Free speech roundup

  • Supreme Court’s sleeper case of the term, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, may greatly toughen First Amendment scrutiny of many laws [Adam Liptak, New York Times]
  • Authorities to press charges against Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly, arrested last year in a McDonald’s during Ferguson protests [Newsweek]
  • Having said obnoxious things is grounds for exclusion from Canada. Right? [CTV] Related musings about speech that affronts us [Ken at Popehat]
  • In case paralleling issues in SBA List v. Driehaus, Massachusetts high court strikes down false-campaign-speech law that enabled incumbent to inflict legal woe on critics; state’s attorney general comes off poorly in account [Ilya Shapiro and Gabriel Latner/Cato]
  • Court strikes down of Idaho ag-gag law, and Prof. Volokh notes some parallels to Planned Parenthood covert filming battle;
  • Update: city of Inglewood, Calif. not faring well in effort to use copyright law to keep a critic from putting video clips of its council proceedings on YouTube [Adam Steinbaugh, earlier]
  • Denver digs itself deeper in charges over leafleting by jury nullification activists [Jacob Sullum, earlier]

“How Singer Won the Sewing Machine War”

The “Sewing Machine War” originated from legal combats amid one of the first “patent thickets,” while a pioneering 1856 patent pool ended it. “As licensing fees dropped from $25 per machine (almost half the total price) to $5 about a decade after the pool went into effect; dozens of new manufacturers entered the industry.” [Smithsonian, earlier; related discussion, Adam Mossoff, 2009; Robert Merges, 2015]

A culture war that allows no concessions

Hey, Denver city councilors: nixing an airport concession to punish Chick-fil-A for its politics is a blatant First Amendment violation [Jonathan Adler, Denver Post; earlier on mayors-vs.-Chick-fil-A here, here (diversity of views within ACLU), here, etc., and my writing elsewhere] In Board of Commissioners, Wabaunsee County v. Umbehr (1996), the Supreme Court found that under the First Amendment, while some balancing tests and exceptions are applicable, the government is not broadly free to withhold business from independent contractors based on disapproval of those contractors’ speech on issues of public concern. Note also the more recent round in which Boston and New York City officials vowed retaliation against Donald Trump after controversial remarks.

Ninth Circuit raps prosecutors’ use of press clip

Was the L.A. Times’s reporting manipulated in hopes of helping federal prosecutors win a case? If so, the effort sure backfired [Ken at Popehat, with commentary on the “too-cozy too-credulous relationship between law enforcement and the press”] And from the Fifth Circuit, also on prosecutorial misconduct: “The online anonymous postings, whether the product of lone wolf commenters or an informal propaganda campaign, gave the prosecution a tool for public castigation of the defendants that it could not have used against them otherwise, and in so doing deprived them of a fair trial.” [ABA Journal]

One small banker’s warning

Small banks and other regulated businesses now live at the permission of arbitrary regulators in a legal system that no longer protects individual rights. That’s the message of a letter sent to shareholders earlier this year by Frank H. Hamlin III, CEO of the small Canandaigua National Bank in upstate New York. In particular, Hamlin cites the way the office of New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has pushed around two other upstate banks (not his) on ill-defined redlining charges based on doing too much of their lending in the suburbs. I write about it in a new post at Cato at Liberty.

The piece is a sidebar from a much longer piece I wrote on Schneiderman’s record in the Summer issue of City Journal, newly online. I’ll have more to say next week about other parts of that article.

“Court: Leaving Baby in Car for 10 Minutes May Not Be Abuse”

“New Jersey officials were wrong to label a mother a child abuser for leaving her sleeping baby in an unattended locked car for 10 minutes while she went shopping in a nearby store, the state‚Äôs highest court ruled on Thursday.” Not only does she deserve a hearing before being put on the child abuse registry, said a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court, but such a hearing should not find neglect unless her conduct is found to have placed the child in “imminent risk of harm.” [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog; earlier here and here]

Happy Birthday To Me…

If one of my family members chooses to sing the familiar “Happy Birthday To You” in celebration of my birthday today, their chances of prevailing against the tenacious lawyers at Warner Music Group appear better than ever. Law librarians helped by laying hands on a copy of a 1922 songbook in which the ditty, already by then decades old, appeared with no copyright notice; Warner/Chappell applied for copyright registration in 1935. [Above the Law, ABA Journal, BoingBoing, Joe Mullin/ArsTechnica]

Thank goodness this sort of thing doesn’t happen in politics or the media

“The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that BNY Mellon has agreed to pay $14.8 million to settle charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by providing valuable student internships to family members of foreign government officials affiliated with a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund.” [SEC press release, WSJ] The SEC said at least three offspring from influential families lacked “the requisite academic or professional credentials” for the internships and proved to be “less than exemplary employees.” [Business Insider] While publicly shaming the bank, the commission did not see fit to name the foreign country involved. Similar probes on intern hiring have been aimed at other big financial institutions including J.P. Morgan, accused of hiring the children of Chinese officials [Reuters]