So, it was a banner day for the legal process here in the States. Our Supreme Court managed to tell everyone in the world that, in the most uncertain terms, they’re pretty sure that, maybe, file sharing is bad, unless you meet an “intent” test, after which you might be sued. Ernest Miller has a good round up and opinion. What the Court didn’t manage to do was draw the line from the famous Sony decision up through, say, 1990, so that computers can find a place in that ruling.
Further missing the point, the Court also handed down a mind-bogglingly stupid decision on line sharing for cable providers. You know, like DSL is forced to do. Oh, and if you think the Grokster decision was scary, this one will make you crap your pants. Brand X basically allows the FCC to control all internet protocols via cable by classifying any and all communications as either telecommunication service or information service. By classifying cable modems and the internet service they provide as an information service, the FCC retains control over any protocol used via cable modem. All. Of. Them. IM, email, http, ftp, gopher, telnet… they all now fall under the control and regulation of the FCC. Happy dreams.
In yet another ruling (non-tech related but just as ass-backwards as the rest), the Court legitimized all of our fears that the court system only works for those with the money to help themselves by stating that local law enforcement cannot be sued in Federal court for failing to protect people with restraining orders. This quote, from the NY Times, says it all: “Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to police enforcement of the court order against her husband, the court said in a 7-2 opinion.” Brilliant, that should make all the battered wives and threatened families feel much better. Why didn’t they just make restraining orders illegal and get it over with?
And just to round out the day by stepping on someone else, the Court refused to rule on whether reporters can use anonymous sources for stories. Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine will face up to 18 months in prison for contempt of court charges stemming from a twisty path around WMDs, Iraq, and CIA operative. Robert Novak, who coughed up Valerie Plame as a CIA spook, walked.