‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ Case To Be Heard By Supreme Court

Madness.

WSJBlog:

Justices agreed to hear the appeal by the Juneau, Alaska, school board and principal Deborah Morse of a lower court ruling that allowed the student’s civil rights lawsuit to proceed. The school board hired former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr to argue its case to the high court.

The Justices had examined the appeal in this freedom-of-expression case five separate times before agreeing to hear it, according to SCOTUSblog. Kick back and have a look at the petition.

U.S. Copyright Office Cuts Into DMCA

The much-vaunted Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PDF, Wikipedia), passed in 1998, was designed to criminalize the circumvention of copyrighted material, while taking the load off ISP’s and redirecting liability to the “incriminating” individual.

Last week, on Thanksgiving Day!, the AP released this article outlining 6 exemptions written into the DMCA (EFF posted this the day before). Brief summaries of these exemptions can be read at http://www.copyright.gov/1201/. The Copyright Office meets to review the DMCA every three years, and previously approved exemptions in 2000 and in 2003, not all of which have been renewed.

Some of these exemptions reflect a loosening of some of the more constricting titles of the DMCA and most notably, fair-use and accessibility are provided with broader, less limiting definitions.

— Breaking CSS encryption to make excerpts and compilations from DVDs, especially for educational purposes, is now more likely to pass the test for fair use.

— The sight- and hearing-impaired are now allowed to break DRM-locks on eBooks to access reading tools and software.

— It is now legal to unlock cell phones!

— Circumvention is now officially permitted for the testing, researching, or correcting of security flaws from “rootkits” or other access control measures.

Ed Felten goes further into detail on the 6 exemptions in this commentary. Cory also goes more in-depth on the 6 exemptions at BoingBoing as does Karen at KSL News and Bill at PublicKnowledge.

More background: The Evil That is DMCA.

Internet Libel OK’d by Courts

UPDATE: Comprehensive coverage of blogger reaction to the Barrett v. Rosenthal decision at CJR.

Always nice to see Internet legislation shot down in the courts — in this case, the California Supreme Court ruled that allowing prosecution of name-calling and online flame wars by third parties would lead to an uncontrollable number of ridiculous lawsuits.

The L.A. Times reports:

“The prospect of blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications,” Justice Carol Corrigan wrote for the court. But, she added, immunity “serves to protect online freedom of expression and to encourage self-regulation.”

[…]

The court explained that Internet defamation law differs from that of other media.

“Book, newspaper or magazine publishers are liable for defamation on the same basis as authors,” Corrigan wrote. “Book sellers, news vendors or other ‘distributors’ … may only be held liable if they knew or had reason to know of a publication’s defamatory content.”

Congress “chose to protect even the most active Internet publishers, those who take an aggressive role in republishing third-party content,” she wrote.

[…]

She said the threat of liability also would reduce the flow of ideas on the Internet. “The volume and range of Internet communications make the ‘heckler’s veto’ a real threat,” Corrigan said.

The defendant, Ilene Rosenthal of the Humantics Foundation, blogs here. The case was brought by the erstwhile thugs known as the Quackbusters.

Here is EFF’s FAQ on Online Defamation.

Wikipedia entry on the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

* Discussion @ /.