Dynamist Blog


This press release from FIRE is the first I've heard of what sounds like a truly extraordinary case of trampling on free speech in the name of blocking harassment:

SAN FRANCISCO, June 17, 2004 — The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has joined a national coalition that is urging the California Supreme Court to reverse a state appellate court decision that has profoundly chilling implications for free speech. FIRE joins concerned law professors and organizations in arguing that the decision in Lyle v. Warner Brothers Television Productions et al. (Lyle) could be used to redefine a great deal of constitutionally protected expression as unprotected "harassment." In Lyle, the California Court of Appeal held that creative discussions in which writers of the popular sitcom Friends developed ideas and created scripts could constitute sexual harassment of individuals listening to the sometimes bawdy banter of the writers. The amicus (friend-of-the-court) letter demonstrates how Lyle could have frightening consequences for free speech, especially on college and university campuses.

"This amicus letter challenges a legal decision that could destroy the free and open exchange of ideas both on and off campus," said Greg Lukianoff, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy. "If this decision is not overturned, it could transform 'harassment' into the exception that swallowed the First Amendment. This would have a particularly devastating impact at colleges and universities, where bizarre definitions of 'harassment' already are commonly used as an excuse for stifling the free expression of various points of view," Lukianoff added.

If sit-com writers can't tell off-color jokes, nobody is safe. Overlawyered.com includes a notice on the case in its "Fear of Flirting" archives. Over to you, Volokh Conspiracy.

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