Yesterday, renowned First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams came to the Motion Picture Association of America’s office in Washington, D.C. to speak about the ongoing need to promote and protect the right of all Americans to express themselves freely that is enshrined in the First Amendment.
The discussion, sponsored by the MPAA and The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, was part of the National Free Speech Week programs going on around the country this week to celebrate and promote this fundamental right.
Well known for his Constitutional expertise and characterized as “the most significant First Amendment lawyer of our age,” Mr. Abrams has argued some of the most noteworthy First Amendment cases in the United States Supreme Court in the last four decades from the Pentagon Papers to the ability of journalists to protect the identities of their confidential sources.
Over the course of the nearly hour long discussion that was moderated by Barbara Cochran, the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Policy Journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Mr. Abrams talked about the current state of Free Speech in America, saying that right now “it’s pretty good times,” because “we have a Supreme Court that is especially protective of First Amendment rights.”
He also went on to say that things have never been “more democratic in the sense of open to the world, free, unedited, and available to the public at large. Never had we had that sort of ability for individuals to have their say” that exists today thanks to the enormous leaps forward that have been made technologically in recent years.
But with the growing ability to not only express yourself through online avenues such as Facebook and Twitter also comes a growing ability to steal from others. The idea of copyright and the Copyright Act exist to protect peoples’ artistic creations. According to Abrams, “the whole theory of the Copyright Act is to encourage the arts,” and when those works are threatened he says that “it is constitutional in some cases to get a restraint on the use of someone else’s work” in order to protect it.
Barbara Cochran and Floyd Abrams
Photo Credit: Joy Asico