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Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Expression Issues: Freedom of expression and freedom of speech go together, and both mean the freedom that we have to speak freely and without being censured. In many legal documents, this right is known as Freedom of Speech, but more often it is mentioned as Freedom of Expression, because it is not only about the freedom to speak, but also about the freedom to write and publish in any possible media.

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The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the US Constitution says that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances “ (US Constitution).

The question is: how far can my individual freedom go, before I start violating other people’s rights? Can Government lawfully restrict the Freedom of expression at all? Lawyers and lawmakers have struggled with this issue not only in the US but all around the world for many years. The International community has also created similar legislation. The Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights follow the same basic principles stated by our Constitution’s First Amendment.

According to the First Amendment the burden to demonstrate when and if a limitation of the freedom of expression is necessary falls upon the state. And in the US, as in most democracies, it is generally understood that any restrictions to the Freedom of expression should be the exception and not the rule.

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Pornography and Violence have been recognized as forms of expression, in print, in movies, and videos and now in the Internet. In different democracies, there have been great debates about how far the Government can restrict the Freedom of “artists and creators” to show their products. In most countries, there is an ongoing discussion about the correlation between exposure to pornography and/or violence and crime. And there is no clear consensus about what this exposure can mean to the upbringing of children. These considerations have given way to laws like Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which is of interest to all of us, as parents, members of any family, users of the Internet, and specially to those of us who professionally interact with the Internet.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property: Many professionals are authors of music, literature, art pieces, inventions, symbols, names, images, designs, or as they have also been called, “creations of the mind.” Thus it shouldn’t surprise you that already the Guilds, and in our time, many Professional Associations have procured government support to protect the creator’s rights to benefit from their creations. Without the protection of law, a creator would never be able to benefit form his/her work: Once the object was made public, copies of all kind could be made and sold by the copyist.

We are talking about copyrights, trademarks, patents and all the related rights upon which the “holder of the right,” that is, of an “abstract property,” has certain exclusive rights, so that he may profit from direct use, from giving up the right of use of that creative work, commercial symbol, or invention.


Governments soon saw the benefit of protecting the individual and the corporate rights to Intellectual Property, as property is a source of taxes. Some European Governments have protected the intellectual property rights for a few centuries now.

In 1791, a French law already stated: All new discoveries are the property of the author; to assure the inventor the property and temporary enjoyment of his discovery, there shall be delivered to him a patent for five, ten, or fifteen years”.

In the US, the first mention to Intellectual Rights was in 1845. The Massachusetts Circuit Court ruled in the patent case Davoll et al. v. Brown, in which Justice Charles L. Woodbury presided, that,”Only in this way can we protect intellectual property, the labors of the mind, productions and interests as much a man’s own…as the wheat he cultivates, or the flocks he rears.”

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