Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Commentary: Scalia continues his history of relying on history in High Court’s recent decision

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

When it comes to the First Amendment, as with other parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s credo usually goes like this: If it was good enough for 18th century America, it’s good enough for us now.

In Doe v. Reed last year, when the issue was whether the names of petition signers should be kept private, Scalia said no, pointing to Colonial-era “viva voce voting” practices – individuals voting out loud, often in the presence of candidates. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Scalia traveled back to the late 18th century for proof that corporations should enjoy the same free-speech rights as individuals. And in commercial-speech cases, Scalia has been impressed by the fact that Colonial newspapers carried advertisements as well as news stories on their front pages.

So it should come as no surprise that yesterday, Scalia again reached for the history books in the First Amendment case of Nevada Commission on Ethics v. Carrigan.

Read Tony Mauro’s analysis in full.

AAUP Sanctions Idaho State University for Suspending Faculty Senate

Monday, June 13th, 2011

In a letter in March, FIRE raised serious concern about the February decision by Idaho State University (ISU) President Arthur C. Vailas and the Idaho State Board of Education to suspend ISU's Faculty Senate just one week after it recorded a vote of no confidence in Vailas. The administration had cited a "stalemate" with the faculty. Indeed, the suspension followed longstanding tension between the Faculty Senate and Vailas' administration, evidenced in disputes over the termination of a faculty member who criticized the university, a vote of no confidence in ISU Provost Gary Olson, and the expression of many other serious concerns about Vailas' leadership (PDF) and proposed reorganization of the university.

FIRE was not alone in its concerns. At a lecture at the annual conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) on June 11, ISU Professor Alan C. Frantz provided a timeline of faculty concerns and actions, including the February 11 vote of no confidence in Vailas (the official report shows a vote of 359 to 92 (PDF)), and the AAUP formally sanctioned ISU.

FIRE's March 2 letter pointed out that the decision to suspend the Faculty Senate raised fundamental questions about the university's commitment to academic ...

Seized Domains Fight Back

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Since last year, we’ve watched with dismay Immigration and Customs Enforcement's increasing use of domain name seizures as part of its stepped-up IP enforcement strategy. Today, one of the seized domains is taking the issue to court.

Puerto 80, the Spanish company behind and, which were seized in January of this year, today filed a petition in the Southern District of New York for the return of those domains. The Rojadirecta site, which is made up of user forums and link indexes, has been found by two Spanish courts specifically not to violate copyright. The substantive brief in support of the petition outlines not only the reasons why the domains should be returned, but also the absurd roadblocks Puerto 80 has encountered in its efforts to work with government authorities to get this matter resolved without judicial intervention.

We're very glad that Rojadirecta is fighting back so that this and other domain name seizures can receive more careful judicial consideration. We'll be following the case closely and expect to weigh in as amicus as well.

Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Mallika Vinekar

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Mallika Vinekar is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Urban studies with a minor in legal studies and history. At Penn, she has developed an interest in education policy and its intersection with the law. She works as a writing fellow at Penn's Critical Writing Center, is a member of the Penn Student Government's Nominations and Elections Committee, and serves as president of Penn Alternate Spring Break. On why she came to FIRE, Mallika writes:

A couple months back, a guest columnist for Penn's independent student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, wrote a contentious op-ed describing his experiences with blatant racism on Penn's campus. He advised prospective students not to attend the school, as anti-minority mentalities at the institution were pervasive. In response, students held a thoughtful protest against racism the next day—one that stirred stimulating debate speculating on the reality of racial tensions at Penn. Rather than silencing the controversial topic, Penn encouraged uninhibited dialogue.

This impressed me.

Such dynamic speech has defined my time as an undergraduate. The most resonating, valuable learning experiences I've had at college have been fueled by student voices. My peers have empowered and challenged me through unfettered speech, free exchange ...

Censorship Fail at Southern Methodist

Monday, June 13th, 2011

A debate over censorship of Southern Methodist University's (SMU's) student newspaper, The Daily Campus, has generated some friction between newspaper staff and SMU administrators. The Daily Campus operates without administrative oversight all yearexcept for the mail-home summer edition. To obtain the addresses of all incoming freshmen so they can mail the paper to them, The Daily Campus has apparently agreed to administators' demand of prior review over the content of that issue. This year, the administration reportedly approved all articles except for a piece by Politics Editor Jessica Huseman about a lack of transparency for SMU's Board of Trustees.

When asked why this particular article wasn't fit to print, Dean of Student Life Lisa Webb remarked:

The column spoke to an audience, but it didn't speak to new students. If a story doesn't hit our target audience, our agreement is that it won't be published.

If an article about the Board of Trustees, which oversees the operations of pretty much everything on campus, doesn't speak to new students, I don't know what does. Perhaps what Webb meant to say was that the story didn't confine itself to the selective information SMU apparently wants incoming freshmen to ...

The Concept of "Dignity" and Its Relationship to Speech

Monday, June 13th, 2011

The concept of "dignity," which emerged in the law in America and abroad primarily after World War II, is specific enough to have legal force but vague enough to be marshaled both in favor of robust free speech protections and by those seeking to regulate "offensive" speech. A recently published law review article by Professor Neomi Rao, Three Concepts of Dignity in Constitutional Law, 86 Notre Dame L. Rev. 183 (2011), explores the different understandings of dignity applied by the courts. Rao ultimately concludes that if American courts wish to invoke the concept of dignity, they should do so in a way that accords with our constitutional tradition of protecting free speech and autonomy rights.

Ideals like "liberty" and "equality," while somewhat nebulous, have fairly established meanings in America's constitutional jurisprudence. Liberty is the right to be free of governmental intrusion into various aspects of one's life; for instance, the liberty to travel from state to state and the liberty to make certain decisions about one's body. Equality, as defined in Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence, is the right to be free from discrimination and classification by the government for impermissible and irrational reasons, including the prohibition on the government segregating ...


Monday, June 13th, 2011

New member shirts! For a limited time, pick up the new swag featuring EFF blasting through injustice in the digital universe. The front showcases our 8-bit style robot mecha girl throwing EFF pixel fire across the chest. The back proclaims "I FIGHT FOR THE USERS" for all of you pro-user zealots out there. It's available in two styles: Women's Gildan SoftStyle (S-2XL) and Men's Fruit of the Loom Lofteez (S-3XL).

Join or renew your membership at the Copper Level or higher and choose this free gift today! It's a small token of our appreciation for supporting EFF's activism, legal battles, and long-term sustainability as a defender of the people. Thanks for taking a stand with us!

Size Chart

Apple Steps into Lodsys Litigation

Friday, June 10th, 2011

When we learned that Apple had stepped forward to support iPhone app developers who had found themselves threatened with patent litigation (and, in some instances, actually sued) based on their use of Apple-provided technology, we hoped that could be the end of the matter – or at least that Lodsys would pick its fight with Apple, who has the resources to fight back.

Unfortunately, the company that started the mess, Lodsys, has decided to up the ante, suing seven developers in the notoriously "troll-friendly" Eastern District of Texas. But Apple is staying involved. Yesterday it filed a motion in Texas to intervene in the suit pending against those developers. In its filings, Apple claims that its license to the Lodsys patents covers the uses of the technology at issue by the app developers or, relatedly, that Lodsys' rights were exhausted. Apple does not argue that the Lodsys patents are invalid (and it likely can't under terms of that license).

As this story doesn't appear to be ending soon, some background may be helpful. The players are:

  • Lodsys: the company that owns the patents at issue. Like many patent trolls, Lodsys does not make or sell anything, but ...

DEF CON 19 Getaway Contest Update!

Friday, June 10th, 2011

We're pleased to report a great response to our second annual DEF CON Getaway Contest! Now at the halfway point, thirty-one participants have raised over $2,500 so far!

Who will win the mind-numbingly good Grand Prize Package including a standard suite at the Rio Hotel and Casino, two DEF CON 19 Human badges, two tickets to Vegas 2.0's (in)famous kickoff party theSummit, two badges for the ultra-exclusive Ninja Networks Party, AND an EFF Swag Super Pack? With just weeks left, it's all up to you!

Cheers to current first place team Holy Handgrenades with $1,182.04! These veterans from last year's contest are back with a vengeance. ISD Podcast is in second place with $1045.42, and team DoC is in third place with $300. Good work!

Contest registration is still open, and it's anyone's game! The fantastic prizes for first, second and third place are within your reach. Form a team; put a badge up on your blog; get your friends and family to pitch in; spread the word on sites like Twitter,, and Facebook -- there are lots of ways to help EFF and compete for the prizes while supporting our freedom to tinker, explore, and hack. ...

This Week in the News: OCR Letter Continues to Generate Coverage and Greg’s ‘Best Seven’ Free Speech List Still Making Waves

Friday, June 10th, 2011

FIRE's opposition to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR's) recent policy guidance to colleges and universities has been big news for over a month. Will was recently quoted in an article (subscription only) by Sara Lipka of The Chronicle of Higher Education describing how OCR's requirement that schools lower the standard of proof to a "preponderance of the evidence" in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases, particularly when combined with other aspects of campus disciplinary processes, unfairly compromises due process on campus.

Additionally, former government lawyer Hans Bader wrote a blog post for about how OCR's policy guidance will further erode the often tenuous due process rights of college students. Bader cited Greg's Daily Caller article from two weeks ago, in which Greg argued that the OCR letter's failure to reaffirm that enforcement of civil rights laws must respect the First Amendment compounds the threat to student speech already presented by many universities' overbroad and vague sexual harassment policies. Meanwhile, KC Johnson's column in Minding the Campus about how Duke's sexual misconduct policy anticipated OCR's due process woes included a quote from Robert about the policy's speech-chilling nature.

More than two weeks ago, The ...

Transmetropolitan: All Around the World Makes Its Way Around The World

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Last week, a bevy of CBLDF volunteers descended on the Pirates Press warehouse to pack up and ship Transmetropolitan: All Around the World, the hotly anticipated art book celebrating Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s dystopian masterpiece. Those of you who’ve already gotten your copies know just how gorgeous the book is!

CBLDF would like to thank the volunteers who helped us with shipping: Project Manager Susan Augér, Bryan Burnett, Greg Burnett, Sonia Harris, Alexis Nomm, Ted C. Roland, Seamus Tuohy, and Terry Taplin. Additional thanks go to the entire crew at Pirates Press, including Sam Harris, who designed the book and coordinated shipping, and project manager Chunk Kelly.

Finally, CBLDF thanks Ellis, Robertson, Augér, and all of the contributors for assembling a knockout volume!

If you haven’t received your copy, it should arrive soon! For those of you who still need to order a copy, a limited number are available in the CBLDF store.

Proceeds from the sale of the book support CBLDF’s work in defense of the First Amendment!

The book Slipcases! Ted, Bryan, & Greg Alexis & Sonia Ted, Bryan, & Greg Slipcases

Introducing FIRE Intern Elizabeth Jacobs

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Elizabeth Jacobs is a rising senior at Hillsdale College, where she majors in political science with a concentration in founding history and American politics. Elizabeth is the president of her sorority, Chi Omega (Rho Gamma chapter). She also serves on the executive committee of Greek InterVarsity, a Christian ministry specifically designed for members of fraternities and sororities. On why she came to FIRE, Elizabeth writes:

When I was going through the arduous process of applying to college, I was overjoyed at the thought of getting out of the concrete block halls of my public high school and finally reaching a place where truly academic pursuits were the norm. I was ready to share my ideas with others, hear real and passionate discourse on important issues, and participate in the exchange of ideas through discussion and debate. Sadly, this ‘marketplace of ideas' rarely truly exists in the world of higher education, leaving students and faculty feeling helpless and afraid to fight back when their rights are compromised. Fortunately, FIRE has uncovered the truth about America's colleges: a world of speech codes, free speech zones, and speech suppression. FIRE is at the forefront of bringing back individual rights to America's campuses.

When ...

How to Disable Facebook’s Facial Recognition Feature

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Back in December of 2010, Facebook debuted its tag suggestion feature, which works by using facial recognition technology to examine photos in which you’ve already been tagged, and then creating what Facebook calls your “photo summary” or “photo comparison information,” or what we’ll call your “facial fingerprint.” Using this information, FB suggests your name to your friends when they upload a photo of you, and invites them to tag you in that photo. Over the last few months, Facebook has been slowly rolling this feature out to all of its users, which caught the attention of security firm Sophos, The New York Times, and the European Union, which has launched a probe to investigate the new feature.

Like most new Facebook features, this one is turned on by default. If you would prefer not to have Facebook store your facial fingerprint and use it to suggest photos in which your friends can tag you, you will need to opt out manually. The following video will show you three ways to delete your facial fingerprint data from Facebook, and show you a privacy setting that lets you ensure that you are the only person who can see tags identifying ...

Anti-porn group prepares to storm Capitol Hill over racy new TV show

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Less than two months ago, an anti-smut group called the Coalition for the War on Illegal Pornography (CWIP) managed to garner signatures from 42 senators and scores of House members to speak out on a Justice Department task force on adult obscenity.

This time the group’s target is an NBC drama coming out this fall, set in a 1960s club. And in a bold, or perhaps foolhardy move, the group is counting on those same lawmakers who signed the April letters to publicly condemn a major-network TV show.

Read more.

Supreme Court Affirms High Standard of Proving Patents Invalid

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Today the Supreme Court upheld the Federal Circuit's rule that, in litigation, a patent may only be proved invalid by clear and convincing evidence. EFF filed an amicus brief in the case – Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Limited Partnership – supporting Microsoft's request that the standard for proving invalidity merely be by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) rather than clear and convincing evidence (a high probability).

Justice Sotomayor wrote the opinion rejecting Microsoft's request, which six Justices joined (Chief Justice Roberts was recused). Essentially, the Court declined to reach the policy considerations in favor of a lower standard of proof that EFF and other amici had argued – that the lower standard would make it easier to invalidate bad patents – and instead agreed with i4i that the caselaw established a common law rule of clear and convincing evidence, which 35 U.S.C. §282 codified in 1952.

For the reasons explained fully in EFF's brief (see pages 30-32), we disagree with the Court's analysis of the early cases (specifically, the RCA case). We argued that those earlier cases did not establish a clear and convincing standard in all circumstances, but only when a defendant tries to ...

Intellectual Freedom 101 – it will rock your world!

Thursday, June 9th, 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’s feature:

Intellectual Freedom 101

Friday, June 24, 1:00-2:00 p.m.

Morial Convention Center, Room 243

IF101 is a great opportunity for new professionals, new conference-goers, and intellectual freedom gadflies to learn more about the IF programs and events at Conference, as well as the activities, publications, and upcoming plans of the various IF arms of the association.  We’ll discuss the Library Bill of Rights, Banned Books Week, Choose Privacy Week, the Conable Conference Scholarship, the ALA Code of Ethics, the Intellectual Freedom Manual, the upcoming OIF/IFLA conference in Miami, state Intellectual Freedom Committees, and much much much much more!

Find out how YOU can stay informed, get involved, and make a difference in support of our most fundamental of freedoms.


Loida Garcia-Febo, Chair, Intellectual Freedom Round Table

Kent Oliver, President, Freedom to Read Foundation

Loriene Roy, Trustee, Leroy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund

Julius Jefferson, Chair, Intellectual Freedom Committee

Martin Garnar, Committee on Professional Ethics

Moderator: Jonathan Kelley, Program Coordinator, Office for Intellectual Freedom/Freedom to ...

FIRE: One-Trick Ponies in Tinfoil Hats?

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

FIRE's defense of due process rights for students accused of sexual harassment and sexual violence continues to draw overheated responses from student conduct administrators.

Last week, Will responded to a May 13 blog post by Illinois State University Associate Dean of Students Richard Olshak, who criticized FIRE for our opposition to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR's) "Dear Colleague" letter requiring universities to use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard when adjudicating claims of sexual violence.

On May 17, FIRE was again the topic of discussion on Olshak's blog, where he posted a guest comment by Dan Kast, a student conduct administrator at Colorado State University - Pueblo. Like Olshak several days before him, Kast relies more on name-calling than actual arguments. First Olshak called us "one-trick ponies." Kast ups the ante, deeming us one-trick ponies "in tinfoil hats."

Kast led off with the ad hominem argument that FIRE has a "lack of concern for, and disregard for the rights of, the victims of sexual assault." (For his part, Olshak's May 13 blog quoted NCHERM president Brett Sokolow stating that "all FIRE has done is to demonstrate that it could stand up for the rights of rapists ...

CBLDF, Booksellers, Artists, ACLU Seek to Bar Utah Law Restricting Speech on Internet

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Yesterday, a coalition including CBLDF, booksellers, media companies, artists, and the ACLU of Utah asked the federal district court in Salt Lake City to permanently bar enforcement of a Utah statute that restricts constitutionally-protected speech on the Internet. Although passed in 2005, the statute has not been in effect because Utah consented to a temporary injunction barring its enforcement.

Utah’s law seeks to regulate all Internet speech that some might consider “harmful to minors,” including works of visual art, photography, graphic novels, and information about sexual health and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

The plaintiffs are represented in Florence v. Shurtleff, No. 05-CV-485 (United States District Court, District of Utah) by Michael Bamberger, a partner of SNR Denton US LLP and general counsel of Media Coalition; Darcy Goddard, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah Foundation, Inc.; and John B. Morris, general counsel of the Center for Democracy & Technology.

“Utah’s statute, like those invalidated elsewhere, imposes sweeping burdens on constitutionally-protected speech,” said Mr. Bamberger, who has successfully brought suit to invalidate similar statutes in other states, including New Mexico, Arizona, and Massachusetts.

“It is simply impossible for every person who makes ...

Larry Marder’s CBLDF Liberty Cards Diary #8

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Hi, Friends of Liberty!

I spent the afternoon at the Crytpozoic Entertainment offices yesterday. Saw a whole lotta cards that have come in over the last week. Incredibly diverse stuff. Artists featuring their own characters. Artists taking a shot at favorite characters and rendering them in their own unique style. A great example of that is showcased in these sneak-peek of a few Savage Dragon cards below…

I worked for and with Erik Larsen for six years, when I had my hands on the wheel at Image Central. He’s one of the funniest, quirkiest, most unpredictable and talented people I’ve ever known. Let there be no doubt about something else: Erik Larsen is a stone-cold comic book fan. Almost two decades after he left the Big Two behind, he still cares about the characters. All you have to do is follow him on Titter, and you’ll witness amazing insights into the comics, past, present, and future. He’s one of the staunchest supporters of creator’s rights. I used to tease him and call him “The Last Standing Image Comics Revolutionary.” In all the years I’ve known Erik, he never once wavered in the core issues of creator ownership.

Erik is also ...

The Recent Richard Prince Decision Tips the Scales Towards Copyright Owners

Thursday, June 9th, 2011
While paying lip service to the fact that fair use is the way in which the inherent tensions between the First Amendment and copyright law may be resolved, Judge Batts’s recent decision for the Southern District of New York in Cariou v. Prince preserved fair use protection for only those works that comment on or criticize [...]

Chilling Effects on Social Media

Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Social media has reached a level of pervasiveness that cannot be ignored – and corporations are paying very close attention. Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs received flak for banning Facebook at work while investing $450 million in the company.  Perceived hypocrisy may have played a role, but acknowledging the chilling effect that corporate ‘social media policies’ have [...]

Protect IP Act Raises First Amendment Concerns

Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) has introduced the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP)  to replace last year’s failed Combating Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). Supposedly a new and improved version of COICA, the PROTECT IP act is aimed at denying access to “pirate” or “rogue” [...]

Introducing Summer Intern Kenny Tan

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Kenny Tan is a rising sophomore at Vanderbilt University, where he majors in Computer Science with a minor in Financial Economics. Kenny is also president and founder of the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at Vandy and a frequent contributor to campus publications The Vanderbilt Torch and The Vanderbilt Hustler. On why he came to FIRE, Kenny writes:

As a student, I have witnessed the benefits of preserving the right of students to participate in free and open debateespecially as the leader of a student organization which often controversially exercises this right. I want to make sure this right is protected across the political/ideological spectrum. I hope that after my FIRE internship, I can return to campus better prepared to share my appreciation of the marketplace of ideas with others.

I was introduced to FIRE by reading FIRE's Guides to Student Rights on Campus and attending the 2010 CFN summer conference. In addition to the well-written and useful publications that FIRE produces, the CFN conference also inspired me to become a catalyst for change on my university's campus. After beginning to reform speech codes at my own university, I wanted to continue the work by helping FIRE ...

EFF Joins Amicus Brief Urging Ohio Supreme Court to Find Warrantless GPS Tracking Unconstitutional

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

EFF recently joined several legal defense organizations, law professors and others to urge the Ohio Supreme Court to rule that warrantless surveillance of a car with a GPS tracking device violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In State v. Johnson, the police planted a GPS tracking device on a van without a search warrant. They proceeded to monitor the van for days, ultimately tracking its movement from Cincinnati to Chicago. The Court of Appeals found that the police didn't violate the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure because the tracking didn't constitute a "search."

Joining an amicus brief filed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the First Amendment Lawyers Association, the ACLU of Ohio, the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, and seven law professors, EFF warned the Ohio Supreme Court that such prolonged surveillance and monitoring implicates an individual’s right to privacy. Simply traveling on a public road does not mean law enforcement can know your every move at any time of the day, wherever you go, whether it is to ...

The CBLDF and TFAW Announce Third Annual SDCC Autograph Card / CBLDF Auction Event

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

For the past two years, Things From Another World (TFAW) and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) have teamed up with comics professionals, such as Jim Lee, Charlie Adlard, Philip Tan and more, to help raise more than $60,000 for the annual CBLDF auction at San Diego Comic-Con. Now, TFAW and CBLDF are proud to announce their Third Annual SDCC Autograph Card/CBLDF Auction event!

As in years past, TFAW is asking artists to create original sketches to donate to the CBLDF auction at San Diego Comic-Con. However, this year, Marvel and DC Comics have generously agreed to allow artists to use their proprietary characters in these CBLDF sketches!

In exchange for their generous donations, participating artists will receive 500 free limited-edition autograph cards of their sketches to distribute in San Diego. TFAW will also give out additional copies of these autograph cards at their booth during the convention.

“We’ve had such a great response to these sketches at our past SDCC auctions,” said CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. “They’re a huge factor in helping the CBLDF achieve our goals and defending the First Amendment rights of the comics community.”

“In previous years, we’ve been blown away by the generosity ...

AIDS Campaigner’s Family Under Pressure

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011
Chinese authorities' harassment follows the family of a rights activist after they leave Beijing.

Come to the FTRF Member Reception in New Orleans!

Wednesday, June 8th, 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’s feature:

Freedom to Read Foundation Member Reception

Date & Time: Thursday, June 23, 2011

5:00-6:30 p.m.

Location: Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Room 353

New Orleans, LA

Refreshments: Hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

The Freedom to Read Foundation Board of Trustees welcomes you to our annual FTRF Member Reception, following the annual board meeting.  This is a great chance to meet the trustees, staff, and fellow FTRF members, and hear what FTRF is working on – and what’s on the First Amendment horizon.

We will also be introducing Audrey Barbakoff, recipient of the 2011 Gordon M. Conable Conference Scholarship.

Not an FTRF member? Not to worry! You can join now at or by calling (312) 280-4226. You also can join at the door! Membership starts at $35 ($10 for students, free for recent LIS graduates).

Feel free to RSVP at — or just show up!

Partly Cloudy Skies: Apple’s Cloud Services Are Promising, But We Still Want A Freedom of Choice Button

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

We can’t help but have a mixed reaction to Apple’s announcement of its new cloud services. On the one hand, some of the services offer real (long overdue) benefits for consumers and copyright owners. One the other hand, as with all things Apple, the price is high, and we’re not talking about the $24.99 iMatch fee.

Let’s start with some of the good. For years the music industry has complained that it could not adjust its business models to "compete with free." Apple's new iCloud service – and iTunes Match – shows, once again, that it's completely possible to "compete with free" when you provide added value.

As we all now know, Google and Amazon have rolled out their own music-in-the-cloud services. But those services are bulky and slow upload times may discourage music fans. Apple's service will be different. Specifically, it will scan users' hard drives (allegedly in minutes) and offer access to Apple’s high-quality version of each song in a user’s library, no matter how one got the song (if Apple does not have access to a particular song, it will upload the user's own copy). As a practical matter, that means some users will now be able ...

FIRE to UC Santa Barbara: Stop Student Government’s Viewpoint Discrimination

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Yesterday FIRE sent a second letter to University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Chancellor Henry T. Yang to help him understand the grave danger to First Amendment rights posed by the UCSB student government's explicit viewpoint discrimination against the UCSB College Republicans and conservative writer and activist David Horowitz.

As the minutes of last month's Associated Students Legislative Council (LC) meeting show, at least five of the eight LC members who voted to reject funding for an event featuring Horowitz did so after making clear that they were against the funding because of Horowitz's conservative viewpoints. (Fourteen LC members voted in favor of the $1,100 allocation.)

To make a long story short, the LC voted by general consent to allocate $1,100 for security for the event. The audience then erupted with shouts including "You are sponsoring Islamophobia and racism on this campus," and "Who on this board is representing the Muslim community?" The LC reopened the debate, voted down the $1,100, and ultimately voted to allocate only $800 for security.

This discussion came after a previous decision by the Associated Students Finance Board to allocate zero dollars for the event. At the end of the meeting, the LC even voted to ...

Ex-Boyfriend’s Abortion Billboard is Free Speech, but it’s Also Libel

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

COMMENTARY | 35-year-old Greg Fultz, of Alamogordo, N.M., put up a billboard denouncing his ex-girlfriend for aborting their child. The court says Fultz is acting within his civil liberties. Distasteful as it is, freedom of speech allows it. Freedom of speech it may be, but what about libel? Isn’t that actionable by law?

Read the full article.

Introducing FIRE Summer Intern Alex Lewis

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Alex Lewis arrives at FIRE as a rising senior at Rutgers University, where he majors in Political Science and Journalism & Media Studies with a minor in Arabic. He is the Executive Director of the Rutgers Model Congress, which promotes civic engagement and empowerment for high school students. Alex also founded the BrosUniteD autism mentorship program through his fraternity, Theta Delta Chi. On his choice to intern with FIRE, Alex says:

I like to think that I took a "grassroots" path to the defense of free speech rights: my natural disposition towards outspokenness and iconoclasm often landed me smack-dab in the middle of controversy with administrators and teachers. Even before I had the vocabulary to advocate for the First Amendment in eloquent terms, I strongly believed in the right of an individual to freely possess, express, and defend his or her beliefs in the open marketplace of ideas. Too often, power structures attempt to (and do!) abridge this basic right. This abridgement is especially unacceptable in academia, because censorship prevents intellectual growth.

It is an exciting time to be a First Amendment advocate on the campus of a New Jersey state university. The wonderful diversity of the college community ensures ...

Achievement Unlocked: Set Up Tor Relays, Get a Molly Crabapple Poster

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

A week ago today, EFF launched the Tor Challenge – calling on people and organizations to help Internet activists across the globe by operating Tor relays. Today, we’re adding a new incentive to encourage additional Tor relays.

Tor is a service that masks your IP address. Activists, bloggers, and humanitarian aid workers around the world depend on Tor to maintain their anonymity online and access websites that have been blocked by their governments. The Tor Project has an acute need for volunteers to run relays, which individuals can set up on their computers or on virtual machines.

Every relay makes a difference to Tor in terms of speed and security. As the arms race between circumvention tools and censors speeds up, we need hundreds more to make sure that every blocked relay is quickly replaced.
– Karen Reilly, the Tor Project

Since we launched our campaign, we’ve been awed by the generosity of organizations and individuals worldwide. We’ve increased our original goal from 100 new relays to 400 new relays. In a week’s time, participants in our challenge have generated over 300 new relays.

We are especially impressed to see that some people are putting their Tor nodes in the ...

WSJ and Al-Jazeera Lure Whistleblowers With False Promises of Anonymity

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

The success of Wikileaks in obtaining and releasing information has inspired mainstream media outlets to develop proprietary copycat sites. Al-Jazeera got into the act first, launching the Al-Jazeera Transparency Unit (AJTU), an initiative meant to "allow Al-Jazeera's supporters to shine light on notable and noteworthy government and corporate activities which might otherwise go unreported." AJTU assures users that "files will be uploaded and stored on our secure servers" and that materials "are encrypted while they are transmitted to us, and they remain encrypted on our servers."

On May 5, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), a subsidiary of Dow Jones & Co., Inc., launched its own site, SafeHouse. That same day, the Atlantic published a story describing SafeHouse as a “secure uploading system” with “separate servers,” two layers of encryption, and a policy of discarding information about uploaders “as quickly as possible.” You can “keep yourself anonymous or confidential, as needed,” the SafeHouse site promises, as you “securely share documents with the Wall Street Journal.”

Immediately after its launch, however, online security experts ripped SafeHouse apart. The Atlantic published its story online at noon on May 5 and by 5 p.m., the page was updated with a link directing ...

New FTRF membership brochure available

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

The Freedom to Read Foundation has a new membership brochure – feel free to download it and hand it out at your state library conference, community meeting, and to your friends and family who share your support of the freedom to read!

To join FTRF, download and print the brochure and mail your donation to 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611 – or visit to join online. You also can call (800) 545-2433 x4226 to join by phone.

We also have a slick paper version of the brochure that we’re happy to send to you for distribution.

40 Years of ‘Cohen v. California’

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Cohen v. California. In Cohen, the Court overturned, on First Amendment grounds, the conviction of a Vietnam War protester arrested for entering a county courthouse wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words "Fuck the Draft."

As David Hudson of the First Amendment Center writes:

The Court's 5-4 ruling in Cohen v. California cleared a wider field for freedom of speech in several ways. It limited the fighting-words doctrine, rejected application of the obscenity doctrine to profanity, emphasized that offensive speech deserves protection and warned against the prospect that the government could ban words to discriminate against unpopular views.

Indeed, FIRE frequently cites Cohen when writing to universities that have charged students with disciplinary offenses for using profanity or other offensive but protected speech. Among other things, the Court's recognition that "one man's vulgarity is another's lyric" has proven an important defense against universities' attempts to prohibit speech simply because it offends the sensibilities of others.

As Hudson notes, "Cohen v. California is an important case to be celebrated whenever we reflect on the crucial importance of the First Amendment in our free society."

Tennis Win May Bring Reforms

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011
Chinese athlete bucked the state training system, excelled on her own.

Court Holds Prosecutor Personally Liable for Unconstitutional Search of Student Who Created a Parody Newsletter

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

After the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reaffirmed that "speech, such as parody and rhetorical hyperbole, which cannot reasonably be taken as stating actual fact, enjoys the full protection of the First Amendment," a federal district court in Colorado last week held a deputy district attorney personally liable for an illegal search that she approved to be conducted on the home of a student blogger.

The facts of this case, from a First Amendment perspective, are stunning. Thomas Mink, at the time a student at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), created an Internet-based newsletter called The Howling Pig (THP). The editor-in-chief of THP was identified in the newsletter as Mr. Junius Puke, a parody of Professor Junius Peake, a finance professor at UNC. Junius Puke was depicted on the blog via a photograph of Professor Peake that was altered to include sunglasses, a small nose, and a small mustache. This parody blog, according to the Student Press Law Center, led to Mink's home being searched, his computer being seized, and his spending a week in jail.

That is because, in 2008, Professor Peake reported to the Colorado police that he believed that ...

40 Years On, One Man’s Vulgarity Is Still Another’s Lyric

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Cohen v. California – a decision that still shapes how the First Amendment is interpreted and protected today.

The First Amendment Center took a moment to remember the case, which centered on one man’s First Amendment right to protest the Vietnam War by wearing a jacket bearing the words “Fuck the Draft.” In 1968, Paul Robert Cohen was arrested in California for disturbing the peace by offensive conduct. Cohen’s conviction was ultimately overturned by a majority decision in the Supreme Court.

The First Amendment Center breaks down precisely why the decision is so important:

The Court’s 5-4 ruling in Cohen v. California cleared a wider field for freedom of speech in several ways. It limited the fighting-words doctrine, rejected application of the obscenity doctrine to profanity, emphasized that offensive speech deserves protection and warned against the prospect that the government could ban words to discriminate against unpopular views.

As Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote in his majority opinion, “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric,” reinforcing the idea that even unpopular speech is protected by the First Amendment. You can read the entire article from The First Amendment Center here...

FREE privacy preconference at ALA Annual Conference

Tuesday, June 7th, 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’s feature:

Who Do I Trust to Protect My Privacy? Privacy Conversation Deliberative Forum And Moderator Training

Sponsored by ALA Intellectual Freedom Round Table and ALA Center for Public Life

Thursday, June 23, 2011, 1:00 – 5:00

New Orleans Public Library, 219 Loyola Avenue

Join an afternoon conversation on privacy Thursday, June 23rd, from 1:00 to 5:00 at the New Orleans Public Library, 219 Loyola Avenue.  The conversation will be structured with an Issue Map.  Following the dialogue, participants will learn how to convene and moderate a deliberative dialogue so they can host their own local forums that explore privacy values and concerns.

Download forum materials including the Issue Map here.

Registration in advance encouraged; email Bryan Campbell.

Walk-in registration accepted

For more information, contact Nancy Kranich or Bryan Campbell

Arizona State University Paper Touts ASU’s Place on ‘Best 7′ Free Speech List

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Two weeks ago, The Huffington Post ran Greg's article commending the seven best colleges and universities for free speech in the country. Yesterday, Katherine Torres and the editorial board of The State Press, Arizona State University's (ASU's) student newspaper, were just the latest to comment on the article, and more specifically to note ASU's inclusion in the list.

Both items explained how ASU recently earned its "green light" status in FIRE's Spotlight database of speech codes, and both included some excellent quotes about the importance of free speech at a university. Joseph Russomanno, an ASU professor who teaches a course based on the First Amendment, was quoted by Torres, explaining a central purpose of a university:

There is a school of thought - one that I adhere to - that colleges and universities should be leaders in the realm of freedom of expression.

Fortunately, most universities at least give lip service to this school of thought, and we heartily agree.

Meanwhile, the editorial board applauded ASU's tolerance of all kinds of speech, noting how ASU's defense of a wide range of ideas and viewpoints contributes toward diversity on a campus of 60,000 students:

Even a passerby in front of ...

Reject the PROTECT IP Act

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Big media and its allies in Congress are billing the PROTECT IP Act as a new way to prevent online infringement. But innovation and free speech advocates know that PIPA is nothing more than a dangerous wish list that will compromise Internet security while doing little or nothing to encourage creative expression.

PROTECT IP = Private Rightsholders Opposed To Emerging Consumer Technologies, Innovation, and Progress

As drafted, the bill seeks to stop websites believed to be "dedicated" to "infringing activities" by granting the government the unprecedented power to attack the Internet's domain name system (DNS). The government would be able to force ISPs and search engines to redirect or dump users' attempts to reach certain websites' URLs. In response, third parties will woo average users to alternative servers that offer access to the entire Internet (not just the newly censored U.S. version), which will create new computer security vulnerabilities as the reliability and universality of the DNS evaporates.

It gets worse: the bill uses the following dangerously expansive definition of DNS server: "a server or other mechanism used to provide the Internet protocol address associated with a domain name." This loose, uncabined definition could lead to the targeting of other ...

Netizen ‘Re-educated’ for Online Rant

Monday, June 6th, 2011
Chinese cyber authorities send a man to labor camp for mocking a local party chief.

Overview of Intellectual Freedom Programs and Events at ALA Annual Conference

Monday, June 6th, 2011

This month is the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans! From June 23-28, thousands of librarians and library lovers will be attending meetings and programs, parties and book signings, and touring the exhibition floor, all in the backdrop of one of this country’s most amazing (and resilient) cities! Of course, the Office for Intellectual Freedom will be very busy during this time. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be using this blog to let you know about our great events.

We start today with a snapshot of some of what’s in store:


1:00-5:00 p.m.

FREE Preconference: Privacy Conversation Deliberative Forum And Moderator Training

Participants will learn how to convene and moderate a deliberative dialogue so they can host their own local forums that explore privacy values and concerns. Registration in advance encouraged; email Bryan Campbell. Walk-in registration accepted.

New Orleans Public Library, 219 Loyola Avenue

5:00–6:30 p.m.

Freedom to Read Foundation Member Reception

Mingle with FTRF members, trustees, and staff, and meet the new Conable Conference Scholarship recipient!

Morial Convention Center, Room 353



1:00–2:00 p.m

“Intellectual Freedom 101”

At this one-hour fast-paced session you will meet some of the leaders of the ...

Idaho State University Slammed by AAUP for Treatment of Faculty in New Report

Monday, June 6th, 2011

We've written in recent months about Idaho State University (ISU), where faculty-administration relations have been at an impasse since around the time when the ISU Faculty Senate was suspended by the Idaho State Board of Education (SBOE). FIRE asked ISU President Arthur Vailas to defend the university's treatment of its representative faculty body, traditionally an important part of shared governance at ISU. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), not surprisingly, has pressed hard for the faculty at Idaho State as well. Vailas' responses have not persuaded the AAUP that all is wellquite the opposite. The AAUP recently issued a 14-page report highly critical of the ISU administration (PDF available here).

As Peter Schmidt of The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote of the report on May 26:

The report, based on an investigation by AAUP staff and endorsed by the organization's Committee on College and University Governance ... accuses Idaho State University's administration of responding to its long-running conflict with the Faculty Senate over matters such as academic reorganization by taking several actions that directly violated accepted principles and standards of shared governance. Those included "severely restricting" the faculty's role in academic governance over the last ...

Call for More Rallies

Monday, June 6th, 2011
A Hong Kong rally commemorating China's 1989 Tiananmen massacre inspires calls for further activism.

FIRE Board of Advisors Member Christina Hoff Sommers Illustrates Problems with Government’s Sexual Assault Guidance in ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’

Monday, June 6th, 2011

In a stirring piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education, FIRE Board of Advisors member Christina Hoff Sommers takes on the most serious due process problems presented by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR's) recent policy guidance to colleges and universities regarding their obligations to address sexual harassment and sexual assault of students. Sommers writes that OCR's April 4 "Dear Colleague" letter, mandating that federally funded institutions use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof to adjudicate these cases on campus, places universities in a difficult position and compromises campus justice in situations where much is at stake for the careers and lives of students.

Of course, we have made no secret of our disagreement with several aspects of the OCR letter, which was issued by Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Aliespecially the imposition of the preponderance standard of proof to govern such serious, complex matters as sexual assault and sexual harassment. OCR has now mandated that universities discipline students under the lowest standard of proof possible, a mere 50.01% standard that requires that guilt be found if the evidence presented tips only slightly in favor of the accuser. And ...

This Week in the News: OCR Letter Generates Still More Coverage; Student Barred from Graduation Receives Attention

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

FIRE's opposition to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR's) recent policy guidance to colleges and universities has been big news for weeks. This week, Jeffrey Hadden of The Detroit News wrote about how the guidance requires colleges to violate their students' fundamental rights. Glenn Ricketts of the National Association of Scholars discussed how the OCR letter's insistence that institutions lower the standard of proof to a "preponderance of evidence" for cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault, when combined with many colleges' "mischievously imprecise definitions of sexual harassment," will result in further rights violations on campus.

On a similar note, Greg wrote an article last week in The Daily Caller arguing that the OCR letter's failure to reaffirm that OCR's enforcement of civil rights laws respects the First Amendment compounds the threat to student speech already presented by many universities' overbroad and vague sexual harassment policies. This week, Todd Zywicki of The Volokh Conspiracy pointed to Greg's piece, while over on Cato@Liberty, Cato Institute Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies Ilya Shapiro agreed with Greg's contention that the combination of OCR's recent guidance and the speech-chilling policies in place at many schools would create "a perfect storm ...

The Good Fighters: Maggie Roll

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Over the years, CBLDF has been blessed with a varied and devoted cadre of volunteers. Some volunteers have been with us for years, and some, including recent addition Maggie Roll, are just joining the bandwagon.

The CBLDF wouldn’t be what it is without its volunteers, and Roll is no exception. She comes from a family firmly rooted in volunteerism, and she’s always eager to help at the booth, with a ready smile and a joke or two in hand. As a long-time fan of Dr. Who and irreverent comedic scifi by folks like John Scalzi, Roll knows a thing or two about being a nerd.

For this installment of The Good Fighters, we asked Roll about why she became a CBLDF volunteer and her experience as a volunteer.

CBLDF: How did you find out about CBLDF, and what drove you to volunteer?

Maggie Roll: My sister is a long-time volunteer for the group and has been encouraging me to volunteer for several years. Last year I finally had the time away from my paying job to volunteer at C2E2 down in Chicago. I ended up having so much fun helping the CBLDF raise money in Chicago that I flew out ...

No to SB 550: Protect the constitutional rights of California’s small businesses

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

No Search Without a Warrant: Protect the constitutional rights of California’s small businesses

Days ago, SB 550 sailed through the State Senate which means civil libertarians across California have only one chance to stop this unconstitutional bill from being made law.

Backed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SB 550 would allow law enforcement to conduct warrantless searches on any CD, DVD, Blu-Ray or other “optical disc” manufacturer to check whether the discs carry legally-required identification marks.

This bill is just another example of the RIAA attempting to force draconian copyright enforcement regimes on American consumers and businesses. Tell your Assembly Member today to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of California’s small businesses and vote NO on SB 550.

Big Media Tramples On Constitutional Rights to Protect Antiquated Business Model

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

In its ongoing battle against music piracy, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is backing a bill in the California legislature, SB 550, which permits the police to disregard the Fourth Amendment. SB 550 would allow law enforcement to search without a warrant any CD, DVD, Blu-Ray or other “optical disc” manufacturer to ensure the discs they are producing carry legally required identification marks. SB 550 easily passed in the Senate yesterday and is now headed to the State Assembly.

The Supreme Court has long recognized that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures applies to commercial property.1 In most instances, a warrant is required to search a business. However, there is a narrow exception that permits warrantless searches of “closely regulated” industries if: (1) there is a substantial government interest in the search; (2) the warrantless search is necessary to further that interest; and (3) there are constitutionally adequate substitutes for a warrant. Plus, the warrantless searches must be limited in time, place and scope.2

SB 550 attempts to frame the optical disc manufacturing industry as “closely regulated”, bringing it within this otherwise narrow exception to the warrant requirement. But there are at ...