Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Tome Volume 1: Vampirism Up for Bid on eBay!

Friday, August 23rd, 2013


Neil Gaiman, Jock, Dave McKean, Francisco Francavilla, Becky Cloonan, Matt Wagner, Jill Thompson, Steve Niles, and Jeff Lemire are just a few of the writers and artists that contributed to TOME Volume 1: Vampirism! The first in a series of annual anthologies exploring a single theme through a variety of media, including paintings, interviews, photography, comics, and even music (a CD is included), Tome looks at classic vampire lore in ways never before thought possible. This limited edition, oversized hardcover includes an EXCLUSIVE sketch signed by Ben Templesmith!

photo (20)

To bid on Tome and to view all new auctions, visit CBLDF on eBay here. All proceeds from these items benefit our important First Amendment legal work!

New Student Orientation Has Started at U. Montana; Still No New Policies Posted

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

With first-year law students on their third day of class, and undergrads on their second day of orientation, it’s long past time for the University of Montana (UMT) to reveal its newly revised policies concerning sexual misconduct. Surprisingly, UMT’s old policy on sexual harassment remains on its website, leaving students and faculty unsure about what exactly is prohibited this school year and what must be reported.

As detailed in the resolution agreement, revised policies must be approved by the Departments of Education and Justice before being fully implemented. Perhaps the revised policies are stuck at this stage of the process (although one assumes that the Departments have been made aware of UMT’s academic calendar). But particularly when a university is so publicly between policies, the failure to post at least interim measures before students arrive on campus leaves students unsure as to the consequences of their speech.

Check back to The Torch for continuing developments.

New Zealand Library Refuses to Carry Lost Girls

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Lostgirls_coverWhen New Zealand cartoonist Dylan Horrocks (Hicksville, Batgirl) requested that his local Auckland library purchase a copy of Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, the library denied his request with the argument that the book potentially violated New Zealand law.

Horrock received a response from the Library, which he posted on his Facebook page:

Just heard back from Auckland Libraries on my request for Lost Girls (Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie):

“Thank you for your suggestion to purchase ‘Lost Girls’ by Alan Moore. Due to the depictions contained within this graphic novel we have been advised by the Office of Film and Literature Classification that we may be at risk of prosecution if we made the book available to customers. As a result Auckland Libraries will not be purchasing copies of this title.”

The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act of 1993 — commonly called New Zealand’s Censorship Law — prohibits select content from media. In Section 3 of the Classification act, it states that

…publication may be restricted or banned if it ‘describes, depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with’ matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence. If a publication is restricted or banned, this means that ...

North Carolina Becomes First State to Guarantee College Students’ Right to Attorney

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Here’s today’s press release:

RALEIGH, N.C., August 23, 2013—Today, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill granting public university students in the state facing non-academic disciplinary charges the right to an attorney. The law, which is the first of its kind nationwide, ensures that students attending the state’s public colleges and universities possess rights similar to those already enjoyed by North Carolina’s K–12 students under state law. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) worked with a bipartisan group of state legislators to enact the protection into law.  

“Students across America are regularly tried in campus courts for serious offenses like theft, harassment, and even rape. Being labeled a felon and kicked out by your college carries serious, life-altering consequences. Because the stakes are so high, students should have the benefit of an attorney to ensure the hearing is conducted fairly and by the rules,” said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. “We are immensely gratified that the legislature and governor of North Carolina have taken this critical step in giving students a fair chance for justice.”

With the passage of this law, students at North Carolina’s public colleges are now afforded rights comparable to those of ...

Lawrence Lessig Strikes Back Against Bogus Copyright Takedown

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
EFF Sues Liberation Music for Forcing Harvard Professor’s Video Off YouTube

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed suit against an Australian record company for misusing copyright law to remove a lecture by Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig from YouTube. With co-counsel Jones Day, EFF is asking a federal judge in Massachusetts to rule that the video is lawful fair use, to stop Liberation Music from making further legal threats, and to award damages.

"The rise of extremist enforcement tactics makes it increasingly difficult for creators to use the freedoms copyright law gives them," Lessig said. "I have the opportunity, with the help of EFF, to challenge this particular attack. I am hopeful the precedent this case will set will help others avoid such a need to fight."

A co-founder of the nonprofit Creative Commons and author of numerous books on law and technology, Lessig has played a pivotal role in shaping the debate about copyright in the digital age. In June 2010, Lessig delivered a lecture titled "Open" at a Creative Commons conference in South Korea that included several short clips of amateur dance videos set to the song "Lisztomania" by the French band Phoenix. ...

Obscenity Case Files: Smith v. California

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

It was established in Roth v. United States that the freedom of speech would not extend to materials that were considered obscene. But what happens to a book store that unknowingly carries books that contain obscene material? Is a book store owner responsible for knowing the content in all of the books that he or she sells? In Smith v. California (1959), the Supreme Court ruled that an ordinance requiring a book store owner to be strictly liable for possessing or selling obscene material — meaning the owner had to know the contents of every book in the store — violated First Amendment rights.

(c) PBS

(c) PBS

Eleazor Smith was a book store owner in Los Angeles in the 1950s. Like most book stores, he carried a multitude of books that spanned many different topics, a vast collection that could not possibly be read by any one person in its entirety. He was convicted under a Los Angeles city ordinance that made it a criminal offense for a book store owner to possess or sell any obscene or indecent writings. Unlike most criminal liability laws, this law did not contain any mens rea (literally, “guilty mind,” or the mental element of ...

Former Xavier Student Athlete Files Suit Alleging Unfair Expulsion

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Former Xavier University (Cincinnati) student athlete Dez Wells filed a complaint (PDF) Tuesday in federal court alleging that Xavier failed to follow its own procedures in a sexual assault hearing against Wells and that the university’s public statement about the case was defamatory. 

In July 2012, a fellow Xavier student accused Wells of raping her; Wells stated that the sexual activity was consensual. That August, Wells was expelled from Xavier after a hearing by the University Conduct Board (UCB), despite the fact that both a county grand jury and county prosecutor Joseph Deters declined to indict Wells. (Deters, in fact, even advocated for Wells himself, asking Xavier to reconsider the case.)

Deters describes his opinion on Xavier’s investigation.

According to Wells’ federal complaint, the policies in Xavier’s Student Handbook require members of the UCB—which adjudicates allegations of sexual assault and rape—“to be trained and experienced in adjudicating such matters and to be free of prejudice or bias.” The Handbook specifies several procedural requirements meant to “preserve fundamental fairness,” including a requirement that the UCB use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof in order to determine whether a student is responsible for the alleged offense.

Wells contends that the ...

Coastal Carolina University Bans the Local Alternative Newspaper from Campus

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

It is generally accepted wisdom that colleges and universities stopped acting in loco parentis (in the place of parents) in the 1960s. But I’m beginning to wonder about that, given the latest campus attack on the First Amendment ostensibly to protect college students from bad influences. 

As Leah Mishkin reports for WBTW News 13 (Myrtle Beach, S.C.), Coastal Carolina University (CCU) recently banned a local alternative newspaper, The Weekly Surge, from campus. CCU’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Debbie Conner, justified the decision by explaining that “most of the articles dealt with conversations about alcohol or drinking and almost all the advertisements were advertisements related to establishments that are serving alcohol[.]” 

This decision betrays the principle of freedom of expression. CCU, a public university bound by the First Amendment, is not allowing a newspaper to be distributed on its campus because it includes content—discussion of alcohol, a legal product—that it doesn’t like. It doesn’t get more blatant than that. And, in fact, CCU may be realizing how ridiculous it looks; according to Conner, the ban is not permanent, but “the paper did not fall in line with the educational goals for this semester.” (Who knew local newspapers had to ...

GAO Study Confirms the Obvious: Bad Patents Lead to Trolls

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

You might remember that in 2011, Congress passed the America Invents Act (AIA), which at the time, was heralded as it was heralded as "the first meaningful, comprehensive reforms to the nation’s patent system in nearly 60 years." You might also have noticed that we haven't talked much about it since then, since the law did next to nothing to really address many of the problems that users, consumers, small companies, and the tech community in general face because of a broken patent system, particularly the patent troll problem.

In the meantime, the White House, congressional leaders on both sides of the aisles, the Federal Trade Commission, and many individual states (here and here) have either taken actions, or, in the case of Congress, introduced reform legislation.

But there is one last vestige of the AIA that lingered, a study that—under the law—the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was ordered to investigate "the consequences of litigation by non-practicing entities, or by patent assertion entities, related to patent claims made under" the law.1 Today that study finally came out (no matter that the AIA mandated the study be released on Sept. 16, 2012!).


Big Win for ‘Gaymers’ – Blogger Surrenders Bogus Trademark Claim

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
Legal Threats Dropped in Battle Over Term to Describe Gay Gamers

San Francisco - In a big win for gay gamers around the world, a blogger has surrendered his bogus trademark claim on the word 'gaymer,' freeing online forums, conventions, and others to use the descriptive term without fear of legal threats and interference.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the law firm Perkins Coie represented a group of Reddit gaymers – members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community who have an active interest in videogames – after their long-running Reddit forum called r/gaymers was the target of a cease-and-desist letter complaining about their use of the term. It turns out blogger Chris Vizzini, who started a website called in 2006, had registered a trademark on 'gaymer' even though it had been in widespread use long before Vizzini started his website. With the help of EFF and Perkins Coie, the Reddit gamers asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to cancel the trademark in January of this year. Vizzini ultimately decided to surrender the mark, which was officially revoked this week.

"Gaymer is a term that everyone can use – including Vizzini – and we're pleased ...

Indianapolis Library Refuses to Censor Erotic Novel

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

An Indiana library is facing some heat after a 9-year-old obtained an erotic novel using the self-check out system. After the child left the library with a copy of the erotic novel Night Games by Crystal Jordan, the child’s grandmother, Jeannine Deeren, sent a request to the library asking for the removal of the book.

According to local affiliate Fox 59, the West Indianapolis library has denied the request. In its response letter, the library reiterated that it is the guardian’s responsibility to monitor the materials that children check out — a policy stated clearly on their website and when people sign up for a library card.

“The library has many suitable books for children and this book was in the adult section,” said Indianapolis Public Library spokesman Jon Barnes. “We encourage parents, grandparents and caregivers who don’t want their children to have access to certain materials to discuss how to use the library.” In addition, he said that the library is intended to serve a population with “varying tastes and interests.”

Deeren believes her grandson must have picked up the book thinking it was about video games. However, a glance at the cover by a parent or guardian could have ...

Today on eBay: The Flash by Freddie E. Williams II

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

We only have one item to showcase today for our ongoing series of eBay auctions, but it’s a doozy: a gorgeous original, black and white portrait of THE FLASH, signed by Freddie E. Williams II!

Freddie Williams Flash

Currently the artist of The Movement, a new DC Comics series written by Gail Simone, Williams’ dynamic, hyper-energetic style has also graced the pages of comics like Robin, Seven Soldiers, JSA, and of course, The Flash. You won’t be able to find this eye-popping 11 x 17 inch image anywhere else, so bid now!

To bid on this item and to view all new auctions, visit CBLDF on eBay here. All proceeds from these items benefit our important First Amendment legal work!


Vigilancia Estatal y Derechos Humanos en Argentina

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

De un tiempo ahora se ha vuelto necesario actualizar la forma en que entendemos al derecho internacional de los derechos humanos para dar cuenta de las nuevas tecnologías y técnicas de la vigilancia. La urgencia de esta tarea se ve demostrada por las recientes revelaciones que confirman la vigilancia masiva de individuos inocentes de todo el mundo.

Con este fin, este Jueves 22 de Agosto, la Asociación por los Derechos Civiles y la Fundación Vía Libre con la colaboración de EFF, Access y Privacy International presentarán los Principios Internacionales sobre la Aplicación de los Derechos Humanos a la Vigilancia de las Comunicaciones en la Cámara de Diputados de la República de Argentina. Los principios articulan las obligaciones que los Estados deben cumplir al aplicar el derecho internacional de los derechos humanos en la era digital y la vigilancia de las comunicaciones.

La presentación oficial en la Argentina de estos principios de derechos humanos es una aporte fundamental al debate que la Argentina se debe en relación a estas cuestiones:

El control de los organismos de inteligencia, la creación de bases de datos biométricas sin controles ni garantías adecuadas y la expansión de medidas que con el pretexto de la seguridad ...

Minnesota: Patent Trolls Are Not Welcome Here

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Minnesota is the latest state to join the fight against patent trolls. It announced yesterday that it reached a settlement with the "scanner troll," who claims to own the technology for scanning documents to email and has been demanding that companies large and small who use this widely available technology pay up. This settlement follows what appears to be an investigation by the state's attorney general.

Patent law is federal law, which means that state courts usually don't get to hear patent cases. But lately, patent trolls have hit a new low, targeting end users and consumers. This behavior has gotten the attention of state attorneys general, starting with Vermont, who filed a complaint in May against the same now infamous "scanner troll" (MPHJ Technology), alleging unfair and deceptive acts under Vermont's Consumer Protection Act (PDF of the complaint).

But Minnesota's settlement with the troll goes even further. Now, before it sends any letters to Minnesota businesses, MPHJ must give the attorney general's office 60 days' notice and obtain its consent.

The Minnesota attorney general's reasoning was pretty simple:

The Attorney General's Office began to investigate MPHJ Technology for violations of state consumer ...

Intelligence Agency Attorney on How “Multi-Communication Transactions” Allowed for Domestic Surveillance

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

In response to EFF's Freedom of Information Act request, the government released today the 2011 FISA Court opinion (redacted) that found part of the National Security Agency's "upstream collection" to be illegal and unconstitutional. Upstream collection is when the NSA gets a copy of Internet traffic as it flows through major telecommunications hubs, and searches through for "selectors," like an email address or a keyword. 

In a press conference call on the newly declassified court opinion, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) revealed new information about the way the NSA treated what it calls "multi-communication transactions." Such MCTs were at the heart of the illegal collection that went on from 2008 to 2011, resulting in wholesale collection of tens of thousands of domestic communications without a warrant. But what, exactly, is an MCT?

Responding to a question from New York Times journalist Charlie Savage, ODNI gave the following example of one type of MCT:

... there's a certain kind of communication that is referred to in the opinion as a "multi-communication transaction," where there are several communications bundled together. I can give you one example of that, but I really don't want to talk in great detail because it ...

Unjustified Detention of David Miranda Points to the Growing Problem of Suspicionless Border Surveillance

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained for almost nine hours by UK border authorities on Sunday under the pernicious Terrorism Act of 2000. He was on his way home from visiting Greenwald’s colleague and journalist Laura Poitras in Berlin. According to news accounts, Miranda was never asked about terrorism while held at Heathrow airport but was asked repeatedly about his partner’s journalism concering NSA surveillance.

This episode, along with reports that GCHQ—Britain’s version of the NSA—entered the Guardian offices and forced the paper to destroy its hard drives holding copies of documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are as deeply disturbing, as they are somewhat ridiculous—certainly no one in GCHQ could have believe either episode would stop the public from learning about the illegal spying. Yet they demonstrate an increasingly unvarnished assault on press freedom that has no place in a democracy.

The detention of Miranda should also focus attention on the misuse by governments of borders as “rights free” zones for journalists and ordinary travelers, especially as travelers increasingly carry tremendous amounts of information with them in their digital devices like smartphones, laptops, thumb drives, hard drives and tablets. 

It’s a problem EFF has ...

Judge Sticks Up for End Users, Rules Against Text Message Troll

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

A Federal Judge in Illinois recently ruled (PDF) that the infringement claims asserted by Helferich Patent Licensing, LLC—the notorious troll who owns patents on sending links to cell phones—did not hold up, all thanks to a doctrine known as "patent exhaustion."

This is important for two reasons: One, the case is a big victory for end users—customers who buy products or utilize services—who increasingly find themselves targeted by patent trolls; two, patent exhaustion is an important legal doctrine that can and should be used more to protect those facing troll threats. In fact, Apple is currently arguing that exhaustion bars the infamous troll Lodsys' claims against iOS app developers because Apple already has a license to Lodsys' patents.

The Background

Helferich's patents cover the delivery of content (alerts with a hyperlink) to a cell phone. The patents included some claims directed to the device (i.e. the cell phone) and some directed to the delivery of the alerts (i.e. the content). Asserting that its license to mobile phone manufacturers only covers the cell phone claims in the patent and not the content claims, the troll proceeded to demand payment from hundreds of companies who utilized the everyday ...

Supreme Court Justices Played Video Games During Brown v. EMA

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan

At 53, Elena Kagan is the youngest member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Kagan recently spoke in Providence, Rhode Island, and Michelle R. Smith with Talking Points Memo wrote about Kagan’s comments on how the Court uses technology. Kagan admitted that it’s a “challenge” for the Court.

In fact, much of what Kagan admits about the Court’s use of technology seems to come right out of a Luddite playbook:

When asked whether the justices email each other, Kagan said things are the same as when she clerked for the late Justice Thurgood Marshall three decades ago. She says justices write memos, which are then printed out on ivory paper that looks like it came from the 19th century. The memos are walked around the building by someone called a “chambers aide.”

Part of Smith’s article focused on one of Kagan’s first cases as a Supreme Court justice: Brown v. EMA. Brown v. EMA invalidated a California law that sought to regulate violent video game sales and would have added violent speech to the types of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment. The decision in the case granted First Amendment rights to ...

EFF Victory Results in Release of Secret Court Opinion Finding NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Update: In response to EFF's FOIA lawsuit, the government has released the 2011 FISA court opinion ruling some NSA surveillance unconstitutional.

For over a year, EFF has been fighting the government in federal court to force the public release of an 86-page opinion of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Issued in October 2011, the secret court's opinion found that surveillance conducted by the NSA under the FISA Amendments Act was unconstitutional and violated "the spirit of" federal law.

Today, EFF can declare victory: a federal court ordered the government to release records in our litigation, the government has indicated it intends to release the opinion today, and ODNI has called a 3:00 ET press conference to discuss "issues" with FISA Amendments Act surveillance, which we assume will include a discussion of the opinion.

It remains to be seen how much of the opinion the government will actually make available to the public. President Obama has repeatedly said he welcomes a debate on the NSA's surveillance: disclosing this opinionand releasing enough of it so that citizens and advocates can intelligently debate the constitutional violation that occurredis a critical step in ensuring that an informed ...

Late Digital Rights Activist, International Access to Knowledge Advocate, and NSA Spying Journalists Win EFF Pioneer Awards

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
EFF to Honor Aaron Swartz, James Love, and Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras Next Month in San Francisco Ceremony

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to announce the distinguished winners of the 2013 Pioneer Awards: late digital rights activist Aaron Swartz, international access to knowledge advocate James Love, and Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras – the journalists behind the blockbuster stories detailing extensive spying by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

The award ceremony will be held the evening of September 19 at the Lodge at the Regency Center in San Francisco. Renowned academic, author, and activist Professor Lawrence Lessig will be the keynote speaker.

Pioneer award winners Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras brought the world clear and credible news and analysis about the massive domestic surveillance programs currently conducted by the NSA – transforming leaked documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden into riveting narrative that everyone could understand. These blockbuster stories exposed a web of convoluted, invasive spying on phone call history, email connections, and other communications data, sparking outrage across the globe and unprecedented admissions by the U.S. government about the extent of the surveillance. Greenwald worked as a constitutional and civil rights litigator before ...

Using Copyright To Silence Oil Sands Satire? How Crude.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

When will they ever learn? The Alberta tourism bureau—which shares a law firm with some of the Canadian province's major oil companies—used a copyright takedown notice to try to smother a movie trailer that satirizes Alberta's oil sands project. The two-and-a-half-minute trailer used about four seconds of an Alberta travel advertisement to contrast its lush nature shots with images of environmental destruction in the oil fields, and to satirize its "Remember to Breathe" slogan. These are fair uses that should have been obvious to Travel Alberta's lawyers, and ordering the trailer down earns Travel Alberta a place in EFF's Takedown Hall of Shame.

The comic force behind the trailer video "Welcome to Fort McMoney" is Andy Cobb and Mike Demanskis, Los Angeles-based satirists who have authored over 100 political comedy videos. Cobb and Demanskis were inspired by an ad from the Canadian oil industry that encouraged viewers to "come see for yourself" the environment around Alberta's oil projects. They also found irony in the "Remember to Breathe" tourism slogan. Cobb described Travel Alberta's campaign to the Desmog Canada blog as "We’re making an entire region smell like someone broke wind in a refinery, while destroying the climate for like, ...

Public.Resource.Org Fights Back Against Copyright Lawsuit

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
EFF, Fenwick & West, and Durie Tangri Team Up to Defend Right to Access and Share Safety Standards

San Francisco - In an ongoing effort to protect free speech and the right of the public to examine the rules and regulations that govern our society, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today announced it will defend open-government advocate Carl Malamud and the organization he founded, Public.Resource.Org, against a copyright lawsuit filed by three standards development organizations. Fenwick & West LLP, Durie Tangri LLP, and David Halperin join EFF as co-counsel.

On August 3, the National Fire Protection Association, ASTM International and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers filed a lawsuit with a federal court in Washington, D.C., alleging "massive copyright infringement" by Public.Resource.Org for publishing codes and standards that have been incorporated into law. EFF argues such standards must be treated as part of the public domain, and Public.Resource.Org has a constitutional right to ensure government accountability by making the documents publicly available.

"Standards organizations get huge benefits from having their standards adopted as mandatory by federal and state regulators," EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz said. "But those benefits don't include the right to control access ...

Court Rules Accessing a Public Website Isn’t A Crime, But Hiding Your IP Address Could Be

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

In the ongoing legal battle between craigslist and 3taps, a new court opinion makes clear that people are "authorized" under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to access a public website. But what the court gave with one hand it took with the other, as it also ruled that sending a cease-and-desist letter and blocking an IP address is enough to "revoke" this authorization.

3taps collects real-estate data from craigslist and makes it available to other companies to use. One of those companies, Padmapper, republished craigslist apartment postings over a map to enable users to view apartment listings geographically, a feature then unavailable on the craigslist site. Craigslist's terms of service prohibits people from "scraping" or copying data from craigslist's site.

After learning about 3Taps and its clients, craigslist sent 3taps a cease-and-desist letter demanding they stop using craigslist data this way and then blocked 3taps' IP address from accessing the craigslist site. Ultimately, craigslist sued 3taps in federal court, arguing that 3taps had violated the CFAA. 3taps moved to dismiss the case, arguing that under the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in United States v. Nosal, 3taps could not be liable under the CFAA for violating craigslist's ...

FIRE Seeks Legal Coordinator!

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

FIRE is now accepting applications for Legal Coordinator—an attorney who will help coordinate litigation efforts with FIRE’s Legal Network and conduct legal research and writing concerning civil liberties on campus.

A successful candidate will be hard-working, articulate, and passionate about FIRE’s mission. In addition, an applicant must be a member of a state bar in good standing with at least two years of litigation experience in federal court.

If you’re an experienced attorney who wants to help FIRE win more victories for civil rights on college and university campuses, check out the full job description and apply to be Legal Coordinator!

Airbnb: Don’t Let Sanctions Confuse You

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

When Amir Shafi got the notification from Airbnb saying that his account had been terminated, he was surprised. The Iranian national, who is a resident of Switzerland, had recently returned from a trip to Istanbul, where he had successfully rented accommodation through Airbnb.  When he returned from the trip, he received a notification asking him to verify his account.

“I was happy to see there is a verification process,” says Amir, which is why he immediately uploaded a scanned copy of his Iranian passport.  “It makes any community work better, so I immediately did what the website was asking me to do.” A few minutes later, he received notification that his account had been verified. 

But just hours later, Amir received an email that Airbnb had closed his account. The message read:

Hi Amir,

Unfortunately, while we at Airbnb would like to keep our marketplace open
to the world, we are required to comply with US federal regulations that
restrict the use of our site by residents of certain countries. Therefore,
we are not be able to support user accounts from users from certain
countries, until such regulations change. We apologize for any
inconvenience and appreciate your understanding in this ...

University of Michigan Re-Invites Alice Walker After Disinvitation Controversy

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Last week, FIRE’s Samantha Harris reported that the University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women (CEW) had rescinded its invitation to The Color Purple author Alice Walker to speak at CEW’s 50th anniversary celebration. According to Inside Higher Ed, CEW and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies are now asking Walker to speak on campus after all—but not at the 50th anniversary celebration.

Walker had claimed that she was disinvited because her criticism of Israel offended some university donors. But an email sent to faculty by Provost Martha E. Pollack last Friday stated that the decision to rescind Walker’s invitation “was based solely on the celebratory nature [CEW] hoped to achieve at their anniversary event.” (No, we don’t know what that means.) The email also emphasized “the university’s firm commitment to free speech and to the expression of diverse viewpoints.”

Pollack noted that she “respect[s] the right of individual academic units to make decisions about whom they invite to campus, consistent with university principles and values.” While universities are not obliged to invite any particular guests to speak, giving in to pressure from an already-invited speaker’s critics and rescinding that invitation risks establishing a heckler’s veto...

Free Speech Essay Contest for High School Students Now Open! FIRE is awarding $20,000 in college scholarships!

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Are you a high school junior or senior planning on attending college after graduation? If you answered yes, enter FIRE’s essay contest, and you could win one of nine scholarships for college worth $10,000, $5000, $1000, or $500! 

Do you know a high school junior or senior? Then send them this link——and encourage them to apply! 

FIRE’s Free Speech Essay Contest is now open and accepting submissions from high school juniors and seniors! To enter, watch two FIRE videos—Silencing U: Five Outrageous Cases of Campus Censorship and What Every Student Should Know Before Starting College—and write an essay answering the question: “Why is free speech important at our nation’s colleges and universities?”

Part of making an informed decision about where to go to college is knowing whether a school actually upholds its commitments to protect student expression. All too often, students do not realize they should consider a school’s free speech track record when making the important choice of where to attend. FIRE’s essay contest encourages high school students to know their rights before they go to college, so they are better prepared to defend those rights when they get to campus. FIRE would like ...

Many Universities on the Cusp of a Better Speech Code Rating Part 1: Shawnee State University

Monday, August 19th, 2013

At the end of every September, FIRE finalizes the data for our annual speech code report, which is released later in the fall or winter. So if a university has a “red light” rating on September 30, it will fall into the red light category for the forthcoming speech code report, and any policy changes that happen after that date will affect its rating in the following year’s report.

Since we love good free-speech news at FIRE, we have decided to post a series here on The Torch featuring a handful of red light schools that are just one policy away from earning a “yellow light” rating in the hopes that they will decide to make the necessary revisions before the end of our reporting period.

The first university in this category, and the subject of this first installment in our series, is Shawnee State University in Ohio. Shawnee State’s policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence (PDF) contains a long list of “examples of sexual misconduct” that include many instances of constitutionally protected speech. Prohibited conduct includes, for example, “telling sexual or dirty jokes” as well as “displaying or distributing sexually explicit drawings, pictures, or written materials.” 

While ...

Schools Need Not Violate Basic Rights to Take Sexual Misconduct Seriously

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Yesterday, I had a letter to the editor published in The Philadelphia Inquirer responding to an op-ed the paper published last week. The op-ed (“Helping make campuses safer,” Aug. 8), written by Carol E. Tracy and Terry L. Fromson of the Women’s Law Project, rightly notes the lifelong consequences for victims of sexual misconduct. However, the piece suggests that the recent efforts from the federal government that seek to address the problem are appropriate, despite criticism from many civil rights advocates that the efforts violate basic free speech and due process rights.

Given word count restraints, my letter to the editor, which can be read here, addresses only one of the troublesome points Tracy and Fromson make in their piece: their contention that the federal government’s recent “blueprint” for campus sexual misconduct policies “do[es] not broaden the definition of sexual harassment.”

The blueprint defines sexual harassment on campus as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct.” As I wrote in my letter, and as FIRE has explained before, this definition is much broader than the definition of peer harassment in the educational context set forth by the Supreme Court in Davis v. Monroe County ...

Key Takeaways From the Washington Post Report Detailing Thousands of Privacy Violations by the NSA

Friday, August 16th, 2013

The Washington Post has published two important stories, based on perhaps the most signficant documents yet leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Separately, the stories tell of an agency in charge of policing itself, leading to thousands of violations of Americans’ privacy per year, and a secret court with no power to stop them.

These new revelations, and the many before it, lead to one conclusion: we need a full, independent investigation of the NSA’s powers. Here are the most significant new facts we learned yesterday:

An internal NSA privacy audit showed thousands of violations of the law per year, despite administration statements insisting NSA hasn’t abused its powers:

The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance.

The NSA, on at least one occasion, decided not to report a violation of Americans’ privacy to the FISA court, in violation of court rules:

In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” ...

Censorship of Art on Campus Is Also Unlearning Liberty

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Tom Gregg, Bad Apple, oil on panel.
One of the works censored at U. of Kansas

In 2002, someone at the Department of Justice had curtains draped strategically over an aluminum statue in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice to cover up Lady Justice’s exposed breast. Whether fairly or not, John Ashcroft, then Attorney General, was widely mocked for this move. 

The August 13 edition of the Dartmouth Review has an article by James G. Rascoff that discusses Dartmouth College’s decision to cover another work of art from the 1930s. And yesterday, the Associated Press’s Maria Sudekum reported that the Medical Center at the University of Kansas has closed an art exhibit in its library arguably because of controversial content. Although the schools’ reasoning may be more sophisticated than the desire in the Justice Department to keep the background of its press conferences family-friendly, the end result is more examples of campus censorship stifling discussion and learning.

The Dartmouth story begins with the college’s decision to invite Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco to paint a mural for its library. From 1932–34, Orozco created a 20-panel mural titled The Epic of American Civilization. The Hood Museum ...

Universities Value Diversity, As Long As It Doesn’t Include Diversity of Thought

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Yesterday, we heard the news that Dartmouth College was retracting its offer of a deanship to Malawian bishop James Tengatenga in light of comments he had made about homosexuality during his tenure as Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi. 

Today, we learned that the University of Michigan rescinded a speaking invitation to Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, allegedly because of donor concerns about her anti-Israel activism. 

These two incidents serve to highlight an unfortunate reality at too many universities: While they claim to place a high value on diversity and multiculturalism, they are often unprepared or even unwilling to accept the diversity of thought that naturally flows from those things. If universities truly wish their student bodies, faculty, and staff to represent a variety of people from different backgrounds and different parts of the world, they must also accept the differing worldviews that follow.

For example, a British Anglican priest told The Boston Globe the following regarding Bishop Tengatenga:

“You are asking the impossible of someone coming out of that African situation,” said the Rev. Nicholas Henderson, a parish priest in West London, an editor of, and a vice president of Modern Church, the ...

NSA Spying: The Three Pillars of Government Trust Have Fallen

Friday, August 16th, 2013

With each recent revelation about the NSA's spying programs government officials have tried to reassure the American people that all three branches of government—the Executive branch, the Judiciary branch, and the Congress—knowingly approved these programs and exercised rigorous oversight over them. President Obama recited this talking point just last week, saying: "as President, I've taken steps to make sure they have strong oversight by all three branches of government and clear safeguards to prevent abuse and protect the rights of the American people."  With these three pillars of oversight in place, the argument goes, how could the activities possibly be illegal or invasive of our privacy? 

Today, the Washington Post confirmed that two of those oversight pillars—the Executive branch and the court overseeing the spying, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court)—don't really exist. The third pillar came down slowly over the last few weeks, with Congressional revelations about the limitations on its oversight, including what Representative Sensennbrenner called "rope a dope" classified briefings. With this, the house of government trust has fallen, and it's time to act. Join the over 500,000 people demanding an end to the unconstitutional NSA spying.

First, the Executive. After a review of internal NSA ...

EFF Supports Human Rights Case Against Cisco for Selling Surveillance Technologies to China

Friday, August 16th, 2013

EFF filed an amicus brief in an important case known as Du v. Cisco, where Chinese human rights activists have sued the US tech giant Cisco in Maryland federal court. The case alleges that Cisco knowingly customized, marketed, sold, and provided continued support and service for technologies used by the Chinese government to facilitate human rights abuses.  

The case arises in part from the publication several years ago of a presentation in which Cisco confirms that the Golden Shield is helpful to the Chinese government to “Combat Falun Gong Evil Religion and Other Hostilities.” This shocking statement indicated not only that Cisco knew of the Chinese government’s strategy of repression of dissident groups, but that it was marketing and customizing its Golden Shield technologies to meet those goals. Shortly after this case was filed in August 2011, China detained the lead plaintiff, Du Daobin, and interrogated him about his involvement in the case. EFF called on Cisco to intervene to help protect the plaintiffs.

Over the past few years EFF has documented (here, here, here) the increasing use of sophisticated surveillance technologies from the U.S. and European companies to facilitate human rights abuses around the ...

Greg Lukianoff on Changes in Campus Free Speech in ‘The Huffington Post’

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

In 2003, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and co-founder Harvey Silverglate published an article (PDF) in The Chronicle of Higher Education discussing the state of free speech in higher education and the prevalence of speech codes on college campuses. Since then, FIRE has been remarkably successful in fighting unconstitutional speech codes through litigation and public awareness campaigns.

In an article for The Huffington Post published last week, Greg asks, “What has changed since our 2003 article, and what does that change—or lack thereof—mean for our nation’s campuses?” A decade later, Greg discusses the progress that has been made and, more importantly, the changes that still must come for free speech to flourish in higher education.

Greg explains that despite FIRE’s numerous successes, “at the overwhelming majority of American colleges, speech codes still remain the rule, not the exception.” Despite the blatant unconstitutionality of speech codes, “campuses continue to go to court with codes that bear no relationship to the legal definition (nor the common sense essence) of harassment and then seem surprised when these codes are overturned.”

Greg notes that the biggest difference between 2003 and today “is that the federal government has gone from trying to clarify the law and ...

Congress’ Copyright Cowards: the Members Who Could Betray Internet Users

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Fast track authority, also known as trade promotion authority, empowers the White House to unilaterally negotiate and sign trade agreements. It not only hinders Congress from exercising its constitutionally mandated power to oversee and amend trade deals, it could impact their sovereign power to make and reform copyright and Internet policy domestically.

Fast track places a time-limit on Congressional debates on trade treaties, prevents Congress from proposing amendments, and reduces Congress to an up-or-down, yes or no vote on the entire treaty. That means that radical changes to digital policies are controlled almost entirely by the executive. They are proposed by the US Trade Representative, negotiated by his office in secret, and then buried in large bills with other major economic provisions that Congress is unlikely to reject. Policies passed in such treaty bills can then only be repealed if the treaty itself is renegotiated. It strips Congress of almost all of its oversight power.

Stop Secret Copyright Treaties

So who are the proponents of this unconstitutional procedure? Unsurprisingly, the most ardent supporter is the new US Trade Rep himself, Michael Froman. On multiple occasions, he has called fast track authority a “critical tool” for passing secretive trade agreements. Really that’s just ...

Win an iPad in FIRE’s “Back to School with the First Amendment” Contest

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Around the country right now, millions of college students are tingling with a mix of excitement and dread as they pack their books and head back to campus for another year of classes, homework, papers and finals. 

But never fear—FIRE is about to make that journey back to school a whole lot better. How? We’re giving away a brand new iPad, that’s how.

Here’s How You Enter:

Our “Back to School with the First Amendment” contest is open to all FIRE fans in the United States. The rules are simple:

1. Take a picture of yourself showing some love for the First Amendment or FIRE.

2. Write a caption that starts with “I believe free speech is important on campus because...”

3. Submit your picture and caption by August 23.

Here’s How You Win:

FIRE will pick the best pictures and put them up in an album on our Facebook page on August 26. During that week, get your friends, your neighbors, total strangers—whomever—to “like” your photo. At 5 p.m. EDT on August 30, we’ll tally them up, and whoever has the most likes wins!


We’re not just giving away an iPad; we have three great prizes to ...

Join us for an Evening of Expression with Diane Rehm

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Rehm Photo - Header2


Tickets for our “Evening of Expression” fundraiser can be purchased here.

KC Johnson Praises Vanderbilt Handing Rape Case to Nashville Police

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Yesterday on Minding the Campus, Brooklyn College professor KC Johnson noted Vanderbilt University’s actions following recent accusations that four former football players raped another Vanderbilt student while she was unconscious: University police reported the case to Nashville Police for investigation and criminal prosecution. In his article, Johnson contrasts Vanderbilt’s response to the allegations with the disciplinary hearing processes conducted at most colleges, and he advocates for schools to follow Vanderbilt’s lead.

Johnson criticizes the lack of due process afforded accused students in cases where sexual assault cases are handled internally:

[There] is a basic assumption[] that campus rape is the sort of crime that should not be investigated by the police or handled through the criminal process, since law enforcement authorities are insufficiently sensitive to accusers and the legal process provides too many protections to the accused. Far better, according to this theory, to set up a parallel system of “justice” in which conviction is almost certain, either because of absurdly low evidentiary standards or because the accused student is denied anything approaching due process.

As Johnson explains, the Vanderbilt case will be handled outside of the university’s judiciary system:

[T]he Nashville Police, rather than untrained university administrators, ...

A Guide to the Deceptions, Misinformation, and Word Games Officials Use to Mislead the Public About NSA Surveillance

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

It’s been two months since President Barack Obama first said that he welcomes a debate about NSA surveillance, which he once again reiterated last week at his press conference. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to have a real debate about a subject when the administration constantly and intentionally misleads Americans about the NSA’s capabilities and supposed legal powers.

Infamously, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper was forced to apologize for lying to Congress about whether the government was collecting information on millions of Americans, but that was merely the tip of the administration’s iceberg of mendacity and misdirection. At this point, it seems nothing the government says about the NSA can be taken at face value.

NSA’s Bizarro Dictionary

The latest example comes from the New York Times last week, which reported that the NSA is “searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country.” Despite the fact that millions of people’s communications are collected in bulk, the NSA says that this isn’t  “bulk collection.” From the NYT story:

The senior intelligence official argued, however, that it would be inaccurate to portray the N.S.A. as engaging in “bulk collection” ...

Obscenity Case Files: Memoirs v. Massachusetts

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

In 1966, eleven years after the decision in Roth v. United States held that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment and attempted to define obscene speech, came the landmark case of Memoirs v. Massachusetts. This case is about a book, originally published in 1748, that explores the sexual exploits of a 15-year-old prostitute in England and her attempts to understand love. Upon publication in the United States, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed a suit to have the book declared obscene, which was eventually overruled by the Supreme Court in an attempt to further understand and modify the court’s definition of obscenity.

While in a debtors prison, John Cleland wrote Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, which was shunned for its explicit content but hailed for being the first pornography to use the form of a novel. Memoirs (aka Fanny Hill) tells the story of a young girl named Fanny Hill as she tries to make a life for herself after the death of both of her parents. Her desperate search for employment leads her become prostitute. The book consists primarily of letters written by Fanny to an unknown recipient, ...

Best of the Blog: “Aim to Misbehave: Donate to FIRE Today!”

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

This week, FIRE has a special treat for you. We've rounded up some of our best blogs from over the years: pieces we think are particularly well written or cases we are particularly passionate about. Today, we hear from Gina Luttrell, who wrote about our "Firefly" case at the University of Wisconsin-Stout on December 21 last year. Please enjoy!

A little over a year ago, I flew into Philadelphia to interview for an open position with FIRE (spoiler alert: I got the job). Sitting in the conference room with my soon-to-be coworkers, they asked me to name a few cases with which I was familiar. 

My calm, calculated interview demeanor dropped as I grinned and laughed like the nerd girl I am. "The Firefly case. I love Firefly."

I was, of course, referring to the case at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Professor Jim Miller posted a flyer outside his door featuring the devilishly handsome Nathan Fillion in his Firefly browncoat with the words of his character, Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds: 

You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And ...

Best of the Blog: “Let Valdosta State Ruling Be a Warning to University Administrators: Qualified Immunity Will Not Bail You Out”

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

This week, FIRE has a special treat for you. We've rounded up some of our best blogs from over the years: pieces we think are particularly well written or cases we are particularly passionate about. Today, we revisit Azhar Majeed's post about the Hayden Barnes case from September 10, 2010. Please enjoy!

FIRE has been warning college presidents and administrators for some time that when they violate the expressive rights and due process rights of students at public universities, they do more than defy the dictates of the Constitution (and, for that matter, abandon their moral duties as leaders of our nation's institutions of higher education). We have warned that administrators who violate students' First Amendment and due process rights precariously ignore, at their own risk, controlling Supreme Court decisions and other longstanding federal court precedents on these matters.

That's because administrators at public colleges and universities, as public officials performing discretionary duties under color of state law, can be sued in their individual capacities by students under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating these and other rights. Section 1983 is a federal civil rights statute that allows individuals who have been deprived of a federal statutory or constitutional right to ...

CBLDF Joins Amicus Brief Opposing Content-Based Taxation in New York

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

mclogoCBLDF and other members of the Media Coalition have joined forces to file an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, asking them to review a lower court’s decision in New Loudon Corp. v. State of N.Y. Tax Appeals Tribunal. The appeals court upheld a decision that allows content-based taxation, which raises serious First Amendment concerns.

New York offers a tax break for choreographed dance performances, such as those found in Broadway plays, but this tax break is not extended to all forms of choreographed dance, in particular non-obscene nude dancing. This differential taxation based on content was upheld by the New York Court of Appeals. Based on previous decisions, the Media Coalition is asking the Supreme Court to review the decision and to extend the protections provided for print materials to choreographed dance performances, citing that it is unconstitutional to tax print materials differently because the content is considered by some to lack artistic merit.

The official press release from the Media Coalition conveys the concern that differential taxation based on the content of a performance poses a threat to free expression:

“May a State impose a sales tax on tickets to the Broadway musical Mamma Mia, while exempting ...

Best of the Blog: “How the Federal Blueprint Breaks New Ground”

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

This week, FIRE has a special treat for you. We've rounded up some of our best blogs from over the years: pieces we think are particularly well written or cases we are particularly passionate about. Today, we hear from Will Creeley, who explained the Departments of Justice and Education's speech code "blueprint" back on May 24, 2013. Please enjoy!

University of Montana

The controversial University of Montana findings letter and resolution agreement (together, the “blueprint”) issued by the Departments of Justice and Education two weeks ago have drawn criticism from commentators nationwide. The heat has come from all corners, with UCLA School of Law professor and First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh, former Department of Education attorney Hans Bader, editorial boards, columnists, bloggers, civil libertarians, and many more weighing in on the threat to free speech on campus.

Given the hailstorm of criticism that has followed the feds’ high-profile roll-out for the University of Montana agreement, I’ve been struck by the lack of public support for the shockingly broad definition of “sexual harassment” that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will now require of institutions receiving federal funding. Disappointingly, OCR has gone silent again...

Best of the Blog: “Liberty University, Free Speech, and the Private University”

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

This week, FIRE has a special treat for you. We've rounded up some of our best blogs from over the years: pieces we think are particularly well written or cases we are particularly passionate about. Today, we hear from FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, who wrote back on June 3, 2009, about Liberty University and why FIRE does not intervene at some colleges and universities. Please enjoy!

Since Liberty University decided recently to derecognize its chapter of the College Democrats because it believed the group's "parent organization stands against the moral principles" of the university founded by Jerry Falwell, we've been getting a lot of mail and questions about our stance on the issue. Despite the fact that we've made our position on private universities very clear in the decade since our founding and have covered the subject both in our Guides and, most recently, in Robert's blog post last week about Liberty, it appears that some people are not understanding us. Therefore, I am going to try to explain this in as straightforward a manner as possible.

Public colleges are bound by the First Amendment. Therefore they must provide their faculty and students with robust free speech rights. Private colleges ...

HarperCollins India and the Pixelated Penises

Monday, August 5th, 2013

payingforitWhen Canadian comics artist Chester Brown’s graphic novel memoir Paying For It – about his encounters with 23 different prostitutes — was first published in 2011, it received generally favorable reviews and was widely applauded for its honesty. But in the upcoming edition to be released by HarperCollins India, nine of Brown’s close-up drawings of his own genitals will appear pixelated, an instance of pre-emptive self-censorship undertaken by the publisher itself. In an article from Indian magazine OPEN, Devika Bakshi examines how this came to happen in the country that produced and still proudly claims the Kama Sutra.

The censored images are not the only nudity in Brown’s book — far from it, in fact. But they were the ones in close-up and/or depicting sex acts, and the publisher’s lawyer thought there was a chance they might contravene India’s obscenity law, which Bakshi calls “ingeniously vague”:

A book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting representation, figure or any other object, shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect, or (where it comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items, is, if taken as ...

The Public Interest Gets Its Day at the International Trade Commission

Monday, August 5th, 2013

We've not talked much about the International Trade Commission (ITC) here, but something quite interesting happened there over the weekend. The White House stepped in and, in a notable and rare move, overruled a ban limiting importation of certain Apple products. That ban was based on an ITC finding of patent infringement, but the White House overruled it based on—get this—the public interest.

First, let's start with the ITC. Like its name suggests, the ITC is tasked with dealing with matters of international trade and competitiveness. So what, you may ask, does this have to do with patents? The Tariff Act allows, which governs the ITC, allows it to investigate patent infringement claims when a U.S.-based company makes those claims against products that are being produced overseas and imported into the States. If the ITC finds infringement, it has only one remedy available—it may issue an exclusion order, or, in other words, block products made abroad from being shipped into the United States.

As you might guess, this can lead to some scary results. First, trolls often sue in the ITC, claiming their "licensing activities" prove that they practice business in the United States (the ITC has hinted that it ...

Best of the Blog: “Victory for Free Speech: Third Circuit Strikes Down University of Virgin Islands’ Speech Codes”

Monday, August 5th, 2013

This week, FIRE has a special treat for you. We've rounded up some of our best blogs from over the years: pieces we think are particularly well written or cases we are particularly passionate about. Today, we hear from Azhar Majeed, who wrote about McCauley v. University of the Virginia Islands when the decision was issued on August 19, 2010. Please enjoy!

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an opinion today in McCauley v. University of the Virgin Islands striking down unconstitutional speech policies maintained by the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) on First Amendment grounds. As our press release details, the appellate court's decision is a momentous victory for freedom of speech on campus.

The Third Circuitwhose jurisdiction includes the Virgin Islands as well as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delawarefound the university's regulations prohibiting "offensive" or "unauthorized" signs and conduct causing "emotional distress" unconstitutional. The Third Circuit also upheld the federal district court's invalidation of a policy that forbade causing "mental harm" or "demean[ing]" or "disgrac[ing]" any person. In December 2009, FIRE filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Third Circuit to reach this result.

The case got its ...

Google: Keep Android Users’ Secure Network Passwords Secure

Monday, August 5th, 2013

If you have a recent Android phone or tablet, chances are you take advantage of a convenient feature to backup your application settings and wireless network passwords. This feature is enabled by default in Android 2.2 and later, and it can make switching to a new device or replacing a lost phone a quicker process. If you haven't examined all the settings for your phone, you might not know if this setting is enabled.

You might not even know who has access to your data.

Android Backup settings

When a Google user sets up a new Android device with Google Play and signs into her Google account, Android Backup Service automatically downloads any backed up settings and wireless network passwords from Google's servers. All that is required of the user to begin this process is her Google credentials.

This indicates that the data is stored either in plaintext, or encrypted using Google account credentials only. In the latter case, it would need to be decrypted before transit to the user's device. However, a statement from Google to Ars Technica indicates that the former might be the case:

"Our optional 'Backup my data' feature makes it easier to switch to a new Android device ...