Free Speech

Twitter for us is like a parliament, but not the kind of parliament that exists in this region. It’s a true parliament, where people from all political sides meet and speak freely.

– Faisal Abdullah, a Saudi Arabian lawyer, explaining to the New York Times how Twitter has created a revolution of sorts in his country.

We’ve mentioned the proposed changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule before, which are currently under consideration by the FTC. The changes to COPPA, as it’s known for short, would require sites that collect personal information from children to secure written parental consent first. On first glance, it seems like a slam dunk: why wouldn’t we want to protect children’s privacy, and maybe put a dent in the absurd amount of tracking that constantly happens whenever anyone goes online?

Oh right, I forgot one little detail: free speech!

Facebook is protesting parts of the rule, because the company says it would restrict the free speech of pre-teens who want to “like” articles online. Because heaven forbid children who technically aren’t even supposed to use Facebook have to voice approval in a manner that doesn’t involve clicking a little blue thumbs-up button….

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I had packed up my things and was about to turn off the light. That’s when the phone rang here at the Circumcision Law Desk. The shrill tone of the ring sounded more urgent than usual. I put down my box of Pulitzers and picked up the receiver.

“Hell-” “You’ve gotta write quick, Mister! Gawker ran a story on circumcision and it’s crazy!” I replied that I was too old for this game. Tracking down every circumcision tip had left me a hollow shell of a man. But the kid was insistent. “What about the babies???” Now you listen here, you sniveling punk, I said. I was never in it for the babies. Heck, I never could figure out just what I thought about circumcision. Mutilation, health, hygiene, aesthetics. The whole racket made my head spin. And that’s when the young punk said something that set me on my present course.

“There might be a lawsuit. Some Jews are crazy-mad about a new regulation passed by the City of New York and they’re threatening all kinds of holy hell over it. It’s not that New York is outlawing circumcision. It’s not about that. It’s that… well, it’s that some of these Jewish folks do something.” Out with it! “I can’t… I don’t wanna say… It’s that these Jewish fellas, some of them… Well…”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Circumcision, Anti-Semitism, And You (Part Deux)”

There are some great perks to working for Google, a company pushing the boundaries of technology. But there’s also a downside to being at the bleeding edge of innovation: some countries might try to hold you back… with handcuffs. This week, police in Sao Paolo detained Brazilian Google chief Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, releasing him only after he promised to appear in court over YouTube videos that violate Brazilian election laws. A judge ordered that the videos in question, which say nasty things about a mayoral candidate, be taken down; Google ignored the order, likely hoping to export American free speech values abroad. Coelho is now in the Brazilian doghouse for the crime of “disobedience.”

The ploy worked. Google caved shortly after Coelho was released.

Google likes to argue that it’s not responsible for the content that its users post, but that argument doesn’t always fly abroad. This is not the first time a Google exec has wound up in trouble over a YouTube posting disliked by local authorities. Three execs became convicts in Italy thanks to a 2006 incident.

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Scalia v. Posner meets Mean Girls

* Someone was finally able to liken the Scalia v. Posner debate to a suitable situation: bitchy mean girls fighting each other in a middle school cafeteria. Seriously, only the inclusion of “like” throughout the entirety of the dialogue could’ve made it better. [lawprofblawg]

* Who pays your law professors’ salary? The obvious answer is law students, since professorial wallets are padded by tuition dollars. But what happens when IBR comes into play and loan debts are forgiven? Then the answer shifts to the taxpayers. [PrawfsBlawg]

* When Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers died, everyone was expecting that a lawsuit would be filed, but no one really thought that it would be one based on contract law. [New York Law and Legal Analysis Blog]

* What kind of case “really turn[s] on” everyone’s favorite First Amendment lawyer? Free speech cases that are riddled with challenges, of course, and questions about what does and doesn’t constitute porn. [Vegas Inc]

* You must be wondering where Above the Law fell on this ranking of the 15 Most Influential Law Blogs. We won’t give it away, but let’s just say that we now share something in common with Cooley. [Business Insider]

* “[S]ome dude with the munchies is getting a little legal education.” That’s what we thought when one of our top searches last week was “pictures of tacos” — and not even “duck tacos,” but regular ones. [Search Party]

Welcome to the Matrix, err, 7th grade…

After what feels like years of schools trying to regulate every aspect of children’s social media lives, it looks as though we may have finally hit a threshold. There may actually be an electronic bridge that schools cannot cross in their attempts to spy on educate underage students.

In a particularly egregious case, a Minnesota federal court handed down a ruling that protects off-campus speech and prohibits schools from forcing students to hand over private login information. The ruling will hopefully put the kibosh on a practice that never should have been acceptable to begin with…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Federal Court Rules: ‘We Don’t Need No Facebook Control; Hey Teacher, Leave Them Kids Alone!’”

Stripping is supposed to be a lucrative profession — just look at all of the law students racing to the poles in the hopes of obtaining gainful employment. And in some states, bumping and grinding on stage while wearing six-inch lucite heels is even considered an artful expression worthy of protection under the First Amendment. Unfortunately, two lawsuits in New York and Texas threaten to sabotage the erotic striptease entertainment that we’ve all come to know and love.

New York’s highest court is currently considering whether an adult club is entitled to a sales tax exemption for lap dances under the theory that they qualify as “dramatic or musical arts performances.” Meanwhile, in the Lone Star state, a plaintiff in a federal class action suit claims that strippers are misclassified as independent contractors and being forced to live on tips alone.

Now that we’ve greased the pole, let’s get ready for a feature performance from both of these suits….

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* “Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, and Nietzsche (figuratively) walk into the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Hilarity ensues.” [FindLaw]

* The EPA gets benchslapped by the D.C. Circuit. [Instapundit]

* What can law firms learn from… the Cheesecake Factory? Besides how to make people fat; Biglaw’s already great at that. [Adam Smith, Esq.]

* If you enjoy gambling or legal hypotheticals, check this out. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Professor Eugene Volokh examines the tricky tension between constitutionally protected speech and laws against blackmail. [Volokh Conspiracy]

Professor Ann Althouse

* Professor Howard Wasserman grades Representative Todd Akin’s apology for his “legitimate rape” remarks — and gives the congressman partial credit for “owning” it. [PrawfsBlawg]

* Meanwhile, Professor Ann Althouse wonders: “Would the Democrats oust one of their own because he said one thing wrong?” [Althouse]

* Don’t forget: tonight is the nomination deadline for our Lawyerly Lairs contest for the best law firm offices in America. [Above the Law]

* Our commenting platform, Disqus, is having issues — which may explain why comments are mysteriously disappearing from the site. We apologize for the problem, which we are investigating. [Disqus]

Sydney Spies

Remember Sydney Spies, the teenage dream from Colorado who fought valiantly to get her provocative pictures featured in her high school yearbook, all in the name of free expression? Despite the threat of a lawsuit and national media coverage, all of Spies’s racy photos were rejected — but she was able to earn a spot in Americans’ hearts (and spankbanks) around the country.

The young Hollywood hopeful landed a small role in an upcoming SyFy movie, and her mother, Denise “Miki” Spies, was preparing to ship her daughter out to Los Angeles in the hopes of her making it big. Why not throw one last bash to celebrate Sydney’s single success in stardom? And that’s apparently where all the trouble began for this mother and daughter duo.

Little did Sydney and Miki know that their alleged exploits at the party would someday be able to serve as the basis for a Lifetime movie. The pair could face jail time for allegedly serving alcohol to minors — but at least they’re back in the headlines. (And this underage drinking drama could earn Sydney another line on her iMDB profile, so she’s probably patting herself on the back.)

Let’s discuss the charges that the Spies are currently facing, and all of the allegations that make them appear to be quite the hot messes….

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The threat of getting sued for libel or defamation has always hung over the heads of media professionals, now particularly so in the blogging era. The truth is always the clearest, simplest defense when faced with libel claims. But there are other, less direct avenues one can pursue as a defense, if need be.

A lawsuit recently dismissed against Gizmodo shows off one of the more commonly overlooked ways to bolster a defense against defamation. Let’s just say there’s often a reason bloggers like to include all those hyperlinks…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Anal-Retentive Hyperlinking Helps Gizmodo Sidestep Defamation Suit”

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