Chilling Effects

chilling effects

Chilling Effects is a collaborative archive created by Wendy Seltzer and founded along with several law school clinics and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (a digital rights group) to protect lawful online activity from legal threats.

Its website, ‘Chilling Effects Clearinghouse,’ allows recipients of cease-and-desist notices to submit them to the site and receive information about their legal rights and responsibilities. The archive was founded in 2001 by Internet activists who were concerned that the unregulated private practice of sending cease-and-desist letters seemed to be increasing and was having an unstudied, but potentially significant, ‘chilling effect’ on speech.

The archive got a boost when Google began submitting its notices in 2002. Google began to do so in response to the publicity generated when the Church of Scientology convinced Google to remove references and links to the anti-Scientology web site, ‘Operation Clambake,’ in April 2002.

The incident inspired vocal Internet users and groups to complain to Google, and the links to the site were restored. Google subsequently began to contribute its notices to ‘Chilling Effects,’ archiving the Scientology complaints and linking to the archive. Researchers use the clearinghouse to study cease-and-desist letters, primarily looking at DMCA takedown notices, non-DMCA copyright issues, and trademark claims.

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