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OpenMarket: Law and Constitution

  • The ADA Meets Cyberspace

    November 1, 2006
    BNA is covering the recent district court ruling that Target can be sued if its website is inaccessible to the blind:
    In this class action suit—brought by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)—the Court rejected Target's argument that only physical stores were covered by anti-discrimination laws, ruling instead that certain aspects of Target's virtual space—target.com— are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California state law. NFB and University of California Berkeley blind student Bruce Sexton brought the lawsuit, contending that Target's website violates the ADA as well as California anti-discrimination laws by failing to include, among other things, “alt-text”—which screen readers use to vocalize a description of an image to a blind computer user. The plaintiffs allege that...
  • Taking Tobacco to Court

    November 1, 2006
    In case you missed it, the Supremes are tackling a major tobacco/tort reform liability case this week. AP's Mark Sherman has the story:
    The Supreme Court grappled Tuesday with whether to allow a $79.5 million verdict against a cigarette company, a case that business groups are pointing to in asking the justices to clamp down on large damage awards. Mayola Williams was in the crowded courtroom to hear the justices discuss the judgment that an Oregon jury imposed against Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA in connection with the death of her husband, Jesse. A two-pack-a-day smoker of Marlboros for 45 years, Jesse Williams died of lung cancer nine years ago. Mayola Williams followed through on a promise she said she made to her husband and sued Philip Morris, which makes Marlboros,...
  • Turning Free Speech Upside Down

    October 31, 2006
    Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” A similar principle is rooted in the First Amendment, which generally prohibits the government from forcing people to pay for speech with which they disagree. Federal law nevertheless permits states to impose “agency shop” arrangements under which every employee in a unionized workplace, even though not a union member, must pay to the union, as a condition of employment, a compulsory service charge equal in amount to union dues. The Supreme Court rejected non-union employees' challenges to such coerced charges on freedom of association grounds in Railway Employees v. Hanson (1956). But it softened that harsh result by ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), that such compelled charges cannot be used over an...
  • The U.S. Secretary of Shady Land Deals

    October 30, 2006
    Judith Burns of Dow Jones' MarketWatch reports on the latest shareholder activism from our friends Steve Milloy and Tom Borelli over at the Free Enterprise Action Fund:
    Goldman [Sachs'] donation of 680,000 acres of remote Chilean forest in 2004 continues to chafe the pro-business Free Enterprise Action Fund, which says the gift hasn't benefited Chile or Goldman shareholders. Fund managers, who raised concerns about the deal at Goldman's 2006 meeting, petitioned the Wall Street investment bank on Friday to have its board review the gift next year as part of a broader study of Goldman's "sustainability" projects. […] Goldman's decision to donate the land to a preservation group appears "...
  • Decoy Files on P2P Sites Become Ad Vehicles

    October 18, 2006
    From The Wall Street Journal, via \. The unusual alliance demonstrates a new tack being taken by the music industry to deal with the challenge posed by widespread music piracy. For years, the industry has been suing individual downloaders and file-sharing services, hoping to discourage the practice. In a tactic little known outside the music industry, record labels have also started to hire outside companies to plant "decoy," or fake, files on the sites. (One such company, ArtistDirect Inc.'s MediaDefender, says it has deployed decoys for as many as 30 of the top 100 Billboard songs at any given time.) The decoy files frustrate users because they fail to download even though, thanks to the...
  • Race-Based Student Assignments

    October 16, 2006
    In a case pending before the Supreme Court, the Seattle School District argues that it should be allowed to use race when assigning students to schools. It argues that its decision to use race should receive deference because it knows better than the courts how to run a school system. CEI filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the school district shouldn't get any special deference. Our brief points out that the Seattle Schools have made wacky statements, such as claiming that planning ahead is acting white, that “individualism” is a form of “cultural racism,” and that minorities cannot be racist. These statements undercut the school district's claim that it has special insight into race-related educational issues to which the courts should defer. When the government seeks to treat people differently based on their race...
  • Assessing the Content of Google's Character

    October 10, 2006
    To continue the Google-YouTube discussion begun by Peter, take a look at what some /. folks are saying about Google's potential exposure to copyright infringement lawsuits. YouTube, of course, has already signed deals with some very large content companies, and more of the same can be expected now that they've got Google's corporate clout (and cash) on their side. It only takes one company with a valid copyright claim, however, to seriously gum up the works. Hopefully the today's content creators will realize (as our own Jamie Plummer had explained) that the best path to protecting their rights...
  • Free Government Cash: Mixed News From Germany

    October 6, 2006

    It seems that German welfare queens have been enraging their hard working fellow citizens by driving expensive cars while on the dole. The Christinan Democrats in parliament, however, have come up with a solution - force those receiving benefits to sell their cars (above a certain value) in order to contribute to their own upkeep. The plan has been thwarted in the past, but appears to be moving forward.

    On the minus side of the ledger, German attorney Jens Lorek is encouraging citizens who believe they've been abducted by aliens to...

  • Lockyer: SUVs Don't Kill People, Car Companies Kill People

    September 21, 2006
    California's attorney general has sued carmakers DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Ford and subsidiaries of Honda, Nissan and Toyota for global warming impacts on the state. Interesting that the state isn't trying to hold individual car owners — the ones who actually drive and produce the emissions at issue — liable for the alleged damage. This suit seems rather reminiscent of the lawsuits first filed by U.S. cities against gun manufacturers in the late 1990s. Critics at the time pointed out, of course, that it's the people who actually shoot the guns who should be held liable for any damage caused by them. Congress was sufficiently alarmed by the prospects, however, to pass the...
  • Liberty stands up to Spitzer

    September 14, 2006
    Sometimes — but not often -- some companies hang in there if they're convinced they are right. That seems to be the case with Liberty Mutual Insurance, which is standing up to — can it be — New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer, as we know, has brought CEOs and boards of Fortune 100 companies to their knees to grovel. They have begged to sign huge settlements, thrown respected company executives to the jackals at Justice, and whispered non-“mea culpas” to the media, only to see their stock prices plummet or their companies left in threads. Now, Liberty Mutual, “...

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