Victory! The Slants Are Officially Rock Stars of the First Amendment

The Supreme Court today struck down portions of the Lanham Act, a 1946 federal trademark law that allowed the government to deny “offensive” trademarks as a violation of trademark holders’ free speech rights. Agreeing with arguments made by the ACLU in its brief to the court, the justices held that the First Amendment prevents the government from withholding a substantial government benefit just because it doesn’t like what you have to say.

The court’s ruling makes a second, less formal determination: The Chinatown dance-rock band The Slants are the new poster children for the First Amendment.

The justices unanimously agreed that The Slants’ First Amendment rights were violated when the government claimed the right to control their speech in exchange for offering a trademark. The opinion warns against government moves to “silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints.” Fortunately, the risk of that kind of broad censorship is much lower after today’s decision.

The Slants chose their name to reclaim and redeem a racial slur often used against Asians and Asian-Americans.

Years ago, The Slants applied for a registered trademark, a massive financial benefit handed out by the federal Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). For any band with an aspirational following, a registered trademark means a lot: the right to brand yourself — and your products — with an expression of your choosing and a strong right to enforce your claim against fakers and counterfeiters. That makes the registration of trademarks a substantial government benefit. And if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the government can’t hand out benefits based on how much it agrees with the views you express.

There is absolutely no doubt that this particular trademark expresses a very clear message: The Slants chose their name to reclaim and redeem a racial slur often used against Asians and Asian-Americans. After they applied for the registration, the PTO examiner handling their application denied them a trademark — after Googling the band and discovering it was made up of Asian-American rockers. He thus determined that the band was using “slant” as a slur and denied their application under the Lanham Act.

That was censorship, pure and simple.

The Lanham Act is a federal law that — until today — permitted the government to deny registered trademarks determined to be “disparag[ing],” or otherwise “offensive” or “immoral” to a “substantial composite” of an affected group. And despite the fact that the members of the Slants are themselves part of the “affected group” in question, the PTO found the name too offensive for a registered trademark.

The Slants weren’t satisfied with that decision. And like the rock stars they are, they didn’t take it lying down. The band appealed the PTO’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where we filed an amicus brief and provided oral argument to the court on the glaring First Amendment problems with the Lanham Act. The band — and the First Amendment — won. But the federal government appealed to the Supreme Court.

Watch: The Slants Perform at the ACLU

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And thank goodness it did!

Today the Supreme Court affirmed a core value of free speech: The government cannot withhold a benefit in order to limit or punish what it perceives to be offensive speech. And hopefully today’s decision will put a stop to the absurd practice of PTO examiners acting as formal speech police, Googling people to find out if they’re the “right kind” to receive a government benefit.

As with many things under the First Amendment, this decision may lead to uncomfortable results: Products with truly racist or sexist names will (continue to) appear on shelves and a certain Washington football team now undoubtedly gets to retain its own offensive team name, which lost its trademark in 2014 in a decision upheld by lower courts.

Let’s be clear: Unlike in the Slants’ case, there is no cultural reappropriation going on with the NFL team. But there’s no way to lawfully censor speech that offends us without allowing the government the power to censor speech that offends anyone — including The Slants’ band name. When we object to ideas that appear in our marketplace, the default response shouldn’t be to sweep them under a rug and pretend that they aren’t there, but rather call them out, boycott companies that make products that offend us, and ensure our spending reflects our values.

Censorship doesn’t just violate the First Amendment — it often doesn’t produce its intended results. As many activists who lived through the civil rights era, or protested in the streets just this past year, could tell you: Restrictions on free speech are often applied most stringently against groups trying to challenge the status quo.

The Slants are no exception. Decades of history have taught the ACLU that freedom of speech and racial justice are inseparable. And The Slants are now officially rock stars of both.

The ACLU’s brief on behalf of The Slants' First Amendment rights was filed along with the ACLU of Oregon, the ACLU of the District of Columbia, and a group of racial justice organizations.

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Eli Samuel Goldman

I'm writing from a cell phone quickly while my battery lasts on wifi while they use various techniques to chase me away from everywhere I go. I don't have time to correct mistakes in writing ...it's more important to get the facts out. RE "what show..." The ACLU knows what show I'm referring to and so do our political leaders and the stars. The fact I cannot answer the question should evidence to those who know what I'm talking about that the whole thing was rigged by Trump's camp, and that I wasn't aware I was on a show. They witheld any and all information. I had to spend years figuring out what was happening. Dozens of people told me I was on a show, thousands responded to everything I say or do privately (things they cannot know, see or hear) many even blamed my reactions on me being "the star of the show" but no one would divulge details. Ironically every new song that came out in years has my words, lyrics, pieces of stories from my life, but meanings, order or context changed to have entire different meanings or applied in a different way.

Eli Samuel Goldman

Chances are most of you are listening to music " if written in recent years " made up of my intellectual property, watch recent movies made from my expressions with plots inspired with my life or ideas, heard speeches from political leaders addressing issues created by the show or discussed on the show from my past life. Scientists working on ideas they got from me etc. Everything marketed, buying/manufacturing/marking trends, fashion styles ...all relate to my life. The show was designed to have a far different purpose than it ended up having. And they witheld enough details from the public that if I tell people they'd think I'm crazy. If I exaplain it would take days to make sense to the public, and that in difficult to do being harassed from place to place in one way or another, kept starved and physically ill having to go to noisy places to use wifi that use me for marketing against my will by just being there to use wifi. It's difficult to make people relate since no one in the history of man has been in my scenario. But I post not for the public, but so that those who know who I am can know the actual details rather than the misinformation fed them. (Will post more later)

Eli Samuel Goldman

Donald J. Trump should have been convicted before the election the same way we convicted Al Capone, for his Tax Evasion in the very least (read Samuel Clawson's commentary and U.S. Attorney George Johnson's comments about why future generations will remember (the verdict finding Guilty people who do what Donald J. Trump has done and admitted to). Then his other cases could have been investigated with the witnessed safe from his reach. His cohorts that influence The Show could be arrested and convicted under The Mann Act (1910), among other crimes his white-supremicists committed.

Eli Samuel Goldman

While the Mann Act is vague, racist and unconstitutional, Donald Trump and his white-supremicist cohorts are also vague, racist and unconstitutional. It's a perfect way to use their own actions against them.

Eli Samuel Goldman

I've noticed since the Nazi Trump has been in office there is a major effort on to hide his racist affiliations and criminal past or edit sites to disavow all his white-supremicist activity and actions, as well as his failures to take actions/discourage wrongs committed for his campaign. In fact till he was close to winning at the end of the election he flat-out REFUSED to refute,disavow or admonish the unprecedented white-supremicist support his campaign received. And unlike me, he knew every step of the way every miniscule detail of what is going on. In fact he openly and publically bragged that he had more information on things and crime than the government security agencies. He made known he had a whole team of people researching things, private investigators and more. Yet when questioned on anything illegal, tied to white-supremacy, or any questionable person or group supporting his campaign he pretended to be unaware...yet for the rest of the world a simple internet search would tell us all extensive details. So he was unaware these people cheered for him all over the world, came to his rallies, endorsed him all over the Internet and even on the news? They even congradulated him on twitter, on tens of thousands of websites The "king of all media" who never stops reading the web for anything about himself and the news was unaware? Bullsh%t! His endorsement by refusal to distance himself from hate mongers, neonazis, fingers lunatics, right-wing extremists and the KKK was so blatant that Paul Ryan had to beg him at the end of the election (as did others all election) to ask them to stop doing harm on behalf of Trump's campaign. Trump himself encouraged violence and racism at his rallies, online, at every opportunity available. And all election known neo-nazi groups in record numbers supported Trump's campaign in every way possible. They started campaigns for him, marched for him, recruited Trump supporters, and hailed him as a true "patriot" and hero of "the white race." When he won the election white-supremicist-hate-groups celebrated his/their victory all over the world. From well recognized white-nationalist leaders, to random skinheads cheered their victory. All election he spewed racist rhetoric openly and publically to let his largest group of supporters know he was their man. He made racist comments to almost every major world or political leader, from the "kicking black family out of their home" comment about Obama to random people everywhere. He even when to far as to have racists terrorized people--even me. Did we forget the 18 year old girl on Twitter who got death threats from his supporters? Or the non-violent protesters he had assaulted and battered and escourted out of one of his rallies? Did we forget the dead war veteran's family he made racist remarks to because they weren't Christians? Did we forget that nearly every nationalist plan he expressed mirrored the same Nazi rhetoric Adolph Hitler said? Do we not notice that during the election he even attacked Jewish people implying they're all greedy chislers and "short fat guys in yamulkas." Most of the white supremicist websites from Daily Stormer, Storefront and hundreds of others were reported to have praise for Trump and were inundated with anti-Semitic posts insisting they weren't going to let the Jews win the election and encouraging every white nationalist possible to show up to the polls to vote Trump. Slurs from racists disbarraging Hillary Clinton with the WWII Nazi marking version of the Star of David appeared all over the Internet with Trump supporters along with racist or anti semetic posts in the millions from Trump supporters. The Anti-Defamation-League recorded a never before surge and explosive growth of anti-Semitic activity during the election directly linkable to his supporters. He attacked verbally many major political Jewish figure or person of color. His supporters made slurs of dozens of known Jewish reporters and media figures. Trump made almost every major business figure known for anti-Semitism or racism a member of his cabinet or political allies or corporate allies of his. From Joseph Schmitz, who proudly bragged about getting rid of Jewish employees as Defense Department Inspector General (a Holocaust deniers), to almost Trump's entire cabinet linked to racist and anti-Semitic allegations throughout their careers. Trump's own father was arrested beating down black people in Queens NY in 1926 at a Klu Klux Klan initiated riot. In 1973 the Department of Justice had to go after Trump for refusing to rent to black people saying he had no black apartments. Even the Caucasian significant other of one couple reported he'd rent to her, but when her black husband asked he was told there were no apartments available. ...Even the actual presidential orders he writes since elected, the bills he vetos and the countries he aligns himself with mirror Adolph Hitler's own political policies. Every nation he likes is primarily Caucasian governed and peopled...with the exception of the nation's he thinks he can profit off of like China ...which he promised his supporters he'd support production of USA goods, then is vyying to import more sort-product-life foreign goods to maximize profits from the poor rather than promote better trade with foreign nations. His target voter-base is approximately the same kind of modern-equivalent demographic as Adolph Hitler's. ...And the similarities don't stop. Even how Trump rose to power is frighteningly similar to the Nazi Leader. ...I don't think the question should be what of Trump and his cabinet is Nazi-like, I think the more reasonable question is "what of Trump's rise to presedency isn't Nazi-like?"

Eli Samuel Goldman

I've noticed since the Nazi Trump has been in office there is a major effort on to hide his racist affiliations and criminal past or edit sites to disavow all his white-supremicist activity and actions, as well as his failures to take actions/discourage wrongs committed for his campaign. In fact till he was close to winning at the end of the election he flat-out REFUSED to refute,disavow or admonish the unprecedented white-supremicist support his campaign received. And unlike me, he knew every step of the way every miniscule detail of what is going on. In fact he openly and publically bragged that he had more information on things and crime than the government security agencies. He made known he had a whole team of people researching things, private investigators and more. Yet when questioned on anything illegal, tied to white-supremacy, or any questionable person or group supporting his campaign he pretended to be unaware...yet for the rest of the world a simple internet search would tell us all extensive details. So he was unaware these people cheered for him all over the world, came to his rallies, endorsed him all over the Internet and even on the news? They even congradulated him on twitter, on tens of thousands of websites The "king of all media" who never stops reading the web for anything about himself and the news was unaware? Bullsh%t! His endorsement by refusal to distance himself from hate mongers, neonazis, fingers lunatics, right-wing extremists and the KKK was so blatant that Paul Ryan had to beg him at the end of the election (as did others all election) to ask them to stop doing harm on behalf of Trump's campaign. Trump himself encouraged violence and racism at his rallies, online, at every opportunity available. And all election known neo-nazi groups in record numbers supported Trump's campaign in every way possible. They started campaigns for him, marched for him, recruited Trump supporters, and hailed him as a true "patriot" and hero of "the white race." When he won the election white-supremicist-hate-groups celebrated his/their victory all over the world. From well recognized white-nationalist leaders, to random skinheads cheered their victory. All election he spewed racist rhetoric openly and publically to let his largest group of supporters know he was their man. He made racist comments to almost every major world or political leader, from the "kicking black family out of their home" comment about Obama to random people everywhere. He even when to far as to have racists terrorized people--even me. Did we forget the 18 year old girl on Twitter who got death threats from his supporters? Or the non-violent protesters he had assaulted and battered and escourted out of one of his rallies? Did we forget the dead war veteran's family he made racist remarks to because they weren't Christians? Did we forget that nearly every nationalist plan he expressed mirrored the same Nazi rhetoric Adolph Hitler said? Do we not notice that during the election he even attacked Jewish people implying they're all greedy chislers and "short fat guys in yamulkas." Most of the white supremicist websites from Daily Stormer, Storefront and hundreds of others were reported to have praise for Trump and were inundated with anti-Semitic posts insisting they weren't going to let the Jews win the election and encouraging every white nationalist possible to show up to the polls to vote Trump. Slurs from racists disbarraging Hillary Clinton with the WWII Nazi marking version of the Star of David appeared all over the Internet with Trump supporters along with racist or anti semetic posts in the millions from Trump supporters. The Anti-Defamation-League recorded a never before surge and explosive growth of anti-Semitic activity during the election directly linkable to his supporters. He attacked verbally many major political Jewish figure or person of color. His supporters made slurs of dozens of known Jewish reporters and media figures. Trump made almost every major business figure known for anti-Semitism or racism a member of his cabinet or political allies or corporate allies of his. From Joseph Schmitz, who proudly bragged about getting rid of Jewish employees as Defense Department Inspector General (a Holocaust deniers), to almost Trump's entire cabinet linked to racist and anti-Semitic allegations throughout their careers. Trump's own father was arrested beating down black people in Queens NY in 1926 at a Klu Klux Klan initiated riot. In 1973 the Department of Justice had to go after Trump for refusing to rent to black people saying he had no black apartments. Even the Caucasian significant other of one couple reported he'd rent to her, but when her black husband asked he was told there were no apartments available. ...Even the actual presidential orders he writes since elected, the bills he vetos and the countries he aligns himself with mirror Adolph Hitler's own political policies. Every nation he likes is primarily Caucasian governed and peopled...with the exception of the nation's he thinks he can profit off of like China ...which he promised his supporters he'd support production of USA goods, then is vyying to import more sort-product-life foreign goods to maximize profits from the poor rather than promote better trade with foreign nations. His target voter-base is approximately the same kind of modern-equivalent demographic as Adolph Hitler's. ...And the similarities don't stop. Even how Trump rose to power is frighteningly similar to the Nazi Leader. ...I don't think the question should be what of Trump and his cabinet is Nazi-like, I think the more reasonable question is "what of Trump's rise to presedency isn't Nazi-like?"

Eli Samuel Goldman

If you check Southern Poverty Law Center's map of white-supremicist and racist activity and check news reports of Klu Klux Klan, neo-nazi right-wing extremist hate groups (also disguised as various "knights.." religious groups) for the last ten years prior to the election you will also see these areas are hotbeds of Trump supporters. And most alt-right(so called)conservatives elected or supporting Trump have a long documented history of allegations of racism. Both older politicians and those newly elected, like the racist Republican in Bozeman Montana.

Eli Samuel Goldman

It's ironic that this ACLU article say the government doesn't have the right to withold intellectual property rights (in this case patent rights) "just because they don't like what (I) have to say, because that is exactly what the previous government and Trump have done to me tens of thousands of times to me. As I've said, they never turn off The Show. They've been running it for a decade or so. The entire time Trump's people and the show have deseminated to the world my intellectual property without my consent, and the results have made Billions and Billions and Billions of dollars for others. They withold from me any basic information, the name of the show, the network, anything... Consequently I cannot take legal action, and was never provided with ANY documentation. I don't even know when the show started because the deal wasn't finalized, I never knew I was on it and never agreed to have all my intellectual property given away to the world. I spoke freely for years of my life/ideas in private not knowing there even was a show. And they refuse to end the show though I've been trying discover what show I'm on for about 2 1/2 - 3 years now since I discovered there is a show.

Eli Samuel Goldman

Regardless of what I say republicans steal it and manage to exit it. From what I read the current crop are THE most destructive people on earth. Anything I say on the show they immediately steal my words and respond to the public saying something very opposite in a day or two. I talked yesterday and the day before (as well as for 30 years) about renewable resources and using the natural environment for our energy. Gov. Rick Perry (the same involved in the medical doctor scandal with Gov Mary Fallin; the same indicted on TWO counts of felony ABUSE OF POWER attempting to get rid of Texas ethics watchdog so unethical practices could go on)...Rick Perry plagerized my words of "all of the above" approach to energy for the USA.except I was talking about using solar power, wind(mill) power, and water driven turbines and generators (powered by naturally moving waters) for our electrical needs so we do not harm the environment, or retain dangerous wastes. The Nazi unconcerned for human safety, or the environment Donald J. Trump and seemingly still corrupt Rick Perry made suggestions an hour ago to once again use the most dangerous power source known to man and again start building nuclear power plants, lying to the public and arguing we have enough safe alternatives. Yet the facts are that safer alternatives if implemented properly could prove more power for less money for the people. Possibly even free as it would put excess power back into the grid. Pure dangerous Republican GREED. If done properly all it would cost the people in many cases would be only initial purchase, maintenance for the equipment &facilities, and very long term upgrades. After that in some cases elrctric power would be free, and the rest nominal included in a person's already paid taxes. Scientists, environmental experts have concluded overwhelmingly there is no safe way to contain nuclear waste. The dangerous waste outlasts any container, leaks, corrodes, etc. The nuclear waste we already have is a threat we don't know how to manage! Not to mention 3 mile Island nuclear power plant disaster which is affecting citizens to this day medically, in birth issues and more, and Chernobyl. ---We have a group of right wing politicians who are career criminals with a long history of major crime making political decisions based on greed that destroy our nation and human life!

Eli Samuel Goldman

There is no shortage of sunlight enough, wind enough, and moving waters enough in the USA to provide nearly free (cost per capita) environmentally safe electricity for the entire country! In tired of some Republicans who've committed the most major crimes in the history of our country, and coming up with harmful greed-based solutions with complete autonomy and no real punishment because they dupe the people into letting them loose and believing absolute bullsh%t.

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