« August 2007 | Main | October 2007 »

September 06, 2007

Patriot Act gag struck down


A federal judge yesterday struck down the parts of the recently revised USA Patriot Act that authorized the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use informal secret demands called national security letters to compel companies to provide customer records.

The law allowed the F.B.I. not only to force communications companies, including telephone and Internet providers, to turn over the records without court authorization, but also to forbid the companies to tell the customers or anyone else what they had done. Under the law, enacted last year, the ability of the courts to review challenges to the ban on disclosures was quite limited.

The judge, Victor Marrero of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, ruled that the measure violated the First Amendment and the separation of powers guarantee.

The decision won't strike down the provisions immediately ... the judge expects an appeal by the Justice Dept., although there was no immediate confirmation of one by a DOJ spokesperson.

More by AP, Washington Post [registration needed] ... and ALA.

The Times pinpoint some judicious language by the federal judge in this ruling:

“When the judiciary lowers its guard on the Constitution, it opens the door to far-reaching invasions of privacy,” Judge Marrero wrote, pointing to discredited Supreme Court decisions endorsing the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and racially segregated railroad cars in the 19th century.

“The only thing left of the judiciary’s function for those Americans in that experience,” he wrote, “was a symbolic act: to sing a requiem and lower the flag on the Bill of Rights.”

September 05, 2007

New copyright news

After two years of law school, I am finally taking Copyright Law. And while I'm deep in the basics (what is copyrightable? What is a "Writing"? What is an idea and how do you separate it from expression?), I hope that at the end of the semester, I'll be able to read opinions like Golan v. Gonzales and form my own thoughts of the meaning (and meaningfulness) of such cases.

In the meantime, however, I point you to the reactions of Larry Lessig, William Patry and Carlos Ovalle.

And there is the added irony of lacking the time to keep up with copyright news ... in order to study copyright. I just found out that the Greenberg v. Nat'l. Geographic case is being reopen and heard en banc ... (for those who pay no attention to such things, cases that go to the federal appellate level are heard by a panel of 3 judges ... after a decision has been reached, the losing side may petition for rehearing by the "full court". If the full court denies an en banc hearing, then the appellant may appeal to the Supreme Court.)

I wrote about one of the Nat'l Geo. cases earlier that was supported by many in the library community (4 of 5 major lib. orgs sided with NG in amici curaie briefs), and there were further updates that I missed ... so these are very muddy waters ... and it's hard to tell if there will be significant clarification when the full 11th Circuit wades in ...