flikx sent in an issue that may affect several of us in the future, especially if you happen to work in a similar environment. It's a free speech issue, and one that puts a huge question mark on just how far U.S. First Amendment rights really extend. The short version: filkx ran a weblog called "SOS," for the laudable goal of providing an open discussion forum for student government issues. He had a steadfast rule of non-censorship, which soon landed him in political hot waters with the University of Utah. A new administration steps in, the site is shut down, and filkx now faces criminal charges, expulsion and a cute twist: the university claims that the site's content is now their own property. flikx notes, "I'd like to say up front that this is a fairly large and multifaceted issue, and would also like to draw attention to a related article up on Slashcode". You can read the details by clicking on the link.
The following is written by former-Slashsite admin, flikx:
Early last fall, I personally created a Slash site called SOS under student government for my University. I did everything myself with no outside help of any sort, and entirely volunteer. I have never been paid for my efforts in any way, and never expected monetary compensation. I did not actually work for the University, but was a student in Mechanical Engineering. I created said site with the ultimate goal of providing an open discussion forum and weblog for all students of the University.
During the course of operation of the site, I fielded numerous complaints about abuse to the site, and took them in a professional manner, though steadfastly refused to censor any content on the site. Remember that many in Utah are very conservative and dislike free speech on some levels...being fairly conservative myself, I never thougtht I'd run afoul of people. The problem is that I continuously ran afoul of politics as people threatened me repeatedly due to my failure to censor the site. The abuse was minimal, especially by Slashdot standards.
Six weeks ago, the administration censored the entire site due to the threat of legal action due to inapropriate content. The site was down for just over a week, and I was forced to implement strict posting guidelines and adopt a censorship policy for the site.
A new administration recently took over, and first on the list was to get rid of me, and the site. There's much more involved here in politics, plus scr1pt k1dd13 threats spoofed from my email and everything, but the bottom line is that the site was censored for good. The server was physically removed by the police, and the disks wiped after 'evidence' was removed. All known backups were destroyed, and they even obtained a protective order from me and banned me from the University property. I'm also suspended indefinately, and face immediate expulsion from the University. (BTW - I'm almost done with my Mechanical Engineering degree .. so this is not light by any means. If expelled, I'm forced to start over as a freshmen if I ever get into another school.)
So here's some of the problems with which I turn to the Slashdot crowd for a solution:
The administration threatened me, and had the legal team tell me that everything on the site is intellectual property of the University of Utah. Everything. That includes all stories, all comments, user accounts, even the graphic design I did. I have off-site backups of the site, and could easily redeploy the site elsewhere provided the time and hosting. I've already put 2000+ unpaid volunteer hours into the University, and they take away my work. It should be my right to operate an open discussion forum, but it seems that it's not.
What does the Slashdot crowd think about this issue? Should [or does] everything belong to my University? The only involvement the university had was hosting the site and buying the server, that's it. Obviously, the site could be moved elsewhere, and I still have a team together that could operate the site independant to the University. But as I am already being expelled and even facing criminal charges for 'computer crimes', this is far beyond your average Ask Slashdot."
Cliff: If you are interested in obtaining some context for this story, you can dig around the cached pages from SOS on Google.