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Unpublished Paper
Guns and Speech Technologies: How the Right to Bear Arms Affects Copyright Regulations of Speech Technologies
ExpressO (2008)
  • Edward Lee

This Essay examines the possible effect the Supreme Court’s landmark Second Amendment ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller will have on future cases brought under the Free Press Clause. Based on the text and history of the Constitution, the connection between the two Clauses is undeniable, as the Heller Court itself repeatedly suggested. Only two provisions in the entire Constitution protect individual rights to a technology: the Second Amendment’s right to bear “arms” and the Free Press Clause’s right to the freedom of the “press,” meaning the printing press. Both rights were viewed, moreover, as preexisting, natural rights to the Framing generation and were separately called the “palladium of liberty” during the Framing. The development of both concepts traces back to the abuses of the Crown in disarming the populace and restricting the printing press in England. During the 17th century, the people in England were often deprived of both technologies—in the case of the printing press, by the copyright holders of the period known as the Stationers’ Company, which conducted warrantless searches to seize unauthorized presses with the backing of the Crown. The Bill of Rights was enacted to stop these abuses in the new Republic. While the Second Amendment protects the people’s right to arms and the Free Press Clause their right to the freedom of the press, both clauses developed in direct reaction to the perceived threat of government restrictions on the respective technologies. Given this historical connection, courts should apply an approach similar to the one in Heller in interpreting the Free Press Clause. Just as the Heller Court held that banning handguns for the purpose of gun control violates the Second Amendment’s core protection of the right to possess arms for self-defense, courts should find that banning speech technologies for the purpose of copyright control violates the Free Press Clause’s core protection of the right to speech technologies for self-expression.

  • right to bear arms,
  • freedom of the press,
  • copyright,
  • Second Amendment,
  • First Amendment,
  • constitutional law,
  • originalism
Publication Date
August 13, 2008
Citation Information
Edward Lee. "Guns and Speech Technologies: How the Right to Bear Arms Affects Copyright Regulations of Speech Technologies" ExpressO (2008)
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