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About FEPP






The Free Expression Policy Project (FEPP), founded in 2000, provides research and advocacy on free speech, copyright, and media democracy issues.

FEPP's primary areas of inquiry are:

r Restrictions on publicly funded expression - in libraries, museums, schools, universities, and arts and humanities agencies;

r Internet filters, rating systems, and other measures that restrict access to information and ideas in the digital age;

r Restrictive copyright laws, digital rights management, and other imbalances in the intellectual property system;

r Mass media consolidation, public access to the airwaves, and other issues of media democracy;

r Censorship designed to shield adolescents and children from controversial art, information, and ideas.

FEPP takes a non-absolutist approach to free expression. For example, sexual and racial harassment, threats, and false advertising are types of speech that do not, and should not, have First Amendment protection. But a painting or photograph with sexual content is not sexual harassment; and a work of literature or scholarship is unlikely to constitute a threat. Speech may be offensive or controversial - but that is generally all the more reason to protect it. Unprotected speech should be narrowly and specifically defined, and have a direct, tangible, demonstrably harmful effect.

Similarly, in the areas of copyright and fair use, campaign finance, media effects, and media democracy, FEPP examines the fundamental values underlying the First Amendment, and asks how well our current public policies and legal rules serve those values.

Making distinctions in this area that protect intellectual and artistic freedom, and in the process stimulating thought about the value of free expression, is one of FEPP's goals. We hope our materials prove useful in persuading policymakers and the public that censorship ill-serves democracy, and only distracts us from addressing social problems.


FEPP began as a project of the National Coalition Against Censorship. From May 2004 to March 2007, FEPP was part of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. FEPP's funders have included the Open Society Institute, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

In 2010, the Guide to Computer Training named FEPP as one of the top 50 web resources on Internet technology and policy.

Since its founding in 2000, FEPP has:

rPublished six major policy reports:

Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report (2006): a detailed survey of more than 100 tests and studies that document massive over- and under-blocking by filtering products. The report includes explanations of filtering technology, test methodology, and developments in the law challenging the use of Internet filters.

Will Fair Use Survive? Free Expression in the Age of Copyright Control (2005): a report on extensive research, including statistical analysis and scores of firsthand stories from artists, writers, bloggers, and others, to learn if fair use in copyright law and similar free expression safeguards in trademark law are working as intended. Complete with legal background, the report paints a striking picture of an intellectual property system that is perilously out of balance.

The Information Commons (2004), a history and survey of the emerging information commons, which, in the face of dramatic media consolidation and increased corporate copyright control, offers new ways for producing and sharing information, creative works, and democratic discussion.

Media Literacy: An Alternative to Censorship (2002; revised and updated, 2003), a history of media literacy education and an analysis of its superiority to censorship in addressing concerns about mass media and youth.

"The Progress of Science and Useful Arts": Why Copyright Today Threatens Intellectual Freedom (2002; revised and updated, 2003), a summary and explanation of the free expression problems created by current copyright law.

Free Expression in Arts Funding (2003), a survey of free expression policies among state and local arts agencies, including ways of preparing for and dealing with attacks on controversial art.

r Filed court or administrative agency briefs:

On behalf of 20 free expression, independent film, writers', directors', and performers' organizations, in a First Amendment challenge to the Federal Communications Commission's continuing censorship of "indecency" or "profanity" on radio and broadcast television.

In copyright law cases where free expression and the public domain are threated through abolishing the de minimis rule for sound recordings, or eliminating "opt-in" requirements for copyright protection.

On behalf of more than 30 citizens' advocacy and youth media organizations, in the Federal Communications Commission's proceeding on "Localism," proposing specific initiatives for reducing the dominance of commercial mass media, and advancing independent nonprofit alternatives;

On behalf of organizations concerned about the digital divide in the First Amendment challenge to "CIPA," the federal law that requires libraries and schools to install Internet filters;

On behalf of sexuality scholars in the case challenging the "Child Online Protection Act" (COPA), a criminal law banning expression deemed "harmful to minors" online;

On behalf of media scholars challenging ordinances censoring video games in St. Louis and Indianapolis, and providing critical analysis of social science data that is commonly, but erroneously, cited in support of censorship.

r Submitted white papers to the National Research Council and the Telecommunications & Information Administration, explaining how Internet filters block vast amounts of educational material, and why media literacy and sexuality education are better approaches;

r On behalf of media scholars, asked the American Academy of Pediatrics to reconsider its policy statement on media violence because of its many misstatements about social-science research on media effects;

r Sponsored a conference on "Reclaiming the First Amendment - Constitutional Theories of Media Reform" in January 2007 that brought together leading scholars to develop new theories of constitutional advocacy to advance media democracy in the 21st century;

r Published facts sheets on Media Democracy, Political Dissent and Censorship, Sex and Censorship, Media Violence, and Internet Filters, as well as commentaries and book reviews on current censorship cases and controversies;

r Published articles on the history of arts censorship, including The Miracle: Film Censorship and the Separation of Church and State, and Culture on Trial, the story of three landmark censorship cases;

r Conducted presentations at national conferences on free expression and the arts, video games, sexuality, ethics and the arts, Internet regulation, education law, copyright, media literacy, media democracy, and censorship after 9/11.

In many of these materials, the Project has provided critical analysis of
social science data commonly, but inaccurately, cited in support of a causative link between sexual or violent content and anti-social behavior.


Marjorie Heins founded FEPP. She is the author most recently of Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge, which won the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in book publishing in 2013. Her previous book was Not in Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth, which won the American Library Association's Eli M. Oboler Award for the best published work in the field of intellectual freedom in 2002. From 2004-07, she was a fellow in the Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program. From 1991-98, she directed the American Civil Liberties Union's Arts Censorship Project, where she was co-counsel in a number of Supreme Court cases, including Reno v. ACLU (the challenge to the 1996 Communications Decency Act). In 2011, Marjorie was a fellow at the Frederic Ewen Center for Academic Freedom at NYU, where she conducted research for Priests of Our Democracy. For a longer bio, click here.

FORMER STAFF: FEPP has been lucky to have staff members over the years who have made invaluable contributions to our work.

Laura Quilter was Associate Counsel in the Brennan Center Democracy Program in 2006-07, where she developed the Fair Use Network. She practices in the field of copyright and information law. Before joining the Brennan Center, she was a private consultant and a fellow at the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law, UC-Berkeley, in 2003, and her library science degree from the University of Kentucky in 1993.

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, formerly Associate Counsel at the Brennan Center, prepared FEPP's White Paper urging Nebraska to lift its ban on public entities' ability to provide broadband Internet access to their citizens. The White Paper is a model for policymakers assessing the need for affordable high-speed Internet service, particularly in rural areas.

Neema Trivedi, Brennan Center Research Associate in 2005-06, prepared several updates on the free-expression problems in the "USA PATRIOT" Act, co-authored commentaries on censorship at "Ground Zero" and other issues, and conducted our 2006 survey of the legal needs of media reform organizations.

Tricia Beckles, Brennan Center Research Associate in 2004-05, conducted the lion's share of research for Will Fair Use Survive? Free Expression in the Age of Copyright Control.

Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Communications Director for FEPP in 2001-03, founded the Youth Free Expression Network.


Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, University of California - Irvine School of Law

David Cole, Professor of Law, Georgetown University

Robert Corn-Revere, First Amendment attorney, Davis Wright Tremaine

Paul DiMaggio, Professor of Sociology, Princeton University

Rochelle Dreyfuss, Professor of Law, New York University

David Greene, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Bennett Haselton, Founder and director,

Henry Jenkins, Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California

Nan Levinson, Author, inter alia, of Outspoken: Free Speech Stories; Lecturer in journalism, Tufts University

Robert Post, Professor and Dean, Yale University Law School

Ellen Schrecker, Emerita Professor of History, Yeshiva University

Rodney Smolla, Dean, Delaware Law School of Widener University

Catharine Stimpson, Professor of English and Dean Emerita, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, New York University

David Strauss, Professor of Law, University of Chicago

Philippa Strum, Senior Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies and Law, University of Virginia

Julie Van Camp, Professor Emerita of Philosophy, California State University, Long Beach

Diane Zimmerman, Emeritus Professor of Law, New York University

* Affiliations are for identification purposes only

The Free Expression Policy Project began in 2000 as a project of the National Coalition Against Censorship, 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. 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 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!