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.
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.
(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.
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).
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.
(April 10, 2007) - The government tries to airbrush history when it demands
recantation of torture allegations in exchange for a Guantanamo prisoner's
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
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.
Censors Are Also Copyright Infringers
(July 11, 2006) - A federal court has ruled against
the fair use arguments of CleanFlicks and fellow sanitizers.
Neutality Takes Center Stage
(May 30, 2006) - How broadband technology and a bad
Supreme Court decision have come to threaten the once-democratic Internet.
(March 21, 2006) - The FCC's latest "indecency" rulings
are so radical as to beg for court review.
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.
Act Renewal Stalls in Congress
(January 10, 2006) - Congress' compromise reauthorization
bill takes a few baby steps toward restoring civil liberties.
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.
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
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?
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?
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.
(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
(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?
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
For FEPP Commentaries in 2002-2004, go to the Archives