JC Penney wins Supreme Court victory, may sacrifice employees to Cthulhu.

You knew this was coming, right?

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IRS says free software projects can't be nonprofits

In a disturbing precedent, the Yorba Foundation, which makes apps for GNU/Linux, has had its nonprofit status application rejected by the IRS because some of projects may benefit for-profit entities.

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How anti-slavery law created American corporate personhood


Jeff Reifman sez, "In light of this week's ruling that for-profit corporations should have protection for their religious beliefs, I thought I'd summarize the timeline of Supreme Court decisions that established corporate constitutional rights US law." tl;dr: most of it comes from the anti-slavery 14th Amendment.

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Law Comics: legal masterclass in webcomic form


With Law Comics, Cambridge law PhD candidate Julia Powles and illustrator Ilias Kyriazis are creating a masterclass in thorny issues of law...in webcomic form!

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Top NY Court says towns can ban fracking


This morning's ruling from New York State's highest court, holding that towns can ban fracking in city limits, is a huge setback for petrocratic rule.

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Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal


Researchers from Facebook, Cornell and UCSF published a paper describing a mass-scale experiment in which Facebook users' pages were manipulated to see if this could induce and spread certain emotional states.

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Supreme Court ruling creates urgent need for abortion clinic escorts


The Supreme Court has struck down a Massachusetts law establishing a "buffer zone" around abortion clinics, defining an area in which anti-choice protesters may not harass women who visit clinics. An important Metafilter post by Anotherpanacea points up the urgent need for more clinic escorts to help women through the gauntlet (I used to do clinic defense in Toronto's Morgantaler Clinic, which was later bombed by anti-choice terrorists).

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Lurking inside Obama's secret drone law: another secret drone law


Remember the secret memo explaining the legal justification for assassinating Americans with drones that the ACLU forced the Obama administration to release? Turns out that that memo relies on another secret memo that the Obama administration is also relying on. Obama is a no-fooling Constitutional scholar; you'd think that he'd be wise to the idea that secret law is not law at all.

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Kleargear must pay $306,750 for trashing a complaining customer's credit


The notorious online retailer Kleargear (previously) has been ordered to pay $306,750 in damages (including punitive damages) as well as legal costs to Jennifer and John Palmer. The Palmers wrote an online complaint when they didn't get their Kleargear order, only to have Kleargear send them a bill for $3500 for violating a "nondisparagement clause" in the company's terms of service; when they didn't pay it, Kleargear damaged their credit rating, which ended up sabotaging a house-purchase for the couple. Kleargear claims to be based in France, and refused to participate in the case against them.

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SF city attorney demands shutdown of parking-space-auctioning app

Monkeyparking, the app that lets assholes auction off their parking spots, has been sent a cease-and-desist letter by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who says the practice of selling your public parking spot is illegal. Monkeyparking's competition are expected to receive the same treatment soon.

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Alabama chief justice says First Amendment is only for Christians

The video of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's address to the Pastors-for-Life in Mississippi conference last January has gained recent notoriety, thanks to the judge's amazing assertion that only Christianity is entitled to First Amendment protection under US law. The top jurist bases his assertion on some rather dubious history and theology, which Kyle Whitmore carefully debunks. But it seems unlikely that a Chief Justice wouldn't know about this stuff. A fairer assumption is that he simply chooses not to notice it.

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Illinois State Cops blew $250K on "terrorist-catching" Stingray surveillance gadgets


Michael says, "New documents released on MuckRock show the Illinois State Police crying "Terrorist" in order to get funding and approval for a $250,000 Stingray cell snooping system, even though, as Mike Masnick at Techdirt notes, the technology is being used to fight regular crime. The terms of service on the device actually prevent officers from seeking a warrant to use it. MuckRock currently has a crowdfunding campaign to fund similar requests across the country."

Watch a Texas lawman's pathetic scramble for a reason not to record him

In this video, shot in April by Andrewwake58, Gray County Sheriff's Deputy Stokes tries every conceivable tactic to illegally intimidate a citizen who is peacefully recording him without interfering. Deputy Stokes invents imaginary laws, tries repeatedly to seize the camera, illegally orders the citizen to stop recording, demands identity papers without justification. When all else fairs, the Deputy declares that if the citizen journalist doesn't comply, that he can just "make stuff up" to make him stop.

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Congress passes anti-mass surveillance amendment with overwhelming support


We did it! The US House of Representatives, under pressure from a mass phone-in campaign, passed an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that prohibits the NSA from using its budget to sabotage Internet security or conduct "backdoor" mass surveillance. The amendment was passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support: 293 ayes, 123 nays, and 1 present. This isn't the end of the long project of reining in the NSA, but it's a very important first step. As a foreigner who isn't entitled to lobby Congress, I extend heartfelt thanks to all my American friends who took the time to call their lawmakers and demand adult supervision and lawful behavior from your out-of-control spies.

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California's cell-phone kill switch is a solution that's worse than the problem


As the California legislature moves to mandate "kill switches" that will allow owners of stolen phones to shut them down, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sounds an important alarm: if it's possible for someone to remotely switch off your phone such that you can't switch it back on again, even if you're physically in possession of it, that facility could be abused in lots of ways. This is a classic War on General Purpose Computation moment: the only way to make a kill-switch work is to design phones that treat their possessors as less trustworthy than a remote party sending instructions over the Internet, and as soon as the device that knows all your secrets and watches and listens to your most private moments is designed to do things that the person holding it can't override, the results won't be pretty.

There are other models for mitigating the harm from stolen phones. For example, the Cyanogen remote wipe asks the first user of the phone to initialize a password. When it is online, the device checks in with a service to see whether anyone using that password has signed a "erase yourself" command. When that happens, the phone deletes all the user-data. A thief can still wipe and sell the phone, but the user's data is safe.

Obviously, this isn't the same thing as stolen phones going dead and never working again, and won't have the same impact on theft. But the alternative is a system that allows any bad guy who can impersonate, bribe or order a cop to activate the kill-switch to do all kinds of terrible things to you, from deactivating the phones of people recording police misconduct to stalking or stealing the identities of mobile phone owners, with near-undetectable and unstoppable stealth.

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