The Unabomber Strikes Again: An Investigation into Whether the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 Violates the First Amendment or Conflicts with the Copyright Act of 1976 – Note by Michael B. Norman

From Volume 81, Number 6 (September 2008)

Over a decade after being arrested in a western Montana cabin, Theodore Kaczynski is once again grabbing headlines. Although he is currently in a federal maximum-security prison serving the life sentence that he received for committing the Unabomber crimes, Kaczynski is now engaged “in a legal battle with the federal government and a group of his victims over the future of [his] handwritten papers.” The government has proposed selling “sanitized versions of the materials” via an Internet auction in order to raise money for a group of his victims, and Kaczynski is fighting that plan.

At issue, largely, is the extent of the government’s power under the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 (“VWPA”) and further, what the government may do with the property it seized from Kaczynski. This property includes his “handwritten . . . journals, diaries and drafts of his anti-technology manifesto . . . [which] contain blunt assessments of 16 mail bombings from 1978 to 1995 that killed 3 people and injured 28, as well as his musings on the suffering of victims and their families.” Moreover, due to its unique set of facts, Kaczynski’s case also provides an intriguing opportunity to evaluate whether the VWPA violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or conflicts with the Copyright Act of 1976 (“Copyright Act”), and to explore the fascinating interplay between these two areas of law, both of which provide protection for individuals’ free expression.



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