German chancellor allows prosecution of satirist who insulted Turkish president

A German satirist faces court action after insulting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on television.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, in granting Turkey's request to allow the prosecution of Jan Boehmermann, cast her decision as adherence to the country's laws against insulting heads of state: “In a state governed by the rule of law, it’s not the domain of the government, but rather the prosecutors and the courts, to weigh individual rights.”

But critics say the law itself is an unacceptable infringement of essential freedoms, and point to another issue weighing heavily on Merkel's mind: the need to keep Turkey sweet so it will accept more refugees.

The furor has centered on Boehmermann, a comedian with public broadcaster ZDF who two weeks ago recited a poem about Erdogan that plumbed the depths of bawdiness in an effort to test the boundaries of acceptable satire under a law protecting foreign heads of state from libel. Merkel says her decision wasn’t a prejudgment on the satirist’s culpability.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday that the German comedian had committed a “crime against humanity” by insulting the Turkish head of state. “No one has the right to insult” Erdogan, Kurtulmus told reporters. Erdogan himself also filed a complaint with German prosecutors seeking legal action.

Boehmermann would receive no more than a small fine if convicted, according to legal experts. The poem was designed to test German limits on free speech, writes the BBC.

In true Boehmermann fashion, the poem was more complicated than simply a string of obscenities.

Read the rest

Kickstarting a history of women and free speech in comics from CBLDF

Charles from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund sez, "CBLDF is kickstarting She Changed Comics, a history of how women changed free expression in comics!" Read the rest

John Oliver on Apple vs FBI and the new crypto wars

John Oliver continues to deliver the best comedy tech analysis in the business, with an epic rant/explainer that delves into Apple vs FBI and the new crypto wars with scathing wit and deep, technical truth that's made miraculously accessible to a general audience. Read the rest

"Je Suis Charlie," but your free speech is terrorism

It's been a year since the horrific Charlie Hebdo attack and the subsequent outpouring of defense of free speech from all quarters -- the insistence that free societies demand tolerance of viewpoints, even deeply offensive ones. Read the rest

Google steps up to defend fair use, will fund Youtubers' legal defenses

After years of missteps, blunders and disasters in which Youtube users have been censored through spurious copyright claims or had their accounts deleted altogether, Google has announced an amazing, user-friendly new initiative though which it will fund the legal defense of Youtube creators who are censored by bad-faith copyright infringement claims. Read the rest

Congressional hearings are bad news for gag orders banning online reviews

Last week's Senate Commerce Committee hearings invited testimony on the Consumer Review Freedom Act, which would ban the increasingly widespread practice of inserting "non-disparagement" clauses in consumer contracts that are used on products and services from apartment buildings to cellphones to dental care. Read the rest

Publicity Rights could give celebrities a veto over creative works

EFF, the Organization for Transformative Works, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund have filed a brief [PDF] in a Supreme Court case over "publicity rights" -- the right of famous people to veto the use of their names and likenesses in other works, like caricatures, documentaries, and biographies. Read the rest

Hundreds of Canadian artists call for repeal of surveillance law

Bill C-51 is a sweeping, radical mass-surveillance bill proposed by the current Canadian Tory government, which will be fighting an election next month. Read the rest

Free speech versus "compelled attention"

Yesterday's story about a woman who made her Twitter account private because of harassment from men sparked a lot of discussion about how blocking and free speech interact with each other. Here's my $0.02 on the matter: Read the rest

For the first time ever, a judge has invalidated a secret Patriot Act warrant

Calyx is a privacy-oriented ISP. In 2004, the FBI brought its owner, Nicholas Merrill, a National Security Letter -- one of the USA Patriot Act's secret search warrants, which comes with a gag order prohibiting the recipient from ever disclosing its existence.

Merrill has fought the gag order for 11 years, refusing to give up despite government attempts to get the case booted and to run up the court costs beyond Merrill's ability to pay.

He had a partial victory in 2010, when he and the ACLU won a court victory that allowed him to disclose some elements of the NSL, but left important details -- including the categories of information the FBI believes it can request under an NSL -- still secret. This latest victory overturns that restriction.

The judge in this case, Judge Victor Marrero, also presided over a 2007 case that overturned part of the Patriot Act, requiring investigators to go through the courts in order to get NSLs. In his Calyx decision, he condemned the government's secrecy as "extreme and overly broad."

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s decision invalidated the gag order in full, finding no “good reason” to prevent Merrill from speaking about any aspect of the NSL, particularly an attachment to the NSL that lists the specific types of “electronic communication transactional records” (“ECTR”) that the FBI believed it was authorized to demand. The FBI has long refused to clarify what kinds of information it sweeps up under the rubric of ECTR, a phrase that appears in the NSL statute but is not publicly defined anywhere.

Read the rest

Library offers Tor nodes; DHS tells them to stop

John writes, "After a library created a Tor node on its network, the DHS and local police contacted them to ask them to stop. For now they have; their Board of Trustees will vote soon on whether to renew the service." Read the rest

Fight censorship with the new Humble Bundle full of Gaiman rarities

More than a dozen rare and unpublished Neil Gaiman titles are available DRM-free on a name-your-price basis at Humble Bundle this week, with proceeds to benefit the brilliant Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, as well as other free-speech causes. Read the rest

The End of the Internet Dream: the speech that won Black Hat (and Defcon)

"The End of the Internet Dream," cyberlawyer Jennifer Granick's keynote at Black Hat, was all anyone could talk about at this year's Defcon -- Black Hat being the grown-up, buttoned-down, military-industrial cousin to Defcon's wild and exuberant anarchy. Read the rest

Student suspended for tweeting two words will get to sue his school, police chief

Rogers, MN honor student Reid Sagehorn was suspended after he tweeted two words, using his own device, on his own time, off school property. Read the rest

FBI opened a file on George Carlin for telling "bad taste" Hoover jokes

Michael from Muckrock writes, "After George Carlin satirized FBI and J. Edgar Hoover in a bit "considered to be in very poor taste" (but which was incredibly tame by Carlin standards), the Bureau took a special interest in the famed comedian, starting a file and sending out queries across the country as to Carlin's loyalties and background." Read the rest

Idaho court strikes down anti-whistleblower "ag-gag" law

Many agriculture-heavy states have passed laws criminalizing recording videos of animal cruelty and illegal workplace and food hygiene practices, but one judge in Idaho isn't having any of it. Read the rest

Ellen Pao: “The trolls are winning.”

“I have just endured one of the largest trolling attacks in history,” writes Reddit's recently-departed interim CEO Ellen Pao in a Washington Post op-ed today. “And I have just been blessed with the most astonishing human responses to that attack.” Read the rest

More posts