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Commentaries

Untangling the Steven Salaita Case
(September 4, 2014) - The University of Illinois' last-minute withdrawal of a job offer because of anti-Israel tweets has created a nationwide controversy. What are the legal issues? How does academic freedom fit in?

The Lamentable State of Public Employee Free Speech Law
(June 25, 2014) - Last week's Supreme Court decision in Lane v. Franks was welcome, but does little to repair a wrong-headed and murky distinction in public-employee free-speech law.

Does Academic Freedom Protect Teachers or Institutions - or Both?
(October 28, 2013) -Marjorie Heins dissects this and other questions in her "Davis Markert Nickerson" Academic Freedom Lecture at the University of Michigan.

What's In a Name? The Mismeasure of Terrorism
(July 17, 2013) -It's argued that civil liberties must give way to fighting terorrism - but some definitions of terrorism are dangerous broad, and include nonviolent protest.

Trading Academic Freedom for Foreign Markets
(July 30, 2012) -The current controversy over Yale University’s planned campus in Singapore is, at bottom, an argument over how much compromise on free speech is justified in exchange for the presumed benefits of locating branches of U.S. universities within authoritarian regimes.

The Great Indecency Case Ends With a Whimper
(June 27, 2012) -Why did the Supreme Court decide not to decide whether the FCC's shifting, unpredictable, vague, and often discriminatory censorship regime violates the First Amendment?

Requiem for California's Violent Video Games Law
(June 28, 2011) - Justice Scalia's majority opinion does not allow politicians to create new exceptions to the First Amendment, but four of his brethren beg to differ.

Of Liberals and Conservatives: the Supreme Court Considers Violent Video Games Case
(Nov. 4, 2010) - Justice Breyer would allow censorship based on "common sense," while Justice Scalia wonders what "deviant" means in a California law restricting minors' access to violent games.

Guilt By Association: Georgia's Anti-Subversive Test Oath
(Aug. 17, 2010) - The performance artist Karen Finley has refused to sign an oath denying revolutionary ideas or associations - a Cold War witch hunt era relic of the sort that the Supreme Court invalidated more than 40 years ago.

Citizens United: A Win for Free Speech or a First Amendment Disaster? (January 22, 2010) - The Supreme Court's radical revision of longstanding campaign finance law dramatizes profound differences about what the First Amendment really means.

Can Anti-Gay Marriage Petitioners Keep Their Identities Private?
(Nov. 2, 2009; updated July 27, 2010) - An ongoing First Amendment battle pits the public interest in openness and disclosure against the constitutional rights to anonymity and privacy.

Silencing Music Through Copyright Law
(Sept. 12, 2009) - Music scholar Liane Curtis describes how overzealous copyright control and timorous publishers have suppressed the brilliant music of the little-known composer Rebecca Clarke.

What Makes a Conscientious Objector?
(June 9, 2009) - Some problems with Ohio's anti-terrorist oath.

Supreme Court Clears the Way for Ending FCC Censorship of the Airwaves
(April 28, 2009) - At first blush, it's a win for what one dissenting justice called a "wildly expansive" claim of censorship power, but the tea leaves suggest that the Court might be ready to consign the FCC's reign of error to a well-deserved grave.

Free Speech in the Age of Obama: Proposals for Year 1
(January 20, 2009) - On Inauguration Day 2009, FEPP proposes a few changes from the policies of George W. Bush.

Supreme Court Blushes at Those S-words and F-words
(November 4, 2008) - The oral argument on election day in Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television was not a model of First Amendment eloquence.

Blanche DuBois Meets the Copyright Cops
(September 22, 2008) - Can the holder of the copyright in “A Streetcar Named Desire” stop a creative artist from impersonating Blanche DuBois, the fragile, self-deluding southern belle in Tennessee Williams’s classic play?

The Trials of Judge Kozinski
(July 13, 2008) - When it comes to sexual humor, what standards should apply to a judge's private web files?

Victory for "First Sale" Rule in the Case of Promotional CDs
(June 18, 2008) - A judge has ruled that music companies can't stop the trade in promo CDs.

The Insidious Persistence of Loyalty Oaths
(May 24, 2008) - A pacifist teacher in California is the latest casualty of an enforced ritual of political conformity imposed on public employees.

Can Cellphone Companies Censor Text Messages?
(October 24, 2007) - Verizon's blocking of a Naral/ Pro-Choice America message might be illegal if text messages, like phone calls, are covered by "common carrier" rules.

Why Nine Court Defeats Haven't Stopped States From Trying to Restrict Violent Video Games
(August 15, 2007) - The answer probably lies in the long history of media-violence politics.

Condomphobia
(July 17, 2007) - CBS and Fox TV's rejection of a Trojan ad recapitulates an old story of American schizophrenia on the subject of sex.

Supreme Court Carves Out a New Exception to Student Free Speech
(June 25, 2007) - The Court's decision in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case draws a murky line between advocacy of illegal conduct (not protected) and political dissent (protected - at least sometimes).

The Campaign Finance Page
(April 27, 2007; most recent update January 22, 2010) - FEPP's roadmap to the intricacies of the McCain-Feingold law, its gradual undoing, and the stakes for free speech and democracy.

Secrecy and Freedom
(April 10, 2007) - The government tries to airbrush history when it demands recantation of torture allegations in exchange for a Guantanamo prisoner's plea bargain.

The Perils of Filtering in a post-Grokster World
(November 3, 2006) - On remand from the Supreme Court's decision condemning file-sharing networks, a judge dangerously relies on overbroad copyright filters.

The Disconnect Between Fact and Rhetoric
(August 2, 2006) - A recent conference, "Beyond Censorship," touts ratings and filters, and buys into myths about proven harm from sexual or violent content.

Movie Censors Are Also Copyright Infringers
(July 11, 2006) - A federal court has ruled against the fair use arguments of CleanFlicks and fellow sanitizers.

Net Neutality Takes Center Stage
(May 30, 2006) - How broadband technology and a bad Supreme Court decision have come to threaten the once-democratic Internet.

America's Culture Czars
(March 21, 2006) - The FCC's latest "indecency" rulings are so radical as to beg for court review.

Of Threats, Intimidation, Sensitivity, and Free Speech: The Muhammad Cartoons
(February 22, 2006) - Some basic facts and principles about blasphemy, defamation, incitement, and media self-censorship to help guide the debate.

Patriot Act Renewal Stalls in Congress
(January 10, 2006) - Congress' compromise reauthorization bill takes a few baby steps toward restoring civil liberties.

Universities, Free Speech, and Military Recruiting
(December 16, 2005) - The Solomon Amendment denies all federal funding to universities unless they give military recruiters access and support of exactly the same kind that they give to employers that don't discriminate. In Rumsfeld v. FAIR, the Supreme Court will decide whether this condition on funding violates the First Amendment.

New Patriot Act Update
(October 15, 2005) - Two sections of the "USA Patriot Act" threaten our right to read - one is up for renewal in Congress. Meanwhile, courts are questioning whether the government really needs these extraordinary powers.

A New Use For Indecency?
(September 15, 2005) - New research suggests a link between media giants and raunchy broadcasting - but should we base policy decisions about media ownership on the FCC's censorship regime?

Censorship at Ground Zero
(August 30, 2005) - Why are Governor Pataki and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. threatening the very freedoms that the terrorists were trying to destroy?

Two Defeats - and a Silver Lining
(June 28, 2005) - The Supreme Court's Grokster and Brand X decisions may be disappointing, but file-sharing technology survives, and the campaign for media democracy goes on.

Sanitizing Movies
(April 18, 2005) - The "Family Movie Act" (which was passed into law shortly after this testimony was given) singles out filmmakers for lesser copyright protection in order to encourage the movie-censoring industry.

Understanding Grokster
(March 28, 2005) - The Supreme Court hears argument on March 29 in the hottest case of its term - the entertainment industry's suit to stop peer-to-peer technology. What are the legal issues, and the stakes for online communication?

Censoring Indecency is a Diversion
(March 16, 2005) - Why Senator Stevens' plan to extend indecency regulation to cable is an unconstitutional diversion from structural regulation of media oligopolies.

For FEPP Commentaries in 2002-2004, go to the Archives Page.


The Free Expression Policy Project began in 2000 to provide empirical research and policy development on tough censorship issues and seek free speech-friendly solutions to the concerns that drive censorship campaigns. In 2004-2007, it was part of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The FEPP website is now hosted by the National Coalition Against Censorship. Past funders have included the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Open Society Institute, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

All material on this site is covered by a Creative Commons "Attribution - No Derivs - NonCommercial" license. (See http://creativecommons.org) You may copy it in its entirely as long as you credit the Free Expression Policy Project and provide a link to the Project's Web site. You may not edit or revise it, or copy portions, without permission (except, of course, for fair use). Please let us know if you reprint!