Saturday, May 07, 2005

Via Lawrence Lessig, good news where free speech is concerned.

In California, a state appeals court ruled in Ampex Corp. v. Cargle that Ampex is obligated to pay for the legal fees Scott Cargle incurred during a previous case with the company. The history here is unusually complicated, but the gist is that after Cargle was laid off from Ampex in 2000, he anonymously posted comments critical of Ampex in an on-line chatroom. In essence Ampex then sued for defamation and lost. However, when Cargle then sued Ampex to recoup his legal fees, a lower court found against him. The decision today overturned that ruling, and rightly so: protecting the content of speech isn't enough. The prospect of legal fees alone can deter someone from exercising their right to free speech.

Meanwhile, in a much more publicized case, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC overreached with its "broadcast flag" regulation. More specifically, the Court ruled that the FCC lacks the authority to regulate television sets "not engaged in the process of receiving a transmission." (Since the flags are meant to protect against digital piracy, the technology behind them had to be available after a digital broadcast occurred.)

If it seems like the Court was just splitting hairs here, imagine if the FCC was able to control how you used your stereo simply because it had a radio, or how you used your computer monitor simply because it also had a broadcast feed. Would you really want our current administration to have that right?


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