One of the most important protections the U.S. Constitutions offers is freedom of speech. Open debate not only allows individuals to speak their minds, but exposes injustices and policies that could stand improvement. Unfortunately, two Michigan residents who recently tried to facilitate debate suffered unjust consequences for voicing opinions that broke from a powerful majority. Their cases serve as a reminder that the impulse toward censorship remains a force even an an otherwise free society.
Alan Pagliere, an Ann Arbor resident, was forced to shut down his satirical website after being threatened with a lawsuit by the Ann Arbor School Board, which has recently been the target of criticism over its planning for a new high school. Pagliere’s website criticized the board, the district and the superintendent by spoofing the actual school district’s website. Though Pagliere’s website was clearly satirical, the school board claimed it violated the school district’s intellectual property rights by using a style similar to the actual school website – despite the fair use exemption to copyright laws that typically allows such satire.
Another Michigan resident, Lakeview High School teacher Devon Fralick, also faced backlash when she tried to encourage open discussion among her students. For a class assignment at the St. Clair Shores school, two of Fralick’s students created an video expos