free festival takes place December 3, from noon to 9:00 p.m. at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church (275 North 8th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn), and features an electrifying assortment of creators, publishers, exhibitors, and programming.

CBLDF will be on hand, exhibiting with exclusive signed premiums, including a wide range of autographed graphic novels from Jaime Hernandez, Mike Mignola, Jim Woodring, Dan Clowes, and more. The money raised during the festival will support CBLDF’s defense of an American citizen who faces prosecution Canada because of the comics he carried on his laptop. Come out and support free speech and comics this weekend at The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival!

Holy Cross Student Files Suit after Expulsion for Sexual Assault; Alleges Due Process, Title IX Violations

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Edwin Bleiler, a former student at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, has filed a lawsuit (first in Massachusetts Superior Court, later removed to federal court) alleging violations of Title IX and due process relating to his expulsion on sexual misconduct grounds. A copy of the complaint can be found here (as Exhibit A), and the answer from Holy Cross can be found here (PDF).

According to the complaint, in early May 2011, a female student alleged to Holy Cross that Bleiler had engaged in sexual intercourse with her while she was intoxicated and incapable of effective consent. Bleiler's subsequent disciplinary hearing was held on May 18. While the specific composition of the five-member hearing board is unclear, Bleiler alleges that the two student board members were friends of the accuser, and arguably had conflicts-of-interest that were ignored by the administrator who organized the hearing. Further, according to the complaint, this administrator's impartiality was also questionable, as she had appeared on National Public Radio contending that most rapes go unreported, with the offenders going free. Following conviction by the hearing board, Bleiler was expelled on May 26. 

There are some factual disputes: Bleiler alleges that the accuser was ...

House Committee Rushing to Approve Dangerous "Information Sharing" Bill

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Proposal Would Gut Privacy Laws, Allow Unprecedented Data-Grab by Government

We’re for better network, computer, and device security.  Unfortunately, "cybersecurity" bills often go off track—case in point:  the " Internet kill switch. "  The latest example comes courtesy of the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee.  Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) are introducing "The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011"(PDF).

The bill would allow a broad swath of ISPs and other private entities to "use cybersecurity systems" to collect and share masses of user data with the government, other businesses, or "any other entity" so long as it’s for a vaguely-defined "cybersecurity purpose." It would trump existing privacy statutes that strictly limit the interception and disclosure of your private communications data, as well as any other state or federal law that might get in the way.  Indeed, the language may be broad enough to bless the covert use of spyware if done in "good faith" for a "cybersecurity purpose."

This broad data-sharing between companies wouldn’t be subject to any oversight or transparency measures (users can’t restrict companies’ sharing), while the only oversight for sharing with the federal government, ironically, would ...

Welcome to the Newest Member of the EFF Team, Ellie Young

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

EFF is proud to announce the newest member of our growing staff, Ellie Young.  Ellie may be familiar to many of you from her longtime work overseeing the operational and administrative functions of several San Francisco Bay Area not-for-profit organizations.  For the past 22 years, Ellie was the Executive Director of the USENIX Association, which puts on conferences that are essential to the community of computing engineers, sysadmins, academics and researchers.  Prior to that, Ellie worked at the University of California Press and at the Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley.  Ellie comes to EFF in the role of Special Assistant to Executive Director Shari Steele, and she will work on financial planning as well as on development and operational activities at EFF.

Ellie joins EFF at a critical time.  We’re working to transform our newly-purchased building at 2567 Mission Street in San Francisco into a permanent home for digital rights protection.  Renovations will include much-needed conference and collaborative areas, workspace for the EFF team, and improvements necessary to bring the aging building up to modern code.  We’re thrilled to have Ellie on our team as we move forward on this important project for EFF’s future.

...

Free Speech Defender-Superstar Photos!

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Last night we celebrated a bunch of amazing defenders of Free Speech at Tribeca 360 in Manhattan. We have pictures! Here’s a taste:

Judy Blume presents Laurie Halse Anderson with her Free Speech Defender award! We all honored Laurie for continuing to write awesome, challenging books for kids of all ages.

Publisher Jane Friedman and Kaylie Jones! This year, Kaylie released an uncensored version of the classic From Here To Eternity, written by her father James Jones.

And Free Speech Defender Paul M. Smith, who mightily battled for video games as protected speech before the Supreme Court on the California ban case — whose award is being presented by NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin!

Check out the whole gang: Event Chair Don Weisberg (Penguin Young Readers Group — thanks to Don and everyone at Penguin!), Judy, Paul, Laurie, Jane, Kaylie and Joan!

(Photos by James Patrick Cooper)


ACLU-SD Calls on OCR Not to Investigate Free Speech at CSU-San Marcos

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Yesterday we wrote about our fight for free speech at California State University-San Marcos (CSUSM), where several students were investigated for their possible involvement with the satirical campus magazine The Koala. While CSUSM has now suspended all investigations following FIRE's intervention, CSUSM faces the prospect of an investigation by the federal Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), after some students submitted a Title IX complaint about the publication. (OCR refused to share any portion of the complaint with FIRE when we requested it under the Freedom of Information Act.) We wrote to Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali yesterday, urging OCR to remember its obligations under the First Amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SD) has stepped in as well, sending its own letter to OCR yesterday, making it clear that the magazine's content is protected speech. ACLU-SD Legal Director David Blair-Loy's argument in the letter against any claim of harassment arising from the simple presence of The Koala is quite convincing. Blair-Loy, like FIRE, emphasizes the centrality of the Supreme Court's most relevant decision for analyzing cases like this one:

The distribution of a single periodical to a campus ...

Federal Judge Blocks North Carolina ‘Choose Life’ License Plates

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ordered an injunction on Monday to prevent North Carolina from issuing specialty license plates that display a pro-life message, signifying a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF). The judge declared that the “Choose Life” license plates were an expression of private speech rather than government speech which would have allowed the North Carolina General Assembly to regulate the message. The judge’s ruling was a response to the lawsuit filed by ACLU-NCLF claiming that the legislature’s authorization of the June bill violates the First Amendment guarantee of free speech by supporting a pro-life message while refusing to approve an additional license plate reading ‘Respect Choice’ which would indicate advocacy of reproductive rights. Katy Parker, the political director for the ACLU-NCLF, praised the court’s decision:

This case is ultimately about free speech and equal treatment for all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on abortion. The state should not be allowed to use its authority to promote one side of a debate while denying the same opportunity to the other side. We look forward to continuing our arguments in ...

Alex Cox Named CBLDF Deputy Director

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is pleased to announce that Alex Cox has been named to the position of Deputy Director.  In this new capacity, his responsibilities will expand to include full oversight of the CBLDF home office and fundraising program.  Cox joined the CBLDF in the fall of 2010 as Development Manager.

Since joining the CBLDF last year Cox has improved the organization’s membership program and convention presences.  Under Cox’s watch, membership in both the retailer and individual capacities has shown dramatic increases.  Cox has also overseen the creation of a more robust volunteer program in the New York home office.  Prior to CBLDF, Cox was a 15-year veteran of comics retail, including owning and managing the nationally recognized comic book store ROCKETSHIP.

Speaking about the promotion, Cox said, “I’m extremely grateful to be in a position to help the comics community fight back against anyone that would threaten free expression in this art form that we all love.  As a comic fan and student of the art form for close to 30 years, I never thought that I would see anything like the panic caused by SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT in my lifetime. But with the current ...

New Global Chokepoints Project Tracks Censorship Around the World

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
Site Will Document Copyright Enforcement's Effects on Freedom of Expression Worldwide

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), in collaboration with over a dozen civil society organizations worldwide, today launched Global Chokepoints at www.globalchokepoints.org to document how copyright enforcement is being used to censor online free expression in countries around the world.

Global Chokepoints, funded in part through a grant by the Open Society Foundation, is an online resource created to document and monitor proposals from around the world to turn Internet intermediaries into copyright police. These proposals harm Internet users' rights of privacy, due process and freedom of expression, as well as endanger the future of the free and open Internet. Global Chokepoints is designed to provide empirical information to digital activists and policymakers and to help coordinate international opposition to attempts to cut off free expression through misguided copyright laws and transnational agreements, like the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

Global Chokepoints will document the escalating global efforts to turn Internet intermediaries into chokepoints for online free expression. Internet intermediaries all over the world—from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to community-driven sites like Twitter and YouTube to online payment processors—are increasingly facing demands by IP rightsholders and governments ...

With FTC Settlement, Facebook Moves Closer to EFF Bill of Rights for Social Network Users

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Earlier today, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Facebook over allegations that the social network operator deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly expanding that which is shared and made public. We are heartened to see that many of the provisions of the settlement are in alignment with the Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users that EFF proposed in May 2010.

Under the proposed settlement (PDF), Facebook is:

  • barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers' personal information;
  • required to obtain consumers' affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences;
  • required to prevent anyone from accessing a user's material no more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account;
  • required to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers' information; and
  • required, within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, to obtain independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that ...

EFF Joins Advocacy Organizations in Criticizing Secure Communities

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Today, EFF joined the Rights Working Group and 65 advocacy organizations in sending letters opposing the Secure Communities Program in preparation for the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement hearing on the issue scheduled for November 30.

Under Secure Communities, local law enforcement agencies have lost control over the data they collect for purely local purposes. They are required to submit fingerprints and detailed information on all individuals they arrest to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which then sends a copy of the data to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  ICE then checks the immigration status of the individuals, and moves to deport those who do not have appropriate residency standing.  Notably, individuals can be arrested, fingerprinted, and deported even if they are not convicted of a crime. For example, individuals engaged in civil disobedience at a protest rally but whose charges are later dismissed or individuals who are wrongfully arrested due to racial discrimination or false evidence could find their fingerprint data collected and face potential deportation. In fact, ICE reports that 21% of the program’s deportees were never convicted of a crime, contrary to the due process principles that are fundamental to the American legal ...

California State University-San Marcos Suspends Investigation of Students over Protected Speech in Humor Magazine ‘The Koala’

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Under pressure from FIRE and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SD), California State University–San Marcos (CSUSM) has suspended its investigation of several students who might be affiliated with anonymous humor magazine The Koala. Today, in the face of a Title IX complaint about The Koala that the federal Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) refuses to release, FIRE and the ACLU-SD have also urged OCR that it must not coerce CSUSM to investigate, censor, or punish protected expression such as the material in The Koala.

On September 27, 2011, Volume 2, Issue 1 of The Koala was published and distributed on CSUSM's campus. On the cover page of the issue, the magazine describes itself as "Crushing Your Hopes And Dreams With Comedy." The magazine uses humor to address a wide variety of topics including animal rights, sex, and the scandals of public figures, such as former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's divorce from Maria Shriver.

On or about October 20, 2011, several students who may be affiliated with The Koala were sent disciplinary letters from Associate Dean of Students Gregory Toya. The letters notified them that they were charged with two student conduct code violations because ...

CBLDF Looking for Writers to Contribute to Website

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

In our ongoing mission to protect the creators, retailers, publishers, and collectors of comic books and to promote the awareness of First Amendment issues, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is looking for additional contributors to its website.

Whether you’re a journalist or a supporter of CBLDF who has excellent writing skills, we need your help to expand the coverage of First Amendment issues in the comics community. Your work will be shared on www.cbldf.org, Facebook, Twitter, and in print publications.

We are looking for writers to cover various topics related to the First Amendment and comics, including (but not limited to) the following:

• censorship of manga
• First Amendment legal issues related to comics
• comics censorship in libraries
• comics censorship in schools
• direct market censorship concerns

A contributor to www.cbldf.org should have excellent writing and communication skills, the ability to meet deadlines, and self-direction. If specializing in a specific topic, contributors should have extensive knowledge and understanding of the field. Journalism or blogging experience is a plus.

Contributors will be asked to identify and/or generate relevant content for www.cbldf.org on a weekly or semiweekly basis. In doing so, they will need to obtain editorial approval ...

No Free Speech at Mr. Jefferson’s Library

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Here’s the First Amendment, in full: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Those beautiful words, almost haiku-like, are the sparse poetry of the American democratic experiment. The Founders purposely wrote the First Amendment to read broadly, and not like a snippet of tax code, in order to emphasize that it should encompass everything from shouted religious rantings to eloquent political criticism. Go ahead, reread it aloud at this moment when the government seems to be carving out an exception to it large enough to drive a tank through.

As the occupiers of Zuccotti Park, like those pepper-sprayed at UC Davis or the Marine veteran shot in Oakland, recently found out, the government’s ability to limit free speech, to stopper the First Amendment, to undercut the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances, is perhaps the most critical issue our republic can face. If you were to write the history of the last decade in Washington, it might well ...

The PROTECT IP Act Is Very Real and Very Bad — Call Now to Block It

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

The PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) is the evil step-sister of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the much-criticized Internet blacklist bill introduced in the House last month. They’ve got a lot in common — both bills would allow the government and private rightsholders to censor the Internet for Americans, and both bills have faced strong opposition from regular citizens, business leaders, and public interest groups.

In one way, though, PIPA is much worse: while SOPA is still in the House committee stage and has been the target of extraordinary public opposition, PIPA is already out of committee and poised for consideration of the full Senate. That means PIPA is a few dangerous steps further along in the process of becoming law. And with only a few weeks to go in this legislative session, the Senate may try to rush the bill through before the public has a chance to respond.

We're not going to let that happen. Despite their efforts to push this through under the radar, folks who care about the Internet and innovation are tracking this bill and getting the word out. You can help, in an old-school and very effective way: Pick up the phone. 

...

Attention Attorneys! FIRE’s Philadelphia CLE Two Weeks Away

Monday, November 28th, 2011

In just a little over two weeks, FIRE will be holding our 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.

My colleague Azhar Majeed and I will provide a comprehensive overview of the state of the law regarding free speech on campus. 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. See you in two weeks!

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

 

Protester Indicted for Jury Tampering

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Julian P. Heicklen, a 79-year-old retired chemistry professor, has often stood on a plaza outside the United States Courthouse in Manhattan, holding a “Jury Info” sign and handing out brochures that advocate jury nullification, the controversial view that if jurors disagree with a law, they may ignore their oaths to follow it and may acquit a defendant who violated it.

Then, last year, federal prosecutors had Mr. Heicklen indicted, charging that his activity violated the law against jury tampering. Lawyers assisting him have sought dismissal of the case on First Amendment grounds.

But now prosecutors are offering their first detailed explanation for why they charged Mr. Heicklen, arguing in a brief that his “advocacy of jury nullification, directed as it is to jurors, would be both criminal and without Constitutional protections no matter where it occurred.”

“His speech is not protected by the First Amendment,” prosecutors wrote.

“No legal system could long survive,” they added, “if it gave every individual the option of disregarding with impunity any law which by his personal standard was judged morally untenable.”

Read more at NYTimes.com

Fight Censorship, Not Holiday Crowds – Support the CBLDF’s Spirit of Giving!

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Celebrate The Spirit of Giving this holiday season by getting once-in-a-lifetime presents for the fans in your life in support of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! When you do, The Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation will make a contribution to the CBLDF for every donation and membership placed during this campaign!

CBLDF is offering the best presents in comics, including graphic novels personalized to the fan in your life by icons including Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller, Dan Clowes, Robert Kirkman, Dave Gibbons, and many more. Plus you’ll get an exclusive Will Eisner gift card that tells them your gift helped do good for comics!

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

Be a hero this holiday by giving the most unique gifts that make a real difference when you support the CBLDF with the Spirit of Giving!

Here’s the list of participants and gift items launching ...

Occupy Sacramento leaders sue city over First Amendment issues

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

After nearly a month of tense standoffs in Sacramento’s Cesar Chavez Plaza, Occupy Sacramento activists — seeking to thwart the city’s insistence on clearing the park nightly — moved the battle to another venue: the federal courts.
A trio of lawyers — arguing the protesters’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly are being violated — filed suit Tuesday against the city of Sacramento, the city manager and the city’s parks director on behalf of 34 named plaintiffs, including activist Cindy Sheehan.

Read more.

Happy Thanksgiving From CBLDF

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

A Note From The Executive Director

As everyone settles in for the long weekend of family, friends, food and good cheer, the CBLDF wants to take a moment to recognize the many generous people who make our work possible.

Without the grass roots generosity of our many donors who contribute their hard earned money, the CBLDF wouldn’t be able to assist the people who come to us for help in their First Amendment struggles.  You are literally our life’s blood and we thank you.

We’re lucky that so many incredible creative people give of their time and talent to help us raise money and awareness of our important work.  Whether it’s contributions of art for auctions, signed books as thank yous to our donors, or time given at signings or special events, these donations of your talent make a difference.  We thank all of you.

Our volunteers come from all walks of life, and work very hard to ensure that the CBLDF is able to serve the comics community.  Whether it’s working in the office making sure that our donors receive their acknowledgments, standing at our table at a con spreading the word, or burning the midnight oil at their ...

First Amendment Rodeo 11/07-11/21, 2011

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

A round-up of intellectual freedom issues in the news
Privacy/Technology
Supreme Court Sees Shades of 1984 in Unchecked GPS Tracking

Op-Ed Contributor:  Stop the Great Firewall of America

Report: Social Networking: Why Americans use social media

Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites

Is Lying On The Internet Illegal?

Facebook Tracking Under Scrutiny

Reasonable Expectations (Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court and privacy)

House Judiciary Committee examines Stop Online Piracy Act

The Supreme Court Weighs the Implications of Big Data

Big Brother Surveillance: Getting Bigger

First Amendment Rights

Pre-Publication Review as a Secrecy Battleground

Freedom of Expression

American Library Association Defends Occupy Wall Street Library

Censorship/Books

KCTV investigates Book Banning: Parents vs. Public Schools
Ontario school board rejects book ban

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Occupying the First Amendment: What the actions over Zuccotti Park teach us about public spaces and citizen protest

Friday, November 18th, 2011

For nearly 60 days, demonstrators gathered in Zuccotti Park, a privately owned and very publicly occupied sliver of lower Manhattan, to Speak Truth to Power at what has become the hub of the Occupy Wall Street movement. But last night, Power was in no mood to chat. So shortly after 1 a.m. several hundred New York City Police surrounded the park dressed in riot gear, illuminated the encampment with klieg lights, and delivered—on behalf of Power—the same message that made Max von Sydow so charming in the Exorcist: “Get out.”

And get out they did. In a few hours time, over 200 demonstrators were arrested. Police cordoned off streets approaching the park, keeping the curious, the sympathetic, and most notably the press away from the action. Several journalists reported being roughly handled by police in the process, and an order closing the air space over lower Manhattan ensured that news helicopters couldn’t get footage of the raid.

That was the state of affairs when the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble smashed into the right of cities to protect their parks. And that was the state of affairs at 8 a.m., when Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement affirming his ...

Health and Sexuality Education & Libraries webinar – Nov. 22

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Libraries in the developing world are often some of the best – if not only – resources for providing information about health and sexuality to their communities. Next week’s webinar, Access to Health Information and Education in the Developing World, will discuss these issues with a focus on two countries: Nigeria and Mexico. This is the third and final webinar in the “Intellectual Freedom across the Globe” series cosponsored by OIF and the IFLA Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE).

Participants in this webinar will gain an understanding of how libraries and library organizations can work – both in their communities and globally – to improve access to information on basic health care, HIV/AIDS, and more.

Date: Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Time: 10:00 a.m. Central Standard Time, 1600 GMT

Cost: 30 USD – ALA members/members of IFLA institutional members; 35 USD – General attendees

Note:  There will be a small number of free spaces for participants who otherwise could not afford to participate. To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Jonathan Kelley at jokelley@ala.org.  Archived recordings of all “Intellectual Freedom across the Globe” webinars will be available for sale one ...

Listen to CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein Talk to the Annual Conference on Libraries and the Future

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Recently, CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein addressed the Long Island Resources Council’s Annual Conference on Libraries and the Future. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Extinction is not an Option: Ensuring OUR Future,” focusing on the future of libraries in an increasingly digital environment. Brownstein spoke about the history of comics censorship and the challenges comics will face in the future. You can listen to the discussion and download a PDF of the presentation here.

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

Jasmine Activist ‘Tortured’

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
Rights activists detail the detention and torture of netizens who called for street protests in China.

FIRE President’s UW-Madison Speech Featured in ‘The Badger Herald’

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Yesterday, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff visited the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) to speak to students about how censorship on campus, particularly in the form of speech codes, hurts society as a whole. Olivia Raedeke, a columnist for The Badger Herald, recapped the speech in today's issue.

A leader of a national group that fights for students' rights argued a positive relationship exists between free speech on campus and a more educated society during a lecture at the University of Wisconsin Law School Tuesday night.

In his lecture titled "How Censorship is [Wounding] America," Greg Lukianoff, president for Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said limiting college students' freedom of speech on campus limits their ability to form and defend their own opinions on discourse and other public matters.

The article also quotes Professor Don Downs, a friend of FIRE who hosted Greg's speech at UW:

"The talk reminds us how higher intuitions of higher education are failing in turning out young adults prepared for rigors of citizenship, which entails ability to handle complex and sometimes painful idea with intellectual maturity," said Downs, who is an adviser for The Badger Herald.

You can read the full article here.

Internet Community Shut Out of Stop Online Piracy Act Hearing – Again

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

This morning, EFF’s staff and concerned netizens across the country tuned into the live webcast of the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261). At least we tried to. Unfortunately, we were confronted with an incredibly poor webcast stream for much of the hearing. We find it ironic and deeply concerning that Congress is unable to successfully stream video of an event this important to all Internet users, even as they are debating a dangerous plan to change the Internet in fundamental ways and deputize Internet intermediaries to act like content police.

Many of the online watchers took to Twitter to voice their concerns about being shut out of the hearing by the poor quality webcast. But the Internet community was shut out of the hearing in a more fundamental way: of the six witnesses called to testify on Congress’ plan to heavily regulate the Internet, there was only one representative of the technology sector.  As Public Knowledge’s Martyn Griffen tweeted: “#SOPA Hearing internet still fading in and out. It'd be great if an internet engineer could fix the website issue in return for testifying.”

We couldn’t agree more. Congressman Lamar Smith’s office noted ...

‘New York Times’ Covers CVCC’s Punishment of Student for Facebook Complaint

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Bucks, the personal finance blog of The New York Times, has published an entry on the Higher One financial services company and its controversial deals with colleges. In case readers missed it, Higher One was the flashpoint of one of FIRE's recent high-profile cases, after Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) student Marc Bechtol faced a two-semester suspension for criticizing the North Carolina college's partnership with the organization on Facebook.

Here's how Bucks describes Higher One:

The New Haven, Conn., company partners with roughly 700 campuses across the country to handle payments to students. Colleges contract with Higher One to handle payments, such as grants and student aid "refunds," which are funds left over after tuition is paid and are typically used for textbooks and other education-related costs. Students can receive a debit card and activate the account linked to it, to quickly access their funds. In some cases, the cards also serve as the student's college I.D. card.

Higher One has not always been popular with the student community, as Bechtol's case illustrates. Bucks nicely sums up his run-in with the CVCC administration:

In the North Carolina incident, a student, Marc Bechtol, complained about Higher One in a ...

Who’s Missing From Today’s SOPA Hearing? A Short List

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

The House Judiciary Committee will meet today for a hearing on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). What could have been an opportunity for the committee to hear from a variety of stakeholders has devolved into parade of pro-SOPA partisans. Scheduled to testify are representatives from the Register of Copyrights, Pfizer Global Security, the Motion Picture Association of America, the AFL-CIO, and Mastercard Worldwide—many of which helped to draft this legislation in the first place, and didn’t let anyone else into the room. The only scheduled witness in opposition to the bill is Katherine Oyama, policy counsel on copyright and trademark law for Google.

Whether you support or oppose the bill, there’s no question that it will affect a broad range of activities, which is one reason we’ve seen an extraordinary outcry of opposition since the bill was introduced.

In case you are wondering who the Committee should be hearing from today, here is a small sampling of the stakeholders that deserve a seat at the negotiating table:

Public interest organizations

EFF, Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, TechFreedom, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Demand Progress and many others have all raised strong objections to SOPA, including concerns ...

Pictures From Occupy Wall Street

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011




An Explosion of Opposition to the Internet Blacklist Bill

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

On the eve of the House Judiciary Committee's hearing on the Stop Internet Piracy Act—where five witnesses will appear in favor of the bill to just one against—a broad group of tech companies, lawmakers, experts, professors, and rights groups have come out against the bill.

The statements, written by people from a variety of backgrounds and political persuasions, incorporate many of the same broad themes: SOPA will threaten perfectly legal websites, stifle innovation, kill jobs, and substantially disrupt the infrastructure of the Internet.  Here is a small sample of what they had to say:

A veritable Who's Who of tech giants—including Facebook, Google, Twitter, eBay, Yahoo, AOL and Mozilla—explicitly came out against both SOPA and PROTECT-IP in a letter to the ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees:

Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of web sites. We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nation’s cybersecurity. We cannot support these bills as written…

A bipartisan group of ...

Ai Weiwei Appeals Tax Bill

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
But he puts up bond ahead of deadline.

What’s On the Blacklist? Three Sites That SOPA Could Put at Risk

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Proponents of the latest disastrous IP bill , the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) insist it only targets the “worst of the worst”: so-called “rogue” foreign websites that profit from pirating U.S. intellectual property. But the broad definitions and vague language in the bill could place dangerous tools into the hands of IP rightsholders, with little opportunity for judicial oversight.  One very possible outcome: many of the lawful sites you know and love will face new legal threats.

As we’ve explained Section 103 of the bill sets up a so-called “market-based system” which would allow individuals and companies to cut off financial support from websites — both foreign and domestic — simply by sending a notice to their payment providers or ad networks. In many cases, these sites are dependent on the revenue from those payments and ad networks for day-to-day operation.

Here’s a look at how some real, popular, and important sites could be affected by this legislation if it passes. We’ve even included a sample notice showing how IP rightsholders might target regular sites. To be clear: we don’t believe that the way these websites operate is or should be subject to legal threat — that’s one reason ...

No Room for Free Expression in Egypt

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

When Hosni Mubarak was ousted from the Egyptian presidency in February, Egypt's revolutionaries saw a new beginning: an Egypt in which individual rights--including the right to free expression--would be respected.  Just nine months later, with several prominent bloggers languishing in prison and countless other civilians tried by military courts for protesting, the future looks bleak.

In terms of numbers, Egypt ranks third--behind only China and Iran--for threatened and jailed bloggers.  Throughout the past decade numerous well-known bloggers were imprisoned, sometimes without trial, and in many cases subjected to torture, for the crime of speaking out.  Despite hopes that Mubarak's ouster would put a stop to restrictions on free expression, under military rule, the crackdown continues.

On October 27, Ayman Youssef Mansour became the second blogger in post-Mubarak Egypt (after Maikel Nabil Sanad) to be sentenced to three years solely for expressing himself online.  His alleged crime? Joking about Islam on Facebook.  Unlike Sanad, Mansour was tried by a civilian court and found to be "in contempt of religion," a crime under article 98(f) of the Penal Code.  The Facebook page, which Mansour wrote on under a pseudonym, has since been scrubbed clean and no longer contains the allegedly insulting ...