English 122: Free Speech, Censorship and Copyright
from the Declaration of Independence to Napster

Professor William Warner

English, UCSB, Winter 2003

overview | schedule | assignments | links | student projects | UCSB English | Transcriptions LCI

This course will study the Anglo-American origins and development of the idea of "free speech." We will begin by studying classic early statements of the 'right' to freedom of expression within democratic culture--selections from Milton's Areopagitica, Locke’s “Letter Concerning Toleration,” to the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Through a reading of Anthony Lewis's Make No Law, we will follow the evolution of the legal concept of free speech into the late 20th century. Central here will be a detailed study of the decisions made in a group of arguments made by Justices Holmes and Brandais during the early decades of the 20th century. Since these classic protections for “political” speech, new technologies—of radio, television and the Internet— and new forms of entertainment—like pornography—have posed new problems for the interpretation of the “right to free speech,” Most recently, new practices--like peer to peer file sharing (e.g. Napster)--have meant that one's ability to express ideas has entered the arena of copyright law, of how we conceptualizes the ownership of the cultural materials for expression. We will read selections from Lawrence Lessig's Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace to understand why it is risky to place a parody of Mickey Mouse upon the Internet.

By studying several texts that were exposed to censorship in their own day, we will seek to understand the limits placed upon free expression. We will look at "clips" from literature, radio, and visual culture that causes censorship in their own day: the heroine's meditated suicide in Pamela (1740), Matthew Lewis use of the Bible in his gothic thriller, The Monk (1793); Flaubert's Madame Bovary; the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe; the anti-abortion site, "The Nurenberg Files". To grasp the contemporary case against speech that’s too free, we will study the polemical statements of Catherine MacKinnon’s Only Words and Stanley Fish’s essay “There is no such thing as free speech, and it's a good thing too!” Then we will engage two contemporary debates: 1) Is it Art or is it Porn? [the storm provoked by the Mapplethorpe exhibit and the Helms Amendment; the arguments developed by the Women Against Pornography against representations of violence against women] 2) How is “speech” to be protected on the Internet where the private citizen can broadcast his or her ideas without any practical means of imposing limits? Here we will study the Communications Decency Act passed by congress in 1996, and the rulings that overturned that first try at controlling the Internet. We will also study the case of Napster, the file sharing system that garnered 70 million users, but was driven out of business by the Recording Association of America.

Throughout this course we have to consider how representation is understood, and what powers are attributed to it. Can a representation cause someone to commit violence? Should one hold artists responsible for actions committed by readers/ viewers/ listeners? And more broadly: Does culture necessarily involve censorship? What are the values and limits of free speech? How should we balance the copyright interests of artists and corporations with the need for there to be a public domain of cultural resources open to all.

LCI course: This course is part of the Literature and the Culture of Information specialization within the English department. We will meet in the English department's new, technologically enhanced classroom. It will involve intensive use of new media (web editing, image manipulation and sound), although because we will be offering web workshops, no advanced knowledge of web editing is necessary.


Professor Warner
Office: South Hall, 2507

Office hours, Friday, 2:30-3:30PM, and by appointment


Meeting room:
English Department Media Classroom, South Hall 1415

Tuesday and Thursday, 2:00-3:15PM

Webmasters and media masters Workshops: Friday, 1:00-3:00PM, South Hall 1415

Tech Help
Jennifer Stoy, Transcriptions Studio Drop-in Hours
Tues & Thurs, 10:30-1:30 PM
By appointment jmstoy@umail.ucsb.edu

Michael Perry, Transcriptions Studio Drop-in Hours
Tues-Friday, 2:00-5:00 PM
By appointment: mperry@umail.ucsb.edu

Web editing overview

Assignments and their weighting for grading:

1: Oral presentation: [10%] (5 minutes = 2 typed pages): state the central ideas of the reading, and offer some key questions raised by the reading for class discussion. 2 page typed version is due on the same day you present.  

2: Team Web Projects: 2 or 3 people form a team. [25%]

Each team takes up a general area of interest with implications for the practice and legal control of free speech.

Here are some example: Free speech on campus Censorship among the literary modernists (Flaubert, Joyce, D.H. Lawrence); Censorship of/ by homosexuals in film (The Celluloid Closet; the storm about Basic Instinct; legal cases dealing with homosexual expression); Speech and censorship in the abortion wars (Schenk); 7 forbidden words an radio: George Carlin and Liberty Communications; etc.

The web site will include: overview page, annotated links, annotated bibliography, topic timeline, digitized media (.jpeg, .mp3,), and an individually written 8-page paper on a “free speech incident” related to your topics. [Best way to find legal cases is at the library, by using Lexus/ Nexus]

  • Conferences with Prof Warner will take place in early Feb.
  • Team prospectus is presented to the class on Feb 20th.
  • Final presentation to the class will take place Tues March 18, 4:00-7:00PM, SH 1415
3: Exam [30%]: Feb 27: matching, quote identification, 2 short essays

Recommended steps in studying for the exam, which functions as the course's check on how well you have understood the reading.

  • Read each assigned essay in the class
  • Use your class notes and the on-line slide lectures to focus in on key passages
  • Outline the central concepts and themes of the free speech theorists and cases we have read: Fish, Milton, Locke, Trenchard & Gordon, the Declaration, the Bill of Rights, the Espionage Act cases, the Obseneity trials (Joyce, Lawrence), The Birth of the Nation controvercy, MacKinnon, and controvercy around the NEA
  • Read the review materials I will added to our web site by next Tuesday

4: Individually written term paper (8-pages). [25%] This carefully written essay should mobilize the concepts and perspectives of this course to analysis of a “free speech incident”

 Text Box: Free speech incident is composed of 
1: act of “speech”
2: the closing down of speech
3: the appeal to the 1st Amendment  to 
protect the right to speak




5: Class participation and attendance [10%]

Ground rules for a good class:

A well functioning class is a collaborative endeavor. For this reason I ask you to respect these ground rules:

1)    Class attendance is a required part of the class. More than 2 misses and your grade is lowered by 1/3rd of your final letter grade; more than 4 misses, 2/3rd of the final letter grade, and so on.  [If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get notes and assignments from another class member, so your know where we are with our work.]

2)    Please arrive on time for a full 75-minute class. Please take care of any personal needs—for food or a visit to the restroom—before or after class.

3)    Reading assignments are an essential part of class work; the care and quality of your reading will reflect itself in your participation in class discussion and exams; I urge you to keep a notebook for your readings, writing down key ideas as you read, and general thoughts and questions to bring to class.

4)    Format: Your oral presentation paper and term paper should be typed on 8 ½ X 11” paper, with 1” margins in (12 point) font. Papers should have a works cited list in MLA format. No unexcused late papers will be accepted.

5)    I enjoy getting to know you and talking with students. After our first paper, I will schedule an extensive conference with each project team. In addition, feel free to come by my office hours (Friday, 2:30-3:30 PM), or email me to make an appointment to talk…about the content of the course, a special problem, or just to talk.

overview | schedule | assignments | links | student projects | UCSB English | Transcriptions LCI