U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup, Enemy of All Bloggers

Boing Boing has an update out on the case of Josh Wolf. Josh is a San Francisco citizen journalist and video blogger who is currently sitting in jail on contempt of court charges for refusing to turn over a videotape of vandalism to a police car to U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup. Josh took the video covering a G-8 political protest that took place here in San Francisco in 2005. Boing Boing says that this is the first time that a blogger has served jail time for not relinquishing content on demand.

Judge William Alsup is an enemy to all bloggers. His jailing of Josh strikes a serious blow against the concept of free speech and the protection that bloggers should have when reporting and covering news events. I take photographs each day around the streets of San Francisco and it worries me that as a photographer if I choose to cover a protest that I could be forced by the someone like Judge Alsup to turn over my pictures. This is bad for a free press and it is bad for a country that prides itself on it’s freedoms.

There will be a benefit to raise money for Josh’s legal expenses tomorrow night at the House of Shields. There is a wiki that follows Josh’s case here. There is a website here. And you can donate to Josh’s legal defense fund here.

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6 Comments

  1. Paul L. McCord Jr. says:

    I will have to respectfully disagree here. I understand the desire to have free speech but hiding a known criminal is aiding in my opinion. I don’t know the details of this case but I think it is just pure irresponsible if you saw a crime and fail to report it. I would agree with you if they wanted to take your photos and not let you have them back. If I saw someone burn my neighbor’s house down, it would my civic duty to report what I saw as I would hope my neighbor would return the favor. I believe in a free press but something reporters forget about is that they are American citizens first, reporters second. Just my opinion.

  2. Mike Robinson says:

    Thomas,

    I had a nice post almost done and blammo IE 7 beta crashes. ARGH. (see your post yesterday ha ha).

    I have two points. First, I think you’re being a bit heavy-handed – “an enemy to all bloggers.” I assume you’ve researched his case history, found he has a pattern of this. I also assume you think he understands what a blog, much less a video blog, is. [Reference the whole what-is-a-blog debate here.]

    My second point is that you and others seem, if I’m interpreting this correctly, to want to extend things like freedom of the press infinitely. What’s the difference between a Newsweek photo, you, and myself all taking a picture of say a parade? I’m just a guy taking a picture, you’re a skilled amateur/pro(?), and then there’s the actual paid photojournalist. Are you implying that I should have the same “freedoms” that the pro photog has? Why – I’m not press, and its blurry if you are or not.

    Personally, I don’t buy any of his argument. I doubt highly the feds want his tape to root out anti-war people. It was a public demonstration, if they wanted video they’d just bring their own camera. My opinion is that he’s sticking to his guns just to prove a point, and if that’s the case I wish he’d just say that. If he *truly* believes the anti-war gathering tack, work out a deal to let the judge view the video, even with a fed agent, to determine if/what is on the video SPECIFICALLY related to the attack. I have absolutely *ZERO* problem with anything criminal on the video being used regardless of Mr. Wolf’s wishes, but only criminal acts. If there is evidence the government uses it for other purposes, deal with it at that time.

    We all seem to agree that banning weapons on a plane is a good thing, regardless of the right to bear arms. Clearly as a society we are willing to accept – regardless of our freedoms – some limits, hopefully in order to better enjoy the overall scope of such freedoms. As a society we’re just arguing about where the line is drawn.

  3. Rob Dean says:

    I am glad he is out of jail. The State got nothing in exchange for his jail time. There was nothing in the video of any use to the prosecutor. Just a fishing expedition. The Judge needs to go to jail for a long time. Very bad decision, bad precedent. Judge Alsup please step down before you do some real damage. Understand you were appointed by Bill “the big lie” Clinton – makes perfect sense.

  4. Peter says:

    I am a blogger, too, and I think Josh Wolf needs to obey the law just like everyone else. Everyone, even a sitting U.S. President, is required to give information to a grand jury if the grand jury requests it.

    Sorry Josh, you’re getting what you deserve. And, truth be told, I think you’re doing it for the publicity. You’ve become a household name. Marketing that would make an unabashed capitalist proud.

  5. Peter says:

    I am a blogger, too, and I think Josh Wolf needs to obey the law just like everyone else. Everyone, even a sitting U.S. President, is required to give information to a grand jury if the grand jury requests it.

    Sorry Josh, you’re getting what you deserve. And, truth be told, I think you’re doing it for the publicity. You’ve become a household name. Marketing that would make an unabashed capitalist proud.

  6. Peter says:

    I am a blogger, too, and I think Josh Wolf needs to obey the law just like everyone else. Everyone, even a sitting U.S. President, is required to give information to a grand jury if the grand jury requests it.

    Sorry Josh, you’re getting what you deserve. And, truth be told, I think you’re doing it for the publicity. You’ve become a household name. Marketing that would make an unabashed capitalist proud.