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Defending the First Amendment: The Latest Chapters in Book Censorship

  • September 14, 2023
  • 12:30 PM
  • Via Zoom


Defending the First Amendment

The Latest Chapters in Book Censorship

Copyright is the engine of free expression. But what if free expression is threatened? Fueled by new state laws and nationally organized censorship efforts, the number of books challenged in U.S. schools and public libraries hit an all-time high in 2022. Over 2500 titles – overwhelmingly by or about LGBTQIA+ individuals and people of color – were targeted. Authors, publishers and their allies have been fighting the rising tide of censorship in court actions, with notable successes, but the story is far from over. A panel of those on the front lines will speak to the latest legal developments, including legislative enactments and recent cases in Arkansas and Texas, as well as the impact of book banning efforts on writers of targeted works.

Cheryl L. Davis is General Counsel of the Authors Guild, where she oversees the organization’s legal affairs, including its in-house corporate affairs and management of literary estates. She is also active in the areas of book banning and diversity in publishing and writes about and participates in panels and webinars on these topics. She received her A.B. from Princeton University and her J.D. from Columbia University. She holds leadership positions in the following legal organizations: ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law (Literary Works Committee Chair), ABA Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Forum (Arts and Museums Vice Chair), New York State Bar Association, Entertainment Arts and Sports Law Section (Diversity Committee Co-Chair), Dramatists Guild Legal Defense Fund (Board member).

David Horowitz has served as executive director of Media Coalition, Inc. since 1998.  Media Coalition is a trade association founded in 1973 to defend the First Amendment right to produce and distribute books, movies, magazines, recordings, home video and video games, and protect the American public’s First Amendment right to have access to the broadest possible range of information, opinion and entertainment. He is responsible for protecting the First Amendment rights of Media Coalition’s members’ in Congress and all 50 state legislatures.  David also oversees Media Coalition’s legal docket. David oversaw the publication of Only a Game: Why Censoring New Media Won’t Stop Gun Violence and Shooting the Messenger: Why Censorship Won’t Stop Violence

Maria A. Pallante is President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP).  Based in Washington, DC, she leads policy strategy, litigation, and programmatic priorities for the modern publishing industry, with a particular focus on copyright, freedom of expression, and digital markets.  Before joining AAP, Maria served as Register of Copyrights for nearly six years, directing the U.S. Copyright Office during a particularly active period of statutory and regulatory modernization.  She worked closely with Congress to close gaps in the law, including launching public studies and recommendations on small copyright claims, music licensing, enforcement tools, streaming protections, and Internet policy.  She previously held counsel and leadership positions in New York with the worldwide Guggenheim Museums, Authors Guild, and National Writers Union.  Maria serves on several expert committees and has delivered a number of prominent legal lectures, including “The Next Great Copyright Act” in 2013 (Manges Lecture, Columbia Law School) and “The Art and Innovation of Exclusive Rights” in 2022 (Brace Lecture, Copyright Society).  She earned her law degree at George Washington University Law School. 

Recognized nationally and internationally as a fearless freedom of expression advocate, Laura Lee Prather was awarded The American Lawyer’s inaugural Tony Mauro Media Lawyer Award for her tireless and successful efforts advocating for legislation to strengthen First Amendment rights, including zealous advocacy for free speech rights both at the statehouse and the courthouse. Board certified in Civil Appellate Law, Laura represents a broad array of clients at the trial and appellate court level in First Amendment, Anti-SLAPP, and intellectual property disputes. She represents content providers including online and traditional publications, cable and terrestrial broadcasters, streaming media platforms, podcasts, production companies, and music and sports entities. Her clients value her dedication and work ethic as demonstrated by her recognition as a BTI Client Service All-Star (BTI Consulting Group). In addition to her private practice, Laura is heavily involved in community and trade organizations.

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