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News of the landmark victory for free speech in cyberspace seemed to pass with much less fanfare than when the controversial Telecom Bill (of which the Communications Decency Act is a provision) was signed into law last winter. Nevertheless, last week's ruling by a special judiciary panel in Philadelphia that the "overly broad" CDA violates First Amendment rights and is therefore unconstitutional, is truly something to celebrate. The decision forced the panel to address the special nature of the medium -- the Internet was likened to "a never-ending worldwide conversation" which the U.S. government doesn't have total jurisdiction over, anyway. Now -- just as in realspace -- the government may have ways to eavesdrop, but they can't legally put someone in jail for talking. The entire decision can be reviewed at the Voters Telecommunication Watch website at http://www.vtw.org/speech/decision.html. Other sites posting the ruling (and commentary) include the ALCU (http://www.aclu.org/) and the Center for Democracy and Technology (http://cdt.org/). The Family Research Council, who has promised to keep the fight to remove pornography from the Internet going in court, has a web presence at http://frc.org/townhall/frc/press/061296.html.

Tornadoes are all the rage this summer, but the storm may have hit too close to home for William Hauptman, a local playwright and screenwriter who claims Twister is a spin-off of his own work. Hauptman told The Hollywood Reporter (May 24-26) that Twister was the result of a screenplay (based on his 1992 novel, The Storm Season, set in a fictional Texas town) he wrote four years ago, while involved in a Hollywood film deal with Steven Spielberg, one of the film's producers. The report also states that Hauptman doesn't plan on suing, even though a spokesman for Spielberg acknowledged his "association" with the initial project -- it seems natural disasters are in the public domain. (Coincidentally, local science fiction author Bruce Sterling's novel Storm Chasers set in an ecologically-ravaged Texas of the near future, just went to paperback.) If portions of the blockbuster screenplay were grifted, it's no doubt they were borrowed from an expert. Hauptman knows his tornadoes, as the cover of the latest issue of Texas Monthly will attest. The magazine features a compelling story by the self-proclaimed storm chaser, who takes readers on a historical tour of the twisters that have wreaked havoc across the Texas landscape.

This week in the film community: Austin AIVF's monthly meeting will address "The Production Team" with guests Sandra Adair, a feature film editor whose credits includeDazed and Confused and Richard Linklater's most recent (Austin-shot) film, Suburbia, based on an Eric Bogosian play. A cinematographer, a gaffer, and a sound person will be on hand to discuss the process of teamwork required in filmmaking. Monday's meeting (June 24) is at a new location, The Hang 'Em High Saloon on Sixth St., and starts at 8pm. Call 322-9707 for information... On Friday, June 23 at 8:30pm on the grounds of Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria, film collective in*situ will present the first in a weekly series of experimental shorts. The first will consist of four early shorts by Australian filmmakers Anna and Jane Campion (Sweetie, The Piano), followed by a performance by local experimental musicians Bus Ride, who have provided original accompaniment to previous in*situ screenings. The series will continue weekly until mid-August (look here for the schedule), with a break during the Fourth of July holidays. Filmgoers may want to bring a blanket on which to sit and some bug repellent, since the films are shown outside. Also, the group is extending the deadline to August 8 for the call for entries for id*entities, the super 8/video portrait compilation of id, ego, and superego, announced in this column last week. For more info call 708-1658... Austin Film Society Film Noir at the Dobie: Don't miss the final showing on Saturday (12pm) of Orson Welles' famous Touch of Evil. Wednesday (June 26, 7:30pm) brings us Sam Fuller's McCarthy-era Pick Up on South Street, a subversive noir whose plot is driven by the Red Scare. The film will be introduced by Detour Film Production's Clark Walker. AFS's Tuesday Retrospective screening (June 24, 8pm, Union Theatre) is The Constant Factor (1980), the story of a young man traveling frequently for an official Polish organization who is trapped by his mathematical philosophy of life. Directed by Polish Filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi, the film received the Palm d'Or at Cannes that year. In other AFS news, July 1 is the application deadline for Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund grants, which the Film Society is able to award for the first time this year. Application and eligibility requirements can be found in their newsletter, Persistence of Vision. To receive one, call AFS at 322-0145 or e-mail them at AustinFilm@mail.utexas.edu... The British-made documentary Heidi Fleiss, Hollywood Madam opens this week (see review in film listing section) with a local filmmaker credited as Director of Photography (DP) on the project. Paul Kloss, whose own films include Max and Scenic Overlook, has also worked with Austin Director Bob Byington on his first film, Shameless, and is currently working as DP on the director's latest project, Olympia. n

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Marc Savlov, Sept. 17, 2004

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