While much of the Northeastern United States remains in a state of virtual paralysis, the Supreme Court has stayed open, and two very important cases went before it yesterday. Americans should be well aware of both of them. The first revolves around warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens. The second has to do with whether or not you can resell stuff that you own without the permission of the corporation that originally manufactured it. The most pathetic part of both of these cases is that they are legitimate cases to begin with, but in post 9/11 America, where the sheeple have been forced to give up their rights in order to save their rights, I suppose nothing should surprise me.
The New York Times published an excellent editorial yesterday on the first case. Here are some excerpts:
President Obama’s solicitor general, Donald Verrilli Jr., will be calling on the court to toss out the case based on a particularly cynical Catch-22: Because the wiretaps are secret and no one can say for certain that their calls have been or will be monitored, no one has standing to bring suit over the surveillance.
The measure (the 2008 amendment to FISA ) gave the government broad and unprecedented power to intercept the communications of Americans without individualized warrants based on probable cause or any administrative finding of a terrorism connection. It lowered the burden of proof for government wiretapping of suspects, weakened judicial supervision, and failed to set adequate limits on retention and dissemination of acquired information. The statute discarded traditional constitutional protections for the privacy of innocent people, and chilled the exercise of the core democratic rights of free speech and association.
Think about what you just read above. The Department of Justice claims that Americans cannot sue regarding warrantless wiretapping because they cannot prove they are being monitored. They cannot prove they are being monitored because the information is kept secret!
For some commentary on the second case, I look to the EFF (the electronic frontier foundation):
The Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & Sons Company, a case that could further undermine the “first sale doctrine.” First sale, described in section 109 of the US Copyright Act, gives people the right to resell, lend, or give away the works that they’ve bought, even if those works contain copyrighted elements.
The effects of such a dubious interpretation could be far-reaching for American consumers, and it appears several Supreme Court Justices were appropriately concerned about the implications of Wiley’s proposed geographic limit on first sale. Of course, it’s unwise to predict how the Court will decide a case based solely on comments during the oral arguments, but they can provide insight into what factors the Justices are considering. Today the Court mirrored our concerns about the right of Americans to resell the goods that they’ve legally acquired — from books to smartphones to cars — just because those goods happen to contain copyrighted materials and were manufactured overseas.
The Court also appropriately persisted in asking questions about the perverse incentive that Wiley’s interpretation would provide to manufacturers in moving their production overseas.
Let’s make sure these cases go the right way.
Full New York Times article here.
Full EFF article here.