Tag Archives | Law

Is downloading really stealing? The ethics of digital piracy

Piracy might be theft, but it’s not the same as robbing someone of their material possessions. Josu/Flickr, CC BY

Piracy might be theft, but it’s not the same as robbing someone of their material possessions. Josu/Flickr, CC BY

Christian Barry, Australian National University

Many millions of people throughout the world will illegally download the fifth season of Game of Thrones, released today by HBO. Legally speaking, what they will be doing is a violation of intellectual property rights, or “piracy”. But will they be doing anything morally wrong?

It might seem obvious that what they will do is wrong. After all, it is illegal. But there are many things that have been illegal that people don’t think are morally wrong. Same-sex relationships, divorce and many other practices that are now widely accepted as morally acceptable were once outlawed and criminally sanctioned.

Few people think they were wrong just before they were legalised. Rather, they tend to think the laws governing these behaviours were unjust. So appeal only to the illegality of downloading doesn’t settle whether it is okay, morally speaking.… Read the rest

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Florida’s Bathroom Law

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mike LaBossiere via Talking Philosophy:

Being from Maine, I got accustomed to being asked about the cold, lobsters, moose and Stephen King. Living in Florida, I have become accustomed to being asked about why my adopted state is so insane. Most recently, I was asked about the bathroom bill making its way through the House.

The bathroom bill, officially known as HB 583, proposes that it should be a second-degree misdemeanor to “knowingly and willfully” enter a public facility restricted to members “of the other biological sex.” The bill proposes a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Some opponents of the bill contend that it is aimed at discriminating against transgender people. Some part of Florida have laws permitting people to use public facilities based on the gender they identify with rather than their biological sex.

Obviously enough, proponents of the bill are not claiming that they are motivated by a dislike of transgender people.

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Potential Arizona Bill Mandates Doctors To Tell Patients Abortions Can Be “Reversed”

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Scott Camazine/Alamy

There’s currently an abortion bill (S.B. 1318) in Arizona waiting to be signed into law by Republican Governor Doug Ducey. The bill, which made it through the House and Senate, will force doctors to tell patients that abortions can be “reversed.” Furthermore, under this bill, abortions will not be covered by the Affordable Care Act.

If Gov. Ducey signs this bill into law (he’s previously stated that he’s against abortion), doctors will essentially be forced to lie to their patients. Republican Rep. Regina Cobb of Kingman argued fiercely against the bill stating that it forced doctors to spread “non-evidence based medicine.” As Brandy Zadrozny notes at The Daily Beast, if S.B. 1318 is passed, it will not be the first law that binds doctors to relay misinformation to abortion patients:

It’s the first reversal language of its kind to make it through a state legislature, and should it become law, will join a long list of information that doctors in The Grand Canyon State are forced to relay to patients seeking an abortion—much of which providers know to be misleading and aimed less at informed consent and more at dissuading women from choosing the procedure.

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Remove the burden of family violence from the victims, to the courts

Michael D Beckwith (CC BY 2.0)

Michael D Beckwith (CC BY 2.0)

Rob Hulls, RMIT University

Family violence has finally come to attention as a systemic wrong in need of a national plan. A federal Senate Inquiry is examining it in detail and Victoria has appointed a dedicated minister for its prevention and a Royal Commission. The Queensland Special Taskforce has just handed down its comprehensive report, and a family violence prevention advocate, the incredible Rosie Batty, has been named Australian of the Year.

My team at RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice released a report today that aims to broaden this conversation. Despite increased awareness, a significant gap exists in our collective response. Yes, we need to support those who are subjected to family violence – mostly women and children – and this must remain our priority. But we must also intervene at the source of the problem.

Until we adjust the lens and bring those who use violence and coercion more clearly into view, victims will remain at risk and the cycle of this violence will simply roll on.… Read the rest

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Wikimedia Sues NSA Over Mass Surveillance

Frankfurt Am Main-Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen-Detail-Justitia von Nordwesten-20110411

Justice presides with her scale and sword at Frankfurt am Main. Photo by Roland Meinecke, licensed under a Free Art license.

One of our favorite Internet resources, Wikimedia, is suing the NSA. Here’s their statement:

Today, the Wikimedia Foundation is filing suit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the United States [1]. The lawsuit challenges the NSA’s mass surveillance program, and specifically its large-scale search and seizure of internet communications — frequently referred to as “upstream” surveillance. Our aim in filing this suit is to end this mass surveillance program in order to protect the rights of our users around the world. We are joined by eight other organizations [2] and represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The full complaint can be found here.

“We’re filing suit today on behalf of our readers and editors everywhere,” said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia.… Read the rest

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Life in Prison for Selling $20 of Weed

Torben Hansen (CC BY 2.0)

Torben Hansen (CC BY 2.0)

This is awful.

Abby Haglage via The Daily Beast:

PART I

On September 5, 2008, Fate Vincent Winslow watched a plainclothes stranger approach him. Homeless and hungry, on a dark street rife with crime, the 41-year-old African American was anxious to make contact, motivated by one singular need: food.

Another man, this one white, stood next to Winslow. He is referred to in court documents exclusively as “Perdue.”

It was nearly 9:20 p.m., hours after the sun had dipped below the abandoned buildings surrounding them. The lights of downtown Shreveport, Louisiana, flickered in the distance as the plain-clothes man—unbeknownst to them, an undercover cop—arrived.

“What do you need?” Winslow asked. “A girl and some weed,” Officer Jerry Alkire replied.

Perdue remained silent as Winslow and Alkire negotiated the costs. Winslow wanted a $5 delivery fee for the $20 (two dime bags) of pot. Fine. Money settled, he grabbed Perdue’s bike and took off.

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Canada to allow doctor-assisted suicide

Partha S. Sahana (CC BY 2.0)

Partha S. Sahana (CC BY 2.0)

Via BBC News:

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that doctors may help patients who have severe and incurable medical conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban.

In a unanimous decision, the court said the law impinged on Canadians’ rights.

The case was brought by a civil rights group on behalf of two women, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, with degenerative diseases. Both have since died.

The government now has a year to rewrite its law on assisted suicide.

If it does not, the current law will be struck down.

Assisted suicide is legal in several European countries and a few US states.

In Canada is it illegal to counsel, aid or abet a suicide, and the offence carries up to 14 years in prison.

Continue reading.

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EFF’s Game Plan for Ending Global Mass Surveillance

We have a problem when it comes to stopping mass surveillance.

The entity that’s conducting the most extreme and far-reaching surveillance against most of the world’s communications—the National Security Agency—is bound by United States law.

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That’s good news for Americans. U.S. law and the Constitution protect American citizens and legal residents from warrantless surveillance. That means we have a very strong legal case to challenge mass surveillance conducted domestically or that sweeps in Americans’ communications.

Similarly, the United States Congress is elected by American voters. That means Congressional representatives are beholden to the American people for their jobs, so public pressure from constituents can help influence future laws that might check some of the NSA’s most egregious practices.

But what about everyone else? What about the 96% of the world’s population who are citizens of other countries, living outside U.S. borders. They don’t get a vote in Congress. And current American legal protections generally only protect citizens, legal residents, or those physically located within the United States.… Read the rest

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Rapper Tiny Doo Facing Long Prison Sentence Over Lyrics

So now you can go to prison because of the lyrics of a song? In California, the answer may be “yes” reports CNN:

Song lyrics that glorify violence are hardly uncommon. But a prosecutor in California says one rapper’s violent lyrics go beyond creative license to conspiracy.

San Diego-based rapper Tiny Doo has already spent eight months in prison, and faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted under a little-known California statute that makes it illegal to benefit from gang activities.

The statute in question is California Penal Code 182.5. The code makes it a felony for anyone to participate in a criminal street gang, have knowledge that a street gang has engaged in criminal activity, or benefit from that activity.

It’s that last part — benefiting from criminal activity — that prosecutors are going after the rapper for.

Tiny Doo, whose real name is Brandon Duncan, faces nine counts of criminal street gang conspiracy because prosecutors allege he and 14 other alleged gang members increased their stature and respect following a rash of shootings in the city in 2013.

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The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake

Anyone who’s been a regular visitor to this page knows that we deplore the Pay 2 Play political system in place in the United States. Much of the blame for this must be laid at the steps of the US Supreme Court, as described in the New York Review of Books:

Five years ago this week, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided to allow unlimited amounts of corporate spending in political campaigns. How important was that decision? At the time, some said criticism of the decision was overblown, and that fears that it would give outsize influence to powerful interests were unfounded. Now, the evidence is in, and the results are devastating.

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US SupremeCourt West Facade by UpstateNYer (CC)

To coincide with the decision’s fifth anniversary, eight public interest organizations—the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Demos, U.S. PIRG, Public Campaign, Justice at Stake, and the Center for Media and Democracy—have simultaneously issued reports that demonstrate the steadily growing influence of money on elections since the Court’s decision.

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