from the yeah,-that's-like-totally-believable dept
Manning was only allowed to have the Bureau of Prisons documents—an agency handbook and slide show on Facebook takedowns—but everything else was withheld. Instead, Manning received a notification that said the mail was rejected because it contained “printed Internet materials, including email, of a volume exceeding five pages per day or the distribution of which may violate U.S. copyright laws.”Needless to say, the USDB did not respond. And it seems like a patently ridiculous argument to use copyright as an excuse to block prisoners from reading content sent to them, when it's quite clear that the copyright claim is being used solely as an excuse not to give prisoners content that the prison likely disapproves of.
It is possible that the Army withheld the documents because they were longer than fives pages. However, we believe this to be unlikely since the documents it did deliver were far longer than any of the other materials and exceeded five pages. That means that it was potentially copyright concerns that resulted in Manning’s mail being censored.
EFF quickly sent USDB a letter explaining that all EFF content is available for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution license that allows for the material to be freely shared and remixed. The Creative Commons license is indicated, and the full policy linked, at the bottom of every page of our website. As the copyright holder, we asked the prison to provide Manning with the documents immediately and not to block any further EFF material from the facility. We further pointed out that our comments to the FCC were also public records, not simply information printed out from the Internet. We asked for a response by Thursday, February 18, 2016.
And, again, this is the EFF we're talking about. Beyond the fact that the content is clearly licensed under Creative Commons to allow widespread sharing, perhaps no group has fought harder for things like fair use and the more widespread sharing of important information. To claim to be protecting EFF's copyright is basically spitting in the face of the EFF. An organization that wants to spread its information widely, and wants to make sure copyright law is amenable to that is now finding that it cannot distribute its own information... because of the very copyright law it fights against. And yet we're told again and again that copyright is for protecting the creators of content, yet here's it's being actively used against their wishes to block them from disseminating their own content. That's crazy.
Yet again (and this is all too common) we see copyright claims being used as a form of censorship (even as copyright system supporters still insist that's impossible). Yes, Manning is in prison and with that comes a loss of many freedoms. But using copyright as an excuse to deny EFF reading materials seems particularly ridiculous.