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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:
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:
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.
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
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, 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, New York University
David Cole, Professor of Law, Georgetown University
Robert Corn-Revere, First Amendment attorney, Davis Wright Tremaine
Paul DiMaggio, Professor of Sociology and Research Coordinator, University Center for Arts & Cultural Policy Studies, Princeton University
Rochelle Dreyfuss, Professor of Law, New York University
David Greene, Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Bennett Haselton, Founder and director, Peacefire.org
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, Professor of History, Yeshiva University
Rodney Smolla, President, Furman University; Former Dean, University of Richmond Law School
Catharine Stimpson, Professor of English and Former Dean of the 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, Associate 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