Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

‘Cultural Reforms’ to Target Media

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
China's upcoming Party plenum will debate how to better control the flow of information.

Defiant Activists Plan Chen Visit

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
Several rights campaigners who tried to make the first visit were beaten by security agents.

Getting It Right: Dean of George Mason Law Sets Excellent Example

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

All too often here at FIRE, we find ourselves up to our necks in campus censorship. For example, in just the last few weeks, we've seen a professor threatened by campus police for posting a sci-fi quote and a coalition of student groups silenced by a professor who didn't like their free speech wall. Of course, FIRE fights hard to correct these wrongs. But sometimes the constant stream of rights violations on campus gets a little depressing, to be honest.

So that's why it's a real pleasure to come across a sterling example of how a school should react when confronted with a question about campus speech.

Here's the background, quickly: Recently, two student groups at George Mason University School of Law, the Federalist Society and the Jewish Law Students Association, have taken heat for inviting controversial activist Nonie Darwish to campus for a lecture. Specifically, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on the school to disinvite Darwish because of her past statements regarding Islam. (Above the Law has more.)

So what happened next? Did GMU cancel the speech, as other institutions have done when faced with calls for disinvitations of unpopular or controversial speakers? Did it ...

Publication of the FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules Spawns a Flurry of Legal Challenges

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Now that the FCC’s “Open Internet” net neutrality rules have been published in the Federal Register, opening the door to legal challenges, the lawsuits are piling on.

On Friday, Verizon appealed the order in the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals, arguing that the FCC overstepped its authority in issuing its net neutrality order. Verizon had filed a related claim back in January shortly after the rules were first released, but the court held that suit prior to Federal Register publication was premature. MetroPCS at the time lost a similar challenge on this basis; it has yet to refile post-publication.

Earlier in the week, Free Press filed a petition in the First Circuit for review of the rules. However, Free Press argued that the order doesn’t go far enough, objecting foremost to the relaxed requirements for wireless as opposed to wireline providers. (We agree this distinction is unwarranted.) At least three other groups have also contended that the rules need to be strengthened, with challenges in the Third, Fourth and Ninth Circuits.

These are the same rules that EFF weighed in on when they were first issued by the FCC in December. While we wholeheartedly support net neutrality in principle, we ...

GPS Inventor Joins EFF in Fight Against Warrantless GPS Tracking

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Washington, D.C. - The principal inventor of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and other leading technologists have joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in urging the U.S Supreme Court to block the government from using GPS tracking without first getting a warrant, arguing that the massive collection of sensitive location data should require court oversight.

Roger L. Easton is considered the father of GPS as the principal inventor and developer of the Timation Satellite Navigation System at the Naval Research Laboratory. The current GPS is based on Timation, and its principles of operation are fundamentally identical. In an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court Monday in United States v. Jones, EFF, Mr. Easton, along with other technology experts, pointed out the many ways in which GPS tracking is fundamentally different from and more invasive than other surveillance technologies the court has allowed before, and how law enforcement use of GPS without a warrant violates Americans' reasonable expectations of privacy.

"This is the first case where the Supreme Court will consider automatic, persistent, passive location tracking by law enforcement," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "The government can use location information over time to learn where you go ...

Freedom of Expression Under Attack in Mexico: Social Network Users and Bloggers Face Violence, Political Backlash

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Chilling Speech Through Violence

Bloggers in the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo are being terrorized by the Los Zetas drug cartel, which is trying to silence citizens who speak out against drug-related violence. On the morning of September 24th, police found the headless and mutilated body of a woman with a note referencing an alleged pseudonym, “La Nena de Laredo” (“Laredo Girl”), which she had used to post on Nuevo Laredo en Vivo ("Nuevo Laredo Live"). The woman, who has been identified in some reports as Maria Macias and in others as Marisol Marcias Castaneda, was reportedly an administrative manager at the Prima Hoy newspaper, and also moderated a chat room on Nuevo Laredo en Vivo.

The murder of "La Nena de Laredo" is the second such incident in the border town in as many weeks. On September 14th, police found two bodies hanging from a pedestrian bridge. Signs hanging near the bodies indicated that the still-unidentified man and woman had been killed in retaliation for denouncing the cartel’s activities on a social network. Because the bodies remain unidentified, it is impossible to confirm that the victims really did post to the social networking site, but the message to ...

NY Times Accused of Spinning Mass Arrest

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

As #OccupyWallSt continues just blocks from NCAC’s offices, Twitter user @FreeSpkr sent us a link to a screenshot being passed around in the wake of Sunday’s mass arrest of 700+ protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge:

CBLDF Auctions Heat Up

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

When we announced our latest round of auctions last week, supporters jumped at the chance to win amazing original art from Sandman, Fear Itself, Rose, and more! You still have a chance to win these spectacular pieces of art for your wall, but most of the auctions end October 8, so get your bids in soon!

More than 900 Voice Opposition to Censorship at UW-Stout

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

The outpouring of support for University of Wisconsin–Stout (UWS) theater professor James Miller, whose Firefly and anti-fascism posters hung outside his office door resulted in threats of arrest and a report to his university's threat assessment team, has streamed in from around the country. It's not just the dozens of articles in the national media. So far, more than 900 free speech supporters (including a healthy share of Firefly devotees) have contacted the university through our website, calling on UWS to reverse the violations of free speech it has perpetrated against Miller and the UWS community.

The groundswell of support has been quite gratifying. Nevertheless, UWS has yet to admit its error. In fact, last week's statement from the university only did more to lay bare its willingness to trample on the First Amendment rights of its faculty. In a memo to faculty and staff, UWS claimed that removing Miller's protected, satirical, and clearly non-threatening posters was necessary to "maintain a campus climate in which everyone can feel welcome, safe and secure." As I wrote on Friday, UWS spokesperson Doug Mell has also been making the offensive argument that the tragic campus shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois ...

Will at Boston University this Wednesday

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

On Wednesday, October 5, FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley will give two speeches at Boston University:

Social Media and the First Amendment

12 p.m.
Barristers Hall (Ground Floor), Boston University Law School
Sponsored by BU Law Federalist Society

"Red light" district: Free speech restrictions at BU

4:30 p.m.
College of Arts & Sciences Room B36
Sponsored by Liberty at Boston University

FIRE supporters and students in the Boston area are encouraged to attend! You can register for each event at the links above. To invite a FIRE speaker to your campus, check out FIRE's Speakers Bureau page. Also, see the Calendar of Events for up-to-date information about FIRE events in your area.

Campaign Against Secret Detentions

Monday, October 3rd, 2011
The Chinese government aims to authorize detentions without informing family members.

Craig Thompson Helps CBLDF Bring in $4,700 During APE!

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

CBLDF landed in sunny San Francisco over the weekend to celebrate independent comics during the Alternative Press Expo. Team CBLDF spent the weekend putting exclusive signed premiums into the hands of fans, raising $4,700 to help CBLDF fight the Canada Customs Case!

The aisles were packed, as indie comics fans picked up the latest work from their favorite creators and discovered new talents. Special Guest Craig Thompson’s new graphic novel, Habibi, proved to be one of the hits of the show, with vendors around the room running out of copies the first day of the show! Thompson joined CBLDF for three signings, enthusiastically chatting with CBLDF supporters. Delighted fans walked away with gorgeous sketches in their copies of Habibi, Blankets, Carnet de Voyage, and Good-bye Chunky Rice.

CBLDF thanks Thompson for the support he showed the Fund over the course of the weekend. Thanks also go out to CBLDF volunteer Ricardo Gomez.

You’ll find CBLDF next at New York Comic-Con, October 12-16, 2011!

California’s Reader Privacy Act Signed into Law

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Sacramento, CA - California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the Reader Privacy Act, updating reader privacy law to cover new technologies like electronic books and online book services as well as local bookstores.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were sponsors of the bill, authored by California State Senator Leland Yee. It had support from Google, TechNet and the Consumer Federation of California, along with the Internet Archive, City Lights Bookstore, and award-winning authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. The Reader Privacy Act will become law on January 1, and will establish privacy protections for book purchases similar to long-established privacy laws for library records.

"This is great news for Californians, updating their privacy for the 21st Century," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The Reader Privacy Act will help Californians protect their personal information whether they use new digital book services or their corner bookstore."

Reading choices reveal intimate facts about our lives, from our political and religious beliefs to our health concerns. Digital books and book services can paint an even more detailed picture -- including books browsed but not read, particular pages viewed, how long spent on each page, and any ...

More Dangerous ‘Threats’ Come to Light at UW-Stout after ‘Firefly’ Censorship

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

FIRE has learned that another professor has made a serious threat of violence at the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UWS, also known as "Stout"):

This professor clearly is making a threat to punch through the head of a colleague during a campus meeting.

Someone should notify Chief of Police/Director of Parking Services Lisa A. Walter as soon as possible so that the UWS threat assessment team can assess the threat and take swift action to save the campus from feeling unsafe.

Also, an alert reader has notified me that the "Stout Fight Song" may be an implied threat. Although Stout lost to UW-Eau Claire at last weekend's Homecoming game, the fans evidently were encouraged to "fight ever more" for Stout, or in other words to "fight, fight, fight!"

Pamela Powers in today's Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire) reports, indeed, that Homecoming incidents involving the police were "up slightly" this year. This is another significant fact for the UWS threat assessment team. Maybe UWS should cancel Homecoming next year, just to make sure everyone feels safe.

Speech Code of the Month: Sam Houston State University

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2011: Sam Houston State University in Texas.

Sam Houston State University's (SHSU's) Code of Student Conduct [.pdf] prohibits, as disorderly conduct, the use of "abusive, indecent, profane or vulgar language." While a policy like this may seem at first blush to prohibit only low-value speech, FIRE's current case at SHSU demonstrates that even core political expression is threatened by such a ban.

As an initial matter, it is important to understand that profanity and vulgarity are entitled to constitutional protection.  In Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971), the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Vietnam War protestor for wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words "Fuck the Draft" in a county courthouse. The Court held that the message on Cohen's jacket, however vulgar or unseemly to some, was protected speech, famously declaring that "one man's vulgarity is another's lyric." In Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri, 410 U.S. 667 (1973), the Court upheld the First Amendment right of a college student newspaper to publish an article with the headline "Motherfucker Acquitted," writing that "the mere dissemination of ideas—no matter how offensive ...

Tibetan Flag Removal Triggers Protests

Monday, October 3rd, 2011
Renewed tensions after self-immolation by monks.

SHSU Students Protest Social Media Policy With Signs, Slogans, and ‘Censored Free Speech Wall’

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Photo by The Huntsville Item

The fight for free speech continues at Sam Houston State University, where nearly a dozen students congregated in the center of campus last Wednesday in protest of SHSU's new Social Media Policy and Procedures Manual. The event also served to protest the actions of professor Joe Kirk and the SHSU University Police Department regarding the vandalized free speech wall during the original protest of the controversial policy. Indeed, the same four student groups who organized the original protest were involved in planning Wednesday's event.

According to The Huntsville Item, protesters donned signs with slogans such as "Free? Speech" and "Fcuk Boxcutters," and chanted, "Censorship, f*** that" and "Ain't no power like the power of the people 'cause the power of the people don't stop." SHSU Lovers of Liberty president Morgan Freeman said that she hoped the protest would shed some light on the implications of the social media policy, which could allow SHSU administrators to delete posts at their discretion. "They want to come in and delete everything without offering any sort of explanation," she said. "We're just worried about the potential abuse that could happen from that." If that strikes you as ...

This Week in FIRE News: Reactions to ‘Firefly’ Censorship and SHSU ‘Box Cutter’ Cases

Saturday, October 1st, 2011
On Monday morning we reported that University of Wisconsin-Stout (UWS) professor James Miller has been censored twice, reported to the university's "threat assessment team," and threatened with criminal charges because of satirical postings outside his office door. 

The first poster depicted a quotation from actor Nathan Fillion's character in the television series Firefly. After taking it down, the UWS Chief of Police threatened Miller with criminal charges for disorderly conduct if he posted similar content in the future. After UWS censored his second poster, which satirically stated, "Warning: Fascism," Miller came to FIRE for help. 

On Wednesday, we reported that the chancellor of UWS has declared that he will not defend faculty First Amendment rights from censorship, in an email sent to all UWS faculty and staff. UWS's claim continues to be that "the posters in question constituted an implied threat of violence. That is why they were removed."

Between this and the absurd act of censorship involving a "free speech wall" and a box cutter at Sam Houston State University, FIRE news has made countless headlines this week. Here's a recap:

On the Firefly censorship:

  • Nathan Fillion, star of Firefly, on Twitter
  • Adam Baldwin, Fillion's co-star on ...

Sarah Dessen and Ellen Hopkins for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

On the final day of Banned Books Week, we would like to feature videos of two banned/challenged authors: Sarah Dessen and Ellen Hopkins.

Sarah Dessen is no stranger to censorship. Several of her books have been targets of censors such as Keeping the Moon, Dreamland, Someone Like You, Lock & Key, and Just Listen. For more information on why her books were challenged, please send email to

Ellen Hopkin’s Crank is the fourth most frequently challenged book of 2010. Crank was challenged due to drugs, offensive language, racism, and for being sexually explicit.

We hope you enjoyed the celebrity videos for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out! We have thoroughly enjoyed the 400+ videos now featured on the Banned Books Week YouTube channel. Even though the week officially ends today, we hope you will continue to post videos to the Banned Books Week Channel on YouTube. Any day of the year is a good time to exercise your freedom to read banned books!

Banned Books Week Mural at the First Amendment Monument

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

As part of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, artist Sam Welty created this mural on Charlottesville’ First Amendment Monument.

Banned Books Mural

On Newspapers, Public Discourse, and the Right to Remain Anonymous

Friday, September 30th, 2011

by Jillian York and Trevor Timm

In a recent Washington Times editorial titled “Internet trolls, Anonymity and the First Amendment,” Gayle Falkenthal declared that “the time has come to limit the ability of people to remain anonymous” online. She argued that any benefit to online pseudonyms has long since dissipated and anonymous commenters have polluted the Internet “with false accusations and name-calling attacks.” Newspapers, she wrote, should ban them entirely.

This argument is not only inaccurate, it's also dangerous: online anonymity, while allowing trolls to act with impunity, also protects a range of people, from Syrian dissidents to small-town LGBT activists and plenty of others in between.

Unfortunately, many newspapers have already banned anonymous comments, and while not all have offered an explicit reasoning for their policies, "civility" is often cited as justification in discussions on online anonymity.

Of course, online civil discourse is something to strive for. Anyone who’s spent time reading YouTube comment threads is aware of the vitriolic bile spewing from the keyboards of largely anonymous masses. And it is a truism that when people speak using their true identity, they are more likely to think about the consequences of their speech.

But while identification brings ...

David Levithan, Anthony Shaffer, Karin Slaughter, and Amy Sonnie for the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Today we would like to feature four author videos for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out!

David Levithan, author of many banned/challenged novels including Boy Meets Boy, challenges those who would truly judge a book by its cover, and praises the individuals who stand up for intellectual freedom.

Anthony Shaffer, author of Operation Dark Heart, discusses the circumstances surrounding the publication of his book.

Karin Slaughter, author of Fallen, discusses why books should not be banned. Karin also is the founder of the SaveTheLibraries project, which has to date raised more than $50,000 for the DeKalb County (Georgia) Library Foundation.

Amy Sonnie, editor of Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology and librarian in Oakland, CA, reads a passage from this banned anthology. Revolutionary Voices is the ninth most frequently challenged book of 2010.

We hope you will continue to post videos on YouTube! For more information on the Virtual Read-Out, please click here.

Be Counted At APE!

Friday, September 30th, 2011

This weekend the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is exhibiting at table 239 at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco, where Craig Thompson will be signing copies of his new graphic novel Habibi to raise money for our important legal work! In addition to Craig’s appearances, the Fund will be offering a wide array of items to thank you for your donations, including graphic novels signed by Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, Guy Davis, Moebius, and Paul Pope.

We’re also offering two CBLDF exclusives — a new tote bag by Jim Woodring, courtesy of SPX, for donors who sign up for $50 membership at APE, and Anders Nilsen’s limited edition, undistributed Big Questions: Extras And Outtakes, courtesy of Desert Island, for donors who sign up for $25 Membership at APE!

On top of our booth incentives you can also learn more about the CBLDF at our Censorship Then & Now program on Satuday at 11:30, hosted by CBLDF’s Executive Director Charles Brownstein. Brownstein will also be hosting Drawing Inspiration: The Secrets of Comics Creativity with Kate Beaton, Tom Neely, Craig Thompson, Mathew Thurber, Shannon Wheeler on Saturday at 6.

Read on for a full schedule of events including ...

One Last Reminder for Banned Books Week Events

Friday, September 30th, 2011

One final reminder for everyone in the area – Banned Books Week events are going on right now at the Charlottesville Downtown Mall!

Be sure to stop by and watch the movie Fahrenheit 451 tonight, starting at 7:00PM, at the First Amendment Monument in the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, near City Hall.

Join EFF in Demanding a Digital Upgrade to 25-Year-Old Electronic Privacy Law

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The year was 1986. Top Gun was the top movie, Super Mario Bros. 2 was the hot videogame, practically no one had ever heard of email, and mobile phones were clunky and expensive novelties the size of a brick.

On October 21st of that year, the President signed into law the Electronic Communications Privacy Act or "ECPA", to better protect our electronic privacy against unwarranted government snooping.

ECPA was forward-looking when Congress passed it, considering that the World Wide Web hadn't even been invented yet and that if you were savvy enough to have email you probably dialed up to a BBS to get it. But now, eons later in Internet time, technology has passed the law by.

ECPA has become outdated and the privacy standards that it applies to new technologies are unclear and often too weak. For example, the law doesn’t specifically address cell phone location tracking at all, and it allows the government to seize most emails without ever having to go to a judge. Meanwhile, no one is perfectly sure how it applies to newer online services like social networks and search engines. This gap between the law and the technology ultimately leaves everyone's privacy ...

Republicans’ Out of Control Spending

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Is that headline right? Of course it is.

Let's dispel this notion that the Republican Party is all about "cutting spending." To anyone who really believes that, I have only to ask, "which Republican Party are you talking about?"

The Republican Party under President Bush could actually be defined -- in addition to a flagrant disregard for the Constitution and international law alike -- by disciplined focus on pouring our tax dollars more or less directly into the pockets of their campaign contributors.

For example, the invasion of Iraq, clearly a money maker for the obvious industries like weapons manufacturers, other defense contractors and Big Oil, was itself a massive exercise in GOP credit card spending, but it also set the stage for funneling tremendous amounts of public money to the private sector in new ways. The privatization of services to deployed troops, previously taken care of by the military itself, padded the coffers of Haliburton. The privatization of diplomat security and certain missions in the field, using "contractors" instead of soldiers enriched companies like Blackwater. The private companies charged far more than what it would have cost for the military or other government agencies to handle these tasks, thus ...

The Good Fighters: Kathryn & Stuart Immonen

Friday, September 30th, 2011

To meet Kathryn and Stuart Immonen is a bit like meeting a modern-day Nick and Nora Charles. Sure, they’re a bit more profane, but they have all the sharp and witty repartee of the bantering married duo that defined the Thin Man movies. (You can enjoy some of this banter on their blog.)

The Immonens have been in the comic biz for several years, working individually and together. Their work is irreverent, entertaining, and classic. Stuart is known for his distinctive art style and storytelling ability, on display in the cult hit Nextwave and most recently in the hit series Fear Itself from Marvel Comics. Kathryn is known for her fearless, honest writing, with several Marvel titles under her belt, including the beloved Patsy Walker: Hellcat, Wolverine and Jubilee, and Heralds. Together, they created Moving Pictures, a critically acclaimed web comic and graphic novel set during the Nazi occupation of Paris.

The Immonens recently donated several pieces from their personal art collection to the CBLDF as part of our Artists to the Rescue campaign. They also took a moment to answer a few questions for The Good Fighters.

CBLDF: How were you introduced to ...

Election Candidates Held in Beijing

Friday, September 30th, 2011
Chinese authorities block election bids by independent candidates.

The Media is WAY Off on Occupy Wall Street

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Watching and reading news coverage of the Occupy Wall Street over the last several days has been somewhat infuriating. Commentary on specific acts by protesters and police aside, the overall coverage of the protests as a movement, or even an event, has shown a remarkable departure from the general respect and legitimacy with which the same news outlets treated the Tea Party over the past two years.

While the media acknowledged that many in the Tea Party crowd expressed radical ideas, carried racist signs and showed serious ignorance about both history and current affairs, the Tea Party "movement" was always treated as a valid expression of populist anger and the prevalent grievances and demands of the Tea Party were never unabashedly mocked. This is not the case with the Occupy Wall Street protests, and it shows a scary bias in how protest movements by the Left and/or younger crowds are treated as compared to those staged by conservatives crowds comprised mostly of Baby Boomers and seniors.

While the media seemed singularly obsessed with the Tea Party for a good part of the year leading up to the 2010 elections, the Occupy Wall Street protests were slow to get any real ...

Dissident Suffers Beatings in Detention

Friday, September 30th, 2011
Chinese authorities may have repeatedly beaten a Mongolian writer in custody.

Alabama’s Severe Law Upheld: An Immigration Setback

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and her anti-immigrant allies have a new friend in town: the state of Alabama. Yesterday, Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the Federal District Court in Birmingham upheld the most significant portions of Alabama’s controversial new immigration law, which forces schools to verify the citizenship status of its students and report their findings.

Supporters of the immigration law argue that this provision allows for children of undocumented immigrants to continue attending school, but many observers believe it would create a culture filled with fear and intimidation for undocumented immigrant families.

But the school provision is just one of many of the objectionable features of the law: Police officers will now be able to hold individuals that they suspect to be undocumented immigrants without bond. Additionally, undocumented immigrants can be charged with a felony if they do routine business with the state such as trying to obtain a driver's license. These measures are excessively harsh even in comparison to the draconian anti-immigrant legislation passed in recent years, such as Arizona’s S.B. 5.

While there was a major outcry after a similar law passed in Arizona, the undocumented immigrant community is considerably smaller in Alabama. And while Judge Blackburn’s ...

Court Rules Young Students Have Free Speech Rights

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

A federal appeals court has ruled elementary school students have First Amendment free speech rights to discuss religion with their classmates.

By a 10-6 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that two Plano elementary school principals likely violated the rights of two students who were prohibited from handing out items such as candy canes pens with religious messages to fellow students. However, the court also ruled that principals Lynn Swanson and Jackie Bomchill are immune from personal liability. This reverses an earlier district court ruling that held them liable.

Widely known as the “Candy Cane Case,” Morgan v. Plano Independent School District involves students who were denied free speech rights because their speech was religious in nature, including a student who was banned from handing out candy cane pens with a religious message at a class party in 2004. Another student was allegedly threatened for handing out tickets to a religious play and students in one class were forbidden from writing “Merry Christmas” on holiday cards sent to American troops serving overseas. The school principals argued that the First Amendment’s protection of free speech does not extend to the distribution of non-curricular materials in ...

Greg Reports the Latest on ‘Firefly’ Case in ‘The Huffington Post’

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

In his latest piece for The Huffington Post, Greg reports on FIRE's outrageous case at the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UWS). As he writes, despite FIRE's wide-reaching publicity campaign, Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen released a statement earlier this week standing by the school's decision to censor Professor James Miller.

The case began when campus police removed a poster quoting a character from the sci-fi series Firefly from Miller's office door, threatening to bring disorderly conduct charges against him should he post any other "threatening" images. When Miller posted a flyer mocking the school entitled "Warning: Facism," he was reported to a campus "threat assessment team" and called to a meeting with College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Interim Dean Raymond Hayes to discuss the school's concerns. Under the national spotlight, Hayes canceled the meeting, but UWS has gone a step further by notifying all faculty and staff that the censorship of both posters was justified, chilling expression across the campus.

Rather than recognize the absurdity of all of this, the school's statement claimed that what almost everyone sees as a wild overreaction was just an action to make the school community feel "welcome, safe and secure." But as ...

Award winning authors for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out!

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

We are pleased to have featured so many authors in the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out whose works have been banned/challenged. Today, we are delighted to highlight the many other award-winning authors who have participated.  Check out the videos below!

2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book recipent Paolo Bacigalupi, author of Ship Breaker, voices his concerns over the effect of censors in a free society.

William Joyce, author/illustrator of The Guardians of Childhood series, talks about the stupidity of censorship. Joyce won the Louisiana Writer Award in 2008.

2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book recipient A.S. King, author of Please Ignore Vera Dietz, reads a passage from one of her favorite banned book, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

Kirby Larson, 2007 Newbery Medal winner for Hattie Big Sky, reads from Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky.

Andrea Davis Pinkney, 2001 Coretta Scott King award winner and author of Bird in a Box, talks about the importance of free expression and the freedom to read.

Laini Taylor, National Book Award Finalist and author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, reads from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Paul Volponi, Best Book Young Adult and Quick Pick ...

FIRE Asks Vanderbilt to Respect Religious Liberty

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Fox News Channel and Nashville newspaper The Tennessean are reporting on an ongoing controversy over religious student groups at Vanderbilt University. The Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter at Vanderbilt Law School is among about a dozen student organizations (including five religious groups) that have seen their constitutions "deferred" rather than approved this year for noncompliance with Vanderbilt's nondiscrimination policy. FIRE has written a letter to Vanderbilt expressing our concerns about this new application of its policy, and is requesting a response by October 3.

At issue are two of CLS's requirements for group leaders. First, CLS's consitution states that "All officers of this Chapter must subscribe to the Christian Legal Society Statement of Faith." Rev. Gretchen Person, Interim Director of Religious Life at Vanderbilt, objected, saying that "Vanderbilt's policies do not allow any student organization to preclude someone from a leadership position based on religious belief. Only performance-based criteria may be used."

Second, the document states that "Each officer is expected to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at Chapter meetings as tasked by the President." Rev. Person similarly objected to this requirement, saying, "This would seem to indicate that officers are expected to hold certain beliefs. Again, Vanderbilt policies ...

Peace Prize Scrapped

Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Chinese authorities shut down an internationally ridiculed award one year after its launch.

Political Prisoners’ Release Imminent?

Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Freedom prospects increase after Burma's foreign minister addresses UN General Assembly.

Banned Books Week honors the First Amendment

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Censorship has been practiced practically as long as knowledge has been publicly available. From the destruction of murals and hieroglyphic etchings in Ancient Egypt to the burning of books and burying of scholars in China’s Qin Dynasty, censorship occurs in various (and sometimes unnecessarily dramatic) forms throughout the globe. In the United States, the banning of information intended for general viewing and use is a direct challenge to the First Amendment. In response to that challenge, literary revolutionaries have established Banned Books Week.

From September 24th to October 1st, book aficionados across the United States emphasize the “benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books…” According to the American Library Association, intellectual freedom is the core of Banned Books Week. Persecuted individuals related to said restrictions are instead celebrated as luminaries who aid in absolute literary appreciation, rather than learned pariahs.

Read more of Jennifer Obloy’s article at

Southwestern College’s New Freedom of Expression Policy Eliminates Unconstitutional ‘Free Speech Patio,’ But Problems Remain

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Nearly two years after three faculty members at California's Southwestern College (SWC) were suspended from campus for their presence at a peaceful campus demonstration, SWC has finally reformed its unconstitutional free speech policy. SWC's Freedom of Expression policy previously had confined expression on campus to a tiny "free speech patio." Both FIRE and the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SD) submitted comments to SWC over the past two years regarding proposed revisions to the policy, and on September 13, SWC passed a new version of the policy stating that free speech will be subject only to content-neutral regulations and that public areas of the campus may be used without a reservation.

The troubles at SWC began on October 22, 2009, when a group of students and faculty members gathered in SWC's designated free speech area, the aforementioned "free speech patio," to protest several policies and actions by the administration. Some of the students then decided to leave the area and protest near SWC's main administrative buildings, but were prevented from doing so by police. That evening, four faculty members who had been present at the rally received hand-delivered letters from SWC notifying them that they had ...

Family Research Council Twists The Facts On Marriage Discrimination Case

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch

When Deirdre DiBiaggio and Katie Carmichael went to their town clerk in Upstate New York to receive a marriage license, the clerk turned them away and refused to process their marriage application, instead telling them to make an appointment with a deputy on another day. The couple, represented by People For the American Way Foundation, is now trying to make sure that the clerk does her job and complies with the state’s Marriage Equality Act.

The Family Research Council is now defending the clerk, who, the group writes in an email to members, faced a “surprise visit from a lesbian couple” – a strange choice of words since a major part of the clerk’s job is to process marriage applications. The right-wing organization wrongly insists that “the women weren’t denied a license” and falsely claims that “the two women got their license and were ‘married’”:

Rose Marie Belforti, a small town cheese maker in rural New York, is at the epicenter of the effort to banish Christians from living out their faith in public office. Belforti, a Bible-believing Christian, has been the elected town clerk for nearly a decade. After the New York ...

CBLDF Receives Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund today announces that it has received the intellectual property rights to the Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval in an assignment from the now-defunct Comic Magazine Association of America, which administrated the Code since the 1950s.

The Comics Code Seal comes to the CBLDF during Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the freedom to read, and just a few months following a decision in the U.S. Supreme Court where Justice Scalia cited CBLDF’s brief addressing the comics industry’s history of government scrutiny and the subsequent self-regulation the Comics Code represented. Dr. Amy Nyberg, author of Seal of Approval: The History of Comics Code has prepared a short history of the Comics Code Seal and the era of censorship it represents exclusively for CBLDF that is available now in the Resources section of

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein says, “As we reflect upon the challenges facing intellectual freedom during Banned Books Week, the Comics Code Seal is a reminder that it’s possible for an entire creative field to have those rights curtailed because of government, public, and market pressures. Fortunately, today comics are no longer constrained as they were in the days ...

Banned Books Week is in Full Swing!

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

For all of you Charlottesville locals (and even the wayfaring out of towners!), don’t forget to check out the events for Banned Books Week sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, and the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.  We would love it if you took the time to stop by and participate !

At Sam Houston State University, Debate Over New Social Media Policy Rages On

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Sam Houston State University's (SHSU's) proposed Social Media Policy and Procedures Manual is receiving anything but a warm welcome from students on campus. Opposition to the proposition has emerged in the form of protests planned today for the campus' mall area, with the main event being a "censored free speech wall" that Morgan Freeman, president of the SHSU Lovers of Liberty, describes as being "basically a free speech wall but we are going to cover up ‘profane' things." Groups protesting the new social media policy include the SHSU Lovers of Liberty, Young Democratic-Socialists, Bearkat Democrats, and the College Republicans-the same sponsoring groups of the free speech wall vandalized by SHSU professor Joe Kirk.

The proposed policy has the potential to restrict the free speech of student organizations, as those that choose to join SHSU's "Social Universe" could be subject to censorship by the university. Student groups may voluntarily "opt-in" to the Social Universe, but the policy's restrictions are anything but optional: the Manual states that "SHSU has trademarked ‘Sam Houston State University,' ‘SHSU,' and affiliated terms. As such, only members of the Official Community will be allowed to use identify themselves [sic] with the University's name in ...

Comics College Continues with Jared Fletcher on October 8th!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

The CBLDF’s Comic College series continues with letterer and designer Jared Fletcher (X-Men, Ex Machina, Batman and Robin). Jared’s master session will focus on the creation of a memorable logo, from brainstorming to initial design to final execution. Jared’s work on the X teams’ logos was recently featured on Comics Alliance.

Comics College is a series of master sessions held at our New York City offices, featuring expert advice and insight from professionals of the industry. These sessions are opportunity for aspiring creators to learn about the craft and business of comics from experts

Tickets are available for a $40 donation. Comics College: Logo Design with Jared Fletcher will be held on Saturday, October 8th from 12:00pm to 2:00pm at 255 West 36th Street, Suite 501. Space is extremely limited, so get your tickets quick!

Youth Rights Advocate Mary Beth Tinker for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

We’re very excited to feature Mary Beth Tinker — youth rights advocate and plaintiff in the landmark 1968 Supreme Court case, Tinker vs. Des Moines School District — as a participant in the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out. Tinker’s decision to stand up for her right to speak out against the Vietnam War on her high school campus resulted in the historic legal ruling that “neither students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gates.”

Here, Mary Beth discusses why students should have a say when it comes to book removals in school on the latest video for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out:

We met with Mary Beth Tinker during the National Youth Rights Association‘s Annual Conference. Her full-length interview can be viewed here.

As of Wednesday afternoon we have over 200 participants in the Virtual Read-Out, with over 17,000 page views! Check them out at, and submit your own (instructions at

Latest Artists To The Rescue Auctions Include FEAR ITSELF and SANDMAN Originals!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Last week, we announced the latest wave of Artists to the Rescue auctions, with gorgeous pieces by Mike Mignola — donated by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, no less! We have more pieces from the Immonen’s personal collection up for auction this week!

First up, we have a gorgeous Sandman page by Jill Thompson! The page comes from the Brief Lives story arc, and features the Egyptian goddess Bast and Dream.

Next, we have the pencils for the cover of the first issue of the hit Marvel series Fear Itself. Drawn by Stuart Immonen, the pencils feature the Avengers and would make a great addition to any art collection!

We round out the auction with a number of original sketches and pinups from Fund supporters including Dean Haspiel, Denys Cowan, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chris Giarusso, and Steve Lieber! Show your support for the CBLDF and take home an amazing piece of art — bid now!

FEAR ITSELF 1, Original Cover Art by Stuart Immonen! JONAH HEX! Sketch by Jimmy Palmiotti! MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN, Original Art by Nick Dragotta Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN, original art by Jill Thompson! ROSE, Original Painted Page by Charles Vess, Signed by Vess And Jeff Smith SUPERMAN pin-up by CULLY HAMNER! THE QUESTION! Pin-up by Denys Cowan! THE THING! Sketch by Dean Haspiel THOR! pin-up by Chris Giarusso! ULTIMATE X-MEN, Original Art by Paquette and Story UNDERGROUND! pin-up by Steve Lieber!

Announcing the Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Just last year, the Humble Indie Bundle blazed onto the gaming scene with what seemed like an impossible business model: allow customers to pay what they want for DRM-free games, and let them choose how to distribute their contribution between the developers, the organizers, and two worthy tech charities. People supported EFF for online rights protection and Child's Play, which supplies games, toys, books, and cash to children’s hospitals. The result has been nothing short of miraculous, and we are happy to announce that the digital goodness is back with The Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle!

This iteration features the innovative tactical strategy game Frozen Synapse plus the game soundtrack. To sweeten the pot, customers who choose to give more than the average amount will also receive the entire Humble Frozenbyte Bundle suite, including Trine, Shadowgrounds: Survivor, Shadowgrounds, Splot, and Jack Claw!

We at EFF would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the generous gamers and forward-thinking indie game developers who have proven that a business can have a conscience, satisfy its customers, and thrive.

What’s the Context of the ‘Firefly’ Quote?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
University of Wisconsin-Stout Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen has absurdly doubled down on the university's claim that a quote from the short-lived sci-fi classic Firefly is a credible threat of violence. In an email sent to faculty and staff yesterday, Sorensen writes: "It was our belief, after consultation with UW System legal counsel, that the posters in question constituted an implied threat of violence. That is why they were removed."

Sorensen's claim that the quote is an "implied threat of violence" and thus properly subject to censorship is patently ridiculous. But some people have wondered if the quote itself was a threat in its original context, therefore somehow justifying at least some of UW-Stout's concern. The answer is again no.

I just so happen to own the DVD set of Firefly (yes, I am a Firefly fan, mock me if you will, but fear the Browncoats!). So I found the scene in question and am transcribing it below to give the context of the alleged "threat":
Serenity Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, to Dr. Simon Tam, who is on the run from authorities trying to abduct his sister: You ain't weak and that's not nothin'. You live by my rule, you keep ...

Crash Lessons ‘Still Unlearned’

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Netizens say Chinese authorities are out of touch with reality when it comes to transportation safety.

Shipbuilding Execs Charged in Scandal

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Senior officials at a Vietnamese government-run shipbuilding firm are accused of economic mismanagement.