Keeping up with current events helps us understand the law and also find sources of information for moot court cases.
International law and freedom of speech
The advances in international communication technology have brought cultures closer in the past 20 years. Despite many benefits to international understanding, there are points of friction that erupt into mob violence. The killing of the US Ambassador to Libya is one of these. Others include the reaction to Salmon Rushdie’s novel, the Danish cartoons and the threats of a Florida pastor to burn a Koran. Is the answer, as the Denver Post says, to insist that Moslems accept provocative speech in the US? Is there no apology for bigotry and ethnic hatred? Apparently not, says the Denver Post.
We fault the embassy in Cairo for its now controversial pre-riot press release — which it later reaffirmed before the Obama administration distanced itself from the statement — that not only condemned “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims” but claimed such efforts amounted to “abuse” of free speech. Sorry, provocative speech is not an abuse of free speech. It is precisely the speech the First Amendment exists to protect.
More international issues
- Indian and Canadian publishers threaten to sue a US blogger for comments about predatory practices in academic publishing. (May, 2013)
- “Pussy Riot” members get two years for “hooliganism” in Russia
- UK — Elton John sues Times of London for libel
- Julian Assange granted asylum by Ecuador. More here from Forbes.
- Outrageous fine for free speech during an election in British Columbia.
US – Speech & prior restraint
- Marijuana magazines suppressed in Colorado. (Denver Post, May 12, 2013)
- How loud and obnoxious can sports fans get? (NY Times, March 28, 2012)
- Should athletes have their facebook and twitter communications monitored by their universities? One university system flags 406 words or slang expressions that have to do with drugs, sex, or alcohol. Many are sports agents’ names. (USA Today, Aug. 20, 2012)
- A Louisville, KY teenager who didn’t like a plea agreement a court gave to her rapists spoke out against the ruling with Twitter despite a court order against it. (AP, July 20, 2012)
- An California resolution urges colleges and universities to squelch nascent anti-Semitism and crack down on demonstrations against Israel. Palestinian students objected.
- Navy Seal who killed Bin Laden refuses to back down in the face of threats by Pentagon.
- Securities and Exchange Commission Judges add punishment for being unrepentant.
- Protester fights for her right to keep speaking out.
- Blogger who supported cop killing charged with criminal solicitation to commit murder. Sept. 11 2012. Note reference to the Planned Parenthood case.
- Lawmaker backs off muzzling demand on Ravens linebacker.
- Flag controversy in Iowa City.
- Should the author of No Easy Day be punished?
- Is shunning in the Amish tradition a form of hate speech?
US – Libel
- Climate scientists Michael Mann sues National Review. A New York Times columnist says it could turn out to be the “Scopes Trial” of the century. (Aug. 27, 2012)
- Casino mogul wins case against “Girls Gone Wild” producer.
- Beef Products Inc. to sue over “Pink Slime” comments. And more from Grist on the “pink slime” case.
- A federal court in Massachusetts has upheld a $675,000 penalty against a Boston University graduate student for downloading 31 pirated songs online as a teenager. The recording industry says Joel Tenebaum was downloading and distributing thousand of songs and wouldn’t stop even after warnings from his father, his college and a cease and desist letter from Sony. (NPR, Aug. 27, 2012).
- Copyright, Free Speech, and the Public’s Right to Know: How Journalists Think About Fair Use (July 30, 2012).
- Disney cant trademark the “Dia de los Muertos” any more than it can trademark “Halloween.” (May 12, 2013)
News gathering: Not a crime
- Ag gag laws – Apparently it’s illegal to take video of animal cruelty – at least, until someone challenges this in court. (May, 2013)
- Wisconsin police are routinely arresting press photographers. (Madison Journal, Aug. 8, 2012).
- Baltimore Sun photo editor says the First Amendment is Under Attack (Aug. 17, 2012).
- No, a Sacramento prosecutor can’t just grab a reporter’s notes. (May 2013).
Advertising & Corporate Speech
- Las Vegas cops pulled down dummy on a noose hanging from highway billboard. (AP, Aug. 13, 2012)
- When Facebook uses a picture of your face to tell one of their “sponsored stories” — without permission — it’s a classic case of misappropriation. Which Facebook programmers would have known if they had taken Media Law.
- Corporations may be “persons” in the eye of the law, but they should be “public persons” and open to criticism, says Deven R. Sensai.
FOIA: Ongoing fights over records and disclosures
- Pennsylvania’s legislature is attempting to gag the FOIA office. (May 12, 2013)
- The Chicago Tribune discovered a separate admissions system for children of politically connected Illinois residents. But the courts are not helping the Tribune access documents under FOIA. (Feb. 25, 2012)
- American Tradition Institute v University of Virginia (2011 – 2012) ATI is suing for the release of emails created by Prof. Michael Mann with respect to climate research.
- ATI v Texas A & M (2012) ATI is suing for the release of emails created by Prof. Andrew Dessler with respect to climate research.
- Climate Science Attack Group controversy. Institute for Southern Studies July 19, 2012.
- Faculty email: Point Counter-point Roanoke Times April 1, 2012.
- AAUP statement on FOIA requests and academic freedom by Robert O’Neil, 2011.