FEPP Articles

Free Expression Policy Project (FEPP) Archive

By |2017-12-05T14:02:03-05:00December 5th, 2017|FEPP Articles|

The Free Expression Policy Project (FEPP) began in 2000 as a project of NCAC to provide empirical research and policy development on tough censorship issues and seek free speech-friendly solutions to the concerns that drive censorship campaigns. From 2004-2007, FEPP was part of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. From 2007-2018, Marjorie Heins, the founding director, maintained the FEPP site as an information resource.

Untangling the Steven Salaita Case

By |2020-01-03T15:46:51-05:00August 6th, 2015|FEPP Articles|

By now, the controversy over University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise's August 1, 2014 decision to terminate the faculty appointment of Professor Steven Salaita has gone viral. A multitude of opinions have poured forth from blogs, news stories, editorials, and protest letters. The debate brings into focus the continuing problem of efforts by adamantly pro-Israel groups to suppress campus protests [...]

Koch Foundation Buys Academic Slots

By |2020-01-03T15:47:25-05:00November 13th, 2014|FEPP Articles|

The Koch brothers, Charles and David, are best-known for donating millions to the election campaigns of Tea Party candidates and others committed to fighting regulation of business and to protecting the oil and gas industries from efforts to combat climate change. It turns out that Charles Koch, through his foundation, is now also heavily invested in higher education. The money [...]

Harvard Law Review Censors Link to Nan Goldin Photograph

By |2020-01-03T15:31:08-05:00June 26th, 2014|FEPP Articles|

The Harvard Law Review has censored a link to an image by the prominent photographer Nan Goldin, ostensibly because of concerns about child pornography. The image, "Klara and Eddy Belly Dancing," shows two little girls cavorting, one of them nude. The link was included in an article by Marjorie Heins on censorship by private companies that offer social-media sites, web [...]

“What Ails the Agencies for Which They Work”: The Parlous State of Public Employee Free Speech Law

By |2017-10-05T11:03:58-04:00June 25th, 2014|FEPP Articles|

The Supreme Court last week took a small step toward limiting the damage done to the First Amendment by its controversial 2006 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos. The Court in Garcetti denied First Amendment protection to a public employee (there, an assistant prosecutor) who had blown the whistle on police misconduct (in that case, fraudulent search warrants). The prosecutor was punished for [...]

Trading Academic Freedom for Foreign Markets

By |2020-01-05T23:15:47-05:00July 30th, 2012|FEPP Articles|

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. For although the champions of global ventures like Yale’s often claim that academic freedom will be available at the foreign outposts, [...]

The FCC and Indecency: The Supreme Court Decides Not to Decide

By |2017-10-18T16:48:02-04:00June 27th, 2012|FEPP Articles|

The potentially momentous case of Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television ended on June 21 not with a bang but a whimper. True, a unanimous Supreme Court vacated the FCC's rulings that the "fleeting expletives" in two TV programs and the fleeting nudity in a third were "indecent." But it did so on the narrow ground that the agency violated [...]

Fact Sheet on Media Violence

By |2017-10-12T14:08:33-04:00July 1st, 2011|FEPP Articles|

This Fact Sheet answers some frequently-asked questions about social science research into the effects of media violence. The bottom line is that despite the claims of some psychologists and politicians, the actual research results have been weak and ambiguous. This should not be surprising: media violence is so pervasive in our lives, and comes in so many different contexts and [...]

Requiem For California’s Video Game Law

By |2020-01-03T15:48:39-05:00June 28th, 2011|FEPP Articles|

On June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court put an end to the attempts of state and local lawmakers to censor violent video games. Or at least, one hopes so. After two decades of political grandstanding, vaguely drafted laws, and unproven claims that “excessive” or “gratuitous” violence in this particular medium of entertainment has harmful effects on children and teenagers, Justice [...]

Fact Sheet on Sex and Censorship

By |2020-01-03T15:47:55-05:00April 1st, 2009|FEPP Articles|

"I know it when I see it" - This famous phrase, by former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart,1 nicely summarizes the way that American law defines criminally punishable "obscenity." Yet the First Amendment to the Constitution states unequivocally that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech." So where did the exception to the First Amendment for "obscenity" [...]

Fact Sheets on Media Democracy

By |2020-01-03T15:48:37-05:00April 1st, 2009|FEPP Articles|

Most Americans today get their information and entertainment from the mass media - radio, television, newspapers, movies, and the Internet. The companies that own these mass media outlets thus have a powerful influence over our culture, our political system, and the ideas that inform public discourse. In the past half-century, media companies have grown into large conglomerates. With this growth [...]

Blanche DuBois Meets the Copyright Cops

By |2017-10-12T14:08:56-04:00September 22nd, 2008|FEPP Articles|

Blanche DuBois, the fragile, self-deluding southern belle in Tennessee Williams’s 1947 play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” is one of the great tragic characters in American literature. But who owns Blanche, and can the holder of the copyright in “Streetcar” stop a creative artist from impersonating her, as the author and performer Mark Sam Rosenthal does in his recent performance piece, [...]

“Pall of Orthodoxy”: The Insidious Persistence of Loyalty Oaths

By |2017-10-05T11:14:27-04:00May 24th, 2008|FEPP Articles|

A recent incident in California has dramatized the insidious persistence of loyalty oaths for public employment in America. These oaths of allegiance originated in the days of King Henry VIII of England, when treasonous plots and religious wars threatened royal hegemony. They survive today as coerced rituals of political orthodoxy, and as threats to free thought. The latest casualty is [...]

Fact Sheet on Political Dissent and Censorship

By |2020-01-03T15:47:22-05:00May 1st, 2008|FEPP Articles|

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and of U.S. government efforts to combat terrorism by often secretive or constitutionally dubious means, questions have arisen about the scope of First Amendment protection for political protest and dissent. This Fact Sheet, originally prepared for a November 2006 conference on "Civil Liberties in a Paranoid Society," outlines the [...]

Supreme Court Carves Out a New Exception to Student Free Speech

By |2017-10-10T12:29:24-04:00June 25th, 2007|FEPP Articles|

In a fractured decision, the Supreme Court today approved the punishment of a high school student for unfurling a banner with the nonsense message "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" across the street from his school while the U.S. Olympic Torch Relay passed by. Eighteen year-old Joseph Frederick insisted that his banner had no particular message except to assert his right to [...]

REPORT: Intellectual Property and Free Speech in the Online World: A Public Policy Report

By |2017-12-05T12:21:28-05:00February 14th, 2007|FEPP Articles|

The Free Expression Policy Project undertook a survey of 25 online service providers to learn how they handle notices asking them to remove material that the sender alleges violates her copyright or trademark rights. These notices typically take the form of either “cease and desist” letters or takedown notices sent in accordance with § 512 of the Copyright Act. We wanted to learn whether service providers, including educational institutions, consider their users’ free speech interests in the course of responding to copyright and trademark owners’ complaints; and if so, how they act on those considerations. We also wanted to know how well the takedown process is working for service providers, for users, and for copyright owners.

Of Threats, Intimidation, Sensitivity, and Free Speech: The Muhammad Cartoons

By |2017-12-04T15:51:57-05:00February 22nd, 2006|FEPP Articles|

Countless words have been spilled over the Danish newspaper JyullandsPosten's publication last September of 12 cartoons commenting on journalistic self-censorship and Islamic beliefs, including several that caricatured the prophet Muhammad. Surely, everything has been said by now. Yet the controversy rages on: Is this an easy case for freedom of expression? Should there be no acquiescence in demands by some Muslims, [...]

REPORT: Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report

By |2017-12-05T12:22:10-05:00January 1st, 2006|FEPP Articles|

Every new technology brings with it both excitement and anxiety. No sooner was the Internet upon us in the 1990s than anxiety arose over the ease of accessing pornography and other controversial content. In response, entrepreneurs soon developed filtering products. By the end of the decade, a new industry had emerged to create and market Internet filters.

Will Fair Use Survive? Free Expression in the Age of Copyright Control – Intro

By |2020-01-03T15:47:35-05:00December 1st, 2005|FEPP Articles|

Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law Free Expression Policy Project December 2005   Are increasingly heavy assertions of control by copyright and trademark owners smothering fair use and free expression? The product of more than a year of research, Will Fair Use Survive? paints a striking picture of an intellectual property system that is perilously out of balance. Read [...]

Appeals Court Reaffirms Its Tone-Deaf Approach to Music Sampling

By |2017-10-12T14:00:15-04:00June 3rd, 2005|FEPP Articles|

Ignoring the critical balance between creativity and property rights that is essential to a healthy copyright system, a 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit today reaffimed the maverick position that it first announced last year - that the well-accepted "de minimis" rule in copyright law does not apply to sound recordings. Under the court's [...]

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