CAMBRIDGE, MA. – The Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) and Cyberlaw Clinic have joined a coalition of media and public interest organizations in filing an amici curiae brief urging a federal district court judge to reconsider his orders shutting down Wikileaks.org, a site that is developing what it describes as an "uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis."
Filed yesterday in San Francisco, the brief opposes two broad injunctions issued by Judge White of the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California on February 15 against Wikileaks and its domain registrar, Dynadot LLC. As a result of the judge’s permanent injunction against it, Dynadot has disabled the entire Wikileaks.org domain name and removed all DNS hosting records for the site. The judge has also ordered that Wikileaks and “all others who receive notice” of the order refrain from publishing, linking to, or otherwise using certain documents allegedly leaked by a former Bank employee.
Cayman Islands-based Julius Baer Bank and Trust and its Swiss parent company initiated the case in order to prevent Wikileaks from publishing copies of “stolen or otherwise wrongfully obtained confidential and protected bank files and records.” Wikileaks has acknowledged releasing “several hundred documents from a Swizz banking whistleblower purportedly [dealing with] extremely wealthy and in some cases, politically sensitive, clients from the US, Europe, China and Peru.”
“Under established First Amendment law, prior restraints, if constitutional at all, are permissible only in the most extraordinary circumstances," said David Ardia, Director of the CMLP, who assisted in forming the coalition of media and public interest organizations. “In this case, you have court orders that effectively shut down a website that has been at the forefront of exposing corruption in governments and corporations around the world and enjoin anyone who reads the order from publishing or even linking to the documents.”
The brief, which was filed by attorneys from Davis Wright Tremaine, is the result of close collaboration among members of the media coalition. Some of the legal arguments were prepared by the CMLP and Berkman Cyberlaw Clinic, with substantial help from Cyberlaw Clinic and Harvard Law School student Savith Iyengar.
“Given the critical importance of the First Amendment interests in this case, and the damage to those interests that would be caused by such overbroad injunctions, we felt it was vital to help the coalition present arguments to the court showing that there was no legal basis for the banks’ claims against Wikileaks and Dynadot,” said Phil Malone, Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic.
Other members of the media coalition include: American Society of Newspaper Editors; The Associated Press; E.W. Scripps Co.; Gannett Co.; The Hearst Corporation; Los Angeles Times; National Newspaper Association; Newspaper Association of America; Radio-Television News Directors Association; Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press; and The Society of Professional Journalists.
Other briefs filed yesterday include a submission by the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a motion to intervene in the case filed by Public Citizen and the California First Amendment Coalition that argues that the court did not have jurisdiction in the case, and therefore had no power to issue the injunctions.
About the Citizen Media Law Project
The Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) provides education, research, and advocacy on free speech, newsgathering, intellectual property, and other legal issues related to citizen media and online speech generally. The CMLP is jointly affiliated with Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, a research center founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development, and the Center for Citizen Media, an initiative to enhance and expand grassroots media. For more information, visit http://www.citmedialaw.org.
About the Cyberlaw Clinic
The Berkman Center Cyberlaw Clinic provides high-quality, pro-bono legal services to appropriate individuals, small start-ups, non-profit groups and government entities regarding cutting-edge issues of the Internet, new technology and intellectual property. Harvard Law School students enhance their preparation for high-tech practice and earn course credit for working on a variety of real-world litigation, client counseling, advocacy, legislation, and transactional/licensing projects and cases. For more information, visit http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/home/clinical.
About the Berkman Center for Internet & Society
The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School is proud to celebrate its tenth year as a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. Founded in 1997, through a generous gift from Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman, the Center is now home to an ever-growing community of faculty, fellows, staff, and affiliates working on projects that span the broad range of intersections between cyberspace, technology, and society. More information can be found at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu and http://www.berkmanat10.org.
Last updated March 05, 2008
For press inquiries, contact press at cyber.
Archived press releases and announcements can be found here.