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Censorship

Intellectual Property and a Censored Slash Site? 346

Posted by Cliff
from the war-between-IP-and-Free-Speech dept.
flikx sent in an issue that may affect several of us in the future, especially if you happen to work in a similar environment. It's a free speech issue, and one that puts a huge question mark on just how far U.S. First Amendment rights really extend. The short version: filkx ran a weblog called "SOS," for the laudable goal of providing an open discussion forum for student government issues. He had a steadfast rule of non-censorship, which soon landed him in political hot waters with the University of Utah. A new administration steps in, the site is shut down, and filkx now faces criminal charges, expulsion and a cute twist: the university claims that the site's content is now their own property. flikx notes, "I'd like to say up front that this is a fairly large and multifaceted issue, and would also like to draw attention to a related article up on Slashcode". You can read the details by clicking on the link.

The following is written by former-Slashsite admin, flikx:

Early last fall, I personally created a Slash site called SOS under student government for my University. I did everything myself with no outside help of any sort, and entirely volunteer. I have never been paid for my efforts in any way, and never expected monetary compensation. I did not actually work for the University, but was a student in Mechanical Engineering. I created said site with the ultimate goal of providing an open discussion forum and weblog for all students of the University.

During the course of operation of the site, I fielded numerous complaints about abuse to the site, and took them in a professional manner, though steadfastly refused to censor any content on the site. Remember that many in Utah are very conservative and dislike free speech on some levels...being fairly conservative myself, I never thougtht I'd run afoul of people. The problem is that I continuously ran afoul of politics as people threatened me repeatedly due to my failure to censor the site. The abuse was minimal, especially by Slashdot standards.

Six weeks ago, the administration censored the entire site due to the threat of legal action due to inapropriate content. The site was down for just over a week, and I was forced to implement strict posting guidelines and adopt a censorship policy for the site.

A new administration recently took over, and first on the list was to get rid of me, and the site. There's much more involved here in politics, plus scr1pt k1dd13 threats spoofed from my email and everything, but the bottom line is that the site was censored for good. The server was physically removed by the police, and the disks wiped after 'evidence' was removed. All known backups were destroyed, and they even obtained a protective order from me and banned me from the University property. I'm also suspended indefinately, and face immediate expulsion from the University. (BTW - I'm almost done with my Mechanical Engineering degree .. so this is not light by any means. If expelled, I'm forced to start over as a freshmen if I ever get into another school.)

So here's some of the problems with which I turn to the Slashdot crowd for a solution:

The administration threatened me, and had the legal team tell me that everything on the site is intellectual property of the University of Utah. Everything. That includes all stories, all comments, user accounts, even the graphic design I did. I have off-site backups of the site, and could easily redeploy the site elsewhere provided the time and hosting. I've already put 2000+ unpaid volunteer hours into the University, and they take away my work. It should be my right to operate an open discussion forum, but it seems that it's not.

What does the Slashdot crowd think about this issue? Should [or does] everything belong to my University? The only involvement the university had was hosting the site and buying the server, that's it. Obviously, the site could be moved elsewhere, and I still have a team together that could operate the site independant to the University. But as I am already being expelled and even facing criminal charges for 'computer crimes', this is far beyond your average Ask Slashdot."

Cliff: If you are interested in obtaining some context for this story, you can dig around the cached pages from SOS on Google.

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Intellectual Property and a Censored Slash Site?

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  • by mosch (204) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:20AM (#171391) Homepage
    I wish you good luck, but wishes won't do nearly as much good as a lawyer. You're facing a situation where you could potentially have to start school over again. A lawyer, at this point in time, will have a better ROI than any investment you'll make for the rest of your life.

    Secondly, take a look at the U of U Student Code. The Students Bill of Rights, section F. It reads:
    F. Freedom of Expression. Students have a right to examine and communicate ideas by any lawful means. Students may not be subject to discipline because of their constitutionally protected exercise of freedom of association, assembly, expression and the press.
    It would seem to me you were within those rights. Get a lawyer.

    Section D of the Students Bill of Rights talks about due process.
    D. Due Process. Students have a right to due process in any disciplinary matter involving the possibility of substantial sanctions. This includes a right to be heard, a right to decision and review by impartial persons or bodies, and a right to adequate notice.
    Remember, even if you're expelled, that the people who are reviewing your sanctions are people who, given the nature of your site, were not neccessarily impartial. Get a lawyer.

    Look at Section IIA, the Student Standards of Behavior. Notice that what you did is not prohibited by these standards. Get a lawyer.

    And in conclusion, STOP ASKING SLASHDOT AND GET A LAWYER!

    --
    "Don't trolls get tired?"

  • Flikx's motivations for creating the site are irrelvant. The site was created by him with no input from the university (other than some requests for censorship). U of U took his graphics and layout work (actually probably Slashcode layout for the most part).

    The real kicker is the university grabbed Flikx's content simply because they owned the server. If I lent you my computer for you to write your dissertation on, does that mean I own your dissertation? If I let your borrow my pen and paper to write a letter does it mean I own the letter? If you put up a website on any ISP (which is what the University was acting as in this case, Flikx paid for the account with his tuition in the same way you would pay for ISP bills) does it mean the ISP owns everything you put up there? Technically, since the University has copyright on his work, the offsite backups he made are illegal and are grounds for a very hefty fine and inprisonment, and will be for 70 more years.
    This is sensational but it illustrates how messed up the copyright system is currently. Technically, the university could claim copyright on any page you publish, take down the page, and the have you arrested for copying the page illegaly (for having the local working version on your computer).

    Honestly, if he tries, I think he can get his copyright back in court, but the battle will be expensive and the university will probably still expell him and deny all attempts to transfer credits elsewhere. Isn't copyright law fun.

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:53AM (#171393) Homepage Journal
    Of course he couldn't set up anything simliar to SOS. The school has claimed copyright on his work, which means he has no rights to use it unless they are explicity given (unlikly). If he set up anything similar to what he already did, there is a good chance the school will slap him with a copyright infringement charge in addition to whatever else they are apparently doing. I'm surprised he can't get transfer credit anywhere though, certainly there are schools the country that are more liberal and will take his transfer credits instead of making him start over from square one.

    If the school had simply said that they wouldn't host his site anymore and make him take it somewhere else, I'd agree with you 100%, but since they took all of his ideas and content and placed them under copyright, then I have to disagree with you. For that matter, what's to prevent ANY isp you host with from taking over your material? I mean the reason the school took it was because they owned the servers (although his tuition paid for those servers), but your ISP owns it's own servers as well. The same logic would seem to apply. I don't know many ISP TOSes that explicity protect your content from this sort of thing (0 actually).

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • In case anybody's interested in contacting the university about this, I've dug up some contact information (all publically available on their site [utah.edu]). Please keep emails civil and explain issues calmly to try to convince them that what they're doing is wrong. (Note: most of these contacts are actually fielded by executive assistants and such; the President doesn't actually answer his own phone or email, but if a good deal of mail comes in it'll still be noticed and possibly brought to his attention).

    President J Bernard Machen:
    Tel: (801) 581-5701
    Fax: (801) 581-6892
    Email: president@utah.edu

    General Counsel John K. Morris:
    Tel: (801) 581-5115
    Fax: (801 )585-7007
    Email: dolson@legal.admin.utah.edu

    Associate Vice President for Information Technology and Outreach Clifford J. Drew:
    Tel: (801) 581-7838
    Fax: (801) 585-5993
    Email: sturpin@aoce.utah.edu

    Board of Trustees:
    Tel: (801) 581-3033
    Fax: (801) 585-8211
    Email: calleen.bennett@utah.edu

    Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara H. Snyder:
    Tel: (801) 581-7793
    Fax: (801) 585-3890
    Email: chebert@saff.utah.edu

    Vice President for University Relations Fred C. Esplin:
    Tel: (801) 581-4088
    Fax: (801) 581-3654
    Email: jyoung@park.admin.utah.edu

    Those are all the relevant people I could find in a quick search. If you're a Utah State alumnus, contact Mr. Esplin, as he's in charge of alumni affairs, and let him know that you will withhold any donations until this matter is resolved satisfactorily (universities tend to pay attention when alumni are upset).
  • In the case mentioned in this article there isn't even an issue of free speech involved. Someone has donated work to the university and the university has decided that work is now inappropriate.

    Except that the speech on the site was indeed political speech: the University is part of the state government, therefore discussions about the University, even bitch sessions, are political speech. Also note that more than political speech is protected under the first amendment.


    ...phil

  • by alewando (854) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:38AM (#171396)
    SOS is based in Utah, and we have different legal and cultural norms here. The first amendment (ratified by the same idiots who brought us the secon amendment) may prevail in the Federal courts, but that doesn't mean we enforce it to the same extent in the state courts.

    And even if we did, it'd be irrelevant here. The first amendment exists to protect political speech, but SOS wasn't at all about political speech. It was about student life on campus, hardly the sort of important cultural discussion governments have historically suppressed and without which American democracy cannot exist. What's more, the "speech" in question was mere anonymous insults: the lowest form of speech you can get (excluding pornography and flag burning, which aren't even speech).

    When the Founding Fathers broke away from England and enacted the bill of rights, they didn't intend for it to apply to this sort of situation. Heck, judging from their own passage of the "Alien and Sedition Act", they didn't even intend to protect actual political speech within their own time. And yet you come whining to slashdot to pretend that your own personal website, hosted with the bandwidth of a private university, is somehow more important?

    Dan, you need to learn to distinguish between personal discomfort and political outrage. The university is well within its rights (and upholding its duty to instill good moral character within its students) when they treat your site this way. And since you could get your site hosted for $30/mo at any number of non-Utah hosting companies, I have no sympathy for you.

    This is not about speech. This is not about freedom. This is just a student bitching about the "fascist administration". Nothing to see here; please move along.

  • FOr some reason, my father ended up with a stack of 4x6 soviet propoganda pamphlets in the early 70's. Even at 10 or so, ethey were easy to see through, but anyway . . . the Soviet constitution guaranteed free speech. Not just a negative right like ours (right not to be silenced) but as a positive right (right to forum and materials) . . . yeah, right . . . :)
  • I know this is going to sound cowardly to this crowd, but the MOST important thing to you right now, is your future.

    I say, JETTISON the IP. Do ANYTHING it takes to not get expelled, cooperate in any way possible. Get your degree, and get out.

    Bad experience, lesson learned. Don't fuck with fascists.

    The time (and money) you've spent on your degree has got to be WAY more important than any of this other bullshit. Don't risk that because of some free-speech bullshit, you will not win this battle, and frankly, it's not worth winning in this case. Suffer the indignity, and get on with life.

    There are better ways to beat this fascism, you don't have to be the martyr. Let somebody who's better positioned, better funded, and especially more idealistic, take it on the chin for this one.
  • Unless he signed an agreement saying that U of U owned it, it's STILL his. Please note that many universities lay claim to any copyrightable or patentable ideas or content produced by the student and the student has to sign those rights over to the school to attend. However, having said both, just because he did it "for" the school does NOT automatically make it their IP.
  • As usual....IANAL, etc etc etc

    Just as any research you do while at school is the property of the University you attend, I will bet you that _anything_ you create with school resources at school belongs to the school

    Does this suck? Yes. Is there much you can do about it? Not likely. You need to look into the school bylaws on research and work produced. You may find out that your term papers, computer programs, and murals on the walls of the dorms all belong to the school.

    I sympathize with you, but you should have looked more into the school's rules regarding such things before you tried to take a stance and made promises that it now looks like you can not keep. Good luck in extricating yourself fromt his mess. I hope it doesn't bring you down too much.


    This space for rent. Call 1-800-STEAK4U

  • Make your case known on campus. See if you can get support from student organizations.

    Universities tend to be very image conscious organizations. They feel you were making them look bad in the public eye. If you can make thier recent actions against you look worse than what they did to you, they may change their mind very quickly.
  • I can understand if the server was unauthorized (server computer on residence net) or even if they were providing authorized hosting, I dont think they should be able to claim legal IP rights to the content. (for one thing, if he was running slashcode I believe all the content on the site there should be protected under the GPL?)

    I can understand if they dont want association with the site - and therefore revoke hosting. I certainly do not think any record (ALL backups??!!? I would think I would have a personal backup of all of the data) should be eliminated, nor can they really prohibit the site as long as there is no logos or specifically university property used in the site.

    Though i think the prescedent(sp) may speak for this one already. if there is already a policy of 'what ever was created by the student while being educated at this university is hence property of the university', which I dont think should be allowed, it may be difficult.

    I know a guy who was going to RIT creating an RPG engine for profit, he already had a few customers. He was notified by university officials that the engine was entirely their property because he was developing it during his education there, and with knowledge learned there. He did not use any university resources at all to produce the game. web hosting was off site, he used his own personal computer to develop it, and still they claimed ownership.

    I think this ownership issue has been discussed before in an ask slashdot article... might want to dig that up.

  • aah, the wonders of free press. I do think the internet should be treated as a free-press entity of sorts. This being in which supreme court rulings say there may be prior-review - but no prior-restraint. (not sure on the specifics of utah law - that might be a thing to look up).

    I nearly took this issue up with my highschool newspaper advisor, who was doing more editing of the paper than the editors. Because of the school we were in (a famous one. i'll give you that) we had to severely tone down any sort of criticisms we had in our editorial sections. Gone was the open-forum of our editorial section, because contrivertial issues were literally thrown out by our advisor. I am not sure in which way he thought he had the power to do this, seeing as colorado (oops) has legal right to prior-review, but not to prior-restraint (as per the supreme court rulings). What he did was illegal but I did not have enough support of the rest of the staff to go ahead with a complaint. I doubt administration would have heard it anyway. (this being the administration that was 'asking people to leave' because of how they dressed (even when it was within dress code guidelines), anything they drew, wrote, or said (this being the 'new tolerant [school]')

    Bah. like i posted on this same article - not sure what sort of policies where instated by the school about hosted sites, but from the sound of it he still owns his site. if he doesnt, I believe the university should do some reviewing of THEIR CONTENT.
  • Ok, academic status may not matter (although I think that's debatable), but criminal charges for 'computer crimes'? That's like charging a mechanical engineer with murder because he designed a car that someone else drove improperly, while drunk, and killed someone with!

    Are you surprised? We're in a country where gun manufacturers are being sued for "wrongful death" when their products are used illegally, and where cigarette manufacturers are sued despite the clear warnings on their products.

    -
  • OK, OK, this is slightly off-topic (but somewhat related), but your comment:

    ``The school has claimed copyright on his work, which means he has no rights to use it unless they are explicity given (unlikly).''

    got me to wondering... Imagine how different the computing industry might be if Harvard University had claimed copyright on Bill Gate's BASIC interpreter. I understood that he developed it on Harvard's campus computers. Of course, that wasn't a ``free speech'' issue. But some Universities don't like commercial work being done using campus facilities. Gotta wonder what Harvard's policy was back then.

    Just a thought...

    As for UofU's copyright claim: This seems to be common at Universities isn't it? I seem to recall that the copyright on a most theses or dissertations is held by the University where the work was done since the University is the publisher. As for UofU being rather tyrannical about their policy... What did you expect at UofU? They have a reputation for being awfully strict. I can't imagine the web site creator didn't know of their policies.

    Finally...

    ``For that matter, what's to prevent ANY isp you host with from taking over your material?''

    Only the fear that word'll get around that they do this to folks hosting web pages on their servers. The sucking sound of users pulling their web sites down from an ISP that regularly practised this would be deafening. What was the big ``free'' web page site (geocities?) that tried to pull this one? They backed down rather quickly as I recall.

    If I already place a copyright on all of my web pages, I wonder what legal right the ISP has then if they try to claim copyright on those pages? Any legal scholars reading this thread?

    Cheers...

    --

  • ``The part that keeps getting left out is that he developed this site for the university. (It was their student government, I believe).''

    Makes you wonder how effective the student government can be if everything that's said must be approved by the administration. You can just imagine the student govt. meeting where someone says: ``We can't approve that resolution. The administration'll just squash it without discussion.'' Wouldn't you just love being part of a puppet government? That'd give you a real feeling of making a contribution to campus life, that's for sure.


    --

  • by rnturn (11092) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:07AM (#171408)
    ``And arent (sic) universities supposed to support free speech?''

    Geez. Where have you been for the last, oh, 10-15 years? Free speech hasn't existed on college campuses since the onset of the political correctness movement. I've a lot of people tell me about:

    • folks auditing classes just to take notes on what professors are saying then using those notes to file complaints to the administration demanding that they be removed. We just can't have any of these `free thinkers' infecting the delicate minds of the Nation's youth.
    • campus organizations formed whose sole purpose seems to be to disrupt speechs being made by people whose views don't align with certain viewpoints. If they don't like what someone has to say, they don't just refuse to listen; they bar everyone else from listening as well.
    • students being accused of `being insensitive' to some supposedly maligned group and being disciplined without so much as a hearing. Better safe than sorry, you know.

    A lot of college campuses are, IMHO, a scary place nowadays. I'm extremely glad to be out of school.



    --

  • May I quote this on my web page? This is probably the most eloquent explanation of why we fight the DMCA, the RIAA, fascist universities and corporations in general that I have heard yet.

    I would be very flattered. Yes, by all means you can (re)use my argument as you see fit. Ideas cannot and should not be owned ... having expressed this one it is out there for anyone to use as they see fit. If you'd like to use the expression (normally restricted under our more-than-a-little-onerous copyright law) I hereby grant you and anyone else permission to do so.
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:38AM (#171410)

    Well, let's take a look at some of the google cached [google.com] headlines, shall we?:


    "Should the "U" limit its administrative terms?
    (I imagine some deans were more than a little irritated by this)

    Jason V. Morgan writes "According to The Utah Daily Chronicle, several deans are irked by the U's 10-year rule, an informal limit on the length an administrator can hold an appointment. Apparently, Machen's own career has followed this philosophy.

    My own opinion is somewhat similar to The Chrony's: while promoting administrative turnover has its benefits, it is unwise to blindly follow an unofficial rule such as this. It contributes to the "us vs. them" mentality shared by the faculty and administration when the administration arbitrarily refuses to reappoint a dean that may be doing an effective job.

    "Utah could be hurting its economoc potential"
    (Mormons are notoriously ill-humored about even innocuous subjects ... this one likely sent them into frothing hysterics)

    Oxymoronic writes "On Monday, the Los Angeles Times published this article. Apparently, many former "dot com" programmers, as well as many movie technichians, have entered into the pornography industry or at least spent some time looking into it. Unlike other industries that have tried to make it on the Internet, pornography has turned out to be very profitable. Utah's very conservative stance, embodied in the appointment of a "Porn Czar," could limit the potential for Utahns to profit from this lucrative, stable industry."

    "U" School of Medicine Accused of Discrimination
    (The University can't be happy about this one either)

    The Utah Daily Chronicle recently ran this article reporting that an audit of the School of Computing admissions process is being pushed by Rep. Carl Saunders, R-Ogden. He has cited cases where students have been denied admission by the University of Utah School of Medicine, but have been accepted into other top-notch universities.

    "Is the U insensitive to the Native American Heritage?"
    (Another criticism that probably hits a little too close to home)

    Today's The Chronicle View contends that the University of Utah still has some steps in order to stop degrading the Native American Heritage. While the University of Utah does much to recognize and highlight Native Americans, there are apparantly many who feel that the University of Utah's efforts are not enough. What do University of Utah students think? Log in and click on Read More... to add your thoughts to this issue.

    "What do U of U students think of the war on drugs?"
    (Another topic likely to deeply offend and confuse the dominant religion of the region)

    Jason V. Morgan writes "A recent slashdot.org article highlighted a New York Times article (free registration required) which says that Amtrack shares information about its passengers with the DEA. This seems to be an unnecessary violation of privacy; one that weakens our fourth amendment rights. Do University of Utah students think that the war on drugs is worth these kinds of compromises and its incredible cost?"


    Given the subjet matter at hand, and my own personal experience with the authoritarian nature of Mormon society (my mother and sister are Mormons, so I've seen this first hand on many occasions), it is very possible that we do in fact have the entire story and the extreme (over)reaction of the university is in fact all it has been described as. Other universities, including my own alma matar of the University of Illinois, have frequently reacted in very heavy handed fashion which, while remaining technically within the rather wide bounds granted to them by law, were nevertheless indefensible on an ethical level.

    As an aside (not related to your post, but to others I have read here), the arguments that the poster should shut up and stop bitching because he has no constitutional rights on private property are particularly disturbing, and the main reason I ultimately rejected the Libertarian stance on social issues. A nation in which one's rights end at the edge of the public sidewalk, in a country as privatized is this, is not a very free nation at all. How much of your life do you spend on private property vs. public property, and how many rights do you assume you have that, according to such an argument, you in fact do not? I type this message right now, sitting on private property. I excersize my freedom of speech on my lunch hour, yet these people would argue that firing my sorry ass would be just fine (if I were to offend my employer), simply because although it is my time, it is my employer's network to which my laptop is connected and across which the bytestream passes.

    If this is the kind of world they wish to advocate, then I want nothing of it. And, I suspect, our founding fathers would feel similarly.
  • Sorry, but you have no right to use of university property for your speach. You have the right to free speach, but you don't have some right to be published by others. Unless you foot the bill to publish teh site and pay the costs of operation, you don't have the expectation of remaining uncensored. Further, it isn't an abuse of the first ammendment to censor content. We all censor content all the time. Slashdot doesn't post every story it receives, for example. There is no issue here other than a some young kid forgot that he wasn't paying the server bill and thought that the university was obligated to host his site for him through their connection. He then found out that when he didn't listen to the univesity officials that they actually had the power to do something about his impudence. Sorry, but I don't cry for dummies. The fist ammendment says that the government can not censor you. It doesn't say that private institutions (and universities are that) have no rights to censor themselves. With luck you learn something and get into another school and get on with your life.
  • OK, I can see them yanking your site if they didn't like it. Their servers, their right to what's on them. However, pressing criminal charges and having you banned from campus seems a little harsh. They could at least have slapped your wrist first and talked to you about it.

    According to the article, they _did_ ask him repeatedly to remove material they found objectionable. He refused repeatedly. Criminal charges are still a bit harsh (they could have just replaced him as the site administrator), but it isn't as if he had no previous contact at all.
  • I wonder how many of us have been threatened with lawsuits by our educational institutions because of Internet activities? Or by individuals?

    I personally was threatened with criminal and civil action by the University of Kansas [ukans.edu] back in 1995 because of a website on a school computer. It was very hard for me, as a 19 year-old, to take. I was scared.

    The second time I was threatened with civil action was by a student [turnleft.com]'s lawyer-dad and I was scared.

    The third time I was threatened with civil action was from a competitor [copilot.com] with a lawyer-sister. By that point, I wasn't scared any more.

    Kind of like meeting the police. They scared the shit out of me the first few times. Last time they came to my door was 97 and I didn't let them in. All I said, standing in my door, was "I'm not going to talk to you" over and over and over again, as the guy got more and more pissed off. He went away, just like the losers threatening civil suits.

    I think a lot of dealing with lawyers and police is standing your ground and saying nothing.

    In the case of this Utah fiasco, I think any lawyer will be able to get him his degree, but since his site was on a uni network and server, he's kind of out of luck. As I learned from Kansas, any state funded school is going to be really protective of their servers and network, because once a website is even remotely publically funded, a lot of people have asses to cover if a webpage served says something un-pc.

    It's probably time for him to cut his losses, and walk away, fighting only for his degree. (free speech aside because there is no free speech when you're borrowing a soapbox)
  • I'm surprised he can't get transfer credit anywhere though...

    The school may not have an obligation to award him credit for transfer. Remember that transcripts are sent from school to school and sealed with the school seal.

    Pan

  • In a certain sense, the school may be committing a crime by destroying evidence - they could have only kept the parts that made him look culpable and erased the rest. Why is it when some hacker gets arrested, the FBI or the police keep his machines for years, but the University in this case gets to copy off all of the data, erase the disks (sounds like a coverup to me) and put the machine back in service? If I were this guy's lawyer I know that I would try to get anything transferred off of the original media disbarred in court - you never know who's tampered with it at that point.

    On the plus side, the school's ham-handedness may end up keeping the guy out of real trouble.

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

  • People claim all sorts of things. I'm not at all sure that one should believe what they say just because they claim something. The most cogent advice so far was the guy who said "Get a lawyer!". If you don't have a lawyer, then they don't have to pay any attention to the rules. If what has been said earlier is correct, then they haven't been paying any attention.

    Universities have a history of running roughshod over students, and then claiming that it was their right. If you don't have any power to stand up to them, then they can get away with anything the cops will allow. And they do. I've seen it happen.

    A lawyer may or may not help. If you get a good one, he will at least tell you if you have a reasonable chance. And sometimes the mere threat of a lawsuit will make them back down.

    OTOH: This is likely to affect any grades you are given in the future. Make sure that you have your lawyer get a copy of your transcript, and other public records, so that nothing happens to them. Things have been know to become lost. And make sure that you keep copies, possibly notarized, in at least two places that are reasonably secure. Don't depend on one. Universities have been know to get around banks just by requesting. So don't have your only evidence in just one bank vault. (Your lawyer will probably have ideas as to what appropriate steps are.)

    If win, you will still probably want to transfer to another college. You won't be able to trust the administration to be at all fair about things, and even some professors could carry a grudge (and you won't know which ones). So make sure that you get all the necessary letters, forms, etc. And this should probably be arranged by you lawyer.


    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • Are you sure that the student government is a part of the university? Where I went to school they were legally separate entities. The university did a lot of bullying though, and could get away with it because they had the bulk of the power, and the definite sympathies of the power structure. Students paid money to the student government, but the university at one point talked the bank into seizing the account so that the student government couldn't hire a lawyer, things like that.

    I wouldn't trust a university administration as far as ... you fill it in. Many of the people in it are good, but it tends to be run by petty tyrants and political yes-men. So it doesn't matter how kindly the clerk that you deal with is. That isn't the person setting the policy.


    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • by Salgak1 (20136) <<ten.ysaekaeps> <ta> <kaglas>> on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:00AM (#171424) Homepage
    Yes, student demonstrations get noticed. But dissatisfaction from donating alumni gets a LOT more notice.

    Find like-minded Alumni. Organize them. Then have them complain to both the Alumni Association and the University itself. And have them threaten to cut off all future donations.

    It's the advice of the late Robert A. Heinlein... [spearweasel.com]:

    Never appeal to a man's "better nature". He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.

    It's dirty pool, but VERY effective. . . .

  • Jeez, I didn't think you could *put* this much pig-ignorance in one message, is this a joke?

    SOS is based in Utah, and we have different legal and cultural norms here. The first amendment (ratified by the same idiots who brought us the secon amendment) may prevail in the Federal courts, but that doesn't mean we enforce it to the same extent in the state courts.

    The University of Utah is a public university, which means that the laws that apply to the state government apply to it. Utah, despite your touchingly naive belief, does not have an exemption from the 14th Amendment, which requires state governments to extend the same constitutional protections that the federal government does. Thus, the first amendment does apply here, and any Utah court which thinks it is a exception will find itself bitchslapped by the federal courts when the case moves into them.

    And even if we did, it'd be irrelevant here. The first amendment exists to protect political speech, but SOS wasn't at all about political speech. It was about student life on campus, hardly the sort of important cultural discussion governments have historically suppressed and without which American democracy cannot exist..

    The first amendment covers all forms of speech; the framers and the courts wisely recognized that attempts to limit to to 'important' speech would limit speech to that liked by those doing the defining.

    What's more, the "speech" in question was mere anonymous insults: the lowest form of speech you can get (excluding pornography and flag burning, which aren't even speech).

    This is a troll, surely? Street vs. New York (394US576, 1969), Texas vs. Johnson (491US397,1989): Flag burning is explicitly speech and protected under the 1st Amendment. "The government may not prohibit, the expression of an idea because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." Pornography is also covered by the 1st amendment; child pornography is not, and obscenity is not, but pornography != obscenity. Insults are also covered as long as they do not fall to the level of actual defamation (not covered.)

    When the Founding Fathers broke away from England and enacted the bill of rights, they didn't intend for it to apply to this sort of situation. Heck, judging from their own passage of the "Alien and Sedition Act", they didn't even intend to protect actual political speech within their own time. And yet you come whining to slashdot to pretend that your own personal website, hosted with the bandwidth of a private university, is somehow more important?

    Okay it *is* a troll, no one who knows the Alien and Sedition acts could be this dumb. For the rest of you: the Alien and Sedition acts lost the Federalists the next election, the acts were repealed under Jefferson, and the Supreme Court has smacked down any later attempts at the same thing. As above, University of Utah is *not* a private university, and thus is bound by the strictures of the Bill of Rights.

    Dan, you need to learn to distinguish between personal discomfort and political outrage. The university is well within its rights (and upholding its duty to instill good moral character within its students) when they treat your site this way. And since you could get your site hosted for $30/mo at any number of non-Utah hosting companies, I have no sympathy for you.

    ...or possibly it's just someone with a personal axe to grind. While the usual 'freedom of the press goes to those who own them' may apply here, it also may not. Someone with a better constitutional law background than me can speculate on whether Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va. (515US819,837) would apply if the university gives similiar space to other 'publications'.

    This is not about speech. This is not about freedom. This is just a student bitching about the "fascist administration". Nothing to see here; please move along.

    Like other people, I have severe suspicions that there is More To This Story, but maybe the administrators are just as ignorant as this post, and this really *is* all the story.

  • If I were this guy I'd just pop a few Valiums, forget the whole thing and finish my degree.

    The problem is if he's expelled, he loses all of his college credits which he worked so hard for. I would definitely fight the university on this one, with legal help of some sort. If the university won't allow him to return to campus, maybe he can cut a deal where he can "voluntarily withdraw" from the university and keep his credits. It sucks, but at least he can finish his degree. I'd write off the weblog, since it was made on university systems for the university, but criminal charges and severe sanctions are absolutely uncalled for.

  • As for computer crimes, I'd love to know what computer crimes have been comitted. Presumable, if and when charges are filed, all of this will become a matter of public record, and the university can expel the student for merely having charges broght against him, but the million dollar question is What charges could be filed in this case?

    Supposedly, flikx is being investigated for making threats against various school officials because some script kiddies forged some email to make it appear to come from him. Any defense attorney who is even vaguely competent would be able to get these charges dropped, since it is so ridiculously easy to forge email return addresses these days, and a quick examination of the Received: headers of the emails in question would probably be enough to show the emails were faked.

    The criminal charges are on extremely flimsy evidence, so U.U. would put themselves in a bad position if they expelled flikx based on that evidence. At best, they might be able to get him for "posting inappropriate content using University resources," which doesn't justify an expulsion.

  • As an aside (not related to your post, but to others I have read here), the arguments that the poster should shut up and stop bitching because he has no constitutional rights on private property are particularly disturbing, and the main reason I ultimately rejected the Libertarian stance on social issues. A nation in which one's rights end at the edge of the public sidewalk, in a country as privatized is this, is not a very free nation at all. How much of your life do you spend on private property vs. public property, and how many rights do you assume you have that, according to such an argument, you in fact do not? I type this message right now, sitting on private property. I excersize my freedom of speech on my lunch hour, yet these people would argue that firing my sorry ass would be just fine (if I were to offend my employer), simply because although it is my time, it is my employer's network to which my laptop is connected and across which the bytestream passes.

    If this is the kind of world they wish to advocate, then I want nothing of it. And, I suspect, our founding fathers would feel similarly.

    May I quote this on my web page? This is probably the most eloquent explanation of why we fight the DMCA, the RIAA, fascist universities and corporations in general that I have heard yet.

  • If you're really curious how I felt about it at the time that I ceased to run it, goto RumorsDaily.com [rumorsdaily.com] and look at the source code.

    The short answer is, yes, if you can make a site that's succesful and incorporates both news and opinion it's definately worth it. I got to know a lot of people who I otherwise would not have and it gave me access to the school, and the ability to raise issues that never would have been done otherwise. The downside, and what you have to find a way to avoid, is the awful spiral that occured when the site became too popular. When the main thrust of the users shifted from the campus intelligentsia to the campus riff-raff, the signal to noise ratio fell dramatically. It became an intolerant bastion for insults and gay jokes... something which you can brush off for a while, but eventually became too grating for me to handle every day.

    It's got tremendous upsides and tremendous downsides. I would suggest you do it, because no matter what else, it will always be an experience to have... I can't tell you what it's like to be awakened on Sunday morning by the Secret Service, but I wouldn't give up that experience for anything today.

    --

  • If you're really curious how I felt about it at the time that I ceased to run it, goto RumorsDaily.com [rumorsdaily.com] and look at the source code.

    The short answer is, yes, if you can make a site that's succesful and incorporates both news and opinion it's definately worth it. I got to know a lot of people who I otherwise would not have and it gave me access to the school, and the ability to raise issues that never would have been done otherwise. The downside, and what you have to find a way to avoid, is the awful spiral that occured when the site became too popular. When the main thrust of the users shifted from the campus intelligentsia to the campus riff-raff, the signal to noise ratio fell dramatically. It became an intolerant bastion for insults and gay jokes... something which you can brush off for a while, but eventually became too grating for me to handle every day.

    It's got tremendous upsides and tremendous downsides. I would suggest you do it, because no matter what else, it will always be an experience to have... I can't tell you what it's like to be awakened on Sunday morning by the Secret Service, but I wouldn't give up that experience for anything today.

    --

  • by DoorFrame (22108) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:57AM (#171433) Homepage

    I once ran a similar site at RumorsDaily.com [rumorsdaily.com] (it's since been disbanded due to my graduation). It started as a sort of underground news source, mainly focusing on Student Government and later on expanded to all sorts of student opinion and online discussion at Tufts University [tufts.edu].

    I was personally threatened with lawsuits from students twice, and was personally visited by the Secret Service once (someone threatened Al Gore's life). The school was very unhappy about the whole concept of open student opinion and once or twice made veiled criticisms. The school's Daily paper [tuftsdaily.com] made some low level threats at a lawsuit as well.

    Basically, what I'm saying is that it's a very treacherous ground you tread upon when you start giving people in real world community the ability to attack each other anonymously in an online community. I eventually set up a list of posting guidelines which is very loosely enforced... my rule eventually became, if the person is not a public figure, don't talk about them. If they are a public figure, you can talk about whatever you like, just don't threaten or impersonate them. (I always felt dirty the few times that I removed posts, but I just didn't want to deal with the hassle of a lawsuit that I assumed I would lose).

    I'm not really sure why I chimed in, but I wanted to support anyone else who's tried to run this sort of site. You get a lot of flak and you spend a lot of time to make something that people enjoy using, and then you get beaten upon, criticized and eventually shut down, all because people fail to get along. It's really a shame. My site grew to about 1000 hits a day before I removed it from the public discourse, I know what it's like.

    I however, early on made the decision to get my site OFF the University's equipment and onto my own server offsite. This way the school had no grounds for officially shutting down the site, or making off with the server. They had no control over a site operating off school grounds, Acceptable Use Policy or no.

    So I guess that's my ultimate suggestion, if you're going to do something like this

    • A: Be prepared for a lot of crap and a lot of threats.
    • B: Get yourself off servers or services that aren't being paid for directly by you, otherwise you'll never have the control or authority that you need.

    Good luck in the future to anyone who tries this... I personally found it very rewarding, but it took a lot of suffering.

    --

  • by gregbaker (22648) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:29AM (#171435) Homepage

    First thing: get a lawyer if you can. Most Universities (esp those with a law program) have some kind of legal aid for students. There is a certain amount of irony in using University resources against them. You might even find a law prof that is sympathetic and would enjoy sticking it to the University. Your student society would probably provide a laywer if you were a volunteer for them while doing this stuff.

    I don't see any reasonable way that the University can claim to own your content. Even University employees have pretty liberal contracts about ownership of the results of "Outside activities". If you're just a student, there should be even less of a connection.

    You should be able to find somebody inside the school that will be on your side. If there's one thing that academics hate, it's being told what to think. You'll find someone sympathetic to champion your cause somewhere.

    Start with the administration. Your student society should have a good idea of who would be sympathetic. If there's a Dean of Students or something, try that person.

    Talk to your school's Faculty association (or union, whatever). Usually, these groups are quite good at realizing "If it's a student now, it could be us next." and might be willing to say a few words on your behalf.

    Student newspapers usually tend to swing to the left and will probably adopt a favourable editorial stance if you sound like a reasonable student who just got smoked by the admin.

    Keep up the good fight. University administrators, especially those who like to beat up on "academic freedom" (two words you should say every chance you get) tend to learn quickly how much power they actually have, which isn't much. It's too bad you're the one on the receiving end, though.

    Greg

  • Well, if they kicked him out of school for starting some no-drinking campain, yes. Remember context is important :)
  • ...that you're probably screwed. It's not fair, but from what I can tell, you're boned. Were you using the school's computers to host the site? Were you using the school's network? You're out of luck. For sure, make a stink, get your story heard, get the word about the Mormon fascists out there, but don't expect any resolution in your favor on this one.
  • Fair enough. I would like to couch this however in terms that the original poster implied (somewhat circuitously) that this might be the case.

    But maybe a more accurate assessment is that being in a community with such a large mormon population, similar people wind up in power structures throughout. So while there is no tacit collusion between parties, having a similar background lends the appearance.

  • Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the 'founder's intent' is rarely relevant. In fact, the purpose of the US Supreme Court has largely evolved to determine what something may have meant, and what it should mean today.

    Go back and reread the first amendment. It says nothing about political speech. It says speech. Furthermore, living conditions in a local area frequently form the basis of political speech in that same local area.

    Maybe you are too far removed from campus life, but quality of life issues are biggies on campuses. Now please tell me how/where you draw the line between 'campus life' and 'political' speech. (Again, it doesn't matter, as speech is protected.)

    Now that you have slapped yourself by actually reading something, go back and read the original article. He isn't whinging about the site being taken down. He seems rather accepting of that (moreso than I would be). The problems seem to be three:

    First, the University pressed some bogus charge. Not sure of the nature of it (as it's not mentioned explicitly) but that goes far beyond getting rid of the site/servers.

    Second, the University will likely deny him a degree. Why?

    With these first two problems, we honestly need more details. Certainly there is a code of conduct at the University. What did he do to break this, thus causing the suspension and denial of degree. This seems to be his biggest issue (don't forget his responses on www.slash.com). But rather than stick up for him right away, I will say that we need more info. Ditto the criminal charges. What law(s) were allegedly broken? Finally, did the University attempt to notify him of the problems and potential infringements? If not, it's a pretty asinine policy.

    The third problem is the one that is of most concern to me: the university stole and co-opted his intellectual property. Barring an agreement between him and the University, it is likely that the custom coding of slashcode (if any) the theming, the custom graphics, etc. are his. Similarly, if he posted stories (like on Slashdot) unless there is an agreement to the contrary (and this could easily be covered under the generic University code of conduct) these belong to the original poster. Same thing with the graphics. They took it from him, and got legal protection to do so. How? Likely the same Mormon racket owns both the university and the local judiciary.

    It's fine that the local situation (politics, community, etc.) are different than from where I live. No problem. But there are certain laws that protect the rights of citizens. Even in Utah. And theft of IP doesn't sound like something that would be ok, even in Utah.

    Your point about being able to host his site elsewhere is about 95% wrong. Since the University has decided that things that HE created belong to the University, he cannot take HIS graphics, HIS commentary, HIS user lists, and take them elsewhere without a big frickin' lawsuit (hence the reason I left a 5% chance of you being correct).

    Try and get your facts straight and think a little bit before you post. Remember your SATs (and if you haven't taken them yet, here's something to study)? They had a section on finding the main topic of a reading. The main topic of this reading was not/is not 'they shut down my servers'. The main topic is 'they stole my intellectual property'.

  • Clearly, YANALTYLTTYA (You are not a lawyer, though you like to think you are). You seem to have no grasp of IP law, nor do you understand the free speech issues.

    Based on your repeated arguments, any website hosted on a university website belongs to the university. Hmmm... You might want to let Stanford (or was it berkley?), since they would own Yahoo! based on this reasoning.

    The AUP & disclaimer cited by others clearly states that the university does not own, control, or actively monitor the material on student websites. The fact that flikx created this cite as a courtesy to the university community does not mean that he created it for the university. That's like saying that since Taco created slashdot as a service to the Linux community, Linus now owns it.

    Obviously, we do not know the whole story here. It's entirely possible that Flikx left out some important details. But, based on what has been said, it sounds like the university is bullying him knowing that he can't really fight to hard-- not with his degree on the line.

    And, to be fair, IANAL either.
  • You're saying that these two statements are mutually exclusive:
    1. he does not own the content
    2. he is responsible for the content.

    This conclusion is actually very wrong. Image this:
    You are writing software for you're company, on their time and with salary from them. The code belongs to them and not you. Correct? If so, statement 1 is true.

    Are you claiming that what you wrote is not your responsibility?
    What if you deliberately added in a backdoor in the code, which none of the other workers spotted because you write really dirty code.
    Is is possible for the company to sue you because they lost a lot of money because of what you did. Correct?
    If so, statement 2 is true.

    Both statements are true, which you stated was impossible.

    The next one, may have other legal issues than purely logical. I'm just arguing the logic, as I am not a lawyer.
    If the university has a policy that all things put up on their servers are their property, this means that something you put up is their property, and not your own. But what you put up there may actually be illegal.
    You most certainly is responsible for putting it up there, and you most certainly do not own it. Thus your logic fails yet again.

    To clarify, I am morally against what has happened here, and I don't even think it is legal (again, IANAL), but your "proof" is not valid.
  • The site lists people who are in the department of the president [utah.edu]. You can scroll down there and get the names and titles of everyone you want to write to. Yes, that includes the legal advisor to the university president, if you so choose.
  • To: "Josh McCormick"
    Cc: "Liz McCoy"
    Subject: RE: Publication of University's Censorship
    Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2001 11:56:30 -0600

    Dear Josh,

    Thank you for your note regarding the allegations of censorship from a student at the U. There are significant omissions and serious misrepresentations in the student's report of the matter concerning the University's SOS Web site. This is a matter, however, that is being dealt with by the administration through the student behavior process. The University is taking this issue very seriously. We are confident the administration and the school's student association are taking the necessary steps to resolve this issue appropriately.

    Fred Esplin
    Vice President for University Relations

  • Are you sure that the student government is a part of the university? Where I went to school they were legally separate entities.

    That's a really good point; it's similar at the university I attend, where student government is very autonomous from the actual university administration. They, not the university, run the bookstore, for instance.

    In flikx's case, that distinction could be extremely important. Because he volunteered his work and put the site on servers that appear to be run by the student government, he could have some legal leverage to tell the admin to back off.

    I would also be interested in hearing how the U of U justified claiming copyright to the site. Surely it's not enough that they hosted it?

    Oh yeah, and to everyone who believe this to be further evidence that Utah is a backwater monarchy, grow up and get your own opinion. Utah is still a whole lot bigger and more varied than the view allowed by your office window.

    -schussat

  • When the Founding Fathers broke away from England and enacted the bill of rights, they didn't intend for it to apply to this sort of situation.

    How the hell do you know? How many of them have you asked about this specific case. I just love people who claim to know other's intents.

    Other than that, sure, the University has all the rights in the world to pull his site. There's much more too it, however. They should not expel him or bring him up on criminal charges. They really shouldn't be claiming ownership of his work. Ug.
  • The original post said:
    The only involvement the university had was hosting the site and buying the server, that's it.

    So you're saying, in essense, "They paid for the server, the building it was located in, and the network infrastructure that it used", but that's it.

    That, unfortunately for you, is quite enough. Unless you had explicit written permission to do what you did, your legal standing is the same as that of an artist who painted a picture on the side of somebody else's building. You have no right to complain when they wash the building and wipe away your "speech".

    The lesson: get permission for everything in advance and in writing.


    --

  • The University of Utah, as do most universities, has a code of conduct. If he violated it, then they have no obligation to support his speech by lending him their servers, bandwidth, domain name, etc.

    That would be OK, if they would allow him to restart the site elsewhere. However, they're not; the U has actually claimed IP rights over the entire site - all of Dan's work, all of the stories, and all of the comments posted by users. He has been threatened with legal action if he tries to restart the site elsewhere using his offsite backups. I could see that particular action being legal (if hard to swallow) were Dan paid to create the site under University sanction...but he didn't. He did it voluntarily for the student government.

    Flikx is not being oppressed, he simply lost the support of those sponsoring him (through use of their equipment), and he must find another sponsor.

    As I mentioned above, he very clearly is being oppressed, since the University won't let him find another sponsor.
  • I think this story is ridiculously one-sided and contains a minimum of useful information. What exactly are 'Pure politics'? What kind of abuse was it specifically? Was he given fair warning? What rules were layed down when he started this project? And for that matter, what the heck was the site's content exactly?

    It does sound like a pretty harsh deal here, but before we start ranting and raving about the general principles at stake here, how about some specifics about what led to all of this extreme action on the University's part?
  • I know this is off the main topic, but what's behind that comment about "having to start over as a freshman" if the university does expel him?

    Undergraduate credit at accredited universities usually transfers to other accredited universities. There might be some duplication of effort if the course content doesn't match well, but Mechanical Engineering is one of those areas where you won't see much divergence - there will probably be more time spent meeting residency requirements than retaking familiar courses.

    Obviously it would be best to finish the current program, but it's not impossible to change programs. And if the university expelled you without following due process (SEE A LAWYER NOW) any settlement would reasonably include extra costs associated with finishing your degree elsewhere - out-of-state tuition until completion of the degree, relocation expenses, accured interest on student loans, etc. Even if they back off, the administration might have added in such bad faith that it's more reasonable to take the $20k (say) and finish the degree elsewhere than to stay there and risk someone putting a lot of effort into "proving" how they were right about you.
  • "SOS is based in Utah, and we have different legal and cultural norms here. The first amendment (ratified by the same idiots who brought us the secon amendment) may prevail in the Federal courts, but that doesn't mean we enforce it to the
    same extent in the state courts."

    Your courts are required to. Fortuntately, if they don't, there's always the Supremes.

    "And even if we did, it'd be irrelevant here. The first amendment exists to protect political speech, but SOS wasn't at all about political speech."

    Let's read what the First Amendment actually says:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. "

    So, it doesn't say "political speech". It just says speech (and the press). The First Amendment protects all speech.

    "What's more, the "speech" in question was mere anonymous insults"

    Anonymous speech is a right - federal courts have upheld this many times.

    "When the Founding Fathers broke away from England and enacted the bill of rights, they didn't intend for it to apply to this sort of situation."

    Tough. They owned slaves, too. Things change. You can't seriously argue against 200 years of SCOTUS precedent on this flimsy basis. Besides, there's a good chance that they *did* mean it to apply - see Ben Franklin's essays on flatulence.

    "hosted with the bandwidth of a private university"

    No, it's a *public* university.

    "The university is well within its rights (and upholding its duty to instill good moral character within its students) when they treat your site this way."

    Probably not. It's a content-based restriction on speech at a government-funded school.
  • On the net:
    http://www.eff.org/Legal/Cases/2TheMart_case/200 10 420_eff_2themart_pr.html

    More generally:
    http://www.epic.org/free_speech/mcintyre.html
  • Perhaps it's fascist administration, but you know what? This is important in a lot of contexts regardless.

    First of all, I believe that, the story as told, is just plain unfair, possibly illegal, and certainly ridiculous. Assuming that no laws were broken or that the student code of conduct had not been breached, any action taken in this story by any officials is simply cruel and oppressive. The way the story seems, it looks as if the new administration did not want to tolerate him anymore and simply pounced on him for being a nuisance. The expulsion is an unnecessary and unjustifiable measure, assuming that he did not post anything himself that violated the code of conduct.

    Applying a copyright to the content adds to the state of oppression - while the university may have a right to do that, the ultimate purpose is to limit free speech and not to protect their intellectual property. In spirit, it's not theirs... it's only theirs technically for being on school property. Would you support your employer claiming copyright on a novel you wrote because it was written in a notebook belonging to the company?

    Also, in this particular situation, the webmaster should not be directly held accountable for the actions of anonymous posters outside the context of his position. In my case, I worked on campus at a computing site, was late to work one day, and got fired as a result. Should the school have reprimanded me any further? This guy was in charge of the website, and any duty that he has in maintaining the website bears solely on the position he holds... simply put, if they don't like the website, they can dismiss it, but they can't apply the code of conduct to him if he did not violate it himself. And I doubt that the code of conduct includes a statement on "not eradicating all offensive anonymous speech by others" punishable by expulsion. Anything beyond the closing of the site and the copyright claim is simply retaliation. Beyond that, the university, having owned the server, is the real reponsible party for what was contained on the site... if they can claim copyright, they should face any lawsuits pending. They are responsible for their own property. I'm not saying they should be sued, but they should pay more attention to the content kept on their servers, or simply disallow anonymous posting / keep records of IPs / whatever.

    Finally, it seems that this is either a hoax or not the full story. It just seems very improbable and not very well explained or backed up. So, let this be a lesson to all the people screaming about this right now... it may or may not be true. I know I'm not getting too worked up about it... but given even a hypothetical situation resembling this one, there is definitely a need for discussion.

    By the way, you act as if you know the guy and don't like him. If this is the case, you seem like the kind of person I hated to death in college. Sorry for the cheap shot, but your post is simply flamebait and a troll - I'm just not sure which one it is more of.
  • Sure the speech is protected, but the University isn't required to use its OWN equipment and OWN resources to publish bitch sessions about itself. Claiming that an institution is violating the first amendment because it takes down negative material from it's own servers is just stupid.

    The first amendment states that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech ..." There is no law preventing this in this case - each student has the right to freely state their grievances. They do NOT have the right to force the university to air their grievances for them. Nothing is stopping the student with the grievance getting a geocities page and posting what they like.

    Let's stop all this stupidity. The University had a right to take the site down if they deemed it not in the interests of the University. They had the right to reclaim the equipment and had a right to the work donated by the student. He has no rights to any of the posts, data or code on the system and he'd better go do some grovelling to get his degree back or he's successfully wasted 4 years of his life.
  • Be VERY VERY careful about this... I tried something similar back when in was in college [evansville.edu], and it didn't work out very well. I tried putting up a little site to allow students to discuss professors, with the intention of making it easier for them to figure out which professor was the best fit for each student.

    By the time there were two comments on the site - both about the same professor, I was told to take it down - and that the school adminstration was very upset, and that at least two different professors (not even the one with the comments) were prepared to take legal action against me and were fortunately talked out of it by the Network Services head, who I was working for at the time (but of course, not for much longer).

    You're definately setting yourself up for trouble - make sure you're willing to put up with it and fight the adminstration and staff.
    ---
  • Umm...

    You guys to realize that the term "Slash" [aol.com] also refers to homosexual erotic fan fiction...

    From the article above:

    "Slash" is fan fiction that focuses on a romantic and/or sexual relationship between two characters of the same sex.

    The majority of slash is male/male stories written by women with other women as the intended audience.

    Well, it's what I read when I saw "Censored Slash Sites".. There's a HUGE slash community out there online. There's been a fair bit of slash site censoring going on in that area as well...

    So lets all stand up together and defend those censored slash sites!!!! Hail the power of slashdot!

    As a sidenote, my wife once noticed a post with an aggrivated poster making the comment: "I thought of a really great name for a slash site, but 'slashdot' is already taken by some stupid geek site!" :)
  • by Velox_SwiftFox (57902) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:54PM (#171471)
    I'm not saying "Flikx sucks, U of U rules." I can see it from the university's perspective, though. If JonKatz started posting Slashdot articles about how stupid Linux is, you can be that he wouldn't be around for long. He has a right to say those things, on his own time, on his own server.

    This doesn't make sense. The University is claiming the content belongs to them - how can they punish him for maintaining their content on their server?

  • Get a lawyer first. No question. Only they can really work out all the details.

    +5. This is likely to be the best advice on this thread. Clearly there are many details we don't know about, and any legal comments made here will probably have only an accidental relationship to reality.

    Get a lawyer, and do whatever you have to to graduate.

  • by mwalker (66677) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:52AM (#171476) Homepage
    "I'm also suspended indefinately, and face immediate expulsion from the University."

    I'm confused by the fact that you seem to be putting ownership of the site and your possible expulsion in the same bag. To me, the two issues are very different. Graduating is way more important. And as long as they've got that paper over you, they are God. Don't ever think the law comes into play. My advice is to suck it up, write an apology, secretly get what legal & PR advice you can afford, and do whatever it takes to get your degree.

    Once you're gone, you can worry about starting up the site again, and who owns it, and whatnot. Once you're out of the state's jurisdiction, have a lawyer, and anonymous hosting in, say, Sealand, you can be as big a pain in the ass to them as you want. Right now you're a bug they can crush. The only chance you've got is to apologize and make them look bad in the public eye for expelling an innocent student.

    You need that degree, man. You don't want to start over, trust me.

    P.S. some more detail on the actual charges, any acceptable use policies you may or may not have violated, etc., would be useful to us readers.
  • by mwalker (66677) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:25AM (#171477) Homepage
    For those of you who are wondering what the administration is all upset about, I give you what I believe to be my first clue [google.com] about that.

    Follow their Network Connection Acceptable Use Policy [utah.edu] to their Information Resources Policy [utah.edu] to their Student Rights Section [utah.edu] and read this:

    E. Freedom from Discrimination and Sexual Harassment. Students have a right to be free from illegal discrimination and sexual harassment. University policy prohibits discrimination, harassment or prejudicial treatment of a student because of his/her race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, or status as an individual with a disability, disabled veteran, or veteran of the Vietnam era.

    If I were a university administrator, taking down this site would be like shooting fish in a barrel. They don't have to be troubled by the fact that the administrator didn't write the offending posts, that's just an administrative detail to them.

    The question is whether they're living up to part D of the student rights in expelling him:

    D. Due Process. Students have a right to due process in any disciplinary matter involving the possibility of substantial sanctions. This includes a right to be heard, a right to decision and review by impartial persons or bodies, and a right to adequate notice.

    But since we haven't been provided any of the details as to the charges he's facing, we can't really speak to that.

  • ...the lowest form of speech you can get (excluding ... flag burning, which [isn't] even speech).

    Are you from the same country (USA) as me? Here we have the right to disagree with our government. It is my civil obligation to speak up when I disagree with my government.

    Burning the flag is a statement that you disagree with government, and disagree strongly. If such a political statement is not speech, and not protected speech as intended by the framers of the constitution, I don't know what is.

  • by taniwha (70410) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:12AM (#171482) Homepage Journal
    at the very least you'll get some free legal advice, at the best maybe free representation.
  • by Incongruity (70416) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:24AM (#171483)
    He himself said that he created the site for the university. That means that they actually do have IP rights over the site. He can create a similar site elsewhere, but that site belongs to the university. He doesn't own it any more than the guy who wrote the HTML for Microsoft's website owns the site itself.

    1) Did he say that he created it for the University? This point is a bit of a vague one, but here's my argument. Note the following from flikx's original writeup sent to ask slashdot:

    Early last fall, I personally created a Slash site called SOS under student government for my University.

    It seems pretty clear that the specific organization that flikx was working for was the Student Government of the University. Does that then entail that he was working for the University itself, or moreover, that the University can claim IP rights for the work he produced? I think that there is a definite line between student government and University Administration in many regards. Student government is in a gray area between the individual student and the university administration, and I certainly believe that this question is not as clear cut as you'd make it seem. Legally, there may not be a distinction, but that point, in and of itself is troubling, to some extent.

    2). The analogy between flikx and some MS Web-jockey falls apart in some very problematic ways. First there is clear compensation given to the MS designer. Second, there is a clearly understood agreement (I bet good money that it's even a written one, beyond any codification in statute or law) stating that any work done by that designer, for MS is MS's property. There does not seem to be the same clear agreement in flikx's case.

    3) The IP rights in this case go well beyond the University vs. flikx. There is also the question of the IP rights of all of the people who posted to that site. By claiming all content from flikx's slashcode site as its own, the University is also denying the IP rights of anyone who authored a post on that slashcode site, are they not?

  • by Incongruity (70416) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:59AM (#171484)
    He is not being discriminated against. The University is censoring itself, not him. He was doing the work, but it was for their site, and with their name on it....Likewise, the U of U was protecting its own identity by removing content that represented it, not flikx. If Flikx had his own website, independent from U of U, they couldn't touch him.

    zpengo, I totally appreciate and agree with your points regarding the University's right and ability to remove their support (via "lending him their servers, bandwidth, domain name, etc.")

    The point that is being made, however, seems to extend further than what you're arguing. From your original post in this thread: "Flikx is not being oppressed, he simply lost the support of those sponsoring him "

    I think that the problem that's got most people a little worried or upset is not the University pulling it's support, via servers, bandwidth, etc. but rather the disciplinary and intellectual property rights issues that are being (possibly) abused in this case. The fact that the university is now claiming all content from the slashcode site that Flikx put together is a troubling move, in many people's eyes. Does the University of Utah have a right to claim all of that content as its own intellectual property? There may well be some sort of clause in their usage agreement to that effect, but if there is not, it seems very questionable as to whether or not UofU may claim it as their property.

    I did a quick search of the University's website, hoping to find their network and computing acceptable usage policy statement, but I found something else that seems to speak to this issue even more strongly. At the bottom of many (if not all) pages on the UofU website, there is this link to a "Content Disclaimer" [utah.edu]. Of particular interest was the second point in this disclaimer:

    The University of Utah web site may contain information that is created and maintained by a variety of sources both internal and external to the University. These sites are unmoderated forums containing the personal opinions and other expressions of the persons who post the entries. The University of Utah does not control, monitor or guarantee the information contained in these sites or information contained in links to other external web sites, and does not endorse any views expressed or products or services offered therein. In no event shall the University of Utah be responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any such content, goods, or services available on or through any such site or resource.

    Clearly, when it suits them, the University is more than willing to draw a clear distinction between what is their doing and what is the doing of another party, whom they are not responsible for, even though the content in question may be under their domain name. That point seems to really call into question whether or not the University may claim the work of Flikx, for which he was not compensated nor (as far as I understand it) was he under any sort of agreement regarding the rights to the site which he created. Clearly, the content disclaimer makes it clear that the University doesn't always claim any/all content accessible under its domain name as its property, so what is it about this case that makes them able to do so?

    It is that point, in my opinion, that does make what the University of Utah is doing very scary, and if not censorship (which I am not arguing it is), it seems like it might be theft of intellectual property rights (both Flikx's AND all of the users who ever posted to that slashcode site.)

  • See here [reporters.net]. If the content now belongs to a state institution, you might be able to make them release it by asking to see it under FOIA. IANAL, but there are references on the page above to Utah locals who are lawyers and who know the local FOIA.
    Once you get the stuff legally viewable again, you can host it somewhere other than University-owned equipment.
    Also, your university no doubt has some boiler-plate in its mission statement about freedom of intellectual inquiry or something similar. Look it up and be ready to quote it to the media if/when they talk to you.
  • U of U is not particularly Mormon. A lot of Mormons go there, but to a certain extent it is THE campus to go to if you want to go to a Utah school but don't want to have the ultra-Mormon atmosphere.

    I'm a Mormon. I just graduated from BYU, which is DEFINITELY ultra-Mormon. My sister just graduated from U of U, which is definitely NOT Mormon-centered. It may be conservative, and it may have some leaders who are members of the church, but that doesn't mean that the church is fascist.

    I haven't studied the issue in-depth, so I can't cast judgement. From what I can see, I strongly disagree with the actions of the local police and the university. It just ticks me off that everything that happens bad in Utah gets blamed on Mormons. Often it IS a Mormon who did whatever is dumb, but that doesn't mean that the Mormon Church is behind what happened.
  • by mach-5 (73873) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:38AM (#171489) Homepage
    OK, I can see them yanking your site if they didn't like it. Their servers, their right to what's on them. However, pressing criminal charges and having you banned from campus seems a little harsh. They could at least have slapped your wrist first and talked to you about it. Obviously, it seems to me like the university was hiding something that your site was bringing out. Do they want you gone because you know something that they don't want you to? I'm sorry, but expulsion and criminal charges just seem a little harsh to me.
  • by WombatControl (74685) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:25AM (#171491)

    Some good points here, but I have to correct some mistakes.

    SOS is based in Utah, and we have different legal and cultural norms here. The first amendment (ratified by the same idiots who brought us the secon amendment) may prevail in the Federal courts, but that doesn't mean we enforce it to the same extent in the state courts.

    Last time I heard there was this little thing called federalism that makes sure that the states cannot violate the Constitution. The state courts may not always follow the spirit of the Constitution, but they're checked by the federal courts and ultimately the Supreme Court.

    When the Founding Fathers broke away from England and enacted the bill of rights, they didn't intend for it to apply to this sort of situation. Heck, judging from their own passage of the "Alien and Sedition Act", they didn't even intend to protect actual political speech within their own time.

    The Alien and Sedition Acts were massively unconsitutional and were struck down. (and rightly so.) You have damn well better believe that political speech is protected. Doesn't matter if it's "the mayor isn't qualified for the job" or "President Bush is an idiot." Political speech, especially about those working in public institutions like a public university, is clearly covered in the First Amendment. However, you are correct in pointing out that personal threats are not protected speech at all, and I'd bet that's the real issue here.

    Since the site was hosted by the University and the university network was used, there's probably no legal recourse. However, seeking legal council is a must, and determining if there was any contract that surrendered your IP rights to the U will be important. If the U can prove that you violated their rules, then they have a case. However, if you had any legal language stating that you could not be held accountable for the statements of posters you might have some legal wiggle room.

    Oh yeah, IANAL, but I can fake it...

  • ahhhh, but it was on their servers. and it might be said that he created it on their network, on their lab computers, etc. etc.

    do professors own their works while they are in the employment of a university, or does the university have part ownership?

    if I work on other stuff while i'm at my office using the company computers, do I own that work or does my company?

    it's actually pretty smart of them to claim ownership. by claiming ownership before removing it from their servers, they are preventing him from bringing the same information that they would like to supress up on the web under a different hosting account. pretty clever if you ask me.
  • Their servers, their right to what's on them.

    See, people keep saying this, but I don't think that's entirely true. It's a goverment organization, right? Then, they're *our* servers, as in, the citizens' servers; in any case, they're sure as hell not the administration's servers. I think there's more of a First Amendment issue here than many people are admitting. I may be wrong about this, though. Did I mention IANAL?

    -brennan

  • True enough, but those instances cause property damage, or break the law, whereas as far as I can tell no one in the case we're talking about did anything illegal, or constitutionally impermissible.

    In any case, my point was that "their servers, their right to what's on them" simply isn't true, or at least it ignores a very important aspect of the situation. Of course you can't cause damage, or threaten the president, or anything similarly forbidden/illegal, but it should be beyond the power of a few silly administrators to keep you from simply talking in a way they don't like.

    -brennan

  • by brennan73 (94035) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:03AM (#171500)
    As always, IANAL.

    The University of Utah, as do most universities, has a code of conduct. If he violated it, then they have no obligation to support his speech by lending him their servers, bandwidth, domain name, etc.

    This would be completely true if they were a private entity, but since they're not, it's more complicated. As far as I understand it, if a government entity offers a public forum for speech, they cannot in any way, shape, or form, revoke that right based on what a user says without violating the First Amendment. They can't offer a public forum and then say "but you can't say x, y, and z" if x, y, and z are constitutionally protected forms of speech.

    I believe that in order for UU to be in the right here, they have to prove that there was abuse of an unconstitutional nature going on (threats, fighting words, etc.). Otherwise, they're engaging in content discrimination, it's probably unconstitutional, and hopefully it'll be pursued. It doesn't sound like there was any speech on his page that would be unprotected; rather, it just sounds like the administration didn't like it. Of course, we're only getting one side of the story, so there may well have been threats or something.

    When will people get this through their heads? There is a significant difference between "free speech" and "supported speech."

    The "supported speech" argument is well-suited to disputes with private organizations, but a government-run organization is a whole 'nother ball of wax, I think. I mean, since the entire internet is at its core a government project, couldn't you argue by this logic that *any* website is "supported speech", which support the government can revoke at any time?

    -brennan

  • by Argy (95352) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @12:11PM (#171501)
    I get the feeling that some critical details are missing from flicx's account.

    In particular, police involvement, threat of criminal charges, confiscation of equipment as evidence, suspension, and expulsion seem like they're probably completely independent from the issue of an administration-critical site. I doubt that a judge would grant a protective order if the only issue were that you failed to censor somebody else's political comments.

    What seems more likely is that the "threats" allegedly spoofed from your e-mail address are being considered as actual threats from you. That would explain why the police would confiscate equipment, why a judge would grant a protective order, why you would be suspended, and why you would face expulsion. These actions could happen to anyone based on spoofed threats, particularly when technically uninformed people are making the decisions. (For example, administrators assuming a "reply to" address must be authentic, police believing administrators, and a judge believing police). I've had a Secret Service visit due to a spoofed threat as well, based solely on a reply-to address. I'm not saying the extent of their actions are correct, justified, or defensible, but they could at least be largely explained under this scenario of ignorance.

    If I'm correct that spoofed threats are what set most of these actions in motion, then you have to do some legwork and wait for the slow wheels of justice to turn. But if you didn't send the threats, then there's no way to prove you did, and so some of your bigger problems will be resolved. (Assuming the System works, which it usually seems to for these types of situations).

    Some of the other issues, such as intellectual property ownership and data ownership on a university-owned machine, are still arguable. But they seem largely separate from the criminal issues which make the case seem so dramatic.
  • Looks like you missed the part where flikx is facing expulsion and criminal charges. I you had read the entire article, you would know that Flikx does not need "the support of those sponsoring him" - he is quite capable of hosting the site without any help from the University.
    Someone is facing imprisonment for airing opinions that offended the authorities, and your contribution to the ensuing discussion is a resounding and irrelevant defence of the authorities' property rights. Bravo.
  • by zpengo (99887) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:33AM (#171505) Homepage
    The administration threatened me, and had the legal team tell me that everything on the site is intellectual property of the University of Utah. Everything. That includes all stories, all comments, user accounts, even the graphic design I did. I have off-site backups of the site, and could easily redeploy the site elsewhere provided the time and hosting. I've already put 2000+ unpaid volunteer hours into the University, and they take away my work. It should be my right to operate an open discussion forum, but it seems that it's not.

    It is U of U's intellectual property. Flikx did not create this on his own server for his own reasons. He said himself that he had created it for student government. The notion that he has IP rights because he did some coding and administration is like saying that the SlashCode team has IP rights over the site because they wrote the software.

    When it comes down to it, the site was designed for U of U, run on U of U servers, with U of U's name on it. Flikx put in a lot of time and effort, but that doesn't mean that he gets the IP rights to it.

    (Ooooh, challenging the open source underdog instead of big brother. See how fast this gets modded down.)

  • by zpengo (99887) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:20AM (#171506) Homepage
    Yes, but he's also getting expelled for putting up the site. How would you feel if you were kicked out of school after working on degree that you're almonst done with.

    His academic status is irrelevant. It's a shame, yes, but the fact that we pity him doesn't make him correct. He used U of U resources in a way that apparently violated their code of conduct.

    I'm not saying "Flikx sucks, U of U rules." I can see it from the university's perspective, though. If JonKatz started posting Slashdot articles about how stupid Linux is, you can be that he wouldn't be around for long. He has a right to say those things, on his own time, on his own server.

  • by zpengo (99887) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:24AM (#171507) Homepage
    That would be OK, if they would allow him to restart the site elsewhere. However, they're not; the U has actually claimed IP rights over the entire site - all of Dan's work, all of the stories, and all of the comments posted by users.

    He himself said that he created the site for the university. That means that they actually do have IP rights over the site. He can create a similar site elsewhere, but that site belongs to the university. He doesn't own it any more than the guy who wrote the HTML for Microsoft's website owns the site itself.

  • by zpengo (99887) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:32AM (#171508) Homepage
    The real kicker is the university grabbed Flikx's content simply because they owned the server.

    Not quite. The part that keeps getting left out is that he developed this site for the university. (It was their student government, I believe).

  • by zpengo (99887) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:24AM (#171509) Homepage
    This is simply not a free speech issue. The University of Utah, as do most universities, has a code of conduct. If he violated it, then they have no obligation to support his speech by lending him their servers, bandwidth, domain name, etc.

    When will people get this through their heads? There is a significant difference between "free speech" and "supported speech." Flikx is not being oppressed, he simply lost the support of those sponsoring him (through use of their equipment), and he must find another sponsor.

  • by zpengo (99887) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:12AM (#171510) Homepage
    He is not being discriminated against. The University is censoring itself, not him. He was doing the work, but it was for their site, and with their name on it. If a leet haxor defaces Slashdot, CmdrTaco wouldn't be violating that haxor's "free speech" rights by taking it down. Likewise, the U of U was protecting its own identity by removing content that represented it, not flikx. If Flikx had his own website, independent from U of U, they couldn't touch him.
  • Just because something is owned by the goverment doesn't give us the right to use it for whatever we want. For example, you couldn't go out and spraypaint a goverment owned building, or "Barrow" a goverment owned truck.
    =\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\ =\=\=\=\
  • If the site was on university computers, it's theirs. Too bad that you're being screwed hard here, but there is a code of conduct for university machines, and you obviously broke it. I'm not trying to be mean, but these are the facts. Had you had this site on an off-campus server, you would actually have a case. Yet, since it was on a server belonging to the university, you probably have no recourse.

    However, I don't see how they can expel you. Sure, take away your computing 'rights' on campus, but expulsion seems a little harsh. Get a good lawyer and maybe you'll get out of the charges. Good luck.
  • taken from this googlecached page [google.com].
    • "The SOS server was taken offline for a temporary period, and is in fact down right now. (The DNS record is revoked.) Random immaturity from some "chicken shit" brought about the threat of a lawsuit. Causing the University of Utah administration to immediately shut down the site without notice. SOS will be back and as strong as ever as soon as major changes are made to safeguard students from abuses, and to increase accountability while preserving free speech. Unfortunately, anonymous posting had to be done away with, along with the adoption of clear and prominant posting guidelines and legal notices. Welcome to the new SOS, hope you like it."
    I am rather surprised to find that the site isn't mirrored off campus ... perhaps if it is, it's better that it not be announced (for flikx's saftey). A quick search on google found no such mirror.

  • The server was physically removed by the police, and the disks wiped after 'evidence' was removed. All known backups were destroyed,

    A. If everything has been destroyed except the 'evidence,' how is the university going to press its claim that this is their intellectual property? Seems like they'll have a hard time proving that.

    More importantly, he just won every legal argument he could muster about the site. If the disks were wiped and only selected evidence was saved, as he claims, there is no, zero, and zilch way for him to get supporting evidence from that server. Essentially, he is unable to examine the entirety of the evidence, which is a fundamental violation of due process.

  • Better yet, get a lawyer from your rival university (if one exists). I'm sure they'd be elated to help.

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • by Artagel (114272) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:35AM (#171526) Homepage

    Hold on -- he is entitled to not be discriminated against because of the content of the speech. If you get to continue speaking because the university legal department likes your point of view, but get gagged if they don't that's content regulation.

    If the government is going to support private speech, it cannot discriminate based on whether it agrees or not. (Distinguished from the situation where the government is the speaker -- then the government gets to send the message it wants.)

  • Yea, You could also try Toolshed51.com [toolshed51.com] The owner of the site was kicked out of my University [sdsu.edu] for posting "offensive" stuff about the university president on his webpage! He's been out to get school administrators since then, so let him know who you are and he will certainly get you a special deal on hosting...
  • As I read this story, there are a few of issues at stake.

    First: Is the University of Utah a tax supported institution? If it is, then the actions of the administration may constitute content based censorship by a government agency - a definite no-no under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983.

    Second: Does the University of Utah generally permit students to establish Web sites for learning purposes (and at this point all must admit that flikx has really learned something)? If so, then they may have established an open forum, or limited open forum, placing on them the burden of establishing violation of the forum guidelines as a condition to terminating the forum discussion.

    Third: Does the University of Utah have a clearly stated policy that student work product belongs to the University? (Usually such gifts of copyright are made by voluntary assignment to the institution on a form attached to the work in question - as the assignment of a use right in the case of a Master's thesis or PhD dissertation). If not, then the University's claim of ownership of the materials on the Web site is shaky, at best. My limited understanding of the copyright laws is that the copyright vests in the author when the work is fixed in a tangible medium. Under this standard, the University may own contributions to the site that were actually contributed by University _employees_, depending on the policies of the University, but for students contributing materials, each student arguably retains the copyright to the materials they have submitted to the site. Ownership of the host server noes not automatically result in ownership of the contents of each site on the server (with the exception of a license granting such as in MicroSoft's Passport).

    IAALBTINLA
  • If they claim you violated some "policy" demand a copy of the policy. If they claim you violated something that was on a student agreement then
    1) Demand a copy of the agreement
    2) Was this agreement signed by you and by them ?
    3) Were you 18 when you signed it ?

    Do they HAVE any policy about student run sites (ownership/copyright/etc. ), then demand to see them.

    You DO have some recourses. You SHOULD get a lawyer though as protection. You may be able to prove harassment by the school (maybe not)..

  • by SDrifter (120878) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:49AM (#171538)
    From the University of Utah's website, for your consideration:
    The University of Utah web sites may contain information that is created and maintained by a variety of sources both internal and external to the University. These sites are unmoderated forums containing the personal opinions and other expressions of the persons who post the entries. The University of Utah does not control, monitor or guarantee the information contained in these sites or information contained in links to other external web sites, and does not endorse any views expressed or products or services offered therein.
    The University has already disclaimed any liability for the content of the site, and has specifically said that it does not endorse any views. This seems to be a pretty fair indicator that the University is not censoring ITSELF, since these were not the official viewpoints of the university.
  • Get a lawyer first. No question. Only they can really work out all the details.

    More than likely they can kick you out (although they may not have followed their own due process giving you ample opportunity to remedy) and they can certainly choose not to host it.

    They might even own whatever you did because it was on their server. Maybe. But I'd guess probably not. And even if they own whatever you did, they might not own all the posts.

    If they give you an option to stay in school, I'd take it, personally.

    Now, if someone who wasn't a student and didn't use your code were to restart it, well, that wouldn't be a problem. _IF_ they actually expel you, I would probably let someone else start it back up. And I'm not convinced a more liberal school wouldn't accept you, possibly even some with transfer value.

  • by anon7864 (171608) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @11:31AM (#171572)
    can be found here [utah.edu].

    what is most interesting is this:

    D. Due Process. Students have a right to due process in any disciplinary matter involving the possibility of substantial sanctions. This includes a right to be heard, a right to decision and review by impartial persons or bodies, and a right to adequate notice.

    The person who submitted this story either left all of that process out, or has never gone through any due process procedures, including appealing to the Student Disciplinary Commitees.

    F. Freedom of Expression. Students have a right to examine and communicate ideas by any lawful means. Students may not be subject to discipline because of their constitutionally protected exercise of freedom of association, assembly, expression and the press.

    That was interesting

    In order to promote personal development, to protect the University community, and to maintain order and stability on campus, students who engage in any of the following acts of misconduct may be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with Section B below: 5. Unauthorized or improper use of any University property, equipment, facilities, or resources including unauthorized entry into any University room, building or premises.

    Is this what he actually violated?

    Some people have called this story fake. We could verify with a phone call or email to the VP for Student Affairs.

    Records of disciplinary action taken by the Student Behavior Committee or by any authorized official of the university shall be maintained in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs

    I'll keep digging with some phone calls.

  • by Sawbones (176430) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:57AM (#171578)
    ... get the word about the Mormon fascists out there...

    You're thinking of BYU [byu.edu]. The University of Utah is a state run school. I doubt the administration's possible religious following makes a difference anyway - would you have include a comment about the Drunken Irish Catholics if this had happened at Duke?

    I hate intollerant people.
  • by flikx (191915) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @08:34PM (#171611) Homepage Journal

    Okay here's where a couple clarifications need to be made. For starters, I need to get a bit of an addenum added to the article, I had meant to do that, but it went live within hours of my resolution.

    First off, expulsion and criminal charges are direct punishments to me. Just before this article was posted, and before I had the chance to get a couple of things changed, I had more of less resolved the personal punishments against me. Unfortunately, I regret even mentioning them, because it taints the article. Obviously, I was disturbed facing such things, so I think that many should know where I'm coming from. Someone else came forward for that stupid curt little script kiddie threat that I so adamantly denied. With this, the main legal and punitive threats have been minimized. Although, I'm under all new scrutiny thanks to this article running on slashdot. I still stand by what I've said.. no lies or falsehoods have been presented here.

    My main concern is with the punishment enacted primarily against me (censoring the entire site) as punishment against everyone. The site should have had protection against any accusations that fly against me, and the inane mild crapfloods should have been ignored in my opinion. They can cut hosting, that is obviously at will, but what I see goes far beyond that.


    --
  • by sulli (195030) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:56PM (#171615) Journal
    and not one of his posts have been modded up. Read his side of the story in his uid... [slashdot.org] moderators take note.
  • by Vassily Overveight (211619) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:53AM (#171641)
    The server was physically removed by the police, and the disks wiped after 'evidence' was removed. All known backups were destroyed,

    A. If everything has been destroyed except the 'evidence,' how is the university going to press its claim that this is their intellectual property? Seems like they'll have a hard time proving that.
    B. Never, ever host something controversial on a server that belongs to someone else. ISPs, universities, businesses, etc. contain spineless weasels who'll likely succumb to the first pressure.
    C. Forget about asking questions on SlashDot. Get a lawyer. Fast.

  • by Cirvam (216911) <slashdot@su b l e v o . com> on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @09:33AM (#171645)
    So because they don't support his speech they are allowed to sue him, expel him and confisctate his intelectual property? So if /. doesn't like your speech they can declare that they own your comments and pursue legal action?

    Sounds like he is getting the short end of the stick.
  • by hillct (230132) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @03:55PM (#171659) Homepage Journal
    Here is the U of U Code of Conduct [utah.edu].

    Item F of the 'Student Bill of Rights' section covers the free speech issue just as one would expect:
    Students have a right to examine and communicate ideas by any lawful means. Students may not be subject to discipline because of their constitutionally protected exercise of freedom of association, assembly, expression and the press.
    There is no suprise here. Unfortunately, we don't know under what provisions he's being expelled. Items A2 and A5 of section III of the code seem potentially pertinent:
    2. Intentional disruption or obstruction of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary proceedings or other University activities.
    More likely A5 though:
    Unauthorized or improper use of any University property, equipment, facilities, or resources including unauthorized entry into any University room, building or premises.
    Also, he might be expelled under terms of the Computer/Network acceptable use Policy [utah.edu], governing the use of the university IT Infastructure. This document as well, is pretty standard as these sorts of things go. It states that they can do pretty much whatever they please:
    Accounts on NetCom systems may be terminated or disabled with little or no notice for any of the reasons stated above or for other inappropriate use of computing and network resources.
    It conveniently doesn't say anything about what 'other inappropriate uses' are.

    As for computer crimes, I'd love to know what computer crimes have been comitted. Presumable, if and when charges are filed, all of this will become a matter of public record, and the university can expel the student for merely having charges broght against him, but the million dollar question is What charges could be filed in this case?

    --CTH
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:28AM (#171661) Homepage
    SOS is based in Utah, and we have different legal and cultural norms here.

    Hoy, you can say that again. Last time I was in The Salt Lake City of Latter Da--I mean, Salt Lake City, my friends and I had to be sponsored members of the club we found just to have a drink and shoot some pool (apparently, local law prohibits the sale of alcohol pretty much everywhere except clubs that maintain a membership list (where everyone must be sponsored by an existing member) and sub-basement N36, Room 101 of the HQ.)

    Granted, the club's membership requirements weren't that stiff ("Hey, Steve, wanna sponsor these guys? Sure, Jim!",) but nonetheless...

    Speech in Utah takes exactly one approved form, and I don't think I even need to drop the name of the organization that determines what form that is. During this same previous trip, the local press had run a little drivel piece that pointed out, among other things, that even Democrats were made to feel welcome at the local 4th of July parade. (This same article featured a sentence about a particularly precocious youth who had supposedly uttered (with no coaching, heavens no,) "Daddy, what's a Democrat?")

    The university is well within its rights (and upholding its duty to instill good moral character within its students) when they treat your site this way.

    You'll forgive me for saying this, but anyone who believes that a public university is right to silence dissident student voices in the name of "instilling good moral character within it's students" has a pretty fscked sense of moral character. That includes juvenille insults, as well; if you can't even handle a juvenille insult, well...

    This is not about speech. This is not about freedom. This is just a student bitching about the "fascist administration". Nothing to see here; please move along.

    Um, that's political speech, if ever I've heard it. Doesn't matter whether or not the kid's a crackpot; it's still protected speech under the Constitution. Now, that the administration saw fit to shut down the site and is seemingly pressing legal charges makes me wonder which side of the argument is playing host to the crackpots, but that's a different matter.

  • by H310iSe (249662) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:29AM (#171673)
    IF "When it comes down to it, the site was designed for U of U, run on U of U servers, with U of U's name on it. Flikx put in a lot of time and effort, but that doesn't mean that he gets the IP rights to it."

    THEN why is he held responsible for the content. They can't have it both ways, it's theirs to copyright and destroy but it's his material for disciplinary purposes? I mean, if they copy wrote it, technically they should discipline themselves for the malfeasant content they're claiming is their own.

    ELSE as has been pointed out we don't have the whole story, so it could be the punishment has nothing to do with the content on the site.

    Either way Flikx has my sympathy. It's like getting up one day and finding a semi has rode through your door and is bearing down on your still bed-bound self. I have nightmares like this. Best of luck, I hope the ACLU can help.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @10:53AM (#171695) Journal
    Well...I was a year old when this happened, but...

    This is a cyberspace parallel to the situation at Berkeley in '64 that created the Free Speech Movement [berkeley.edu] and made Mario Savio an international leader.

    --Blair

    P.S. Of course, because of the novel and creative nature of the first Free Speech Movement protests, people decided that such things were a lot of fun, and started looking for reasons to have "happening" protests --sometimes just to mock their own herd-like sociology-- and you know how the '60s ended up. In the '70s.

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