Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Tennessee’s Ban on Publishing Distressing Images: Let Us Count the Ways It’s Unconstitutional

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Summer is the season to crack down on the Internet — or so Tennessee seems to think.

First, the state made it a crime for people to share credentials for entertainment subscription services like Netflix and Rhapsody.

Now the governor has signed a law that says a person faces up to a year in jail (pdf) if he publishes an image that he reasonably should know will "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" to a victim or "a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities" and doesn't have a "legitimate" reason for doing so. While the crime requires a reasonable likelihood that the image will be viewed by the victim, criminal penalties can kick in if the "victim" doesn't ever actually see it, but someone else finds it distressing.

The legislation — which goes into effect next week, on July 1 — will update a law already on the books that makes it illegal to send communications that the sender reasonably knows would frighten, intimidate, or cause distress to the recipient. As revised, the law will now make it a crime to publish an image on any Internet site or service if someone else finds it emotionally disturbing.

As law professor ...

New Domains May Subvert Censorship

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
An increase in available domain names may weaken China’s Great Firewall.

Hoaxes Aside, Real Risks to Blogging in Syria

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

In the wake of "Amina" hoax, in which the popular blog of a Syrian woman turned out to be a fictional work by an American man named Tom MacMaster, it has been all too easy to gloss over the real tragedies on the ground in Syria.

For years, the Syrian regime has censored the Internet pervasively, with heavy focus on political content, as well as social media. In 2010, the relatively unfettered mobile networks became subject to filtering as well, what had been an alternative means of access to an uncensored Internet. Circumvention tools have long been used within the country, and are often made accessible by cybercafe owners. But most tools lack protection against technological surveillance, and Tor--which provides anonymity as well as circumvention--has been blocked on some Syrian ISPs in recent months.

In February of this year, Syria unblocked Facebook, Blogspot and YouTube for the first time since 2007, but as we’ve previously reported, that decision was less about placating citizens and more about making it easier for the regime to spy on and conduct attacks against them.

And while ‘Amina’ was fake, Syria has arrested or jailed scores of real bloggers and social media users over ...

EFF Urges Supreme Court to Block Law That Erodes Public Domain

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a federal law that erodes the public domain and hurts libraries, artists, and others who want to exercise their First Amendment right to share and receive information in an amicus brief filed today on behalf a coalition of libraries and other digital repositories.

The law in question is Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, which takes potentially millions of works by foreign authors that were previously in the public domain and puts them back under copyright protection. Works affected by this law include Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, music by Stravinski, paintings by Picasso and drawings by M.C. Escher, and writings by George Orwell and J.R.R. Tolkien -- material that has been used and performed countless times. Now that the works are back under copyright protection, use of the works may require paying hefty license fees.

In the amicus brief, EFF argues that this law creates dangerous uncertainty about copyright policy, posing a significant threat to libraries, digital repositories, and others that promote access to knowledge.

"Libraries and digital repositories are using new technologies to make our cultural commons more accessible than ...

UNC-Chapel Hill Surrenders to ‘Heckler’s Veto,’ Revokes Emeritus Professor’s Network Access

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has surrendered to the "heckler's veto" by revoking Professor Emeritus Elliot Cramer's network access following outside complaints about a link on his website to an organization that advocates for animal welfare. Despite telling the complaining individual that the dispute was "not a University matter" and that the university did not monitor the content of websites maintained by professors, UNC nevertheless demanded that Cramer remove the link from his website and later canceled his network access entirely.

Cramer, a psychology professor at UNC since 1966 and an emeritus faculty member since 1994, is an active scholar as well as President of the Board of Directors of the Piedmont Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). He is also affiliated with an awareness group called the Friends of Orange County Animal Shelter (FOCAS), over whose activities Cramer first got into his months-long dispute with Joseph Villarosa. While unaffiliated with UNC, Villarosa has been determined to have the university step in and shut Cramer's speech down.

According to records posted by Cramer, Villarosa contacted FOCAS in November 2010, raising questions about FOCAS' tax status in conjunction with the organization's efforts raising funds to support a lawsuit against an ...

Book Rating Systems: Helping vs. Hurting Young Readers?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Every day leading to the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, the OIF Blog will be featuring a special program, event, or opportunity awaiting attendees. Today we feature:

Intellectual Freedom Committee/Association of American Publishers Program

Whose Common Sense? How Labeling Systems Hurt Young Readers

Monday, June 27, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Morial Convention Center, Rooms 393-394

Though rating systems are intended to provide trustworthy information for concerned parents, they also raise red flags about the “age appropriateness” of many worthwhile books, and make it remarkably easy for censors to target books they find offensive.  A high school student (Jeffrey Nadel, president of the National Youth Rights Association), a bestselling YA author (David Levithan), a publishing industry expert (Michael Norris) and a library researcher and scholar (Christine Jenkins) will examine the impact of such ratings systems on young readers.  The program, “Whose Common Sense? How Labeling Systems Hurt Young Readers” take place on Monday, June 27, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in Rooms 393-394 of the Morial Convention Center.  The program is hosted by the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee in conjunction with the Association of American Publishers.

Libraries provide many valuable services for families, including advice, ...

Larry Marder’s CBLDF Liberty Cards Diary #11

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Hello Friends of Liberty!

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization is dedicated to protecting First Amendment rights of the comic book community. That means all of us: creators, publishers, distributors, retailers, librarians, and fans. It’s CBLDF’s mission to spring into action whenever and wherever we are needed to protect freedom of speech.

We are living in transitional times. In the past, much of the suppression of free speech focused on comic book shops. As the 21st century unfolds, some overzealous people forget how the constitution guarantees our rights to express ourselves without the censorship or impediment of government.

Unjust new laws get passed based on junk science, mass alarm, and flawed reasoning—all in violation of citizen’s constitutionally guaranteed rights. American citizens have had their comics and manga collections confiscated, computers have been seized at the Canadian border for the crime of having comics on their hard drive, an individual state passed a law making a criminal out of anyone who posts an image online that might cause “emotional distress.” These are the new battles. They are newly forged links in a very long chain. The freedoms CBLDF protects have been challenged before. The battles have ...

EFF Asks Supreme Court to Protect "First Sale" Rights

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

EFF asked the Supreme Court yesterday to weigh in on Vernor v. Autodesk, a case that tests whether the "first sale doctrine" will survive in the digital age.

Under the first sale doctrine, once a copyright owner sells or gives you a copy of her work, she gives up control of that particular copy. You buy it, you own it. This principle is extraordinarily important for consumers, as it makes it legal for you to resell, lend, or give away the books, CDs, DVDs, and software that you purchase.

Many copyright owners don’t like these limits; they’d rather be able to completely control the market for their products, including any secondary markets. Thus, in an effort to duck the first sale doctrine, companies increasingly claim that they are "licensing" products to consumers, instead of selling them.

That's exactly what's happening in Vernor. Timothy Vernor, an online software reseller, tried to auction four packages of Autodesk's AutoCAD software on eBay, but Autodesk threatened Mr. Vernor with a copyright infringement lawsuit, claiming that its software is only “licensed,” never sold and pointing to the fine print on the agreement it had with the original purchaser from whom Mr. Vernor obtained the software.


Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Oliver Rosenbloom

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Oliver Rosenbloom is a rising junior at Brown University, where he majors in history. He is an opinion columnist for the school newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald, and is an editor for the Brown Journal of History. On why he came to FIRE, Oliver writes:

My journalism experience in both high school and college has deepened my gratitude for the First Amendment rights that are guaranteed to me as an American. Freedom of expression has contributed to my academic and intellectual growth. In addition, I believe that the First Amendment positively affects all Americans, not only those who are directly involved with the media. Our founders understood that the free exchange of ideas would improve the lives of all citizens by allowing unrestricted intellectual exploration and debate. I admire FIRE's non-partisan commitment to liberty, treating it as an inalienable American right, and not as a means of fulfilling any narrow political agenda.

Although the First Amendment is a fundamental aspect of American identity, Torch readers know it would be naïve to assume that speech is fully protected in American universities. I came to FIRE because I want to combat the climate of censorship and suppression that exists on many ...

CBLDF and Project: Rooftop Team Up to Give Lady Liberty a Makeover!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Project: Rooftop has earned a terrific reputation over the past few years as a place where talented cartoonists show off their design skills by updating and redesigning classic costumes. At Heroes Con 2011, several Project: Rooftop members stopped by the CBLDF booth to help support Free Speech. They put their talents to the test: redesigning the classic icon Lady Liberty.

The character of Lady Liberty was most notably used in wartime advertising during the early part of the 20th century. Wearing a robe, a spiked tiara, and usually holding a torch or a shield, she personified the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.

The cartoonists of Project: Rooftop all found different ways to bring Lady Liberty into the 21st century, and the drawings they created are being auctioned to support one of the most important liberties she represents: Freedom of Speech. They took a moment to talk to CBLDF about their redesigns:

You can find the original pieces up for auction on the CBLDF eBay site now! Our thanks to the participating artists: Dean Trippe, Ming Doyle, Joe Quinones, Maris Wicks, and Joel Carroll.

Lady Liberty by Joe Quinones Lady Liberty by Ming Doyle Lady Liberty by Dean Trippe Lady Liberty by Maris Wicks Lady Liberty by Joel Carroll

Government Domain Name Seizures Violate First Amendment

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court to return two domain names seized in the U.S. government's fundamentally flawed anti-infringement campaign in an amicus brief filed Monday.

"This misguided intellectual property enforcement effort is causing serious collateral damage to free speech rights," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "These domain seizures should cease unless and until the government can fix the First Amendment flaws inherent in the program."

EFF's brief was filed in support of a petition from Puerto 80, the Spanish company behind popular sports streaming sites and, which were both seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this year, even though a Spanish court found they did not violate copyright law. Puerto 80 tried to work with ICE and other U.S. government authorities to resolve the matter without court involvement, but its efforts were unsuccessful.

ICE began seizing domain names last year as part of "Operation in Our Sites," a government initiative to crack down on Internet piracy. ICE has seized 125 domains and redirects visitors of those sites to a banner notifying them that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.

"Neither ...

Troll Fail: Righthaven Smacked Down Again

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Notorious copyright litigation company Righthaven got another smack down from the Federal bench today, in Righthaven v. Hoehn. In line with Judge Roger Hunt’s decision last week, Judge Phillip Pro held that Righthaven did not own the copyright at issue, and – even if it did – the use in question was protected by the fair use doctrine. Importantly, Judge Pro rejected Righthaven's last minute attempt to save its business model by revising its contract with Stephens Media (the publisher of the Las Vegas Review Journal).

Since the Strategic Alliance Agreement between Righthaven and Stephens Media was made public in April, Righthaven has been on the defensive. (See why the assignment is a sham). In an April interview with Wired News, Righthaven's CEO Steve Gibson claimed nothing was amiss: “We gave [Stephens Media] exclusive licenses ... But that does not give them title. We own the underlying copyright.” Wrong. There is no underlying copyright – copyright rights are a bundle of statutory rights, that one either has or does not have. And an exclusive license is a transfer of ownership., i.e. "title."

Eventually Righthaven hired Dale Cendali, an experienced copyright litigator from Kirkland & Ellis ...

No Charge For Detained Artist

Monday, June 20th, 2011
Chinese authorities have held Ai Weiwei for months without a formal charge.

National Security Archive Director to Discuss WikiLeaks, Government Classification

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Every day leading to the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, the OIF Blog will be featuring a special program, event, or opportunity awaiting attendees. Today we feature:

Intellectual Freedom Committee/Committee on Legislation Program

When it Leaks it Pours: WikiLeaks, National Declassification System, and Access to Government Information

Monday, June 27, 10:30 a.m. – Noon

Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom

On Monday, June 27, Thomas Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington D.C., will discuss the state of the United States’ classification system and explore librarians’ role as defenders of access to information. The program, When it Leaks it Pours: WikiLeaks, National Declassification System, and Access to Government Information will take place at 10:30 am in the Queen Anne Ballroom at the Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal Street, New Orleans.   The program is jointly sponsored by the Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Committee on Legislation.

Last November, WikiLeaks and several major global newspapers (including The New York Times), began publishing 220 of over 250,000 leaked “confidential” classified diplomatic cables (1966-2010) from 274 U.S. embassies around the world.  While not classified “top secret,” these cables revealed diplomatic strategies and some potentially ...

Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Emily Kraus

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Emily Kraus is a rising senior at Brandeis University, where she is currently majoring in English and politics with minors in legal studies and philosophy. She is editor in chief of Brandeis' independent student newspaper, The Justice, as well as a member of the Brandeis University Mock Trial Association. Previously, Emily has interned for the City of Philadelphia through the Mayor's Internship Program and for the Anti-Defamation League as part of the JEVS Ash Internship Program.

Of her decision to come to FIRE this summer, she writes:

As editor in chief of my school's student newspaper, FIRE's mission of protecting free speech on college campuses really resonated with me. I have been fortunate enough to have had positive experiences as a journalist at Brandeis: I have never been forced to submit an article for prior approval by my school's administration, and it has always been clear to me that the school values having an independent student newspaper. However, not every student has been as lucky as I, and it is important to me this summer to not only learn about my free speech rights as a student but to help others learn about their rights as well.

I have ...

New Tennessee Law Threatens Freedom of Expression

Monday, June 20th, 2011

There’s a new law in Tennessee that threatens freedom of expression and the right to privacy. Last week, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed into law HB 300, which makes criminals out of those who post images online that cause “emotional distress,” even when the emotionally distressed individual is not the intended recipient.

The language of the bill is extremely vague and open to interpretation; a prosecutor need only convince a jury that an image, phrase, or link was posted with the express purpose of causing distress in order for HB 300 to be invoked. Anyone who sees an image online can become a victim under the auspices of the law as written.

Additionally, the law gives authorities access to the servers of social networking sites based in Tennessee, allowing the search of images and logs without a warrant when certain conditions are met.

In a world where comics are moving with increasing speed from print to digital, a law like this threatens not just the creators and retailers who post images online, but even readers who do something as generally innocuous as posting an image on Facebook.

For a look at the HB 300, visit the Ars Technica website, ...

Needing the Dark to Find the Light

Monday, June 20th, 2011
A recent article by Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal argues that the grim, gory, and dark shadow cast over the genre of young adult literature is inappropriate for its target readers.  This controversial review exposes the fear of many parents who worry about children’s exposure to realities believed to be too mature. [...]

This Month in FIRE History: FIRE Announces ‘Red Alert’ List

Monday, June 20th, 2011

In June 2007, FIRE added a new weapon to its public awareness arsenal, announcing the creation of our "Red Alert" list and naming Tufts University and Johns Hopkins University as the first Red Alert schools.

Schools on the Red Alert list are the worst of the worst when it comes to campus liberty. They are unrepentant offenders against basic rights, and their policies or practices demonstrate an ongoing threat to present and future students. They have earned their spots by instituting particularly restrictive speech codes, enacting seriously unconstitutional punishment on students and faculty members, or refusing to reverse their actions against fundamental rights even after being repeatedly engaged by FIRE.

Eight schools have earned this dubious distinction, of which six remain on FIRE's list: Bucknell University, Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Tufts University. Almost immediately after it was added in June 2007, Gettysburg College ended its ridiculously overbroad sexual misconduct policy and earned its removal from the list. The next year, Valdosta State University (VSU) successfully reformed its "free speech zone" policy to earn its removal from the list, though the extreme disregard former President Ronald Zaccari showed for free ...

Activists cry foul over FBI probe

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

FBI agents took box after box of address books, family calendars, artwork and personal letters in their 10-hour raid in September of the century-old house shared by Stephanie Weiner and her husband.

The agents seemed keenly interested in Weiner’s home-based business, the Revolutionary Lemonade Stand, which sells silkscreened baby outfits and other clothes with socialist slogans, phrases like “Help Wanted: Revolutionaries.”

The search was part of a mysterious, ongoing nationwide terrorism investigation with an unusual target: prominent peace activists and politically active labor organizers.

Read full story.

Apéro with La Quadrature du Net and EFF

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

14 Rue Chapon, 75003 Paris
Friday, June 24, 2011 at 6PM


La Quadrature du Net and the Electronic Frontier Foundation invite you to join us for a drink in Paris to discuss ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), Net Neutrality, and fundamental freedoms on the Internet. EFF International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez and spokesperson of La Quadrature du Net Jérémie Zimmermann will be there to talk about the latest critical battles affecting digital rights in Europe and around the world.

Our first ever joint Apéro, or happy hour, will kick off Quadrature Communication Camp. QCC is a weekend of creativity (spanning visual, animated, and written media and more) with the purpose of creating dialogue about the threats to the Internet and our freedoms. RSVP today, or share this invitation with your friends:

La Quadrature du Net
LQDN is an advocacy group that promotes the rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet. More specifically, it advocates for the adaptation of French and European legislation to respect the founding principles of the Internet, most notably the free circulation of knowledge. As such, La Quadrature du Net engages in public-policy debates concerning, for instance, freedom of expression, copyright, regulation of telecommunications and online privacy.

Mongolian Rapper Warned

Friday, June 17th, 2011
Song lands student in trouble.

High Court’s Garcetti Opinion Strikes Again

Friday, June 17th, 2011

The former acting director of the Beaver Dam, Wis., Public Works Department could not establish a First Amendment retaliation claim against city officials who allegedly refused to promote him to full director after he publicly criticized them, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

The appellate court decision shows how difficult it is for public employees to maintain free-speech lawsuits since the Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006), in which the high court ruled that public employees have no free-speech rights for official job-duty speech.

Read David Hudson’s article in full.

Alison Meyer Joins FIRE as its New Development Associate

Friday, June 17th, 2011

FIRE is happy to welcome Alison "Ali" Meyer as the newest member of our team! Ali graduated cum laude from Tufts University in 2011, where she earned a B.A. in Philosophy and was editor-in-chief of The Primary Source, a campus newspaper often targeted by the school's administration. Her experiences with a variety of forms of censorship during her undergraduate career led her to FIRE and, more importantly, to the defense of free speech on her campus and on campuses across the country. Before joining FIRE, Ali interned at the Cato Institute, where she researched the implications of tax increment financing and worked on media relations.

We are thrilled to have Ali as part of the FIRE family and are looking forward to all she will bring to the fight for liberty on campus. Welcome, Ali!

This Week in the News: The Toxic Mixture of OCR Regulations and Campus Speech Codes, and Whistleblowing UCLA Professor Back in the News

Friday, June 17th, 2011

FIRE's opposition to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR's) recent policy guidance to colleges and universities is still in the news. This week, Greg published an article in The Huffington Post (a version of the article also appeared in The Daily Caller) arguing that OCR's new guidance for addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus threatens to create "a perfect storm for rights violations" by encouraging universities to enforce overbroad harassment codes and ignore individual rights.

Torch readers may remember the ordeal of Dr. James Enstrom, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor who was forced to fight for his job after UCLA retaliated against him for exposing a California Air Resources Board (CARB) scientist with a fake Ph.D., as well as other staffing irregularities, and for Enstrom's scientific critique of findings by CARB that were used to create air pollution regulations in the state. Peter Wood, in The Chronicle of Higher Education noted the dangerous threat to academic freedom Enstrom's case represents.

In other free speech news, Michael Mayday wrote an article in The Daily Caller about two separate rulings in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ...

Come to the Merritt Fund/NMRT Awards Reception Sunday, 6/26

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Every day leading to the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, the OIF Blog will be featuring a special program, event, or opportunity awaiting attendees. Today we feature:

Merritt Fund/NMRT Reception

Sunday, June 26 · 7:30-10:00 p.m.

L’Entrepot Gallery, 527 Julia St.

Live music! Food! Inexpensive libations! Awards! Dancing! Art! LIBRARIANS!

What could be better?

ALA conference goers, we hope you will join the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund at its annual “Reception for a Cause” on Sunday, June 26. This year we’re doing it a bit differently.  We’re joining with the New Members Round Table, who will be presenting their annual Shirley Olofson Memorial Award and 3M/NMRT Professional Development grants.

The event will be:

Complimentary hors d’oeuvres provided. No charge for admission – and for only $10 you’ll get a wristband giving you access to the open beer/wine bar! Live music by the Bryce Eastwood Quartet.

You can RSVP on Facebook at!/event.php?eid=184349558275994 or just show up.

Many thanks to the Intellectual Freedom Round Table and ALA President Elect Molly Raphael for their generous support of this event!

Prosecutors Demand Limitless Warrant in Vermont Computer Search

Friday, June 17th, 2011
San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU Vermont, urged the Vermont Supreme Court today to reject prosecutors' demands to override a judge's instructions and allow a limitless warrant for a computer search. During the investigation into an alleged identity theft last year, a detective from the Burlington Police Department applied for a wide-ranging search warrant, which included any computers, compact discs, cell phones, or mobile devices in the home, despite noting it was possible that some of the equipment might be owned by people not suspected in a crime. A judge granted the warrant application after putting reasonable bounds on the search, as well as including basic privacy protections for information and data not connected to the identity theft under investigation. In response, prosecutors filed a petition for extraordinary relief with the Vermont Supreme Court, asking that the original overbroad warrant be approved. In an amicus brief filed today, EFF argues that the judge was following the law when he limited the search warrant in order to protect basic privacy rights. "Our personal computers contain a unprecedented amount of highly sensitive personal information -- things like medical histories, financial ...

Greg in ‘The Huffington Post’ on Federal Government’s Threat to Free Speech

Friday, June 17th, 2011

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is examining one of the newest dangers for free speech on campus in his latest piece for The Huffington Post. (A version of the article also appeared in The Daily Caller.) Greg argues that the new guidance for addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault cases laid out by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in an April 4, 2011, letter threatens to create "a perfect storm for rights violations" by encouraging universities to enforce overbroad harassment codes and ignore individual rights:

While OCR's April 4 letter is aggressive and specific in requiring universities to police harassment, it took little to no notice of the fact that most university harassment policies, and many university sexual misconduct (a euphemism for various kinds of sexual assault, including rape) policies, are dangerously broad.

Indeed, since the 1980s, harassment policies have been the main vehicle for campus speech codes--that is, collegiate policies that restrict speech protected by the First Amendment. These policies don't just sweep in a little protected speech; in some cases, they go so far as to make virtually every student on campus guilty of harassment.

To read more, visit The Huffington Post.

First Amendment Rodeo 5/24-6/13/11

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Privacy/Patriot Act
Dem Senator: Allow Patriot Act to expire

Privacy F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds

Freedom of Speech
Clermont library rooms reopen to religious groups
United Nations Declares Internet Access a Basic Human Right

See also:
The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression A Federal Study Finds That Local Reporting Has Waned
Tennessee law bans posting images that “cause emotional distress”
Shhh! No Opinions in the Library!!

Parents want Findley’s The Wars banned from school
Darkness Too Visible
See Responses
Laurie Halse Anderson
Hammervision (Chicago)
Kid Lit World Responds to WSJ Attack on YA Fiction
Book choices likely to be school board election topic
Sherman Alexie: Why the Best Kids Books Are Written In Blood

ACLU warns school district over web filtering
U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors



Larry Marder’s CBLDF Liberty Cards Diary #10

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Hey there, Friends if Liberty!

Here I am again with the tenth episode of behind the scenes at CBLDF Liberty Trading cards.

You know the story by now, don’t you? CBLDF and Cryptozoic Entertainment’s have teamed up to produce a 72 card set showing the incredible history of comic book censorship through words and pictures. The illustrations for the base cards are stacking up and I’ll be showing some more of those next week.

In addition to the sub-set of creator autograph cards, we’re also featuring original one-of-a-kind artist sketch cards featuring some of the most talented people in the business.

Today’s sneak previews feature one of the most popular characters ever created by Dark Horse Comics: GHOST! Elisa Cameron found herself dead and sure wasn’t happy about it! She rose as Ghost, a beautiful but lethal specter intent on unraveling the mystery of her demise.

A wide array of artists with different styles chose GHOST from the pool of characters available to them for their contributions to CBLDF Liberty Trading cards. A spectral sneak peek:

Clockwise from upper left:

G. Webber

Steve Ellis (High Moon, Lobo)

Bianca Thompson

Simon Fraser (Nikolai Dante, Judge Dredd)


Student Speech Online: Can/Should Schools Punish It?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011
On Monday, June 13th 2011, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that two students who both created fake MySpace profiles parodying their school principals had been unfairly disciplined by their respective school districts. In both cases, the Court found that the schools had not shown that the students’ actions were sufficiently disruptive of [...]

Don’t Forget! FIRE Happy Hour TONIGHT in New York City

Thursday, June 16th, 2011
A reminder to all of our New York City friends and supporters that FIRE is co-hosting a happy hour with the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the National Coalition Against Censorship tonight. Join us on the Lower East Side at The Porch, 115 Avenue C, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. to meet fellow liberty lovers and catch up with FIRE friends. There will be a cash bar and appetizers served. The event is open to the public, so feel free to bring your friends. We hope to see you there!

New Clark College Statement on Free Expression Threatens Free Expression

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

I've been at FIRE long enough not to necessarily feel reassured when I read reports of a college or university promising to review and/or revise its free speech policies in response to student outcry over offensive speech. Sure enough, Clark College, a public two-year college in Washington State, has issued a new policy that threatens to undermine free speech, even as the college's president makes efforts to affirm it.

Clark College was rocked last fall when Clark student and alleged National Socialist Movement member Nathaniel Goncalves posted flyers around the campus promoting "white pride." The Clark community responded with various measures of counter-speech, including these flyers, and held forums with the community to discuss the incident's impact. Months later, on May 19, Clark capped off its institutional response to the incident by releasing a new statement on "Diversity and Free Expression at Clark College." At first the statement doesn't look so bad, and Clark President Bob Knight seems to say the right things regarding protecting offensive speech in The Independent, telling the campus newspaper that "I don't like it. I detest it. But I can't stop it."

Constitutionally speaking, Knight is right. As we commonly point out here, ...

Microsoft Tries to Quash Innovation in Interoperability Battle Over Xbox

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court Wednesday to block Microsoft Corporation's attempt to misuse copyright law to thwart a competitor offering memory cards for the Xbox gaming system.

Datel Holdings is a British company that sells memory cards that compete with Microsoft's own memory card product for the Xbox, and Microsoft and Datel are in the middle of court battle over the legality of the product. As part of the case, Microsoft claims that Xbox users violate U.S. federal law -- the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) -- if they use third-party cards. In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, EFF explains that the DMCA was aimed at preventing access to copyrighted material by non-paying customers, not at blocking competitors or policing users' behavior in regards to their own property.

"Letting Xbox owners use a third-party memory card does not put Microsoft at risk of copyright infringement," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Microsoft is misusing the law in order to sell more accessories and control customers' use of the Xbox. The DMCA is supposed to be a shield against piracy, not a weapon to smash competition and consumer choice."

If Microsoft were to ...

Fabricated Evidence Used in Deportation

Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Court documents show that a Uyghur refugee was repatriated to China under false pretenses.

Third Circuit Rules H.S. Students Cannot Be Punished for Off-Campus Speech

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

The much-anticipated rulings from the full 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have interpreted a key U.S. Supreme Court precedent as inapplicable to lewd, vulgar student Internet speech made off campus.

The 3rd Circuit ruled June 13 in J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District and Layshock v. Hermitage School District that students’ First Amendment rights were violated when they were suspended for mocking their school principals on MySpace.

Read more.

Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Rachel Cheeseman

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Rachel Cheeseman is a rising senior from DePauw University, where she is a member of the Media Fellows Honors Program majoring in biology and political science. She is currently managing editor of The DePauw, the campus newspaper, and received a grant from the university to work as a political reporter for Oregon Capitol News, a news website based in Portland, Oregon. Rachel is also cultural chair of the Alpha chapter of Alpha Chi Omega sorority and has served as a Resident Assistant for two years. On why she came to FIRE, Rachel writes:

While the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights are certainly components of America's history, I am not here to defend a document or its symbolic importance. What attracts me to FIRE's mission primarily is the defense of the philosophies and principles that form their foundation, namely that we are all able to lead fuller, more satisfying lives when we aren't living in fear of arbitrary authority. Everyone should be able to live without that burden, particularly when it comes to something as personal and intimate as our values, ideas and beliefs.

Throughout my life, I have made the greatest effort to be a tolerant and ...

This Week in Internet Censorship

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Canadian Filtering Tool Used in Middle East

Canadian company Netsweeper produces filtering software that is utilized by several countries to block web sites across various categories. In Yemen, popular blogging site Tumblr is blocked, due to Netsweeper’s categorization of the site as “pornographic.”

Similarly, a number of U.S. companies, including McAfee SmartFilter, Websense, and Cisco, produce software used by foreign governments to block and censor websites. So far, no policy exists to prevent the export of such products.

In a recent article in the Toronto Star, Netsweeper spokesperson Scott O’Neill stated that the company has a “no comment policy” regarding its use by foreign governments.

Crackdowns on ‘Anonymous’

This week saw crackdowns on the "Anonymous" movement in Turkey and Spain, following attacks on government websites in both countries. In Spain, police arrested three and seized a server that they claimed was used in attacks against several governments as well as Sony. In a YouTube video, members of Anonymous denied that the three detainees had lead the attacks.

In Turkey, following numerous DDoS attacks perpetrated against government sites--purportedly in response to the Turkish government’s plans to adopt a universal Internet filter--authorities arrested 32 individuals allegedly involved in the attacks. ...

Righthaven Copyright Troll Lawsuit Dismissed as Sham

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

San Francisco - In a decision with likely wide-ranging impact, a judge in Las Vegas today dismissed as a sham an infringement case filed by copyright troll Righthaven LLC. The judge ruled that Righthaven did not have the legal authorization to bring a copyright lawsuit against the political forum Democratic Underground, because it had never owned the copyright in the first place. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Fenwick & West LLP, and Las Vegas attorney Chad Bowers are defending Democratic Underground.

"We are pleased that the Court saw through Righthaven's sham assignment of the copyright and dismissed its improper claim," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Today's decision shows that Righthaven's copyright litigation business model is fatally flawed, and we expect the decision to have wide effect on the over 270 other cases Righthaven has brought."

Righthaven sued Democratic Underground last fall over an excerpt of a Las Vegas Review Journal news story that a user posted on the forum, claiming that the newspaper had transferred copyright to Righthaven before it filed the suit. However, a document unearthed in this litigation showed that the copyright assignment was a sham and that Righthaven was merely agreeing to undertake the ...

Proposed Resolution to Protect Library User Confidentiality in Self Serve Hold Practices

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

The Intellectual Freedom Committee plans to ask ALA Council to approve the proposed “Resolution to Protect Library User Confidentiality in Self Serve Hold Practices” at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.  The resolution, printed below, was developed by the IFC and the IFC’s Privacy Subcommittee after receiving requests from librarians and library users to examine the issue of reader privacy and self-serve holds.

Resolution to Protect Library User Confidentiality in Self Serve Hold Practices (PROPOSED DRAFT)

WHEREAS, the  ALA Code of Ethics states, “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted”; and

WHEREAS,  the American Library Association affirms that rights of privacy are necessary for intellectual freedom and are fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship, and lack of privacy and confidentiality has a chilling effect on users’ choices.  (ALA Policy  Manual, 53.1.16 Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights); and

WHEREAS, The American Library Association strongly recommends the adoption of policies recognizing circulation records and other records identifying the names of library users with specific materials to be confidential” (ALA Policy Manual, 52.4; Confidentiality of Library Records) ...

On M.F. Hussain, Free Expression, and Pluralism

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Nudity in art appears to be controversial whether exhibited in a public space in the US, or created by India’s most renowned artist. And so is the artistic treatment of religious icons. India’s greatest contemporary artist, M. F. Hussain, died June 9th, 2011, at 95, still in self-imposed exile caused by the hundreds of legal [...]

Hurricane Katrina

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Bibliography of scholarship relevant to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, including the effect of geography on the extent of the damage, hurricane science, and studies of previous floods and storms.

Race Relations in the United States

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Revised and updated to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Little Rock Schools Crisi, the nearly 1500 books and journals listed here offer knowledge and insight into the troubled history of relations between black and white Americans.

The Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
This essential bibliographic resource on the history, theory, and state of philanthropy and nonprofits is now re-published and thoroughly updated.

“Most Dangerous Man in America” at ALA Annual

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Every day leading to the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, the OIF Blog will be featuring a special program, event, or opportunity awaiting attendees. Today we feature two related programs:

“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”

Saturday, June 25, 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Morial Convention Center, Auditorium C

Daniel Ellsberg: War and Secrecy

Sunday, June 26, 8:00-9:15 a.m.

Morial Convention Center, Auditorium B

movie poster

ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table and Intellectual Freedom Committee will present “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” the full-length 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary, on Saturday June 25th from 6:00-7:30pm in the Morial Convention Center, Auditorium C.  This is part of the inaugural Now Showing @ ALA Film Program. Admission is free to conference attendees.  A discussion of the film with Daniel Ellsberg will follow immediately in the Morial Convention Center, Auditorium A.

Then on Sunday, June 26th from 8:00-9:15am, Ellsberg will participate in the ALA Auditorium  Speaker Series in the Morial Convention Center Auditorium B to talk about his experiences, his thoughts on secrecy and government information, and his current efforts.

Ellsebrg’s appearance coincides with the 40th anniversary of the leaking of ...

In Third Circuit, Landmark Victories for Student Speech Limit Schools’ Ability To Censor Students Online

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Yesterday, the full court for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued two simultaneous opinions to resolve how much control grade schools and high schools may exercise over their students' off-campus, online speech. In Layshock v. Hermitage School District and J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, the 14-judge court delivered two landmark victories for free speech, holding that school officials cannot "reach into a child's home and control his/her actions there to the same extent that it can control that child when he/she participates in school sponsored activities." In the cases, two students had been disciplined for creating parody MySpace profiles mocking their respective principals. The Third Circuit held that schools cannot punish students' online speech simply because it is vulgar, lewd, or offensive. In addition to their impact in the grade school and high school settings, these decisions further solidify the robust free speech rights that must be afforded to college students engaging in online speech.

We previously blogged about Layshock and J.S. last year, when separate three-judge panels of the Third Circuit issued contrary decisions despite the very similar facts in the two cases. In Layshock, the Third Circuit had held that ...

Larry Marder’s CBLDF Liberty Cards Diary #9

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Hello again!

Today’s super-duper sneaky-peak is of a quartet of one-of-a-kind artist sketch cards of characters from Jeff Smith’s masterwork, Bone. 2011 marks Bone’s 20th anniversary of publication as a comic book. There will be all sorts of celebrations surrounding this important date as the year rolls on.

I’ve known Jeff and Vijaya about as long as anyone in the biz. Cartoon Books and its noble crew are a tremendous operation — really good people. Jeff is someone who both the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and I can always count on in a pinch. Jeff’s generosity to CBLDF over the years has been significant and greatly appreciated.

Jeff was one of the very first people I called to pitch the nutty idea of creators loaning their characters to CBLDF for artist sketch cards. His consent was immediate. He said he was really excited to see who might draw what and in what styles.

So, without further ado:

In clockwise fashion, starting from the upper left:

Fone Bone and Ted the Bug by Joe Keatinge, award winning writer and comic book editor

Ted the Bug by Indigo Kelleigh, creator of The Adventures of Ellie Connelly and the ...

Professor Jan Blits to Keynote 2011 CFN Conference

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

FIRE is pleased to announce that Professor Jan Blits will give the closing keynote address at the 2011 CFN Conference. Jan H. Blits is a professor in the University Honors Faculty at the University of Delaware. He was this year's winner of the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award, and in 2009 he received FIRE's own Prometheus Award for his efforts in ending the University of Delaware's appalling student indoctrination program.

Click here to read his full bio on the 2011 CFN Conference page.

Blits joins our two other distinguished keynote speakers for the conference, Nick Gillespie and Robert Corn-Revere. Other speakers include a student panel and FIRE staff members who will discuss the philosophical and legal arguments for First Amendment rights on campus and teach students how they can improve the culture of free speech at their schools.

The 2011 conference will be held July 14-16 at Bryn Mawr College, just outside of Philadelphia. The conference is rapidly approaching, so interested students should take a few minutes and apply today at The deadline for applications is Monday, June 20.

Introducing FIRE Summer Intern David Deerson

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

David Deerson comes to FIRE from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), where he is a rising junior pursuing a double major in history (U.S.) and philosophy, with a minor in philosophy, politics, and economics. David is also Vice President of the UNC-CH College Libertarians, and he previously interned with the North Carolina GOP. On why he came to FIRE, David writes:

I believe in individual liberty and personal autonomy, and I am convinced that freedom of expression is absolutely vital to the pursuit and sustenance of both. Free speech is among the most commonly celebrated rights we have both as human beings and as Americans. Yet throughout the country, and most dishearteningly on our college campuses, commitment to this freedom is all too often nominal and shallow. Private citizens and lawmakers alike widely argue that some forms of expression that may be considered offensive are not protected by the right to freedom of speech. Barring such speech is not only an affront to our natural and legal rights; it is unhealthy and unproductive. The search for truth, intended to be the central goal of academic life, is crippled when open expression is not allowed. One cannot ...

Supreme Court May Soon Make Decision About Violent Video Games

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

It’s a case that calls to mind the 1950s-era attacks on comic books and the censorship of the Comics Code. Does the First Amendment allow limits on the violent content in popular entertainment — in this case video games — sold to minors? Brown v. EMA (formerly Schwarzenegger v. EMA) may soon answer that question, with a final decision from the Supreme Court expected soon.

California recently enacted a law that restricted the sale of violent video games to children, citing that violence is harmful to minors. Previous decisions in the case have ruled the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment. California appealed these decisions to the Supreme Court.

CBLDF filed an amicus brief on the case, arguing the the law creates a new category of unprotected speech, reduces the First Amendment rights of minors, and fails to protect new media under the First Amendment.

Like comic books, video games are a valid form of expression that cannot be censored without actual evidence that they harm minors. The California law is dangerous in that similar restrictions could be extended to other media, including comic books, should the law be allowed to stand.

Last November, CBLDF General Counsel Robert Corn-Revere ...

US Confirms Interdiction

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
The U.S. Navy turns around a North Korean ship believed to be carrying weapons to Burma.