Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Nominations Open for EFF’s 20th Annual Pioneer Awards

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Nominations are now open for EFF’s 20th Annual Pioneer Awards, to be presented at Zeum (soon to be known as the Children's Creativity Museum) on November 15th in San Francisco. EFF established the Pioneer Awards in 1992 to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. Nominations will be open until Monday, October 17th.

What does it take to be a Pioneer? There are no specific categories, but nominees must have contributed substantially to the health, growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications. Their contributions may be technical, social, legal, academic, economic or cultural. This year’s pioneers will join an esteemed group of past award winners that includes World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, security expert Bruce Schneier, open source advocate Mozilla Foundation, and privacy rights activist Beth Givens.

Learn about how you or your company can help sponsor the awards ceremony here.

Remember, nominations are due no later than midnight on Monday, October 17th! And after you nominate your favorites, we hope you will join us on November 15th to celebrate the work of this year’s winners. Tickets are available now.

Texas State’s ‘Common Experience’ on First Amendment Should Begin With Revision of Speech Codes

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

We recently took note of an interview featuring Texas State University-San Marcos (TSU) President Denise Trauth in TSU's The University Star, in which President Trauth spoke at length about her experiences as an undergraduate reporter at her college's campus newspaper, as a high school journalism teacher, and as features editor for The Daily Iowan at the University of Iowa.

But what really caught our attention was her answer to the question, "Does the Common Experience theme this year, the First Amendment, have a special significance to you?" Trauth responded:

Absolutely. I did years and years doing research in this very area, so it's more than just a component of the general field I work in—it's my own research area. And it's also the research area my husband was in. Not only did we both [work] on the newspaper together, but we both had the same dissertation adviser and we both worked in law and policy First Amendment areas and taught in that area. This is something that has been near and dear to my heart.

A quick perusal of TSU's website reveals that the theme for the "Common Experience" at TSU this academic year is indeed the First Amendment:

...

Whistleblowers, Intelligence Experts, and Veterans Join EFF in Fight Against ‘State Secrets’

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of whistleblowers, intelligence experts, and veterans urged a federal appeals court Wednesday to reject government attempts to bury yet another lawsuit challenging illegal surveillance with baseless claims of "state secrets."

"This group includes experts from throughout America's intelligence community, and they are all concerned about the government's abuse of the state secrets privilege," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "If courts cannot review potentially illegal behavior by the government, then there's no meaningful oversight. That's unconstitutional. America needs to be able to protect against officials who abuse their power."

EFF's amicus brief, filed in Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama, was joined by Coleen Rowley, a retired FBI agent who blew the whistle on intelligence failures before the September 11th attacks, and Thomas Drake, a former NSA executive and whistleblower about systemic privacy violations in intelligence programs.

Also signing the brief was James Bamford, author of three important books on the NSA, and the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower organization. Other signers include a counterterrorism deputy from the Bush Administration, a senior CIA analyst, a former intelligence officer from the U.S. Army, and other military veterans.

The Al-Haramain ...

Uyghur Scholar’s Classes Canceled

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Many students wanting to attend classes are puzzled by the cancellation.

Judges Slammed for Victim Rejection

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
The credibility of a Cambodian court trying former Khmer Rouge leaders is called into question.

1st Amendment + 2nd Amendment = The Right to Print Arms?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

For the unaware, one of the greatest potential disruptors for entire swaths of the global economy over the next decade is 3D printing. From Wikipedia:

3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material. 3D printers are generally faster, more affordable and easier to use than other additive manufacturing technologies. 3D printers offer product developers the ability to print parts and assemblies made of several materials with different mechanical and physical properties in a single build process. Advanced 3D printing technologies yield models that can serve as product prototypes.

Since 2003 there has been large growth in the sale of 3D printers. Additionally, the cost of 3D printers has declined. The technology also finds use in the fields of jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many others.

High end printers like the one seen in the video (see original link below) range in price from $20,000 to $40,000 but prices are falling fast. Consumer models are on the way as well. One company, Origo, is coming out with a sub-$1000 printer aimed ...

New Paper Sets Forth Principles and Practices for Account Deactivation and Content Removal

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

In the wake of the Google+ Nymwars, the events of the Arab Spring, and discussion surrounding the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), there is a growing need for both companies and users to have a better understanding of how terms of service (ToS) and community policing methods affect online speech. Social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+--as well as video and photo-sharing sites--are increasingly playing the role of the public sphere, and policies around content removal and account deactivation can have chilling effects on free expression.

Today, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) released a joint paper offering best practices for companies and users in dealing with account deactivation and content removal (full disclosure: I am a co-author of the paper, which was first drafted when I was at the Berkman Center). The paper emerged from the Global Network Initiative's ongoing learning series on the subject.

The paper puts forth two sets of recommendations, one for companies and one for users.

The authors suggest that companies:

  • Offer clear, consistent guidelines
  • Provide clear methods of contact with support teams
  • Develop robust appeals processes
  • Embed human rights considerations into ...

EFF To Appeals Court: Border Is Not An “Anything Goes” Zone

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

EFF has long been committed to helping international travelers protect their electronic devices and digital data at the U.S. border. We're continuing to push for some legal limits on the government’s sweeping authority to search electronic devices at the border with an amicus brief we recently filed along with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear and reverse its disturbing decision in United States v. Cotterman (pdf).

Cotterman was coming into the United States from Mexico at the Lukeville Port of Entry in Arizona. Without suspecting he was carrying anything illegal, customs officers detained him at the border for 8 hours before letting him enter the country. The agents confiscated two laptops and a digital camera, and took them 170 miles away to Tucson for forensic examination. The next day, without a warrant or any suspicion that the electronic devices contained anything illegal, agents imaged three hard drives on the computers and reviewed pictures on the digital camera. After two days of forensic examination, the agents ultimately found child pornography on the computers.

The appellate court found the three-day search and seizure reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, despite the absence ...

Amendment to undo Citizens United won’t do

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

A constitutional amendment proposed by congressional Democrats to limit again how much corporations can spend for or against candidates in federal elections is flawed. It attacks one alleged evil — possible electoral and government corruption — with another that runs roughshod over the First Amendment.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., as reported by The Hill, proposed an amendment yesterday that would overturn a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision removing barriers to corporations’ spending their own money, without limit, to campaign for or against a candidate for federal office.

The phrase “unlimited funds,” combined with the idea of corporations’ enjoying free-speech rights, has scared the heck out of a lot of Americans, including many who ordinarily line up to keep the government’s hands off free expression.

In its Citizens United v. FEC decision in 2010, the Supreme Court held 5-4 that it was a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech for the government to forbid or limit corporate funding of political broadcasts for or against individual candidates. The ruling effectively gutted much of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law that was aimed at blunting the impact of such spending in elections.

Read more thoughts about the proposed ...

Get a Warrant Before Snooping through My Cell Phone — Support California Senate Bill 914

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Modern smartphones are a candid window into the intimate details of our lives – carrying everything from text messages to emails, from webpages we’ve browsed to our real time location, from lists of contacts to photo albums. But under California law, an arresting officer can reach into your pocket, pull out your cell phone, and thumb through everything on it – regardless of whether your phone has anything to do with the arrest itself.

It doesn’t matter if you're arrested at a street protest or pulled over for a traffic stop; the sensitive data on your mobile devices shouldn't be subject to the idle curiosity of law enforcement officers.

Help us bring privacy to the mobile phones of Californians -- tell Governor Brown to sign SB 914 today.

Ambassador Urged to Press Rights

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
Congress members want a greater focus on human rights in Vietnam.

Survivors Remember the Camps

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
North Korean prison camp survivors describe their sufferings to U.S. lawmakers.

FIRE Scores Big with Better Business Bureau

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

The Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nationally recognized independent business and charity evaluator, just released its evaluation of FIRE, reporting that in 2010, FIRE met 19 of the 20 Standards for Charitable Accountability. Our nearly perfect evaluation demonstrates that FIRE is very accountable to donors, spends money wisely, has reputable governance, and is truthful in our representations. In these difficult economic times when people must make difficult choices deciding which charities they can continue to support, FIRE's BBB rating provides confidence to our donors that an investment in FIRE is a strong one. FIRE is on track to meet all 20 standards in 2011, which will be reflected in the BBB report issued next fall.

Also be sure to check out FIRE's Charity Navigator review, where for the third consecutive year we've earned the highest evaluation—4 stars—something only 14 percent of the rated charities have accomplished. Like the BBB report, this evaluation indicates that FIRE consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way, outperforming most other charities in America.

We are very proud of these distinctions, and we hope they bring comfort and pride to our current supporters and to those thinking of donating to FIRE in 2011.    

New FIRE Legal Scholarship from Former Jackson Fellow Erica Goldberg

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

FIRE is pleased to announce the publication of legal scholarship authored by former Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow Erica Goldberg.

Erica's "Amending Christian Legal Society v. Martinez: Protecting Expressive Association as an Independent Right in a Limited Public Forum" was published in the Spring 2011 edition of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights. In the article, Erica argues that the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez fails to provide sufficient protection to freedom of association on university campuses. Erica proposes that the Court should have held that the First Amendment right to freedom of expressive association protects the ability of belief-based student organizations to make decisions about membership based on belief, but not immutable status.

In "Must Universities 'Subsidize' Controversial Ideas?: Allocating Security Fees When Student Groups Host Divisive Speakers," published in the Summer 2011 edition of the George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal, Erica explores the constitutional problems raised by the imposition of security fees on student groups bringing controversial speakers to campus. Erica proposes content-neutral standards to govern the allocation of security fees, ensuring that controversial speech is not unconstitutionally burdened on ...

KU Young Americans for Liberty Hold Free Speech Event

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

The University Daily Kansan reports that the University of Kansas (KU) chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) held an event yesterday to shed light on the shortcomings of KU's policies regarding free speech. Students created a "free speech wall" to allow students to express themselves, and passed out 250 "Constitution pamphlets."

KU has a number of policies restricting free speech on campus that YAL members would like to see rectified. The Daily Kansan reports:

"KU could take away the policies of restricting chalking, tabling and putting up flyers in the dorms," Tabitha Marcotte, a junior from Hays said. "I think that would be a huge step."

Another restriction they hope to eliminate are the free speech zones on campus. For example, zoning restrictions on certain areas of campus.

FIRE has given the University of Kansas a "red light" speech code rating, signifying that it has at least one policy that clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. (It has two such policies.) With this event, members of YAL hope to spark conversations on campus about KU's restrictive policies through education and awareness:

"We are trying to promote the activism and the education of individuals," Anthony Orwick, a freshman ...

Comics College Report: Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak Talk Self-Publishing

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

This past Saturday, dynamic duo Fred van Lente (Action Philosophers, Incredible Hercules, Comic Book Comics) and Greg Pak (Incredible Hercules, Incredible Hulk, Vision Machine) kicked off the season’s Comics College with a two hour workshop on the secrets of self-publishing. The intimate workshop covered the relationships among creators, publishers, distributors, journalists, and retailers. Van Lente and Pak brought comics and books to hand out to attendees and shared their personal journeys to success.

The workshop was attended by aspiring writers, artists, and a few who were both. Questions asked covered topics from the cost of self-publishing a comic (“Potentially, zero dollars,” said Van Lente) to the best way for a writer to talk to an artist about deadlines. Pak used his experience with the creation, marketing, and distribution of his film Robot Stories to illustrate the ups and downs of an independent artist getting the word out. Van Lente, never sitting still for more than a few moments, mapped out the comics business on a whiteboard in a complex diagram that demonstrated the intricacies of navigating the industry.

Special thanks to Van Lente and Pak and everyone who came out to make this Comics College a ...

Sichuan Petitioners Get Rare Visit

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
A high-level official tells Chinese quake victims he will provide them with housing and compensation.

Opposition Lawmakers Petition World Bank

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
Cambodian parliamentarians want a loan freeze in place until authorities resolve a land dispute.

The Shrill and the Marginal: The Left’s Criticism of the Media

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Note: The following article is an opinion piece from the Media and Communications Policy Blog, posted here to elicit discussion.  This does not represent the position of the Thomas Jefferson Center.  The Center is a non-partisan organization.

Readers of this blog know that it’s the personal opinion of the writer that the mainstream media are hurt by the years-long perception, among Republicans and conservatives, that the media are unsympathetic to their views.  Given their large and growing numbers, and the availability of competing sources of news and commentary, this perception seems like both a journalistic and a business problem for the MSM.

This said, we’re always on the lookout for those people who view this matter differently, even where they represent only the most marginal points of view.

Thus it is that we’ve come across a piece in The Nation magazine (than which nothing’s more marginal), by Eric Alterman.  Titled “The Problem of Media Stupidity,” the thrust of the thing is that journalists, unwitting victims of a so-called “cult of balance,” are much too fair to Republicans.

As Alterman so elegantly puts it:

There is a specter haunting America today.  It is the specter of stupidity.  A few months ...

No Objection To Parliament Bid

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
Burma's legislative chief says democracy icon Suu Kyi is welcome to be a lawmaker.

First Day of Defense Begins in the Trial of Thai Editor Chiranuch Premchaiporn

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Jiew, courtesy Prachatai / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, more commonly known by her pseudonym, “Jiew,” is the director of one of Thailand’s most popular alternative news sites, Prachatai. EFF has been following Jiew’s work--and her commitment to free expression--for quite some time. In October 2010, following a conference on Internet freedom, Jiew was arrested upon re-entering Thailand. EFF conducted an interview with her shortly afterward.

Jiew was charged under the intermediary liability section of Thailand’s 2007 Computer Crime Act, as well as for the crime of “Lèse Majesté,” which has often been used in Thailand to enforce censorship. For the two crimes, Jiew faces a combined sentence of 82 years. In February, at the start of her trial, we expressed our grave concerns; Now, after a recess of nearly eight months, Jiew’s trial resumed on September 1 and remains ongoing, with September 20 marking the first day of the defense. Each day of the trial has attracted international observers from both foreign governments and NGOs, including Freedom Against Censorship in Thailand (FACT), which has blogged several days of the trial.

What is most alarming about this case is that, under the Computer Crime Act, Jiew--as the ...

A Trio of Post-Bilski Cases Fail to Clearly Define the Meaning of “Abstract”

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

When the Supreme Court decided Bilski, we lamented that the “Court regrettably failed to provide guidance in the future about business method patents.” Now we are faced with the result of that failure: a string of cases that leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what, if anything, Bilski meant.

A little background: abstract ideas are not eligible for patent protection under § 101 of the Patent Act. This is fundamental to the patent bargain; without this limitation, parties could obtain harmful monopolies on simple ideas, e.g., ways of running a business or cooking a meal, and be able to (in theory at least) prohibit people from implementing or even thinking those same ideas. In Bilski, the Supreme Court held that the patent at issue, which covered hedging risks for commodity trading, unpatentable because it was too abstract. But the Court also held that other business method patents might be sufficiently concrete. In other words, no blanket exclusions – each should be considered on its own merits.

Unfortunately, this case-by-case approach has made patent litigation even more unpredictable. Just last week, the Federal Circuit issued a ruling in Ultramercial, LLC v. Hulu, a case involving ...

No First Amendment Right to Attend Cockfights, Court Rules

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Individuals have no First Amendment free-assembly or free-association right to attend cockfights, a Connecticut appeals court has ruled. The court reasoned that the state had a rational reason to punish spectators at illegal cockfights.

In February 2009, police in Waterbury, Conn., arrested several individuals around a cockfighting ring. One was Eddie Bonilla, a spectator with more than $900 in cash in his pockets.

Prosecutors charged Bonilla with violating a Connecticut animal-cruelty law, a section of which provided: “Any person who knowingly … acts as judge or spectator at an exhibition of animal fighting for amusement or gain … shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years or both.”

Bonilla entered a plea of nolo contendere (no contest), reserving his right to contest his conviction on appeal. After received a three-year suspended sentence, he challenged the constitutionality of the law, contending that it infringed on his First Amendment rights to freedom of assembly and association. The Connecticut Appellate Court rejected his constitutional arguments in its Sept. 13 decision in State v. Bonilla.

Read more at Firstamendmentcenter.org

ARTISTS TO THE RESCUE, WAVE II — ORIGINAL ART AUCTIONS BENEFIT CBLDF!

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

With the Canada Customs Case drawing closer, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund continues its vital fundraising auctions with help from artists across the wide spectrum of the comic book industry. In an effort to raise over $100,000 by the end of October, artist supporters and Fund members have truly stepped up and provided benefit material ranging from pin-ups to original pages to covers, all in support of defending a comic fan from the threat of prison and hopefully setting a precedent that allows creators, retailers, publishers, fans alike to travel freely across the border without fear of persecution or harassment.

Artists such as Tony Harris, Camilla d’Errico, Cully Hamner, and Bernie Wrightson have all donated art, generating over $2,000 in one week. With many more cartoonists generously donating original works, the Artists to the Rescue benefit campaign continues into Fall with an exciting new round of gorgeous pieces of comic book art.

The current round of auctions includes a wide variety of amazing works, most notably several incredible pieces from the private collection of Stuart and Kathryn Immonen. This set includes a page from the classic Epic Comics adaptation of FAFHRD AND THE GREY MOUSER by modern ...

Jay Asher and Chris Crutcher for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out!

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

As Banned Books Week approaches, we will feature videos of highly acclaimed authors either reading from a banned/challenged book or discussing the importance of the freedom to read as part of the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-out!  Today we present you with two videos featuring banned/challenged authors Jay Asher and Chris Crutcher.  Enjoy!

Please check back daily for more author videos. Click here for more information on how you can participate in the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out!.

‘Worth a Thousand Words’

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
A Uyghur factory worker risks her freedom to expose ethnic discrimination in China.

Will Threat of Legal Action Spur UNC to Restore Emeritus Professor’s Rights?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

After months of discussion with little to show for it, Professor Emeritus Elliot Cramer plans to file an ethics complaint against University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) General Counsel Leslie C. Strohm, based in part on Strohm's role in revoking his university email account and website. A lawsuit, Cramer says, is also imminent.

This latest development in Cramer's case comes five months after UNC stripped him of his network credentials due to the agitations of an animal activist. The activist, unaffiliated in any way with UNC, repeatedly demanded that UNC punish Cramer merely because his UNC-provided website posted a link to an animal rights organization Cramer was involved with, where in turn readers could follow another link to learn about the pair's private dispute. General Counsel Strohm told the individual, Joseph Villarosa, that she saw "no reference to [him] whatsoever" on Cramer's UNC website and that his complaint was "not a University matter." Nonetheless Strohm ordered Cramer to remove the link from his website, and, even after complying with the request, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp ordered the revocation of Cramer's privileges, stating that Cramer had impermissibly involved UNC in his personal affairs.

The sanctions against Cramer went even ...

Pushing for Dam Construction

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
Laos says a new report will convince its neighbors to give a green light to the contentious dam project.

OUR LOVE IS REAL Auctions and Events Benefit CBLDF

Monday, September 19th, 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is currently raising money for an incredibly important case — a case that could potentially set a precedent that would protect comic book content crossing the border into Canada. With this urgent case on the horizon, the creators of Our Love Is Real, one of the most provocative comics of 2011, have come to the aid of the CBLDF, offering a series of exciting fund-raising events to benefit this vital case!

Writer Sam Humphries and artist Steven Sanders have donated signed copies of every sold-out edition of their enormously popular self-published comic Our Love Is Real. These editions will be available as auction pieces on the CBLDF eBay page, along with signed scripts and two beautiful pages of Mr. Sanders’ original art (here and here). These generously donated items, some of which have never been seen before, are available in anticipation Our Love Is Real‘s wide release by Image Comics on November 2. For fans and collectors, this is a last chance to get copies of the original editions, signed by both creators.

Our Love Is Real would not exist without the CBLDF, without question,” Humphries said. “The freedom of expression we enjoyed on this book is a direct result of their vital work over the past twenty-five years. Steven and I felt it was our responsibly to give back to the fight however we could.”

“With Our Love Is Real, Sam Humphries and Steven Sanders have created a literary work that addresses sexual and adult issues in a frank, satirical, and sophisticated way, and now more than ever, this type of work needs to be protected,” said Alex Cox, Development Manager at the CBLDF. “It’s wonderful to work with a book that shows how valuable our mission is.”

As part of this benefit, Humphries and comics journalist Andy Khouri will also be hosting Promotion and Publicity in Comics, a seminar for CBLDF’s Comics College lecture series. Humphries will be sharing lessons from the marketing of OUR LOVE IS REAL, and, as the Associate Editor of Comics Alliance, Khouri will be sharing insights from the other side of the equation. This ticketed event will be held on September 27, 2011, 6:00 p.m. PDT, at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, California, and is a singular opportunity for aspiring creators to hear from both sides of the publicity equation, presenting every aspect of how to create buzz and build interest for your comic project. Tickets are available through the CBLDF here.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is very excited to have the creative team behind Our Love Is Real come out in such strong support at this urgent time. The Fund is committed to raising $150,000 in legal fees to defend an American citizen facing a minimum sentence of one year in Canadian prison, simply because the comic material he was carrying offended border officials. This case is important because it raises important precedent questions about the artistic merit of comics and the rights of readers and artists traveling with comics on their electronic devices.

Our Love Is Real hits stores November 2 from Image Comics. Fans anywhere in the world can pre-order the book now online: http://bit.ly/OLIRpreorder.

Please bid today on these rare editions and original art, and please join Humphries and Khouri at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles on September 27 for a terrific addition to CBLDF’s Comics College lecture series. All of these events help the CBLDF continue to protect free expression in comics, in our current case work, and beyond!

OUR LOVE IS REAL: CRYSTAL EDITION, SIGNED OUR LOVE IS REAL: FIRST EDITION, SIGNED OUR LOVE IS REAL: MINERALSEXUAL EDITION, SIGNED OUR LOVE IS REAL: Original Art by Steven Sanders OUR LOVE IS REAL: Original Art by Steven Sanders OUR LOVE IS REAL: VEGISEXUAL EDITION, SIGNED

Joanne Jacobs on the Harvard ‘Kindness’ Pledge

Monday, September 19th, 2011
Education blogger Joanne Jacobs has a good roundup of commentary on the Harvard "kindness" pledge controversy. Included are comments from FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and Board of Directors member Virginia Postrel. If you can't think of why anyone could possibly object to a pledge to be kind, this roundup will provide good food for thought.

Praise for New ‘Green Light’ Rating in James Madison University Student Newspaper

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Last week, we reported that James Madison University (JMU) is the 15th university in the nation to earn FIRE's best, "green light" rating by eliminating the last of its speech codes. An article in today's edition of JMU's student newspaper The Breeze praises the university for this victory for students' rights and extolls the virtues of freedom of speech. Lucas Wachob of The Breeze writes:

Freedom of speech is perhaps the most widely embraced political ideal in American history. It was singled out for protection from the federal government as early as the First Amendment, extended to the states and localities by the 14th Amendment, and is now revered as a key characteristic that differentiates free nations from oppressive regimes.

But protecting free speech isn't simple. While it's commonly agreed in this country that criticisms of the government, social norms or other powerful institutions must be allowed in order to promote social awareness, growth and individual dignity, we're faced with ideas that are deeply offensive to us.

This year, it's become clear that JMU is a true believer in free speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national organization, announced last Tuesday that JMU had "eliminated the last ...

Creators and Retailers Unite for CBLDF LIBERTY ANNUAL 2011 Signings

Monday, September 19th, 2011

CBLDF LIBERTY ANNUAL 2011 hits shelves on October 12. In celebration, retailers around the world are having signings with several of the creators who contributed to the best LIBERTY ANNUAL yet!

CBLDF is delighted to have the support of retailers and creators not only for CBLDF LIBERTY ANNUAL 2011, but also for UNITED AGAINST CENSORSHIP, a series of in-store signings that will take place the day the book hits store shelves! So far, we’ve lined up the following great events:

Forbidden Planet NYC
October 12, 6:30 p.m.
840 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
(212) 473-1576, www.fpnyc.com
with Thomas Chu, Kevin Sacco, Brandon Montclare, Michael Bramley, J. Gonzo, and more

Laughing Ogre Comics
October 12, time TBD
4258 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43214
(614) 267-6473, www.laughingogrecomics.com
with Dara Naraghi

Another Dimension
October 12, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
424 B – 10th Street NW; Calgary, AB T2N 1V9, Canada
(403) 283-7078
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Another-Dimension-Comics/180997045270673
with Riley Rossmo

Infinite Monkey Comics & Games
October 12, time TBD
65 East College Street, Suite 1, Oberlin, OH 44074
(440) 775-4263, www.infinitemonkeyonline.com
with Kazim Ali

We’re still confirming more locations and creators, so be sure to check www.cbldf.org for updates and details! Several of the CBLDF ...

First Amendment Rodeo 8/9-9/12, 2011

Monday, September 19th, 2011

A round-up of intellectual freedom issues in the news

Constitution
The Framers’ Constitution: Toward a Theory of Principled Constitutionalism

Privacy/Technology
How 9/11 Completely Changed Surveillance in U.S.
Court Case Asks if ‘Big Brother’ Is Spelled GPS
Notre Dame librarian tries to bring halt to snooping
(profile of former ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee chair Doug Archer)
Why does safer mean less free?  
DOJ Must Disclose Details About its Tracking of Suspects
See also:
US must reveal some cellphone tracking cases
Was Your Cell Phone Tracked? Justice Ordered to Hand Over Data

Under Suspicion: Mall of America visitors unknowingly end up in counterterrorism reports

Patriot Act
Do We Still Need the Patriot Act?

Free Speech/Technology
BART cell shutdown a landmark in cyber-assembly

Censorship
Mo. Suit Asserts Viewpoint-based ‘Sexuality’ Web Filter Blocks Gay Rights Sites, Gives Access to Gay-Bashing Material

Censorship/Book Banning
Sherlock Holmes book removed from school reading list for being anti-Mormon
See also:
What would Sherlock say about book ban?
Parents call children’s book ‘pornographic’

Robert Speaking at UNC on Wednesday on Campus Sexual Assault and Due Process

Monday, September 19th, 2011

This Wednesday, September 21, FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley will speak at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The UNC College Libertarians (including 2011 FIRE intern David Deerson) have invited Robert to discuss the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR's) recent Dear Colleague Letter and its implications for students' due process rights.

"Sexual Assault on Campus: Why Due Process Matters"
7:00 pm EDT
Bingham 317
Sponsored by the UNC Libertarians

As Torch readers well know, FIRE is gravely concerned by OCR's letter and the erosion of due process that its mandates have already caused in campus allegations of sexual misconduct. One prominent example is Stanford University, where the standard of evidence was lowered in the middle of one student's disciplinary proceedings, and student jurors were told that "acting persuasive and logical" was a sign of an abuser. FIRE supporters at UNC are encouraged to attend and join the discussion on this important issue.

If you are interested in inviting a FIRE speaker to your school, check out FIRE's Speaker's Bureau page. Also, see the Calendar of Events for up-to-date information about FIRE events in your area.

California Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Electronic Public Records Case

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

When a state government stores public property information in an electronic format, the format of its storage shouldn't change citizens' right to access the information, right? Well, wrong -- at least in California after a recent Court of Appeal decision. But, in an encouraging sign, on Wednesday, the California Supreme Court granted a petition to hear the case and review the lower court's decision.

The case, which we blogged about here, involves an attempt by the Sierra Club to obtain Orange County's GIS basemap -- essentially, a collection of public property information stored in a database in a GIS-compatible format -- through a California Public Records Act ("CPRA") request. Orange County refused the request and, instead, offered to license the database to the Sierra Club for a tidy $300,000 fee.

At both the trial and appellate level, the courts upheld Orange County's decision to withhold the database. The parties did not dispute that the information contained within the database was public information that could be obtained in a paper format, albeit a voluminous one. Instead, Orange County argued, and the lower courts agreed, that by virtue of storing the information contained within the paper public records in a ...

Appellate Court Sends Tenenbaum Case Back For Another Round

Friday, September 16th, 2011

In a disappointing ruling, the First Circuit Court of Appeals today overturned a decision by a federal district court that had downsized damages in Sony v. Tenenbaum, a file-sharing case in which a jury originally ordered a college student to pay $675,000 for infringing copyrights in 30 songs. District court Judge Nancy Gertner had found the award so "oppressive" as to be unconstitutional, and reduced it to $67,500. The appellate court did not expressly disagree on the constitutional question but found the court should not have considered the issue. Citing the doctrine of "constitutional avoidance," which dictates that courts should avoid tackling constitutional issues unnecessarily, the court found that Judge Gertner should first have considered using a procedure called "remittitur." Under this procedure, she could have lowered the damages amount, but, if the record companies chose not to accept the new amount, they could have asked for a new trial.

Working with the Stanford Fair Use Project and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic, EFF had filed a brief in the case urging the First Circuit to affirm Judge Gertner's ruling, particularly in light of the intimidating effect of excessive copyright damage awards on fair users. Too often, ...

First Amendment Center Comments on Doonesbury Censorship

Friday, September 16th, 2011

This week, the print edition of the Chicago Tribune chose not to run Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip because it did not meet their “standards of fairness.” The strip included excerpts from Joe McGinniss’s upcoming biography of Sarah Palin, and the move by the Tribune has many decrying the silencing of satire.

First Amendment Center President Ken Paulson offered his opinion in a recent column for the First Amendment Center website. He notes that the First Amendment cuts both ways:

The First Amendment guarantees that a newspaper can decide what to publish — or not publish. The Tribune is entirely within its rights, but it’s certainly an uncomfortable position for any news organization that aspires to reflect the full marketplace of ideas.

Paulson also notes the challenges that newspaper editors face:

As a former newspaper editor, I know the challenge of dealing with syndicated material that you find unprofessional or unfair. As an editor, you make daily choices about what to publish, but if you pull a regular feature, the public is more likely to see you as a censor than an editor.

You can read Paulson’s editorial here. Jim Romenesko at Poynter.org also covered the story in a series blog ...

We are now accepting submissions for the First Amendment Writes Competition!

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Submit your poem or song for a chance to win one of the two $500 grand prizes!

Click here for the contest rules and application.

Should Faking a Name on Facebook Be a Felony?: Congress contemplates draconian punishment for Internet lies

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Imagine that President Obama could order the arrest of anyone who broke a promise on the Internet. So you could be jailed for lying about your age or weight on an Internet dating site. Or you could be sent to federal prison if your boss told you to work but you used the company’s computer to check sports scores online. Imagine that Eric Holder’s Justice Department urged Congress to raise penalties for violations, making them felonies allowing three years in jail for each broken promise. Fanciful, right?

Think again. Congress is now poised to grant the Obama administration’s wishes in the name of “cybersecurity.”

The little-known law at issue is called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It was enacted in 1986 to punish computer hacking. But Congress has broadened the law every few years, and today it extends far beyond hacking. The law now criminalizes computer use that “exceeds authorized access” to any computer. Today that violation is a misdemeanor, but the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to meet this morning to vote on making it a felony.

The problem is that a lot of routine computer use can exceed “authorized access.” Courts are still struggling to interpret this ...

Publishers Weekly Reports on SPX

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

CBLDF wasn’t the only group to have a stellar Small Press Expo — Heidi McDonald and Calvin Reid reported on the event for Publishers Weekly, noting SPX’s record-breaking attendance and great sales!

PW cited the attendance of comics superstars Chester Brown and Craig Thompson, the latter of which debuted advance copies of his new graphic novel Habibi to benefit the CBLDF, as a large part of the reason SPX was so successful this year. You can read PW’s full report, including coverage of CBLDF’s attendance at the show, here.

Larry Marder’s CBLDF Liberty Cards Diary: CBLDF Liberty Trading Cards are ON SALE NOW!

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Help support free speech by picking up Cryptozoic Entertainment’s CBLDF Liberty Trading Cards, in stores NOW!

Hi, Friends of Liberty!

After a year of collaboration, preparation and production with Cryptozoic Entertainment, I finally had the finished product in my hands: factory sealed, unopened boxes of CBLDF Liberty Trading Cards.

Like any project I’ve ever worked on, there is always that nervous moment when you take the product out of its shipping case and are about to discover if everything actually came out the way it was intended.

I decided to open up five boxes and see what treasures were hidden inside.

Every box I opened had one artist sketch card, two autograph cards, and 4 or 5 chase stickers in addition to a full set of all 72 base cards and enough extra base cards to get halfway into collecting a second complete set.

Everyone seems to be the most interested in the sketch and autograph cards. I had a good haul.

Check out what I found in each box:


First box: Darick Roberston, Alayna Lemmer, Erik Larsen


Second Box: James Kolchalka, Chris Thorne, John Layman


Third box: Jeff Smith, Jerry Fleming, Darwyn Cooke


Fourth box: Paul Levitz, ...

Judy Blume & Lauren Myracle help launch Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Readers from across the United States and around the world are  demonstrating their support for free speech by participating in a virtual read-out of banned and challenged books that will culminate during the 30th annual Banned Books Week (Sept. 24-Oct. 1), the only national celebration of the freedom to read.  Individuals, libraries and bookstores are uploading videos to YouTube, which will then be featured on the special Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out channel.  Participants are submitting either a reading (up to two minutes) or a description of a local book challenge (up to three minutes). Instructions on how individuals can upload their videos can be found here.  Libraries and librarians wishing to participate can follow the instructions posted here.

The authors of challenged books are also participating in the read-out.  Videos of frequently censored authors Judy Blume and Lauren Myracle have recently been posted.

Other highly acclaimed and/or frequently challenged authors, including Chris Crutcher, Paolo Bacigalupi, Sarah Dessen, William Joyce, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jay Asher, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, also have recorded videos that will be posted in coming days.  Check the Banned Books Week YouTube Channel and www.bannedbooksweek.org/videos daily for new videos!

To support an expanded ...

HABIBI by Craig Thompson, SPX Exclusive Edition

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is proud to premiere Craig Thompson’s eagerly awaited graphic novel Habibi! Through a special arrangement with Random House, benefit preview editions of 100 signed and numbered copies of the graphic novel are available to donors who contribute $100 or more to the CBLDF. Habibi hits stores on September 20.

These exclusive editions were first available at the Small Press Expo in 2011, and come with a beautiful letterpress bookplate, designed by Mr. Thompson.

Craig Thompson says, “It’s very exciting to be able to launch HABIBI at SPX in a way that gives back to the CBLDF. I got my start in small press comics, and have always been supportive of the CBLDF. Being able to help out in this way, and to appear at the show with Habibi feels like a homecoming.”

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, HABIBI tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, circumstance, and love. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world fueled by fear and greed.

At once ...

BAKE SALE, signed by Sara Varon!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Cupcake’s life is pretty good. He’s got his bakery and his band and his best friend, Eggplant. His days are full of cooking, socializing, and playing music. But lately, Cupcake has been struggling in the kitchen. He’s sure the solution to all his problems is out there somewhere. But maybe that solution is hiding closer to home. Sara Varon returns with an ageless tale as dreamy and evocative as her break-out hit graphic novel Robot Dreams. At once deeply metaphorical and hilariously literal, Bake Sale is a story for anyone who’s ever looked for an easy answer to life’s intractable difficulties. It’s also a cookbook: Varon includes seven delicious recipes, from classic cupcakes to sugared flower petals to marzipan.

These exclusive copies of Bake Sale have been signed by cartoonist Sara Varon to benefit the legal work of the CBLDF. They premiered at Small Press Expo 2011, as an exclusive event with the cooperation of First Second Books.

Get your copy today!

“Choose Life” License Plate Challenged in N.C.

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

The ACLU sued North Carolina for approving a “Choose Life” specialty license plate but “expressly and repeatedly” rejecting a pro-choice plate. The ACLU sued on behalf of four state residents after lawmakers rejected six proposals for plates bearing words such as “Respect Choice” or “Trust Women; Respect Choice.”

The Legislature approved the specialty license plate bill, H.B. 289, on June 18, and Gov. Beverly Perdue signed it into law on June 30. It approved a “Choose Life” specialty plate despite the fact that in 2004 the 4th Circuit struck down that very plate, as unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, in neighboring South Carolina.

The North Carolina Legislature “makes available a specialty license plate with the words ‘Choose Life’ to vehicle owners seeking to express their opposition to abortion … [but] Vehicle owners interested in obtaining a specialty plate with a slogan expressing support for a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, including the right to abortion, by contrast, are unable to do so. Indeed, the State of North Carolina … has expressly and repeatedly rejected the development of a pro-choice license plate. Thus, the State has opened a state-created forum for private speech to only one viewpoint in the public debate over abortion, ...

Employees Can’t Be Fired for Facebook Complaints, Judge Says

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Five workers fired for complaining about their jobs on Facebook will go back to work after the National Labor Relations Board ruled in their favor, affirming workers can safely vent their frustrations about the workplace on social networks.

The dust-up began last year when an employee at the non-profit agency Hispanics United of Buffalo vented on Facebook, on a non-working Saturday, about a co-worker’s accusation that she didn’t do enough for the organization’s clients.

Other co-workers chimed in to make comments like, “What the f… Try doing my job. I have 5 programs,” and “Tell her to come do [my] f***ing job n c if I don’t do enough, this is just dum.”

The co-worker saw the messages and passed them along to a supervisor, who fired the workers, citing the company’s social media policy banning cyber harassment of co-workers.

 

Read more from Mobiledia, via Forbes.com

Last chance to register for FREE Banned Books Week webinar

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Registration closes today at 4 p.m. Central for tomorrow’s webinar on Banned Books Week programming for academic, public, and school libraries. Join OIF and a panel of librarians who will share ideas, tips, and best practices for reaching out and encouraging your community to celebrate the freedom to read.

“Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read @ Your School, Public, and Academic Library” will take place Tuesday, September 13, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Central. All participants will also receive a special discount code to purchase Banned Books Week materials through the ALA Store.

To register, please email your name, institution, and contact information to Angela Maycock at amaycock at ala.org. For more information, please visit OIF’s Online Learning page.

Tickets Now On Sale For Gala Tribute!

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Tickets and table purchases are available now for the October 29 gala “Tribute to Robert O’Neil” featuring special guests of renown from the worlds of politics, arts, journalism, law, and academia.  Seats are limited and are available on a first come / first served basis.  Tickets may be purchased on-line or by check.  Hope to see you there.

FOIA Victory Will Shed More Light on Warrantless Tracking of Cell Phones

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday (pdf) that the government must turn over information from criminal prosecutions in which federal law enforcement agencies obtained cell-site location information without a warrant. The suit, filed as part of EFF’s FLAG Project and in conjunction with the ACLU, sought the release of the case numbers and case names in which the government had tracked the location of a person’s cell phone without obtaining a warrant.

The Court’s decision is the latest victory in the fight to stop the government from tracking citizens’ movements without a warrant. The D.C. court’s ruling follows on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to review United States v. Jones – a case challenging the constitutionality of law enforcement’s warrantless tracking of a suspect using a GPS device. The decision also follows the introduction of several bills in Congress that would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before tracking someone’s location through their cell phone. Those bills were introduced in response to calls for location privacy reform by the Digital Due Process coalition, a diverse group of civil liberties groups like EFF and the Center for Democracy and companies like Google and Microsoft, that are pressing Congress to update electronic privacy law for the 21st century. And, of course, EFF has been fighting in the courts against warrantless cell phone location tracking for years, with much success. All of these developments are part of a growing trend toward greater public scrutiny, accountability, and transparency when it comes to law enforcement’s location tracking practices – a need that the court acknowledged in Tuesday's decision.

The current FOIA lawsuit stems from a 2007 FOIA request by ACLU and EFF that sought the release of the Department of Justice’s policies and procedures for obtaining cell-site location information in criminal investigations, as well as the docket information from any case in which the DOJ had obtained location information without a warrant. In response to the FOIA request, the government disclosed that cell-site information had been used in 255 criminal prosecutions but refused to disclose any of the details relating to the cases, including the case numbers and case names.

After EFF and ACLU filed suit, the district court ordered the government to produce the list of case names and numbers in which the government had obtained location information without a warrant and had obtained a conviction. Both parties appealed the court’s decision – we wanted the entire list of cases; the government didn’t want to disclose any cases from the list.

On appeal, the D.C. Circuit upheld the district court’s decision that the government had to disclose the case records that resulted in a conviction. In holding that the disclosure of these records would be in the public interest, the court noted that the “disclosure sought by the plaintiffs would inform this ongoing public policy discussion by shedding light on the scope and effectiveness of cell phone tracking as a law enforcement tool.” The court remanded to the district court to decide whether disclosure of records that did not result in a conviction was similarly in the public interest.

We're very pleased with this week's victory and hope that it's only one more step in the process of uncovering the full extent of the government's location tracking practices. We look forward to sharing the documents that are released as a result of the court's decision, and continuing our fight to strengthen the laws that protect your location privacy.

Speakeasy/Alcohol Liberation Front: Washington DC

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Join the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Technology Liberation Front (TLF) for a special joint happy hour this Wednesday, September 14th in Washington DC!

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston, who just argued the Jewel v NSA warrantless wiretapping case in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, will be in DC working to advance EFF's legislative priorities like fighting the new mandatory data retention bill and pushing for an upgrade to electronic privacy law. He hopes to see as many of you as he can while he's there!

Speakeasy/Alcohol Liberation Front: Washington DC
EFF & TLF Happy Hour
Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 from 5:30-8 PM

Johnny's Half ShellFind us at Johnny's Half Shell on Capitol Hill! For questions please contact membership@eff.org. Attendees must be 21 or older. No-host bar. Space is limited.

Johnny's Half Shell
400 North Capitol Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
202-737-0400

About TLF:
Founded in 2005, the Technology Liberation Front is a group tech policy blog dedicated to keeping politicians' hands off the 'net and everything else related to technology. In the spirit of our light-hearted brand, we hold Alcohol Liberation Fronts from time to time to celebrate both technologies of freedom and the freedom ...