This article originally appeared in the 10.15.15 issue of Metroland
Buried under all the hoo-hah about the debates and Lamar
Odom was a significant court ruling regarding basic freedom that came out of a federal
appeals court Tuesday in Philadelphia. The decision in the case Hassan v. City of New York over-ruled
the dismissal of a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department over its
surveillance program targeting Muslims.
allegations made by the plaintiffs are absolutely chilling: the systematic
gathering and cataloging of information about Muslims, Muslim organizations and
mosques; the undercover infiltration of civic organizations, schools
businesses, and religious groups; and video surveillance of mosques and
businesses. All of this information was
compiled in massive databases and analyzed and countless secret reports were
generated. And this program didn’t
target dangerous or suspect individuals or groups. It just targeted Muslims.
press reports that no arrests ever resulted from all this skulking around. None.
The trial court judge, a hack politico
appointed by W in 2002, ruled, rather remarkably, that (a) the plaintiffs (all
people and groups that had been spied on) couldn’t show any “cognizable
injury-in-fact” and (b) the claim of religious discrimination failed because
“[t]he more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate
budding terrorist conspiracies.” Oh really?
The appeals court made mincemeat of
both the trial judge’s and the City’s absurd arguments. In an incredible, epic, and scholarly almost 60-page
decision (that will probably be included in law school courses on Consitutional Law),
the Court ruled that the allegations, if proven, make out clear violations of
the plaintiffs’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause as well as the First
Amendment. The decision closed with:
What occurs here in one guise is not new.
We have been down similar roads before. Jewish-Americans during the Red Scare,
African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and Japanese-Americans
during World War II are examples that readily spring to mind. We are left to
wonder why we cannot see with foresight what we see so clearly with
hindsight—that “loyalty is a matter of the heart and mind, not race, creed,
on. You might recall earlier columns
about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade deal, years in the
making, that’s been negotiated in secret by government officials in “industry
representatives.” How Congress gave
Obama “fast track authority”, which means Congress can only give the entire
treaty a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, with no ability to reject individual
parts. Well, apparently, the negotiation
is over and the treaty is done. But we
still haven’t seen it, because… well, just because. We’re supposed to be allowed to see it soon,
but meantime, the good folk at Wikileaks have released something that is supposed to be the intellectual property part of the deal. And it’s awful.
TTP requires all countries to adopt the absurdly long copyright term of life of
the author plus 70 years. That at a time
when most scholars and many in government are contemplating shorter terms,
because 100+ years for a copyright really can’t be justified with any rational
argument, and it has frozen the public domain in place for the at least the last 40
years, and will continue to freeze it for the foreseeable future. And speaking of the public domain, that’s relegated
to the plaudit section of the treaty, something governments should “consider,”
but no mandatory measures. The same goes
for fair use. Instead, the treaty calls
for more copyright enforcement, stricter digital rights management
(technological ways to keep people from accessing or copying things), and
higher penalties for infringement. Even
worse, the treaty mandates that Internet Service Providers, like your cable
company, have the obligation to enforce copyright laws, that is, to bust their
own customers for infringing activity.
pretty sickening, and it’s only a small part of the much larger treaty, that
reportedly includes huge gimmies to Big Pharma, including things like special
new patent protections for “biologics” and forcing third world countries to
fully enforce pharmacological patents.
In other words, to keep medical drugs so expensive that people in many
countries won’t be able to afford them.
And so they die.
last week, Hillary, feeling the Bern, came out against TPP, which means the two
Democratic front-runners both oppose the treaty. The Republicans are either too busy with
Jeebus or fake freedoms to pay much attention, and besides, they’ve all been
bought off by the treaties proponents. I’m
thinking it will take a SOPA-like public uprising to kill this bastard
thing. Let’s do it.
Paul C. Rapp is a local
IP attorney who hates long walks on the beach and candlelit dinners and pina
coladas. He prefers bourbon and Kinky