Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The NSA is Making Us All Less Safe

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

"Computers are everywhere. They are now something we put our whole bodies into—airplanes, cars—and something we put into our bodies—pacemakers, cochlear implants. They HAVE to be trustworthy."
–EFF Fellow Cory Doctorow

Cory’s right, of course. And that’s why the recent New York Times story on the NSA’s systematic effort to weaken and sabotage commercially available encryption used by individuals and businesses around the world is so important—and not just to people who care about political organizing, journalists or whistleblowers. Thanks to additional reporting, we now know it matters deeply to companies including Brazil’s Petrobras and Belgium’s Belgacom, who are concerned about protecting their infrastructure, negotiating strategies and trade secrets. But really, it matters to all of us.

We all live in an increasingly networked world. And one of the preconditions of that world has to be basic computer security—freedom to use strong technologies that are fully trustworthy.

Every casual Internet user, whether they know it or not, uses encryption daily. It’s the “s” in https and the little lock you see in your browser—signifying a secure connection—when you purchase something online, when you’re at your bank’s website or accessing your webmail, financial records, and medical records.  Cryptography security is ...

Transparent Is The New Black

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

"Secrecy in government is fundamentally anti-democratic...Open debate and discussion of public issues are vital to our national health. On public questions there should be 'uninhibited, robust, and wide-open' debate." —New York Times Co. v. U.S., 403 U.S. 713, 724 (1971) (Douglas, J., concurring).

Last week, cloud storage provider Dropbox did the right thing by joining Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn in their consolidated suit before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ("FISA Court") demanding permission to publish—for the first time—complete statistics about the US government's national security requests. Dropbox opened its amicus brief with the above quote from Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. While Justice Douglas wrote those lines more than forty years ago in response to the Nixon Administration's attempt to suppress the publication of the Pentagon Papers, its relevance remains undiminished today. The government is again attempting to prevent the publication of truthful, albeit potentially embarrassing, information regarding the activities of its intelligence agencies.

"[W]e can, and must, be more transparent. So I've directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these programs as possible." —President Barack Obama, Press Conference, August 9, 2013

With the President's statement in ...

Patent Troll Lodsys Settles for Nothing to Avoid Trial

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Today we learned just how determined the patent troll Lodsys is to avoid a ruling on the merits of its claims. When software security company Kaspersky Lab refused to surrender, Lodsys settled for nothing (yes, you read that right—absolutely nothing) rather than take its claims to trial.

First, some background: Lodsys is the poster child for the worst kind of patent trolling. A shell company with no apparent business other than "monetizing" patents, it has sued or threatened thousands of application developers. While it has sued some big players, most of its targets have been tiny app developers who lack the resources to defend patent litigation. And these developers are being sued simply for using Apple or Google’s in-app purchase APIs. In this, Lodsys is part of growing trend of patent trolls targeting the end-users of technology.

We believe that Lodsys is unlikely to prevail on the merits of its claims. First, the principle of patent exhaustion should protect developers using Google and Apple’s APIs. Lodsys purchased its patents from Intellectual Ventures, who many believe is the biggest troll of all. (When "selling" its patents to supposedly "independent" companies like Lodsys, Intellectual Ventures has retained as much ...

Lowering Your Standards: DRM and the Future of the W3C

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

On Monday, the W3C announced that its Director, Tim Berners-Lee, had determined that the "playback of protected content" was in scope for the W3C HTML Working Group's new charter, overriding EFF's formal objection against its inclusion. This means the controversial Encrypted Media Extension (EME) proposal will continue to be part of that group's work product, and may be included in the W3C's HTML5.1 standard. If EME goes through to become part of a W3C recommendation, you can expect to hear DRM vendors, DRM-locked content providers like Netflix, and browser makers like Microsoft, Opera, and Google stating that they can now offer W3C standards compliant "content protection" for Web video.

We're deeply disappointed. We've argued before as to why EME and other protected media proposals are different from other standards . By approving this idea, the W3C has ceded control of the "user agent" (the term for a Web browser in W3C parlance) to a third-party, the content distributor. That breaks a—perhaps until now unspoken—assurance about who has the final say in your Web experience, and indeed who has ultimate control over your computing device.

EFF believes that's a dangerous step for an organization that is seen by many as the ...

University of Montana Faculty Fight Back Against New Policies

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

University of Montana (UM) faculty members continue to voice significant concerns about the university’s new sexual harassment policies and procedures, approved by the Departments of Justice and Education last week. Faculty are concerned about a provision that requires staff training on sexual assault and requires that the university provide the Department of Justice with the names of faculty who do not attend this training. Further, as The Washington Free Beacon reports today, several faculty members were troubled by the new sexual harassment policy’s apparent presumption of guilt and authorization of punishment for protected speech.

Stewart Justman, Director of UM’s Liberal Studies Program, noted that according to the language of the policy, “anyone who reports a complaint is a ‘victim.’ It is clearly a presumption of guilt. It’s a pernicious assumption.” Such a presumption is especially dangerous in combination with the Office for Civil Rights’ 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, which requires universities to use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof when determining responsibility in sexual misconduct cases.

History professor Michael Mayer also brought attention to the policy’s “Sanctions and Corrective Action” section, which states that the school may take “appropriate action” in order to “prevent the creation of ...

Laptop Searches at the U.S. Border Continue to Cause Concern

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Imagine going on a relaxing vacation out of the country with friends or family, but upon your return to the United States, your laptop is taken from you by border security for what seems to be no reason at all. Frighteningly enough, this is a problem that is becoming more frequent. As we have seen in R. v. Matheson and other cases, it is impacting comic book readers and incriminating them based upon their selection of reading material. Until the Supreme Court decides to face this issue — border searches that are seemingly circumventing the Fourth Amendment — this practice will no doubt continue to happen.

David House (c) Forbes.com

David House, 22, of Boston is just one of the people who have fallen victim to this legal loophole in the Fourth Amendment. In January 2010, House became acquainted with Bradley Manning, who has become infamous for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. House was greatly inspired by what Manning was doing. As a result, House helped set up an advocacy group called the Bradley Manning Support Network. This move landed him on the government’s radar.

Government authorities suspected that there was a second batch of classified documents that Manning ...

On Professor’s Suspension at KU, Journalism Faculty Get Free Speech Wrong, Anthropology Faculty Get It Right

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Recently, FIRE’s Will Creeley took to The Huffington Post  to explain why the University of Kansas significantly erred in suspending journalism professor David Guth, who became a lightning rod of controversy following a controversial tweet in the aftermath of September’s Navy Yard shootings. FIRE wrote to KU on September 22; KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little released a statement attempting to mollify the situation. While Gray-Little clarified that the suspension was “not because of the nature of the professor’s comments,” she nonetheless justified it by stating that it was imposed “to avoid further disruption of the learning environment.”

As Will pointed out, Gray-Little provided those looking to banish controversial professors from the academy a useful how-to guide:

By conditioning the university's response to controversial but protected speech on the basis of listeners' reaction, Gray-Little is sanctioning what's known in First Amendment jurisprudence as the "heckler's veto." She's empowering those who disagree with a speaker to determine if his or her message may be heard on campus. Don't like what someone has to say? Simply threaten to act violently or otherwise "disrupt the learning environment," and the university will quickly censor the speech in question. The university's explanation provides would-be censors with a ...

FIRE and Reason to Celebrate 20th Anniversary of Jonathan Rauch’s ‘Kindly Inquisitors’ in NYC

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

FIRE invites you to attend the 20th anniversary celebration of Jonathan Rauch’s influential treatise on the importance of freedom of inquiry, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, at New York City’s Museum of Sex at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15. The celebration is sponsored by FIRE and Reason.

The event marks both the anniversary of the book and the publication of a newly updated edition. Rauch will be interviewed by John Tierney of The New York Times and will discuss his recent work focusing on why the LGBT community and other minorities benefit from the robust protection of freedom of expression. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will also be on hand to provide brief remarks at the beginning of the event. 

A full event description is available on the registration page. Those wishing to attend must register online. Registration is free. We hope to see you there!

Kindly Inquisitors, 20th Anniversary Celebration with Jonathan Rauch

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
Museum of Sex, OralFix (downstairs bar)
233 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Register to attend here!

 

 

 

Harvey Silverglate: Even Uncivil Students Have Their Rights

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Today in an article for Forbes, FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate reminds readers that students’ rights to criticize a faculty member may not be abridged simply because the students choose an obnoxious manner of expressing themselves. Silverglate reviews the various factors that must be considered in situations like the current controversy at the City University of New York (CUNY), where students protested the school’s hiring former CIA director David Petraeus as a visiting professor by surrounding and shouting at him as he walked to class. The University Faculty Senate Executive Committee at CUNY has criticized these student protesters, but as Silverglate notes,

The CUNY Faculty Senate Executive Committee has seemingly sought to protect what it views as faculty academic freedom by seeking an arguable restriction of student academic freedom to criticize both a faculty member and the university’s decision to offer him a visiting lectureship.

Not enough facts are yet in to arrive at a considered judgment as to whether the student protests cross the line from a legitimate exercise in student free speech to a protest so loud and disruptive as to genuinely represent a threat to Professor Petraeus’s academic freedom. But from the available snippets of videotape, ...

Student at IU Attempts to Censor Fellow Students by Vandalizing Pro-Life Display

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

FIRE often exposes how colleges censor students—but last week, it was a student at Indiana University who decided to engage in some vigilante censorship by vandalizing a pro-life display

According to a student account, new student organization Students for Life at IU intended to have a peaceful demonstration on campus as part of an organized protest dubbed the “Planned Parenthood Project.” The trouble reportedly began when a student approached the demonstration, removed wooden crosses meant to represent the number of abortions performed daily by Planned Parenthood from the ground, and threw them into a trash can. (The student report includes a photo of this.)

Unfortunately, FIRE sees incidents like this far too often. A pro-life display at at DePaul University was vandalized in January; one at Western Kentucky University was vandalized in 2012; another one was destroyed at Clarion University in 2011. Even one of FIRE’s 2013 interns experienced this form of censorship at Dartmouth College when his pro-life display was run over by a car ironically sporting a “tolerance” bumper sticker. 

And it’s not just pro-life students that are victimized by vandalism. In 2011, a professor at Sam Houston State University took a box cutter to a ...

Stephen Henrick on the Sexual Assault Case OCR Ignored

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Former FIRE legal intern Stephen Henrick wrote for The Huffington Post yesterday to comment on the Department of Education’s double standard when it comes to Title IX enforcement. In his article, Henrick explains:

In May of 2012, a student identifying himself as “John Doe” filed suit against the University of Montana claiming he was about to be railroaded into a false conviction for sexual assault. Although the judge hearing the case dismissed it based on a legal technicality, the decision noted that “the process applied to Plaintiff Doe and the behavior of University officials in investigating and prosecuting this matter offends the Court’s sense of fundamental fairness and appears to fall short of the minimal moral obligation of any tribunal to respect the rights and dignity of the accused” (p. 208 of 281 in the record in the case, available here). In other words, a federal judge issued an opinion noting that the University of Montana’s sexual assault grievance process is fundamentally unfair to accused students. 

One year later, in May of 2013, OCR announced a joint Title IX settlement with that same university and the U.S. Department of Justice. … Importantly, OCR claims it examined every sexual ...

Jeff Smith Named To CBLDF Board of Directors

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Jeff Headshot 2013The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund proudly announces that Jeff Smith, the celebrated creator of Bone and RASL has been unanimously elected to serve on the organization’s Board of Directors. Smith joins fellow authors Larry Marder, Jennifer L. Holm, and Paul Levitz, as well as industry leaders Jeff Abraham, Dale Cendali, Joe Ferrara, Milton Griepp, Andrew McIntire, and Chris Powell in serving on the Fund’s Board in direct oversight of its activities protecting the freedom to read.

Smith says, “The CBLDF has always been an important organization to me, and I’m looking forward to increasing my efforts to support its work as a member of the Board. I’m especially pleased to help them with their excellent work protecting the Kids’ Right to Read. CBLDF resources like Raising A Reader, and their constant schedule of education events make a huge difference in preserving the rights we all depend upon to make and read comics.”

CBLDF Board president Larry Marder says, “Jeff and I go back more than 20 years as friends and business collaborators, so it’s an honor to have the opportunity for him join us on the CBLDF Board as we work together to increase the organization’s ability to protect ...

In “A Copyright Masquerade,” Corporate Lobbying Takes the Spotlight

Monday, September 30th, 2013

It's no secret that the copyright lobby exerts an undue influence in shaping Internet policy. But the mechanisms by which that happens—which can include not just the legislative bodies of dozens of countries, but also backroom, off the record dealings—can be confusing and opaque, even to people following it closely.

In a new book out this month, A Copyright Masquerade, veteran journalist Dr. Monica Horten goes deep into those details to detail how the entertainment industries gain political sway, and how policymakers respond to the industry's advances.

Horten focuses on three recent policy initiatives, and painstakingly pulls together facts from publicly available sources about how those proposals came together. By comparing the development of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Spanish "Ley Sinde," and the UK's Digital Economy Act, she draws a clear picture of the mechanisms that play into each of the debates, and who is behind them.

A major part of that story is the export of United States intellectual property policy abroad. To that end, Horten looks at the history and the development of the U.S. Trade Representative's annual "Special 301" report, a document mandated by law which must list countries that do ...

Martha Stewart Joins the Fight Against Lodsys as Apple Takes a Timeout

Monday, September 30th, 2013

The competition is fierce, but Lodsys might be the worst patent troll in America. Using vaguely worded early-90s patents that barely rise above gibberish, it has waged a massive campaign of lawsuits and intimidation against small application developers. Last week saw two big stories in the ongoing Lodsys saga.

The first story is that Martha Stewart’s media company has sued Lodsys in federal court in Wisconsin. How did Lodsys end up in a patent fight with Martha Stewart? Well, the troll claims that everyone who uses Apple's in-app purchase APIs infringes its patents. (In reality, the patents discuss a method for providing remote customer feedback for early 90s technology like fax machines.) So it sent Martha Stewart Living a demand for $5,000 for each of four iPad apps. Faced with such a demand, many companies pay up since it is cheaper than the cost of even the initial stages of litigation. Patent trolls rely on this strategy to rack up as many settlements as possible.

But Martha Stewart Living did not fold. Instead, it took the fight back to the patent troll, filing a declaratory judgment action in federal court in Wisconsin. (Although Lodsys pretends to operate out of ...

BE COUNTED: Gene Yang Celebrates Banned Books Week

Monday, September 30th, 2013

becounted logoLast week, people around the country celebrate Banned Books Week. Gene Luen Yang was among the celebrants, and he took a moment to create original art for a guest post on poet E. Kristin Anderson’s blog. Check out the art below and join Yang to BE COUNTED in the fight against censorship!

Yang was a National Book Award finalist for American Born Chinese, an acclaimed graphic novel that has not yet been challenged or banned, but it has been criticized for the use of ethnic stereotypes. CBLDF featured the book in our “Using Graphic Novels in Education” column, which you can read here. Recently, Yang’s Boxers & Saints became the only graphic novel longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Yang is an outspoken advocate for the freedom to read, as you can see from his Banned Books Week strip:

Banned-web

Many thanks to Gina Gagliano at First Second Books for bringing this amazing piece to our attention! The awesome folks at First Second also caught Gene signing a giant stack of books for CBLDF during Brooklyn Book Fest:

BrooklynBookFestival_2013_CBLDFBookStack-550x733

BE COUNTED! Join the Fund during our 2013 Be Counted member drive and we’ll help schools ...

The Law Belongs To Everyone, We Tell Standards Organizations

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

In the latest salvo in the battle to defend the right to publish the law, EFF filed a counterclaim on Friday against three standards development organizations (“SDOs”), asking a federal court in Washington to declare that the online publication of safety codes does not violate copyright or trademark law.  We are joined in the effort by co-counsel Fenwick & West LLP, Durie Tangri LLP, and David Halperin.

This dispute started on August 3, when three SDOs, the National Fire Protection Association, ASTM International, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (the SDOs) filed a federal lawsuit against Public.Resource.Org (“Public Resource”), led by Carl Malamud, for publishing codes and standards that various government entities have incorporated into law. Public Resource is a nonprofit organization that improves public access to government records and the law.  It acquires copies of public records like legal decisions, tax filings, statutes, and regulations, and it puts them online in easily accessible formats that make them more useful to readers.

In the past few years, Public Resource’s mission has come to include publishing health and safety codes that federal, state, and local governments have incorporated into law.  SDOs often develop the codes, and then encourage lawmakers and ...

US Government Fails Honesty Standards of 12 Year Olds

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Imagine a conversation in the kitchen --

"Patrick did you eat the pie I left on the counter this morning?"

"Mom, I did not eat it for breakfast."

"That's not what I asked. Did you eat it anytime?"

"Any other information is in the classified report."

Would that work in your house?

That's essentially what the government has been saying to the public and to Congress for years now, most recently with General Alexander dodging and providing nonanswers in response to questioning from Senator Wyden.

Sunday's New York Times report has caught them at it again. The report, by James Risen and EFF Pioneer Award winner Laura Poitras, is based on documents provided by Edward Snowden that indicate that the government is using "metadata" from a large set of sources to create social graphs of Americans, using 94 "entity types," including phone numbers, e-mail addresses and IP addresses. It also uses: "public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data."

There's much to discuss here, but let's just focus on one: phone records. Curiously, "[T]he agency did say ...

Get Amazing Manga Gifts At Kinokuniya NYC’s CBLDF Member Drive This Saturday!

Friday, September 27th, 2013

New York manga fans are invited to celebrate Banned Books Week tomorrow at Kinokuniya Bookstore (across from Bryant Park) where the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will be holding a membership drive featuring incredible manga gifts including original art from manga-ka, advance copies of new manga, rare Attack on Titan merch, and more!  Festivities run from 12:00 PM until 4:00 PM.  Every year manga is banned and challenged all over the world.  CBLDF is the organization that fights back against censorship.  Come support our important work and meet Executive Director Charles Brownstein to discuss his experiences with manga and doujinshi in Tokyo!

When you become a member of CBLDF at Kinokuniya’s Banned Books Week Member Drive you can receive some of the following thank you gifts:

- Donors joining at the $25 level will receive their choice of one of the following items (while supplies last): Attack on Titan vol. 1; Sherlock Bones vol. 1; Attack on Titan poster; Sailor Moon poster & button set;  Genshinken Poster; CBLDF Present Manga.

- Donors joining at the $50 level will receive their choice of one of the following items (while supplies last): Vinland Saga vol. 1 HC or their choice of two ...

Banned Books Week Hero spotlight on student activists of Emmaus, PA

Friday, September 27th, 2013

The Banned Books Week Hero spotlight of the day goes to student activist Isaiah Zukowski from Emmaus, PA for taking action when the school board considered a challenge to Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld and Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe, both summer reading books.

Read more about why he took action, his thoughts on book censorship, and his heroes here. To learn more about the challenge, go to:

To view all the Banned Books Week Heroes, click here.

Rainbow Rowell Talks to CBLDF About the Attack on Eleanor & Park

Friday, September 27th, 2013
Rainbow Rowell (c) Augusten Burroughs

Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell, author of the best-selling young adult novel Eleanor & Park, spoke with CBLDF regarding the recent controversy she faced when two parents managed to gain the support of a Minnesota school district and library board to cancel planned speaking engagements due to her “dangerously obscene” book.

Eleanor & Park was released in early 2013, and the literary world fell in love. Not only was the novel an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a New York Times best seller, but it grabbed the attention of acclaimed author John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), who wrote in his heartfelt review of the book that “[he] had never seen anything quite like Eleanor & Park.

Anoka Country Library also recognized how special the story is and selected Rowell’s novel for their summer reading program, inviting the author to speak at Minneapolis-area schools and libraries this fall. Unfortunately, those engagements were cancelled after the Anoka-Hennepin school district, county board, library board, and Parent’s Action League decided that the book was inappropriate. Not only did they rescind Rowell’s invitation to speak, but also demanded that Eleanor & Park be removed from the libraries and ...

Banned Books Week Hero spotlight: DaNae Leu, Davis School District, Utah

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Today’s Banned Books Week Hero spotlight shines on DeNae Leu. Leu played an integral role in preventing Patricia Polacco’s children’s book In Our Mothers’ House from being placed on restricted access in her school library. According to Wanda Mae Huffaker, chair of the Utah Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, Leu’s efforts helped to draw national attention to the book challenge and laid the groundwork for the ACLU lawsuit that spurred the school board to return In My Mother’s House to the district’s library shelves.

Find out more about Leu and her story, click here. See also:

We also would like to draw your attention to the video the Utah Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee produced for last year’s ALA 50 State Salute to the Banned Books ...

Want to get involved in #BannedBooksWeek? Defend books being challenged RIGHT NOW

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

It’s not just Catcher in the Rye anymore.

The Randolph County school board in North Carolina voted yesterday to restore access to Invisible Man. Public statements of support from readers, students and citizen moved them to have a change of heart.

We are currently working on a number of on-going censorship battles. So often the loudest voices are those which demand a book’s removal on the grounds that it is inappropriate or lacks merit. You can help by voicing your support of the book and of intellectual freedom in a constructive and positive way.

Tanya Lee Stone’s A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl is under challenge in the Currituck County high school library in NC; Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban was banned just this week in Sierra Vista schools in Arizona; Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park is under challenge in Anoka-Hennepin schools and libraries in Minnesota.

Your letters of support to those in power in these communities can be a big help!

What You Say (Taken from our Censorship Toolkit)

Dear __________:

I strongly urge you to keep [book] in  [School Name] and to uphold the freedom to read for all students in our ...

“Invisible Man” made visible again by NC school board

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Today, in a 6-1 vote, the Randolph County, NC Board of Education voted to rescind its recently enacted ban on Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.  The original vote to remove it was 5-2.

University of Illinois professor Emily Knox attended the hearing and live tweeted the proceedingHere’s more on the story from Kathi Keys, the local journalist who broke and doggedly kept after the story.

You can read OIF’s letter to the school board here.

Banned Books Week Heroes Spotlight: Students at Lane Tech High School, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Today’s featured Banned Books Week Heroes are the members of the book club 451 Degrees at Lane Tech High School in Chicago, IL, who stood in opposition the order made by Chicago Public Schools to remove the highly acclaimed graphic novel, Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, from classrooms (and, initially, from libraries). These students include, but are not limited to:

Grace Barry

Evangeline Lacroix

Carol Perez

Levi Todd

To learn more about the controversy, check out:

Freedom to Read Foundation files FOIA request to Chicago Public Schools over removal of Persepolis

Free Speech Advocates Defend Persepolis in Chicago

Chip Kidd takes action to free Persepolis

Missing the Point on Persepolis

Also view the Chicago Tonight panel featuring OIF director Barbara Jones, Kristine Mayle with the Chicago Teachers Union, and Lane Tech students Katie McDermott and Alexa Rapp.

Watch March 18, 2013 – Controversy Over “Persepolis” on PBS. See more from Chicago Tonight.

For more information on our Banned Books Week Heroes, click here.

Spotlight on a Banned Books Week Hero: students and teachers from Glen Ellyn, IL

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Throughout Banned Books Week, we will feature Banned Books Week Heroes—outstanding individuals who defended their freedom to read. Today’s featured Heroes are the students and teachers of Glen Ellyn, IL, who fought to keep Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower in their school district. Read about why they chose to defend this novel and what they think of book censorship in general.

From left: Cate Fanning, Nicole Clapp, Carly Basler, Olivia Mullenax, Caroline Makauskas, Maddie Howard and Libby Howard.

Student heroes

Carly Basler, Nicole Clapp, Maddie Giffin, Maddie Howard, Olivia Mullenax, and Corinne Payne

Teacher heroes

Lynn Bruno and Kelly Coleman

For more information on this censorship case, check out the August 2013 edition of the ILA Reporter, featuring a story from Acacia O’Connor, Coordinator of the Kids Right to Read Project, as well as an essay by Maddie Howard, Olivia Mullenax, and Nicole Clapp.  See also the video featuring Maddie Giffin and Maddie Howard calling for support from members of their community:

If you missed yesterday’s feature, Tony Diaz of Librotraficante, click here for his story. To see all the Banned Books Week Heroes, click here.

Talking Freedom to Read with Lauren Myracle in NoLa

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

chris lauren acacia

Celebrated YA author Lauren Myracle joined Acacia O’Connor of the Kids’ Right to Read Project and ABFFE’s Chris Finan on a panel at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance conference in New Orleans on September 20, 2013. In addition to talking about Lauren’s “infected brain” (in the words of one disgruntled reader) and book challenges in general, the panel brainstormed with booksellers about what they can do in the face of censorship issues.


Khaled Hosseini for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out!

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

On the third day of Banned Books Week, we would like to feature a video from Khaled Hosseini reading a passage from his frequently challenged novel, The Kite Runner. The Kite Runner, was the 6th most frequently challenged novel in 2012 for homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, and being sexually explicit; and the ninth most frequently challenged book of 2008 for offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.

Also check out the video of Hosseini discussing banned books, which was filmed at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, IL, 2013.

We hope you will submit videos of your own for the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out and support the Banned Books Week initiative by texting ALABBW to 41518  to give $10. Click here for more information on text-to-give.

 

Responding to the “Invisible Man” Challenge and Ban in North Carolina

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Ralph EllisonThe ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has sent a letter to the Board of Education of Randolph County, NC, concerning its recent ban of Ralph Ellison’s classic Invisible Man from school library shelves.  You can read local coverage of the letter here

The letter urges the board to reverse its decision to remove the book, citing constitutional concerns, the importance of having a broad range of materials that represent a diversity of views in school libraries, and the centrality of the freedom to read in helping develop thoughtful citizens.

The school board will be reconsidering the ban at tomorrow’s board meeting.

See the PDF of the full letter here.

Update: In another response to the school board’s action, a former Randolph County resident, Evan Smith Rakoff, teamed up with Salon.com’s Laura Miller and Books a Million to provide free copies of Invisible Man to county high school students.

Update 2: On Wednesday, September 25, the Board of Education rescinded the book ban following a short special hearing.

Difficulties Remain in Vietnam-Vatican Talks in Wake of My Yen Crackdown

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

A senior Vatican official said Monday there are still difficulties in reestablishing firm diplomatic ties with Vietnam after talks with officials from Hanoi, while Catholics in the officially atheist country fumed over a recent violent crackdown.

Monsignor Barnabe Nguyen Van Phuong, the Asian affairs chief of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, did not elaborate on the difficulties in last week’s talks with the delegation from the Vietnamese government’s Committee for Religious Affairs, saying only that the problems were from the Vietnamese side.

But Vatican analysts said the talks—aimed at establishing warmer ties between the two governments which have no formal diplomatic relations—were dogged by the Sept. 4 crackdown on parishioners at the My Yen church of the Vinh diocese in Nghe An province.

The official Vatican news agency reported on Thursday near the end of the Sept. 15-20 talks that dialogue between the two sides “continues on a path of good relations and cooperation.”

But it said Vatican officials had raised the issue of “tension in the diocese of Vinh,” which they said merits “further investigation.”

Phuong said the Vatican’s representative in Vietnam, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, would be closely probing the incident, in which police fired gunshots ...

Ultramercial: The Case We Love to Hate

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

You might remember this case. We sure talk about it a lot (here, here, here, and here, for example).

Today, for the second time, EFF asked the Supreme Court to hear this case and set the record straight once and for all on what inventions are too abstract to be patented.

Needless to say, there are plenty of bad patents out there. Patents that are obvious, patents that are poorly written or impossible to understand, patents that represent nothing new. But arguably the worst ones are those that cover abstract ideas—ideas that cover the simple way things work. Because when a patent covers those ideas, no one but the patent's owner can use that idea.

Enter Ultramercial. Ultramercial's patent covers watching an advertisement on the Internet before you get access to copyrighted content. In other words, watch a commercial before a YouTube or Hulu video? That's the kind of activity Ultramercial thinks it owns. Of course, the idea of advertising is nothing new. And the judges who heard the case knew that, too. But they found that putting the ads on the Internet "likely" would be really hard—and upheld the patent. (This despite the fact ...

Banned Books Week Hero: Tony Diaz, Librotraficante

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

It takes courage to protect intellectual freedom and the freedom to read. To that end, the sponsors of Banned Books Week have identified outstanding individuals and groups who have stood up to defend their freedom to read by honoring them with the title Heroes of Banned Books Week.

Today we feature Tony Diaz. In 2012, Tony Diaz headed the Librotraficante Caravan to Smuggle Banned Books back into Arizona.

Tony Diaz

To learn more about his story, click here.  To see more heroes, click here.

The University of Kansas Controversy: Defending the Freedom to Tweet

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

University of Kansas (KU) Professor David Guth made news last week for the following tweet in the wake of the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard: “#NavyYardShooting The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.” Considering the tenor of the statement, outrage predictably ensued. Among the outraged are some members of the Kansas legislature, at least one of whom has plainly stated that he will not “support any budget proposals or recommendations for the University of Kansas” as long as Guth remains employed there. In the meantime, Guth has been suspended from teaching and has (for now) accepted that suspension, citing “abusive email threats I and others have received.” 

When professors, administrators, or universities in general precipitate public controversies, especially over “culture war” issues, it is unfortunately the case that some elected officials will think it appropriate to demand that those who caused the controversy be fired, threatening bad consequences for the institution unless it bows to political pressure. These legislators are wrong; it is not appropriate. FIRE has seen this happen before—for instance, earlier this year at the City University of ...

Modesto Doubles Down on Unconstitutional Policies, Claims School Protects Free Speech by Restricting It

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Over the weekend, Modesto Junior College (MJC) President Jill Stearns published a statement in The Modesto Bee responding to the public outcry that arose from the school’s demand that student Robert Van Tuinen stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution to his fellow students on Constitution Day.

The incident “motivated a vast number of individuals across our country to voice their concern through email and phone calls,” according to Stearns. While some of the communications were evidently personal attacks directed toward MJC staff (which is lamentable), Stearns concedes that a great number of the calls and emails represented a genuine concern for MJC’s responsibility as a public institution to respect its students’ free speech rights, as guaranteed to them in the U.S. and California constitutions.

Stearns’ statement does little to allay the concerns of those who contacted the school and those across the country who are outraged by MJC’s actions. In fact, Stearns seems to double down on the school’s restrictive free speech zone policy: 

Unfortunately those contacting the college have no interest in the fact that we carve out designated free speech areas on campus such that any disruption to ordinary operations of the college are minimized. 

...

New Amicus Brief Urges Massachusetts to Require Warrants for Cell Tracking

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

As the highest court in Massachusetts considers whether cell-site data is private in the context of the Fourth Amendment, we filed an amicus brief arguing that when the police want to be able to recreate your every step—figuring out your patterns of movement, where you've been and with whom—they must obtain a search warrant.

Cell site informationa phone company's data about which antenna or tower a cell phone (and ultimately its user) connects tois becoming more precise and revealing. As more people use cell phones and Internet enabled smartphones to communicate, the number of cell sites across the country has grown at a rapid pace. As more cell sites are responsible for smaller geographical areas, it becomes easier to pinpoint a person's precise location. This growing precision means police are increasingly acquiring cell site information as a routine part of any criminal investigation.

In the case before the Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC"), police obtained an order authorizing the disclosure of two weeks worth of cell site information. The trial court suppressed the evidence, finding that since people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their movements, police needed to obtain a search warrant supported by probable ...

Victory for Free Speech: Columbus State CC Eliminates Free Speech Zone Policy

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Four weeks after Columbus State Community College (CSCC) student Spencer Anderson filed a lawsuit against the school challenging its policies on student expression, CSCC has revised its policies to allow individuals and groups smaller than 50 people to use the vast majority of outdoor campus space for speech without notifying the school in advance.

Before the change, CSCC limited public speech to just two small areas of campus and required students to ask for permission to use even those areas at least one business day in advance. Anderson’s suit contended that the policy was unconstitutional on its face and that it was selectively enforced against him when he was told he could hand out flyers only in the less well-traveled speech area. While awaiting the CSCC board of trustees’ vote on the policy change, Anderson’s attorneys stated that they would be willing to settle out of court.

Following CSCC’s policy change, students may now speak publicly, hand out flyers, and display signs in any “publicly accessible outdoor area” besides parking lots, garages, and driveways, as long as the students are not disrupting ordinary college business or damaging property. Events involving more than 50 students will still have to provide the ...

Banned Books Week: Challenged and Banned Comics

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Because of their visual nature, comic books are an easy target for a would-be censor. What might be acceptable in a prose paragraph is not necessarily accepted in a static image. Let’s take a look at some of the titles that have been challenge — and banned — over the years.

Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita, Jr., and Scott Hanna

• Location of key challenge: A middle-school library in Millard, Nebraska

• Reason challenged: Sexual overtones

The parent of a 6-year-old who checked out the book filed a complaint and took the story to the media; the parent also withheld the book for the duration of the review process rather than returning it per library policy. More…

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley

• Location of key challenge: Stark County District Library in Canton, Ohio

• Reason challenged: Sexism, offensive language, and unsuited to age group

Despite the challenge, the library retained the book and now holds two copies, which are shelved in the Teen section. More…

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Boland

Killingjoke

• Location of key challenge: Columbus, Nebraska, Public Library

• Reason challenged: Advocates ...

Banned Books Week: Google Hangouts on Air

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Today is the official start date of Banned Books Week 2013!

Google has coordinated several Hangouts on Air throughout the week with highly acclaimed banned/challenged authors. Check out the list below for more details. Feel free to share the events and invite your friends. We’d appreciate any and all support to help spread the word!

9/23: PEN American Center and the ALA Presents: A Live Hangout On Air with Sherman Alexie

9/23: Banned Books Week event: Author Mark Vonnegut reads from Slaughterhouse-Five and discusses his father’s experiences with censorship

9/24: Google+ and BookTrib Presents: A Live Hangout On Air with Jay Asher

9/24: Celebrate Banned Books Week – Discover What You’re Missing: Jamie Ford and Friends Celebrate the Freedom to Read

9/24: CBLDF Presents: Brad Meltzer on Banned Books Week, a Google+ Hang Out!

9/25: Lauren Oliver and Friends: Banned Books Week

9/26: PEN American Center Presents: A Live Hangout On Air with Erica Jong

We hope you enjoy celebrating your freedom to read during Banned Books Week! Donate $10.00 to help support our initiative by texting ALABBW to 41518. Go to ala.org/bbooks/text-to-give for more information.

Senate Revises Media Shield Law for the Better, But It’s Still Imperfect

Friday, September 20th, 2013

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved a new version of the proposed media shield law, forging a compromise on who should be protected from having to reveal their journalistic sources in court. The amended bill, which is now clear to go for a full vote in the Senate, avoids defining who is a “journalist.” Moreover, it would allow judges the discretion to apply the protection to any person who, in the interest of justice, should be considered a practicing journalist.

The bill is far from perfect, but the new compromise opens the door to non-mainstream journalists, as well as new forms of journalism that may develop in the future.

The Long and Winding Road to a Federal Reporters’ Privilege Statute

The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 (S. 987) would create protection for newsgatherers who are served with subpoenas or other court orders seeking unpublished information obtained during the course of their newsgathering.

Currently, 40 states have shield laws that provide protections against subpoenas and orders issued by state courts, but there is no statutory protection against subpoenas and other orders issued by federal courts. Instead, newsgatherers have had to rely on a “reporters privilege,” interpreted ...

Modesto Junior College’s Attempts at Damage Control Fail

Friday, September 20th, 2013

When government officials say something stupid, their PR folks quickly devise a strategy to “walk back” the statement. Modesto Junior College has skipped walking and is sprinting back its unwise decision to stop a student from distributing copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day. As well it should. Here’s the statement that appeared on its Facebook page within hours of FIRE’s press release exposing Modesto’s policy of requiring students to sign up in advance to use a “free speech zone” to express their views:

The Yosemite Community College District’s (YCCD) colleges have free speech areas on campus for activities such as distributing materials on campus. In addition, people can distribute material in the areas generally available to students and the community as long as they don't “disrupt the orderly operation of the college.” In the case of the YouTube video, it did not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operation of the college. Therefore, we are looking into the matter. The administration of the YCCD supports the peaceful distribution of the Constitution and other materials on campus, which is why our colleges support Constitution Day with activities each year.

A quarter cheer to Modesto for admitting the ...

Join Brad Meltzer’s Banned Books Week Heroes Hangout This Tuesday!

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Celebrate Banned Books Week with New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer on Tuesday for CBLDF’s Hangout on Air on Google+!  We’re going to be talking Banned Books Heroes – the people who wrote the challenging books that inspire us, the students and teachers who stand up to censorship, and the characters who make a difference in how we look at the world!  Join the conversation here!

Join Brad Meltzer, bestselling author of The Inner Circle, Identity Crisis, and host of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded in an intimate discussion about #bannedbooks  and ask a few questions of your own in our online hangout!   www.bradmeltzer.com

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is an American non-profit organization created in 1986 to protect the First Amendment rights of comics creators, publishers, and retailers covering legal expenses.

Every year, people try to take away readers’ power to decide what books are right for themselves or their children by bringing challenges to remove books from libraries. Comic books, graphic novels, and manga are frequently challenged and even banned.  CBLDF assists librarians by providing access to resources and writing letters of support in cases where comics are challenged.  In the past year, CBLDF has ...

Video Game Blame Game Draws Attention From Capitol Hill

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Seemingly within minutes of the tragic D.C. Navy Yard shooting, video games became part of the conversation. Shooter Aaron Alexis’s friends and family mentioned Alexis’s frequent video game play, some calling it obsessive, and foreign news outlets translated this to an addiction led to violent behavior. Several domestic news outlets glommed on to Alexis’s video game play, using it as another indictment on video games, and it appears a few legislators in Washington are listening. An aide to the Republican leadership indicated that they are set to stage a hearing on the matter soon.

Instead of focusing on real guns and Alexis’s evident mental health issues, it appears that pixelated guns are of more concern to these congressmen. From Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog:

To reiterate our last discussion on the topic, even if we put aside the irony of the underlying point — blaming simulated, pixelated guns is fine; blaming real guns is not — these arguments aren’t new. Plenty of officials have been arguing for years that violent games desensitize players and contributes to a larger corrosive effect on the culture.

The problem, however, is that the evidence to bolster the arguments is thin. It’s only ...

CBLDF Launches Banned Books Week at the Brooklyn Books Festival!

Friday, September 20th, 2013

boxersaintsCelebrate the start of Banned Books Week by supporting Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at the Brooklyn Books Festival, this Sunday, September 22, at Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza! CBLDF will be on hand with signed premiums and a special signing with Gene Yang!

The Brooklyn Book Fest is a free annual event brings together authors, publishers, and bibliophiles for a celebration of the written — and drawn — word. CBLDF will have a huge assortment of signed premiums available at our booth, from creators like Art Spiegelman, Raina Telgemeier, Neil Gaiman, and more.

We are also delighted to host a special signing with Gene Yang for his new two-volume graphic novel, Boxers & SaintsBoxers & Saints recently made the National Book Award’s long list for Young People’s Literature, so come congratulate Yang and support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work! Yang will join CBLDF from 10:00 -11:00 a.m.

Join CBLDF September 22, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., for the Brooklyn Books Festival at Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza (209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn NY 11201)! For more details about the comic book and graphic novel programming at the festival, visit their website here.

CBLDF is a sponsor ...

Thirteen Principles Against Unchecked Surveillance Launched at United Nations

Friday, September 20th, 2013
Privacy Advocates Call Upon UN Member States to End Mass Internet Spying Worldwide

Geneva - At the 24th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday, six major privacy NGOs, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), warned nations of the urgent need comply with international human rights law to protect their citizens from the dangers posed by mass digital surveillance.

The groups launched the "International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance" at a side event on privacy hosted by the governments of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The text is available in 30 languages at http://necessaryandproportionate.org.

"Governments around the world are waking up to the risks unrestrained digital surveillance pose to free societies," EFF International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez said during the official presentation of the principles. "Privacy is a human right and needs to be protected as fiercely as all other rights. States need to restore the application of human rights to communications surveillance."

The document was the product of a year-long negotiation process between Privacy International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and the Association for Progressive Communications. The document spells out how existing ...

The United Nations Meets 13 Principles Against Unchecked Surveillance

Friday, September 20th, 2013

In a Geneva room full of representatives from nations around the world, some of the world's largest privacy organizations, including EFF, today warned the United Nations of the dangers of the mass Internet spying being conducted by its own members. We used the side-event on privacy to officially launch our 13 Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, which is intended to return the rule of law to these, and future, digital surveillance programs.

We wrote earlier this week about how the surveillance controversy has been emerging at the international level, but the momentum for seriously considering the damage it wreaks on human rights has been building for some time at the UN Earlier this year, Frank LaRue, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, wrote a detailed report explicitly linking free expression and privacy on the Internet. It listed how essential safeguards to free speech can be stripped away by the consequences of pervasive digital surveillanceand the fear that such spying might be taking place.

We now know, in some detail, that those fears are often justified and that data-collection projects are indeed ...

Charles Brownstein on CBLDF Presents Manga

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Manga-is-not-a-crime-300x300Brigid Alverson with MTV Geek recently sat down with CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein to discuss CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, a definitive handbook about manga for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who has an interest in the category.

Alverson started the interview with a query about why CBLDF chose to focus on manga:

The book came about in response to requests we’ve received from librarians and educators over the years to provide more information about manga. It’s a huge field, and there’s such a vast diversity of content that it’s hard to know where to start, especially if your job is to safely curate a collection in response to your community’s demands. With this guide, we strived to provide that starting point while making an essential reference with value for a wide range of readers and concerns.

CBLDFPM-CVRBrownstein goes on to explain that the intent of the book is to demystify manga, a category of comics that has seen increasing popularity, especially among teens and younger readers. It has become a more frequent target of censors, and CBLDF sought to create a practical guide, a handbook that people can use as a launching point for ...

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff Speaking at Texas A&M, UT Austin Next Week

Friday, September 20th, 2013

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will speak on the campuses of Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) on September 24 and 26, respectively. Both talks are free and open to the public.

At Texas A&M, Greg will discuss the current state of free speech on campus and his book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.

At UT Austin, Greg will speak on the topic of artistic expression and freedom of speech as a panelist at the school’s annual Free Speech Dialogues event. Greg will be joined on the panel by University of North Texas professor Nora Gilbert and University of Michigan professor Daniel Jacobson.

Both Texas A&M and UT Austin are “red light” schools in FIRE’s Spotlight database, which means each school has at least one speech code that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of expression.

Greg Lukianoff ‘Unlearning Liberty’ Talk at Texas A&M

When: 4 p.m., Tuesday, September 24
Where: Evans Library, Whitley Suite
Who: Sponsored by Professor Kristi Sweet

Greg Lukianoff Artistic Expression and Freedom of Speech Talk at UT Austin

Where: College of Liberal Arts, Room 0.128
Who: Sponsored by UT ...

Banned Books Week: Resources for Educators and Librarians

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Banned Books Week starts this weekend, and one way to help prevent challenges and bans is to make sure you’re informed! CBLDF has a number of resources that inform librarians and educators about comic books and graphic novels, and ways to prevent and react to challenges. Let’s take a look!

CBLDFPM-CVRCBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices

Manga is worldwide phenomenon: One of the most widely read types of literature in its home country of Japan, it has crossed the world to become a very popular category here in the United States. With burgeoning collections in libraries and bookstores around the U.S., manga has faced an increasing number of challenges and bans.

Made possible with a grant from the Gaiman Foundation and published by Dark Horse, CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices is a handbook designed to provide a concise and informed overview of manga — its history, genres, and issues. This educational work delves into the history of manga, its major demographic divisions, its most significant creators, and the challenges it has sometimes faced in North America. An expert panel of writers, including not only scholars of the medium but veterans of the manga industry ...

When Startups Seek Patent Trolls as Saviors, the System Has Failed

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

It turns out two tech startups have banded together with patent trolls in order to fight off insane instances of patent assertion.

While this sentence may cause you to do a double take, it's sadly true. In the face of costly, time-wasting litigation, two young businesses have found their key allies to be the same entities that make life a living hell for thousands of other companies.

Nest Labs, a company that makes smart thermostats, entered into a licensing agreement with the notorious Intellectual Ventures, gaining access to their large patent portfolio. This deal would ostensibly help Nest fend off legal action from competitor Honeywell. In essence, Intellectual Ventures is acting as an arms dealer, allowing Nest to bulk up its arsenal.

And eyeglass startup Ditto has also recently joined forces with an infamous troll. Ditto was targeted earlier by 1-800-CONTACTS for featuring a virtual glasses try-on app, the patent on which 1-800-CONTACTS bought after scoping out Ditto's website. We called 1-800-CONTACTS out on its litigious tactics. But Ditto CEO Kate Endress, backed into a corner, sought help from the troll Erich Spangenberg, who offered to cover Ditto's legal fees in exchange for equity. (The whole ordeal was ...

Copyright Industries Pushing for Search Engine “Voluntary Agreements,” Despite Risks to Users

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

A Congressional hearing and a glossy new paper published yesterday by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) both underscore a major push by the copyright lobby to establish extra-legal "voluntary agreements" with search engines, similar to the "Copyright Alert" surveillance machine already in place with some ISPs. These sorts of agreements represent a troubling move towards enforcement regimes that have the speech-squashing capabilities of actual law, but not the corresponding due process or accountability.

These sorts of "voluntary" agreements generally get formed as a way for industries to avoid legislation, but that threat doesn’t seem to apply here. After all, the copyright lobby has already proposed legislation that could have required these kinds of blacklisting practices. That bill, SOPA, was roundly rejected.

The MPAA may wish to invoke the specter of further legislation, and is happy to cash in on its chairman's reputation by reminding the public that he was recently a Senator, but that's not enough to bring rejected proposals back from the grave. And without such legislation, the wrong voluntary agreements could run the entertainment companies afoul of antitrust law. 

What's more, there are plenty of reasons that Google and the other search engine companies might ...

Melinda Gebbie Discusses Lost Girls, Censorship at Edinburgh Book Fest

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Lostgirls_coverLost Girls, the unabashedly pornographic update on characters from children’s literature classics as imagined by Melinda Gebbie and Alan Moore, is without a doubt one of the most provocative graphic novels published in recent memory. In recounting the sexual awakenings of Wendy, Dorothy, and Alice, the book features incest, bestiality, a three-way tryst between the heroines, and many more varieties of sex.

Unlike some of Moore’s other works, Lost Girls is rarely challenged or banned in U.S. libraries — because not many of them have it in the first place. (Of the approximately 150 that do, only a few are public libraries; the rest are at art institutes, universities, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.) Earlier this year, however, the public library system in Auckland, New Zealand, decided not to add the book to its collection for fear of prosecution under the country’s indecency law. And in 2010, importation of the book to the United Kingdom was temporarily halted as Customs officials considered whether it contravened a new law “criminalizing ownership of sexual images of people under 18.”

In a session at last month’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, Gebbie discussed her background ...