Amicus to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Netflix v Babin
STATEMENT OF INTEREST OF AMICI CURIAE
This brief is filed on behalf of the Texas Association of Broadcasters, Texas Press Association, Texas Tribune, Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, The American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Inc., The Authors Guild, The Cato Institute, The Center for Investigative Reporting, First Amendment Foundation, Inc., Fox Television Stations, LLC, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Freedom to Read Foundation, The Institute for Policy Innovation, International Center for Law & Economics, The Media Coalition Foundation, The Media Institute, The Media Law Resource Center, Motion Picture Association, Inc., National Coalition Against Censorship, National Press Photographers Association, News/Media Alliance, Penguin Random House LLC, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Tully Center for Free Speech (collectively, “Amici”). As organizations that defend and advocate for First Amendment rights, Amici respectfully submit this brief in support of Plaintiff-Appellee to raise critical free speech issues implicated by this case. Amici share concerns over the bad-faith prosecution employed by the District Attorney and will highlight (1) why federal courts should be available to expeditiously halt unjustified prosecutions and vindicate fundamental First Amendment rights and (2) how allowing the prosecution to proceed could chill a diverse range of speech.
Texas Association of Broadcasters is a non-profit association that represents more than 1,300 television and radio stations in Texas with a tradition of community-oriented, free, over-the-air broadcasting. The Texas Association of Broadcasters was founded in 1953 and performs numerous services on behalf of its members, including advocating legislation relating to and affecting radio and television broadcasters and defending open government, as well as publishing guidebooks on various legal issues, including access to public information.
Texas Press Association (“TPA”) is a non-profit industry association representing nearly 400 daily and weekly newspapers in Texas, each of which upholds a strong tradition of journalistic integrity and community service. TPA, founded more than 130 years ago, performs numerous services on behalf of its members, including advocating legislation relating to free speech and press and taking legal action to protect the First Amendment and open government.
The Texas Tribune is an all-digital, member-supported nonprofit and nonpartisan news organization that covers state government in Texas. Founded in 2009, the Tribune provides its stories for free to the public and for other news organizations to republish, also for free.
Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas is a nonprofit organization that works to encourage a greater appreciation, knowledge and understanding of the First Amendment and helps to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public. Since its formation in 1978, the Foundation has helped citizens access government meetings and documents. The non-partisan Foundation acts as a statewide information clearinghouse and offers guidance and assistance on FOI-related issues through a network of attorneys and through public seminars and conferences.
The American Booksellers for Free Expression (“ABFE”) is the free speech initiative of the American Booksellers Association (“ABA”). ABA was founded in 1900 and is a national not-for-profit trade organization that works to help independently owned bookstores grow and succeed. ABA represents 2,178 bookstore companies operating in 2,593 locations. ABA’s core members are key participants in their communities’ local economy and culture. To assist them, ABA provides education, information dissemination, business products, and services; creates relevant programs; and engages in public policy, industry, and local first advocacy.
The Association of American Publishers, Inc. (“AAP”), a not-for-profit organization, represents the leading book, journal, and education publishers in the United States on matters of law and policy, advocating for outcomes that incentivize the publication of creative expression, professional content, and learning solutions. AAP’s members range from major commercial book and journal publishers to small, non-profit, university, and scholarly presses, as well as leading publishers of educational materials and digital learning platforms. AAP’s members publish a substantial portion of the general, educational, and religious books produced in the United States, including critically acclaimed, award-winning literature for adults, young adults, and children. AAP represents an industry whose very existence depends on the free exercise of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. AAP’s board companies are listed at https://publishers.org/who-we-are/our-board. Its full member roster is listed at https://publishers.org/who-we-are/our-members.
The Authors Guild was founded in 1912, and is a national non-profit association of more than 13,000 professional, published writers of all genres. The Guild counts historians, biographers, academicians, journalists, poets, translators, and other writers of non-fiction and fiction as members. The Guild works to promote the rights and professional interest of authors in various areas, including copyright, fighting censorship, and taxation. Many Guild members earn their livelihoods through their writing. Their work covers important issues in history, biography, science, politics, medicine, business, and other areas; they are frequent contributors to the most influential and well-respected publications in every field. One of the Authors Guild’s primary areas of advocacy is to protect the free expression rights of authors.
The Cato Institute was established in 1977 as a nonpartisan public policy research foundation dedicated to advancing the principles of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government. Cato’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies was established in 1989 to promote the principles of limited constitutional government that are the foundation of liberty. Toward those ends, Cato publishes books and studies, conducts conferences, and issues the annual Cato Supreme Court Review.
The Center for Investigative Reporting (d/b/a Reveal), founded in 1977, is the nation’s oldest nonprofit investigative newsroom. Reveal produces investigative journalism for its website https://www.revealnews.org, the Reveal national public radio show that airs on 600+ radio stations, and various documentary projects. Reveal often works in collaboration with other newsrooms across the country.
First Amendment Foundation, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, non-profit organization created to ensure government openness and transparency by providing education and training, monitoring open records and meetings laws, and assisting citizens and journalists in obtaining access to government information and proceedings. Amicus has a strong interest in this proceeding because it, and the citizens and journalists it supports, all routinely exercise their First Amendment rights by promoting and engaging in speech on matters of public concern that must be free from the chilling fear of prosecution.
Fox Television Stations, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fox Corporation, owns and operates 29 full-power broadcast television stations in the U.S., including stations located in 14 of the top 15 largest markets, and duopolies in the three largest markets (New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago). In addition to distributing sports, entertainment, and syndicated content, our television stations collectively produce approximately 1,200 hours of local news every week.
Freedom of the Press Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping support and defend public-interest journalism. Freedom of the Press Foundation advocates for transparency and accountability in an effort to preserve the rights guaranteed to the press under the First Amendment and strengthen the public’s right to know. As part of that mission, the organization has served as amicus curiae in cases addressing First Amendment issues raised by emerging technologies and government surveillance in the federal courts.
Freedom to Read Foundation is an organization established by members of the American Library Association to promote and defend First Amendment rights, foster libraries as institutions that fulfill the promise of the First Amendment, support the rights of libraries to include in their collections and make available to the public any work they may legally acquire, establish legal precedent for the freedom to read of all citizens, protect the public against efforts to suppress or censor speech, and support the right of libraries to collect and individuals to access information that reflects the diverse voices of a community so that every individual can see themselves reflected in the library’s materials and resources.
The Institute for Policy Innovation (“IPI”) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public policy research institute founded in 1987 to propose solutions to public policy problems based on the principles of individual liberty, constitutional governance, free markets and limited government. First Amendment speech issues fall within the scope of the public policy issues IPI includes in its issue portfolio.
International Center for Law & Economics (“ICLE”) is a nonprofit academic research organization that promotes governance rooted in the rule of law and the development of economically grounded policies that promote consumer welfare. ICLE scholars have studied and written extensively on the law and economics of the First Amendment and free expression.
The Media Coalition Foundation, Inc. monitors potential threats to free expression, and engages in litigation and education to protect free speech rights, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
The Media Institute is a nonprofit foundation specializing in communications policy issues. The Institute exists to foster three goals: freedom of speech, a competitive media and communications industry, and excellence in journalism. The Media Institute is one of the country’s leading organizations focusing on the First Amendment and speech-related issues.
The Media Law Resource Center (“MLRC”) is a non-profit association which supports media lawyers and media companies in legal matters. It counts as members some 125 media companies, including the largest print, broadcast and digital entities in the United States, as well as over 200 law firms which work in the media law space. The MLRC puts on conferences on media law issues, distributes daily, monthly and quarterly publications, presents webinars on timely legal and journalistic topics, and gets involved in policy initiatives, generally in support of First Amendment rights and free expression.
Motion Picture Association, Inc. (“MPA”) is a not-for-profit trade association founded in 1922. The MPA serves as the voice and advocate of the film and television industry, advancing the business and art of storytelling, protecting the creative and artistic freedoms of storytellers, and supporting the creative ecosystem that brings entertainment and inspiration to audiences worldwide.
National Coalition Against Censorship (“NCAC”) is an alliance of 59 national non-profit literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups that are united in their commitment to freedom of expression. NCAC works to protect the First Amendment rights of artists, authors, students, readers, and the general public. Since its founding, it has had a special interest in supporting artistic expression that is threatened with suppression because of its sexual content. The views presented in this brief are those of NCAC and do not necessarily represent the views of each of its participating organizations.
National Press Photographers Association (“NPPA”) is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism in its creation, editing, and distribution. NPPA’s members include video and still photographers, editors, students, and representatives of businesses that serve the visual journalism community. Since its founding in 1946, the NPPA has been the Voice of Visual Journalists, vigorously promoting the constitutional and intellectual property rights of journalists as well as freedom of the press in all its forms, especially as it relates to visual journalism.
The News/Media Alliance represents news and media publishers, including nearly 2,000 diverse news and magazine publishers in the United States—from the largest news publishers and international outlets to hyperlocal news sources, from digital-only and digital-first to print news. Alliance members account for nearly 90% of the daily newspaper’s circulation in the United States. Since 2022, the Alliance is also the industry association for magazine media. It represents the interests of close to 100 magazine media companies with more than 500 individual magazine brands, on topics that include news, culture, sports, lifestyle and virtually every other interest, avocation or pastime enjoyed by Americans. The Alliance diligently advocates for news organizations and magazine publishers on issues that affect them today.
Penguin Random House LLC publishes adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction in print and digital trade book form in the U.S. The Penguin Random House global family of companies employ more than 10,000 people across almost 250 editorially and creatively independent imprints and publishing houses that collectively publish more than 15,000 new titles annually. Its publishing lists include more than 60 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors, among whom are many investigative journalists covering domestic politics, the justice system, business and international affairs.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is an unincorporated nonprofit association. The Reporters Committee was founded by leading journalists and media lawyers in 1970 when the nation’s news media faced an unprecedented wave of government subpoenas forcing reporters to name confidential sources. Today, its attorneys provide pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists.
The Tully Center for Free Speech began in Fall, 2006, at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, one of the nation’s premier schools of mass communications.
This case is about a good law employed in bad faith to punish constitutionally protected speech. Netflix has faced two misguided prosecutions and five indictments under Tex. Penal Code §§ 43.262 and 43.25 for its distribution of Cuties, an award-winning film that addresses important societal issues such as the influence of social media and cultural heritage. As shown by extensive delays, a lack of probable cause, dubious motives, and selective use of evidence, the District Attorney prosecuted Netflix in bad faith and deprived it of an immediate remedy in state court. Thus, this is the rare case where it is appropriate for federal courts to fulfill their duty to protect
constitutional rights, including those under the First Amendment, and put an end to an unjustified state prosecution.
Cuties is a French film that tells the story of an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant, Amy, torn between her family’s conservative culture and the more progressive French society. It explores the challenges of childhood and the pressures of the rapidly rising influence of social media. Amy’s experience, which is shared by girls and boys throughout the world, serves as a reminder of the struggles of adolescence, especially in modern times, and has sparked many productive conversations among adults and children alike.
Amici acknowledge the critical importance of enforcing child pornography statutes. But rather than foster the goal of protecting minors from harm, the continued criminal prosecution of Netflix would result not only in censorship of significant issues of public concern about children and uncomfortable truths that are discussed in the film, but also broader chilling effects on protected speech. Without the ability to seek redress for baseless prosecutions in federal court, critical constitutional rights would be curbed, and a vast array of speech would be chilled for fear of being similarly prosecuted. This Court should thus affirm the District Court’s well-reasoned decision vindicating Netflix’s First Amendment rights and, by extension, those of others who wish to speak on controversial topics of public interest.
 Pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 29(a)(4), Amici certify that counsel for Amici authored this brief in whole; that no counsel for a party authored this brief in any respect; and that no person or entity, other than amicus and its counsel, contributed monetarily to this brief’s preparation or submission.
 All internet citations in this brief were last visited June 7, 2023.
 Soon after being charged under § 43.262, the statute was held unconstitutional. See Ex parte Lowry, 639 S.W.3d 151, 169 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2021, pet. granted).
 Cuties received the “Directing Award” at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020 and the “Best First Film” and “Best Female Newcomer” awards at the César Film Festival in France, among others. ROA.1537.