Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Company rebuts fair-use defense in newspaper copyright suit

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

LAS VEGAS — A company suing websites on behalf of the owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal says an Oregon nonprofit that helps immigrants isn't exempt from copyright laws.

Righthaven LLC said in documents filed last week in U.S. District Court that the Center for Intercultural Organizing was wrong to post a story from the newspaper without authorization, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

"A defendant's nonprofit status or educational motive does not somehow provide a blanket exemption from liability for infringement," attorneys for Righthaven said in court documents.

Lawyers for the nonprofit argue the post qualifies for a "fair use" exemption and didn't hurt the Review-Journal. They say visitors to the nonprofit's website go there for immigration news, not for Nevada news covered by the newspaper.

A professor of law from the University of California, Berkeley, said in a friend-of-the-court brief that the Review-Journal encouraged the posting by suggesting readers share its news online. Jason Schultz, co-director of the university's Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic, said the nonprofit's use of the article didn't cannibalize the market for the Review-Journal's work.

"The Las Vegas Review-Journal elected to give the article away for free on the Internet and continues ...

FBI releases files on correspondent Daniel Schorr

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Nixon White House was so worried about CBS News reporter Daniel Schorr's reporting that it ordered an investigation into the veteran network correspondent whose tough stories landed him on the president's infamous enemies list, according to newly released FBI files.

The administration of President Richard Nixon had the FBI conduct a background investigation on Schorr in 1971, according to one section from among hundreds of pages released late last week from Schorr's FBI file.

The White House said it was considering Schorr for a public-affairs job in the environmental area. A day later, the investigation was canceled but the White House still wanted to see anything the FBI had managed to discover about Schorr. Schorr meanwhile asked the FBI to discontinue the investigation. The long-time newsman later said he had never applied for such a position.

The 93-year-old Schorr died in July after a six-decade career with CBS, NPR and other news outlets. He said the Nixon White House had tried to intimidate him for his hard-hitting coverage of the administration.

The first reference to Schorr in FBI files dates from July 31, 1942, when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover asked the chief of the Special War ...

IFRT Monthly Video Series: ALA Past President Camila Alire

Monday, December 27th, 2010

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) presents the sixth in its monthly video series of interviews. This month’s video features Camila Alire, Immediate Past President of the American Library Association, speaking with IFRT Chair Loida Garcia-Febo about providing equal and equitable access to all members of the community, including under-served communities of color.

If you have any topics you would like to see featured in upcoming videos, please contact IFRT chair Loida Garcia-Febo directly at loidagarciafebo@gmail.com.

Last Chance to Donate in 2010!

Monday, December 27th, 2010

With the New Year just days away, this is the last chance to Donate in 2010, with plenty of amazing premiums available in the CBLDF Rewards Zone!

There are still a few copies left of the Signed MOEBIUS Hardcovers, and now may be the last chance to get a Signed WORLDS OF AMANO!

Be sure and check the Rewards Zone for your post-Holiday gifts; there are still prints, shirts, and lots of great books, and every dime you spend goes towards our work for Free Speech.

And don’t forget, it’s never too late to become a member!

Thanks for your support and 2010, and here’s to a great 2011!

2010 Trend Watch Update: Net Neutrality

Monday, December 27th, 2010

At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #6, Net Neutrality: The Rubber Hits The Road, where we predicted:

[W]hat will [net neutrality] mean when it makes the transformation from idealistic principle into real-world regulations? 2010 will be the year we start to find out, as the FCC attempts to implement the plan it adopts after its 107-page request for input about how to ensure a neutral Net.

But how far can the FCC be trusted? Historically, the FCC has sometimes shown more concern for the demands of corporate lobbyists and "public decency" advocates than it has for individual civil liberties. Consider the FCC's efforts to protect Americans from "dirty words" in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, or its much-criticized deregulation of the media industry, or its narrowly-thwarted attempt to cripple video ...

Exiled Poet Wins Praise

Monday, December 27th, 2010
A Chinese writer gains official recognition in spite of his earlier involvement in pro-democracy movements.

Ga. lobbyists will have to report on wining and dining

Monday, December 27th, 2010

ATLANTA — Georgians will be able to keep closer tabs on what lobbyists spend wining and dining state lawmakers. But new ethics legislation set to take effect Jan. 1 doesn't set a limit on what those lobbyists can spend.

Reeling from a sex-and-lobbying scandal that toppled Georgia's powerful House speaker, state legislators earlier this year ushered through what they touted as a sweeping ethics-reform package.

But watchdogs say that although the new law makes some needed improvements — such as requiring lobbyists to disclose expenses more frequently — it fails to tackle some of the more pressing ethical issues that have dogged Georgia.

Common Cause Georgia pushed to include caps on what lobbyists can spend in entertaining public officials. The group also sought to ban, or at least limit, the transfer of campaign funds between political action committees, a popular way to disguise who is giving to a candidate.

But neither made it into the bill signed into law in the spring by Gov. Sonny Perdue. Alabama recently adopted both as part of a wide-ranging ethics-reform package in that scandal-plagued state.

Georgia House Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, a key Republican lawmaker, said he would try again in the coming ...

2010 Trend Watch Update: Hardware Hacking

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #4, hardware hacking:

An increasingly active hobbyist community is figuring out how to make a range of devices more useful and open. They are learning how to install new software or make third-party parts, devices, and services work with proprietary high-tech products like video game consoles, printers, portable audio players, home entertainment devices, e-book readers, mobile phones, digital cameras, and even programmable calculators. And, oh yes, contending with restrictions on both cars and garage doors.

In 2010, phone jailbreaking will become even more mainstream, and the concept will be routinely applied to other sorts of devices. EFF's Coders Rights Project will have no shortage of work to do defending users and developers who want to make their hardware do more than it was designed ...

WikiLeaks Frequently Asked Questions

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

OpenTheGovernment.org, in conjunction with its partners, has prepared answers to some of the questions transparency advocates are frequently asked about the WikiLeaks controversy. They have also set up a site (https://sites.google.com/site/wikileaksandtransparency/ ) with some useful resources on the issue.  View the FAQ’s online at:http://www.openthegovernment.org/article/articleview/458/.


Utah school district backs breast-cancer bracelets

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Some teachers may find Corbin Barber's bracelets provocative, but the Granite School District and the American Civil Liberties Union agree he has the right to wear them at Hunter High.

It's OK to say "I (heart) boobies."

As part of a national breast-cancer awareness campaign aimed at youth, rubber wrist bands emblazoned with that message have become trendy teen wear. Sales of the brightly colored bracelets raise money for the Keep A Breast Foundation, a California-based nonprofit that funds research and education programs. The group sees the accessories as conversation starters, using language that dispels some of the scariness associated with cancer.

"Wearing these is going to help people be more open about it," said Barber, a 17-year-old senior at Hunter High. Near the time that his own aunt was recovering from breast cancer, Barber spotted the bracelets at Valley Fair Mall. He bought nine of the $4 bands so he could share with friends.

But Barber and other Hunter High students were dismayed when some teachers insisted the bracelets be removed.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, a committee of teachers and an assistant principal at Hunter High dispatched a Q-and-A to school ...

UPDATED: 2010 Trend Watch Update: Attacks on Cryptography

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #1, Attacks on Cryptography, where we predicted:

In 2010, several problems with cryptography implementations should come to the fore, showing that even encrypted communications aren't as safe as users expect. Two of the most significant problems we expect concern cellphone security and web browser security.

GSM, the technology that underpins most cellphone communications around the world, uses a deeply flawed security technology. In 2010, devices which intercept phone calls will get cheaper and cheaper. Expect to see public demonstrations of the ability to break GSM's encryption and intercept mobile phone calls. We hope that this will prompt the mobile phone industry to replace its obsolete systems with modern and easy-to-use cryptography.

SSL (in its newer versions known as TLS), the basic security technology of ...

Mont. Supreme Court considers access restrictions

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Supreme Court is considering restrictions to public access of certain information now available throughout the court system, including a proposal to seal all documents filed in family law cases except for final orders.

Freedom of information advocates say the proposals are unnecessary and would run counter to the right-to-know provisions in the state constitution.

The Supreme Court put the recommendations out for public comment on Dec. 7. The comment period will last for 90 days.

State Law Librarian Judith Meadows, one of the authors of the proposals, said a change was needed because the court system's existing privacy rules aren't being applied evenly and people not represented by lawyers don't understand them.

That means sensitive information about children involved a custody dispute, divorce or another court proceeding could find its way to the Internet, where it could be gathered by child predators or be used to bully a child, Meadows said.

"We're trying to keep the horse in the barn before the door is opened," Meadows said.

Technological advances over the past decade have created greater access to court information than ever before, she said. "The problem is, the rules need changing to catch up ...

2010 Trend Watch Update: Social Networking Privacy

Friday, December 24th, 2010

At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #9, social networking privacy, where we predicted the following:

Social Networking Privacy: Something's Got To Give
For some, social networking sites are the Internet. Facebook now has
over 350 million accounts — roughly the same as the total number of
Internet users worldwide a decade ago. That means that the bad guys
who were exploiting security weaknesses in the wider Net in the last
decade will now turn in force on the bigger networking sites. And by
bad guys, we mean everyone from criminals, to unethical data-mining
companies, to ISPs who can't resist snooping on that remunerative
personal data passing down their pipes, to governments seeking new
ways to track their citizens.

As predicted, 2010 provided plenty of social network privacy issues. In the ...

Reason #3 to Donate to FIRE in 2010

Friday, December 24th, 2010

On Wednesday you read about all of the tools that FIRE uses through our Individual Rights Education Program to prevent injustice on campus. Today, I'll tell you about how we can help once students' rights have already been violated, and how this work sets apart from others.

Reason #3 to support FIRE:

FIRE is often the only place students and professors can turn for protection when their rights are violated by their universities' highest authorities-and we don't let them down. FIRE takes on and wins cases for individuals and student groups, restoring justice so that they may freely continue to pursue their interests and their academic and professional careers.

FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program is our response to the immoral and often illegal actions of colleges and universities. Repeatedly when a case is brought to FIRE, those bringing it have exhausted every other course of action and have nowhere left to turn. We are proud to be there to help; pointing out that the law is on their side, and explaining how they can clear their names. Many of our cases are solved by something as simple as a letter to a college administrators, while others end up ...

FIRE’s 2010 Video Campaign: Highlighting Censorship of Hot Button Issues, Part 2

Friday, December 24th, 2010

In reviewing FIRE's multimedia efforts at the close of 2010, I introduced our new video series on censorship of hot-button issues. Our second installment in this series, "Portraits of Terror," is a key example of why video is so effective in relaying the stories behind our cases. In this case, it was images, not words, that were censored by university administrators.

In 2006, Joshua Stulman, a student artist at Penn State University, produced an exhibit examining the promotion of terrorism and anti-Semitism in the Palestinian territories. But before Stulman's exhibit opened, two professors claimed that the art violated Penn State's policy against "hate speech." Rather than allowing the exhibit and opening debate into the issues that his work explored, Stulman was labeled a racist and Islamophobe.

"Portraits of Terror" is effective because it offers a visual depiction of restricted artistic speech. Stulman's art was censored in the same way that countless other forms of speech on issues of terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism have been in years past, as I pointed out in greater detail in my extensive blog about "Portraits of Terror." This video provided an opportunity to open up discussion on a hot topic that has been repressed on ...

This Week in the News: SUCOL, Speech Codes, Speech Heroes, and Speech Bowls

Friday, December 24th, 2010

The week leading up to Christmas has been another busy one for FIRE staff.

Unsurprisingly, bloggers and columnists continued to write about the investigation of alleged blogger Len Audaer at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL), with Ken of Popehat leading the charge. On Monday, he eviscerated SUCOL and Gregory Germain (whom he referred to as a "censorious thug") for not throwing away this laughable case right away, for sheltering the identity of Audaer's accuser, and for refusing Audaer proper due process along the way, most recently by asking him to sign a "gag" order. Ken struck again on Wednesday, this time directing his ire at Germain's snide and condescending e-mail to FIRE supporter David Ross. Showing nothing but contempt for the way Germain has handled Audaer's investigation, Ken lambasted Germain for pompously touting his 25 years of experience as a lawyer without specifying that his expertise is not in First Amendment law, misleading his audience about the reason behind the long duration of the investigation, not understanding or pretending not to understand the clear distinction between protected speech and harassment, and trying to undermine FIRE's credibility.

Adam's column for the New York Post explains once again how the ...

Genachowski Wins on Net Neutrality, Sort of

Friday, December 24th, 2010

After a down-to-the-wire push, the Federal Communications Commission this week approved by 3-2 its long-awaited regulatory proposal on net neutrality. We haven’t finished combing through the actual rules document, all 200 pages of which were just released today, but nonetheless the summary documents gave us some important hints about what the rules contain.

The FCC’s Basis for Regulating: Contrary to some expectations, the FCC is offering new theories for its regulatory authority, opting not to re-assert the “ancillary” legal theory rejected by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Following the ‘throw it against the wall and see what sticks’ approach, the FCC has volunteered a smorgasbord of potential justifications, the sum of which apparently demonstrates that "[b]roadband Internet access services are clearly within the Commission’s jurisdiction." The lead argument appears to be Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which requires the FCC to report to Congress and take steps to help create universal broadband availability. We’ll see if the Court agrees that this allows the FCC to create broad rules of the road for the Internet.

The merits of the specific net neutrality proposals notwithstanding, the FCC’s continued attempt to find broad, unfocused basis for jurisdiction ...

What is Traitorware?

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Your digital camera may embed metadata into photographs with the camera's serial number or your location. Your printer may be incorporating a secret code on every page it prints which could be used to identify the printer and potentially the person who used it. If Apple puts a particularly creepy patent it has recently applied for into use, you can look forward to a day when your iPhone may record your voice, take a picture of your location, record your heartbeat, and send that information back to the mothership.

This is traitorware: devices that act behind your back to betray your privacy.

Perhaps the most notable example of traitorware was the Sony rootkit. In 2005 Sony BMG produced CD's which clandestinely installed a rootkit onto PC's that provided administrative-level access to the users' computer. The copy-protected music CD’s would surreptitiously install its DRM technology onto PC’s. Ostensibly, Sony was trying prevent consumers from making multiple copies of their CD’s, but the software also rendered the CD incompatible with many CD-ROM players in PC’s, CD players in cars, and DVD players. Additionally, the software left a back door open on all infected PC’s which would give Sony, or any hacker ...

Wis. board adopts emergency campaign-finance disclosure rule

Friday, December 24th, 2010

MADISON, Wis. — The board that regulates elections in Wisconsin adopted an emergency rule this week that could weaken the public's ability to know who is behind shadowy campaign attack ads.

On Dec. 22, the Government Accountability Board unanimously approved the revised rule over objections from a government watchdog group and the state's largest teachers union, which had argued there was no need to take action now given that the state Supreme Court had yet to act on a challenge to the same rule.

The rule in question had required groups running those ads to disclose their financing if they aired the ads 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election. The revised version states that only ads clearly advocating for the election or defeat of a certain candidate will be regulated.

The retired judges who make up the board said even without the language they removed, there would be more disclosure about who is behind campaign spending. It will just be done on a case by case basis, instead of forcing every group that runs an ad close to an election to be subject to the additional disclosure.

Three lawsuits were filed challenging the language ...

2010 Trend Watch Update: Books and Newspapers

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #2, the future of books and newspapers:

Since 2000, the music industry has most spectacularly flailed (and failed) to combat the Net's effect on its business model. Their plans to sue, lock-up and lobby their way out of their problem did nothing to turn the clock back, but did cause serious damage to free speech, innovation and fair use.

These days, the book and newspaper industries are similarly mourning the Internet's effect on their bottom line. In 2009, Rupert Murdoch changed the tone of the debate when he called those who made fair use of his papers' content "thieves." We think 2010 and beyond will see others in the print world attempt to force that view, and break the fair use doctrine by lobbying ...

Spreading FIRE’s Message in 2010: The Power of Social Media

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Public advocacy has long been FIRE's number one weaponas we always say, the best way to combat speech with which you disagree is with more speech. In 2010, our public advocacy strategy has reached a new and even more effective level, as "Web 2.0" plays an increasingly important role in the marketplace of ideas.

Social media has become a powerful tool in FIRE's fight to protect free speech on college campuses across the nation. We've built dedicated communities on a number of different platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. We count on our online supporters to help us circulate our message, and thanks to their support, FIRE news now spreads beyond traditional media such as letters to colleges and universities, Torch posts, and national press releases. We also count on our supporters to provide the feedback and interaction necessary to start dialogues and debates. And, occasionally, they even provide us with the jumping-off tools necessary to get a case going.

Twitter, often thought of as the "new newswire," has provided us with the means to break our news in a timely and succinct manner. But more importantly, when our messages go out to our ...

Sending Money Overseas for the Holidays? The Government Wants to Know.

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

What do an online donation to the International Red Cross, a bank transfer to family members living in Vietnam, and a payment sent through PayPal for an expensive rug in Turkey have in common? The government wants to know about them. And, if new rules proposed by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, go into effect, the government will — along with your name, address, bank account number, and other sensitive financial information.

In September, FinCEN, an agency component of the Department of the Treasury, proposed a set of rules (pdf) that would require banks and money transmitters to report to the government any cross-border electronic funds transfer. Yesterday, we submitted a comment (pdf) opposing the agency’s proposal.

Essentially, under the proposed rules, anytime you electronically transfer money into or out of the country, the government wants to know. The proposed rules require banks and money transmitters, like PayPal or Western Union, to submit reports documenting the amount of money sent or received, where that money came from, and where it is going. Depending on the type of transfer, a variety of information would be included in the reports, including the name, address, bank account number, and taxpayer ID number of the sender; the amount and currency of the funds transfer; and the name and address of the recipient. Passport numbers or alien ID numbers could also be required for some transfers.

The government wants reports on all electronic bank-to-bank transfers, regardless of whether the transfer is $1 or $1,000,000. For money transmitters, reports would be filed for transfers at or above $1,000. FinCEN estimates it will receive 750 million reports every year, and the agency wants to keep the data for ten years. Once the reports are filed with FinCEN, other federal law enforcement agencies — the FBI, IRS, ICE, and the DEA — would all have access to the data.

Shortly after FinCEN announced the rules in September, EFF filed a FOIA request seeking documentation that would justify the agency’s law enforcement need for the regulations. We also sought information demonstrating that FinCEN had taken adequate data-security precautions for handling such a massive amount of sensitive information. The agency produced some records, but the documents provided no evidence that the proposed rules are necessary to deter money laundering and terrorism financing, or that the agency had adequately assessed the privacy implications of the proposed rules.

In our comment, we opposed the rules for three reasons:

1. The new reports are unlikely to be effective in preventing terrorism financing — the primary impetus behind the regulations in the first place.

2. While the agency sought the advice of financial institutions, other law enforcement agencies, and even foreign governments when developing the rule, FinCEN never solicited the opinions of privacy advocates during the drafting process.

3. The agency has not provided any evidence that the technological systems are in place to safely receive, transmit, and store the vast quantities of highly-sensitive information the rules would require.

We strongly oppose the government’s attempt to pry into the sensitive financial dealings of citizens, especially when there is no demonstrated need and no evidence that the agency is equipped to handle that much sensitive information. Comments on the proposed rules are due December 29th, and can be submitted here. We urge you to join us in opposing these intrusive new regulations.

FIRE’s 2010 Video Campaign: Highlighting Censorship of Hot Button Issues, Part 1

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Earlier this week, I discussed how vital videos are to our work here at FIRE. Videos provide concrete depictions of censorship on campus, revealing just how damaging restrictions on discourse are to the collegiate community. In order to highlight this chilling effect, FIRE launched a new high-definition video series in 2010 that explores what happens when a culture of censorship shuts down discussion of some of the most important issues in modern discoursethe very issues that need to be exposed to debate and dialogue.

The first feature in this series, "Empty Holsters," highlighted the widespread censorship of student dialogue and debate about carrying guns on campus, a restrictive trend that was particularly strong in the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

Gun rights are some of the most complex and contentious issues facing our society, and it is dangerously short-sighted and simply wrong to exclude different points of view on this debate from our campuses. By telling stories from schools like Tarrant County College, "Empty Holsters" revealed just how damaging censorship can be on critical debates over issues like concealed carry laws.

Features like this are the reason we started our video fellowship this year. Our ...

Hayden Barnes’ Victory in Federal Court, Currently on Appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, is a Major Story to Follow in 2011

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Back in September, we rejoiced at the news that former Valdosta State University (VSU) student Hayden Barnes had won a compelling victory in federal court in his lawsuit against former VSU president Ronald Zaccari and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Barnes' case, which FIRE has been involved in since its genesis in 2007, is near and dear to many hearts at FIRE. It is a sterling example of what can go wrong in the often speech-restrictive environment that is higher education, and of the lengths to which America's colleges will go to stifle student expression that members of the university administration find disquieting or unwanted.

Given the shocking manner in which Barnes was treated by Zaccari and VSU, as well as the school's failure to undo the harm it caused to his ability to pursue an education, it came as no surprise to me that he chose to litigate. It likewise came as no surprise that the federal district court found many of his claims to be meritorious, and in particular held Zaccari personally liable for denying Barnes his basic rights. After all, if the violation of Barnes' rights isn't ripe for recovery ...

FIREside Reflections

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

As the New Year swiftly approaches, I find myself reflecting on the time that I have spent with FIRE so far. I have been working with FIRE as an Intern Program Assistant through Drexel University's co-op program. This program allows students to gain real workplace experience for six months at an organization of their choice, followed by six months of typical course work. I have learned so much in the past four months here, and find it inspiring to work with people so truly dedicated to the mission of their organization.

Too often, students enter college unaware of the First Amendment rights to which they are entitled on campus. I used to be one of those students, but working at FIRE has helped me understand my rights as a college student at a private university, as well as what I can do if I think that those rights are being abused.

Everyday I speak with donors, parents, students, and faculty about free speech issues on the phone. All of these calls end with the same two words: thank you! They want to thank FIRE for standing by them and helping them fight to preserve their own rights, as well ...

2011 Speech Codes Report Featured in ‘The Huffington Post’

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
The Huffington Post writes this morning on FIRE's newest report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2011: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation's Campuses, noting the study's findings on how vague restrictions on speech and broad anti-harassment policies at two-thirds of American universities seriously threaten First Amendment rights on campus.

Chilling Effects Supporters Fight Back Against Perfect 10 Challenge

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other founders and participants in the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse urged an appeals court in an amicus brief filed Tuesday to reject an adult entertainment publisher's attempts to block Google's contributions to the online copyright resource. Durie Tangri LLP represented EFF and its co-amici in preparing and filing the brief.

Chilling Effects, at www.chillingeffects.org, gathers and analyzes legal notices alleging online copyright infringement. More than 12,000 notices are available for public review, education and study, and the data there has been the basis for a number of scholarly papers about copyright law and the Internet.

Google is one of many businesses and organizations that provide the legal notices it receives to Chilling Effects. But as part of a long-running court battle with Google, adult publisher Perfect 10 claims that forwarding its infringement notices to the online resource is a copyright infringement, because Perfect 10 includes its copyrighted adult images on the notifications.

"The use of copyrighted works for scholarship or research, like in Chilling Effects, is clearly a fair use of the material and protected under the law," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Chilling Effects is an important public ...

Wikileaks Mirror Taken Down: Host Buckles Under Demands from Upstream Provider

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Wikileaks isn't the only site struggling to stay up these days because service providers are pulling their support. It appears that at least one person who wants to provide mirror access to Wikileaks documents is having the same trouble.

Recently we heard from a user who mirrored the Cablegate documents on his website. His hosting provider SiteGround suspended his account, claiming that he "severely" violated the SiteGround Terms of Use and Acceptable Use Policy. SiteGround explained that it had gotten a complaint from an upstream provider, SoftLayer, and had taken action "in order to prevent any further issues caused by the illegal activity."

SiteGround told the user that he would need to update his antivirus measures and get rid of the folder containing the Wikileaks cables to re-enable his account. When the user asked why it was necessary to remove the Wikileaks folder, SiteGround sent him to SoftLayer. The user asked SoftLayer about the problem, but the company refused to discuss it with him because he isn't a SoftLayer customer. Finally, SiteGround told the user that SoftLayer wanted the mirror taken down because it was worried about the potential for distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. When ...

Whistleblower-protection bill fails to clear Congress

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

WASHINGTON — Congress failed to pass a bill before adjourning that would have barred most federal departments from punishing employees who report corruption, waste and mismanagement.

The whistleblower protection bill cleared the House last evening, but died in the Senate as time expired on the lame duck session.

In a last-minute effort to win GOP support for the legislation, Democrats removed provisions that would have extended the protections to workers at U.S. intelligence agencies. Republicans had linked the legislation to the WikiLeaks scandal, suggesting that the bill, unless watered down, could lead to further leaks of U.S. secrets.

The bill's backers disputed the claim, saying the bill would not permit public disclosures of classified information.

Divided 10th Circuit won’t reconsider Utah highway-cross case

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal appeals court has rejected a petition for a rehearing in a case involving 14 memorial crosses on Utah highways that an appellate panel said were unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided in August that the 12-foot high crosses represent an endorsement of Christianity.

The Utah Highway Patrol Association and two state agencies petitioned for a rehearing by the full 10th Circuit. They contend the memorials honor fallen officers and encourage safe driving.

The 14 white crosses were first erected in 1998 and were paid for with donations to the association. The American Atheists Inc. filed a lawsuit in 2005 over the crosses' use of the Highway Patrol shield and argued that the crosses should be removed.

On Dec. 20, the 10th Circuit ruled 5-4 in American Atheists, Inc. v. Davenport to reject a rehearing of the case.

Tenn. ACLU questions inclusion on terror-tracking website

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A spokesman for the state's Homeland Security Office says information about the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee was inaccurately posted on the website of a terrorist watchdog entity.

The Tennessee Fusion Center serves as a clearinghouse for information about criminals and potential terrorists.

Earlier this month, the ACLU sent out a letter to the state's public school superintendents that encouraged schools to be supportive of all religious beliefs during the holiday season.

The center's website listed the ACLU action under "suspicious activity," which Hedy Weinberg, Tennessee ACLU executive director, called "deeply disturbing."

Homeland Security Office spokesman Mike Browning told the Associated Press on Dec. 21 that posting the ACLU’s action under “suspicious activity” was "a mistake" and that it should have been posted under the heading "general information."

The Tennessean in Nashville reported yesterday that Weinberg still “questioned why the Fusion Center was monitoring the ACLU's dispatch in the first place, particularly when the note dealt with educational and policy issues, not law enforcement.”

"I think, mistake or not, I'm still not really clear why the ACLU is still listed,” the newspaper quoted Weinberg as saying. “I think the question remains, why is the Tennessee Fusion ...

Case Closed? Court Issues Final Judgment in NSA Spying Case, Al-Haramain v. Obama

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Yesterday, following on his ruling this Spring that the NSA's warrantless wiretapping of an Islamic charity's lawyers in 2004 violated federal surveillance law, Judge Vaughn Walker in the Northern District of California federal court issued his final order in the case of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama. The order granted the plaintiffs an award of $2.5 million in money damages and well-earned attorneys' fees for the government's violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the same law underlying many of the claims in EFF's ongoing lawsuits against the NSA's mass surveillance program, Hepting v. AT&T and Jewel v. NSA. As one of the plaintiffs said of the ruling to the Associated Press, "the system worked."

The system has indeed worked—for the two attorneys wiretapped in this case as part of the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program" that the government has admitted to. But, as EFF has alleged in its cases based on widespread news reports and whistleblower evidence, the full scope of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping—cryptically referred to as "Other Intelligence Activities" in the Inspectors General report on the broader President's Surveillance Program—implicates the privacy rights of millions of Americans, rights that EFF is still seeking ...

2010 Trend Watch Update: Congress

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #8, Congress, where we predicted:

In retrospect, 2009 wasn't disastrous for online civil liberties in federal technology law. With Washington entirely distracted by health care reform, a lot of the most problematic proposed federal technology legislation was delayed, postponed or temporarily forgotten.

In 2010, we may not be so lucky. Key provisions of the Patriot Act, having recently been granted a three-month extension, are up for re-authorization before April 1. The Snowe-Rockefeller Cybersecurity Act, which would grant the President the power to disconnect the Internet, is likely to return sometime in 2010. And, with immigration reform considered a top priority for Congress this year, we can expect to see the national identification card scheme REAL ID (or its twin, PASS ID) ...

Sentenced Monks Drop From Sight

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Experts say that convictions in Tibet reflect a pattern of secrecy and judicial abuse.

Counting Down the Top Five Reasons to Donate to FIRE: #4

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

On Monday you heard from Alisha about FIRE's unique nonpartisanship and our reputation as a principled defender of civil liberties. Here's the next reason you should donate this year:

FIRE is proactive, working hard to stop college censorship before it starts. Not only do we remind college administrators of their moral and legal obligations to uphold student rights on their campuses, but we also educate current and prospective college students, parents, organizations, and even administrators, so that they too can become free speech advocates and prevent abuses before they happen.

A critical part of FIRE's mission is educating members of the public about the right to free speech on campus, and recently we've stepped up this initiative with quite a few exciting new projects. We think all Torch readers ought to know about them.

Earlier this year, FIRE hired a Sweidy Stata Video Fellow, Joe Stramowski, who has been instrumental in the production of several films about FIRE's cases and mission. You can check out some of FIRE's videos here or follow Greg's blog series this week and next on FIRE's video projects.

We've also hired a new Campus Freedom Network (CFN) Associate Director, Jaclyn Hall (who is a ...

When Even the Right-Wing Media Stands Up to the GOP

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Republicans in Congress have finally backed down and have stopped blocking a bill to provide health care to 9/11 first responders.

It seems that one factor in the GOP’s giving in on the bill is that the right-wing media for once did not unquestioningly buy its talking points. The New York Times reports:

Headlines in normally conservative news outlets blasted Republicans. Newsmaxx.com wrote, “Giuliani Raps Fellow Republicans for Holding Up 9/11 Heroes Money‎.” The Fox News host Shepard Smith drew attention to Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who has said he will try to block the legislation.

“He is the man who is vowing to slow this down or block it, so the necessary funding for the illnesses of the first responders who made it to ground zero to try to save lives on the day that America changed — remember?” Mr. Smith said during his broadcast Tuesday. “This is the senator who is vowing to block it so that it doesn’t make it through.”

On Wednesday morning, the MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, called the G.O.P.’s opposition to the bill “a terrible mistake” for the party.

“It’s a terrible, terrible mistake to be seen as ...

UVa’s Green-Light Rating, Fewer Red Lights Nationally Pave the Way to the New Year

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

This year, FIRE has made progress in helping to reduce the number of red-light colleges and universities, with a total of 28 institutions improving from red-light to yellow-light status, and one university, the University of Virginia (UVa),  making the huge step from a red-light to a green-light institution. This means that, at UVa, FIRE is unaware of any policies that threaten students' free speech rights on that campus.

In October, UVa eliminated all of its speech codes, earning FIRE's coveted green-light rating.  It is important to stress UVa's path to becoming a green-light school, as it might serve as an inspiration for other institutions. In April 2010, FIRE's Adam Kissel gave a lecture on free speech that was hosted by UVa student groups Students for Individual Liberty and Liberty Coalition. FIRE went on to detail objections to UVa's speech codes at the time in a letter to Dean of Students Allen W. Groves on April 7. UVa student Virginia Robinson, a 2010 FIRE summer intern, also helped persuade UVa to reform its speech codes.

Once UVa removed all of its speech codes, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff praised the university for its improvements. As he said in ...

The Year of ‘Christian Legal Society v. Martinez’

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

From the start, 2010 was the year of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Perhaps more than any other case this year, developments surrounding Martinez occupied the docket of the Supreme Court, the time of FIRE staffers, and the inquiring mind of yours truly.

FIRE had high hopes for Martinez. On January 1, we announced our excitement about the Supreme Court's acceptance of the case, on certiorari to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believed that the Supreme Court would vindicate the First Amendment right to freedom of association for student groups at public universities. At the appellate level, the Ninth Circuit had held that the University of California at Hastings College of the Law (Hastings) may constitutionally deny recognition to its student chapter of the Christian Legal Society when it refuses to accept as members, eligible to run for leadership positions, students who disagreed with the organization's core values.

The Christian Legal Society at Hastings wished to limit its members to those who subscribe to the group's "Statement of Faith," which, among other things, provides that members should engage in sexual conduct only within the confines of a marriage between a man and a woman. FIRE maintains, ...

Witnessing History: the President Signs Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Earlier this morning I had the privilege of attending the signing ceremony for the bill repealing the infamous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military service policy. It was an incredibly moving experience. This is a watershed moment for the cause of LGBT equality – there is absolutely no turning back from the march we are on for full equality for LGBT individuals. Or, as Rep. Barney Frank said at yesterday’s enrollment ceremony at which Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally sent the bill to the President for his signature: For those on the Right worried about the so-called radical homosexual agenda - two down and two to go!!

There was much joy and celebration in the room, and also a sense of gravitas at being witness to this historic moment. There is much more to accomplish, but for now, it feels great to savor this win for justice and equality. And to salute all of the heroes who never gave up on this important battle.

FIRE to Administrators of Public Colleges Nationwide: Beware of Personal Liability for Free Speech Violations

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Today, FIRE warned the presidents and top lawyers at nearly 300 public colleges and universities across the nation that they and their staffs should be ready to pay out of their own pockets if they continue to violate their students' free speech rights.

Let's hope that this catches their attention once and for all. For too long, public college administrators have been intentionally violating the free speech rights of their students, secure in the knowledge that they won't personally lose a dime should a court rule against them. This means that if they feel like they can score political brownie points with those on campus who wish to see dissent silenced, they can do so without any personal cost. Heck, even if they lose to FIRE or in court, they can still say to their cronies, "Hey, I tried my best. We spent thousands in legal fees trying to shut those students up. We just couldn't manage it!"

FIRE is putting these individuals on notice by sending a certified mailing this week to the presidents and general counsel of 296 of the biggest and most prestigious public colleges across the nation, highlighting significant legal developments from the past year. FIRE's ...

Uyghur Journalist Handed Life Term

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Authorities were angered by published writings and statements to foreign journalists.

Sessions Puts His Lab Coat Back On

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Back in September, we wrote about Sen. Jeff Sessions’ discovery of what he called the “ACLU chromosome”—according to the senator, a common genetic defect that disqualifies bearers from the federal judiciary.

Well, Dr. Sessions is back at it. TPM has this video of Sessions ranting yesterday about the supposed prevalence of the “ACLU chromosome” in President Obama’s judicial nominees:

As Sen. Mark Udall later pointed out on the Senate floor, it’s unlikely that Sen. Sessions would have a similar reaction to a “Federalist Society chromosome”. While a few of President Obama’s nominees have had a history working with the ACLU—for instance, Edward Chen of California who worked to prevent discrimination against Asian Americans—President Bush made a point of packing the courts with judges who belonged to the far-right Federalist Society.

It’s absurd arguments like Sessions’ that are keeping qualified, well-respected nominees like Chen from even receiving an up or down vote in the Senate. While reports say that the Senate GOP has finally agreed to vote on 19 judicial nominees who they have been stalling despite little or no opposition to their confirmations, four nominees, including Chen, will be left out to dry without even a vote.

And, for the ...

Arlen Specter Denounces Roberts Court, Republican Obstructionism

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

In his farewell speech, US Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania called on Congress to move quickly to counter the burgeoning right-wing extremism of the Roberts Court and the Republican caucus. Specter, who was first elected to the US Senate in 1980 as a Republican, spoke about how the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has shown little respect for their own precedents or congressional fact-finding while pursuing a hard line pro-corporate bent. The increasingly conservative Court has consistently ruled in favor of corporations over the rights of workers and consumers, and the concerns of environmental protection and fair elections. Specter specifically pointed to the Roberts Court’s decision in Citizens United, which gave corporations the right to spend unlimited and undisclosed funds from their general treasuries in elections and overturned decades of Court precedents and congressional measures limiting corporate influence in politics. Specter said:

This Congress should try to stop the Supreme Court from further eroding the constitutional mandate of Separation of Powers. The Supreme Court has been eating Congress’s lunch by invalidating legislation with judicial activism after nominees commit under oath in confirmation proceedings to respect congressional fact finding and precedents, that is stare decisis.

The recent ...

Lawmakers Must Respect Freedom of Expression in Wikileaks Debate

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a broad coalition of advocacy organizations sent an open letter to U.S. lawmakers today, calling on government officials to respect freedom of expression in the debate over the whistle-blower website Wikileaks.

In the wake of Wikileaks' recent publications of U.S. diplomatic cables, some lawmakers have attacked newspapers' rights to report on the information in those documents. Other government officials have cast doubt on Americans' right to download, read, or discuss documents published by Wikileaks and even the news reporting based on those documents. Rash legislation was proposed that could limit the free speech of news reporting organizations well beyond Wikileaks. In the open letter sent Wednesday, 30 groups urged lawmakers to remember and respect constitutional rights as Congress continues to discuss the issues at stake.

"By likening publishers and reporters to spies and cyber-terrorists, some government officials have irresponsibly created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty leading many to question their rights to publish, read and discuss the Wikileaks cables," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "But American law is well settled on these issues: the First Amendment strongly protects publishers' right to distribute truthful political information, and Internet users ...

Red Alert on Political Prisoners

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
The plight of 2,200 political detainees languishing in Burma's jails is highlighted to the Red Cross.

Greg Lukianoff Picks His 2010 Hero & Zero in ‘spiked’ Magazine

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
FIRE President Greg Lukianoff makes his pick for "hero" and "zero" of the year 2010 in the UK's spiked magazine.

Speaker Pelosi sends DADT repeal to President Obama

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

People For the American Way attended today’s enrollment ceremony for the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal bill. Representatives and Senators stood alongside those discharged under this discriminatory policy to formally send the bill to President Obama for his signing. Each should be commended for their dedication to this cause, especially Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA8), a veteran himself and the lead House sponsor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. From CNN:

Earlier, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania told the gathering of an e-mail he received from a company commander in Afghanistan, who mentioned how he often had to counsel soldiers who received divorce papers or "Dear John" letters from spouses or opposite-sex partners.

Murphy continued: "This young company commander, this captain, on his fourth deployment, wrote in that e-mail saying, 'I never thought I'd see the day when I got one of those letters myself. And I'm sitting here at three o'clock in the morning in Kabul, Afghanistan, and I have no where to go because I happen to be gay, and I can't walk to the chaplain, and I can't go to a battle buddy, and I can't walk to my ...

Haley Barbour’s Whitewash of History

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Mississippi governor and potential presidential candidate Haley Barbour is now trying to backtrack his previous support for the racist White Citizens Councils that existed in the state when he was young.

In a recent interview with the Weekly Standard, he made his feelings quite clear:

You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.

Since not everyone in America is wholly ignorant of recent history, Barbour is being forced to backpedal, according to Talking Points Memo. Among other things, he now says:

My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either.

Perhaps we are meant to think that the formation of the White Citizens Councils in the 1950s represented a principled ...

Democrats scramble to salvage whistleblower-protection bill

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

WASHINGTON — House Democrats scrambled yesterday to salvage legislation that would bar federal agencies from punishing employees who report corruption, waste and mismanagement after Republicans linked the bill to the WikiLeaks scandal.

In hopes of securing needed GOP support, Democrats offered to strip from the bill provisions that extend whistleblower protections to workers at U.S. intelligence agencies — seen as a major concession by backers of the bill. Even though the bill's supporters say the legislation does not permit public disclosures of classified information, Republicans had complained it still might encourage leaks by employees in the most sensitive government jobs.

Even that concession may not be enough to sway House Republicans, who see no reason to rush the legislation before Congress adjourns for the year.

A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who next month becomes chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said GOP lawmakers told Issa of their worries about the Obama administration's plan to deal with WikiLeaks. They also wanted to know whether the legislation included provisions to block further disclosures.

"There's a lot of ambiguity out there about what the administration is or isn't going to do on WikiLeaks," said Issa spokesman Frederick Hill. "I ...

Wash. county says church flagpole needs permit

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

BOTHELL, Wash. — Snohomish County code-enforcement officers say they have a problem with a 90-foot flagpole at a Bothell church.

The county is threatening the Park Ridge Community Church with a $1,500 fine if the church doesn't get a permit.

The 90-foot tall wooden pole was erected about 10 years ago as a temporary cell-phone tower. The pastor, Brad Sebranke, says when the phone company no longer needed the pole, the church asked that it be left as a flagpole.

The church put a cross on top and has a lighted star on top in the Christmas season.

The Daily Herald of Everett reports that the church is appealing the fine. A county hearing examiner is scheduled to consider the case Jan. 4.