Warm Breezes

Warmer conditions In connection with Monday's blurb, and Internet free-speech topics in general, it's worthwhile to note the presence of the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics. If you've been notified that your site or blog contains material that violates someone's rights—or if you just want to learn more about the subject—this organization can probably help.

Chilling Effects aims to help you understand the protections that the First Amendment and intellectual property laws give to your online activities. We are excited about the new opportunities the Internet offers individuals to express their views, parody politicians, celebrate their favorite movie stars, or criticize businesses. But we've noticed that not everyone feels the same way. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users. Chilling Effects encourages respect for intellectual property law, while frowning on its misuse to "chill" legitimate activity.

Of particular interest is the organization's searchable database of cease-and-desist notices, which not only offers insight for those interested in the process, but provides the exposure that can make all the difference between simply bowing to the threat of legal action, and refusing to do so on legitimate legal grounds.

The type of case referred to in Monday's blurb—a company suing for the use of its trademarked name in the URL of a website critical of that company—isn't unprecedented, and in fact the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse devotes a section to the subject of protest, parody and criticism sites. Interesting reading for anyone with a Net presence of any kind.


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