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Thu, Dec 18, 2014

BURRISS: A good week for media, privacy in the courtroom

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All in all it was a big week at the United Sates Supreme Court for streaming video and cell phone privacy, but not so much for free speech buffer zones. I don’t recall the last time three such decisions were released at the same time.

The streaming video case involved a company that allowed Internet users to view television programs captured by the company. The company, Aereo, charged the users a fee, but didn’t pay any money for the programs it captured.

Needless to say, the people who own the copyright to the programs were more than a little upset by the company that was essentially stealing their product then reselling it to someone else.

The Court said Aereo was violating copyright laws, and ordered the case back to a lower court.

In the cell phone case, the Court said police have to get a warrant if they want to search a suspect’s cell phone. The Court said that today’s cell phones contain so much private information that police cannot simply rummage through a suspect’s phone looking for information.

The free speech buffer zone involved a Massachusetts law that mandated a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics that provide abortion services. The Court, however, said the buffer zone infringed on the free speech rights of those opposed to abortions, but that Massachusetts was free to enact other laws to prevent intimidation and harassment.

All things considered, I think it was a pretty good week for media and privacy. The buffer zone case, well, that’s another matter. The zone allowed people to be close enough to the “target” to make their point, but far enough away to allow unfettered access to the clinic.

But what may prove interesting is that there is currently another buffer zone case making its way through the courts, and this one involves a large no-speech zone around, of all places, the Supreme Court itself.

I can’t wait to see how that one plays out.

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burriss, courtroom, larry, media, privacy
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