Tag Archives: Supreme
A Chinese national flag flutters near a minaret of the ancient Id Kah Mosque in the Old City in Kashgar in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 6, 2018. Picture taken September 6, 2018. To match Special Report MUSLIMS-CAMPS/CHINA REUTERS/Thomas Peter
BEIJING (Reuters) – Intellectual property rights cases can from next month be taken to China’s Supreme Court, the government said on Saturday, as the country seeks to strengthen protections in the face of complaints from the United States about the issue.
China and the United States are currently in talks to resolve a trade dispute, in which both countries have put tariffs on imports of each other’s products.
The United States, along with the European Union, have long complained about poor enforcement of intellectual property rights in China, and this has been a key complaint of the Trump administration, along with forced technology transfers and a yawning trade gap.
Beijing in response has been seeking to show that it is serious about addressing U.S. concerns.
Deputy chief justice Luo Dongchuan told a news conference that from Jan. 1 the Supreme Court would begin handling appeals on intellectual property rights cases, whereas previously only provincial-level high courts would handle them.
“Setting up a Supreme Court intellectual property rights court is an important decision by the Communist Party, is a major step to strengthen the legal protection of intellectual property rights and will have a major impact at home and abroad.”
Luo did not directly answer a question about how the United States should view the move and what it said about China’s efforts to protect intellectual property, saying that such protection was a “basic national policy”.
“China is already the world’s second largest economy, and in the future China’s development will rely on innovation. The protection of innovation needs there to be legal protection for intellectual property rights.”
Reporting by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Jane Merriman
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this week the company will create an oversight board to help with content moderation. The move is a belated acknowledgement Zuckerberg is out of its depth when it comes to ethics and policy, and comes six months after he first floated the idea of “a Supreme Court … made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook.”
The idea is a good one. If carried out properly, a “Supreme Court” could help Facebook begin fixing the toxic stew of propaganda, racism, and hate that is poisoning so much of our political and cultural discourse.
But how would a Facebook Supreme Court actually work? Zuckerberg has offered few details beyond saying it will function something like an appeals court, and may publish some of its decisions. Meanwhile, legal scholars in the New York Times have suggested it must be be open, independent and representative of society.
As for who should sit on it, it’s easy to imagine a few essential attributes for the job: The right person should be tech savvy, familiar with law and policy, and sensitive to diversity. Based on those attributes, here are five people that Facebook should select if it is serious about creating an independent Supreme Court.
A Turkish sociologist and computer programmer, Tufekci was one of the first to raise the alarm about the moral and political dangers of social media platforms. She is a public intellectual of the internet age, using forums like the New York Times and Harvard’s Berkman Center to denounce Silicon Valley’s failure to be accountable for the discord it’s fostered. Tufecki has also taken aim at Facebook’s repeated use of “the community“—a term that is meaningless to describe 2 billion users—to defend its policies.
An iconoclast who has built several public companies, Thiel is also a lawyer who started the venture capital firm Founders Fund. A gay conservative and a supporter of Donald Trump, Thiel is deeply unpopular with Silicon Valley’s liberal elites—which is why his appointment would ensure ideological diversity on Facebook’s Supreme Court. Thiel is an early investor in Facebook and a longtime board member, which gives him a deep knowledge of the company. He would have to give up these positions to preserve the body’s independence.
Judge Lucy Koh
Koh has presided over numerous high-profile technology trials and is highly regarded in Silicon Valley. Her work as a federal judge includes the long-running patent trial between Apple and Samsung, as well as a case involving an antitrust conspiracy between Google, Adobe, and other firms. Her work on the bench and inspiring personal biography made her the subject of a flattering 2015 Bloomberg profile. Koh’s familiarity with the political and legal strategies of tech giants would provide invaluable expertise for Facebook’s Supreme Court (provided federal ethics rules permitted her to do so).
Tim Berners Lee
Sir Berners Lee is a computer science professor at Oxford University and MIT, who is best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. Highly regarded in tech circles for his humility and vast knowledge, Berners Lee in recent years has become a vocal critic of the advertiser-based business models of the Silicon Valley tech giants. Appointing him to Facebook’s Supreme Court would show the company is serious about fixing its systemic problems with privacy.
Bozoma Saint John
Saint John, who was raised in Ghana, became a familiar name in tech circles when she became Apple’s head of music marketing after the company acquired her former employer Beats. She also worked at Uber before moving to the talent agency Endeavour. Saint John’s outspoken views on Silicon Valley’s white male culture would help inform Facebook’s Supreme Court in tackling hard issues of diversity.
This article first appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.
There was an important, close, widely watched Supreme Court decision last week that could have big implications for parts of the tech industry for decades to come. No, not the 5-4 ruling allowing states to require sales tax collection from e-commerce sites in the South Dakota v. Wayfair case. (Though if that’s your bag, The Economist had a good analysis.)
Instead, it’s the 5-4 decision in Carpenter v. United States that’s also worth examining deeply.
Carpenter in this case is “Little Tim” Carpenter, who was convicted as the alleged organizer of a crime spree where a gang of crooks stole bags of brand new smartphones at gunpoint from more than half a dozen Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in and around Detroit. In 2011, Carpenter was nabbed, in part, because the police had subpoenaed records from his cellphone provider that included somewhat crude but voluminous realtime location data covering 127 days. And Carpenter was around the robbed stores at the times of the robberies, the records showed.
Typically, the Supreme Court has allowed police to collect almost any kind of information generated by third parties, such as bank records or a list of phone numbers called, with just a subpoena. It’s known as the third party doctrine. You knew the bank or the phone company was collecting that data, so you had no “reasonable expectation” of privacy. Something more like papers you kept in a locked drawer in your desk required a full search warrant, with a showing of probable cause that evidence of a crime might be found.
Maybe you can see where Chief Justice John Roberts took this analysis in Carpenter’s case. The level and amount of detail that companies are collecting about us has exploded. Where once the phone could simply tell the police who you called and for how long, now they have a precise and comprehensive map of everyplace you’ve been, not to mention every web site you visited. “This case is not about ‘using a phone’ or a person’s movement at a particular time,” Roberts wrote. “It is about a detailed chronicle of a person’s physical presence compiled every day, every moment, over several years.”
A bevy of tech companies, ranging from big players like Apple (aapl), Google (googl), and Microsoft (msft), to smaller cloud-related outfits such as Dropbox (dbx), Evernote, and Airbnb, had written a brief for the court arguing that the rules of the third party doctrine “make little sense” when applied to the new kinds of digital online data now being collected. Urging the court to rethink its view of when people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, they noted digital devices and apps unavoidably generate deeply personal data:
That made sense to Roberts and a majority of the court. New Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented, but only because he thought the majority should go even further and practically dump the whole third party doctrine. Expect more knotty conflicts over digital data privacy, not just among Supreme Court justices, but with lawmakers, regulators and law enforcers across the country.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday imposed limits on the ability of police to obtain cellphone data pinpointing the past location of criminal suspects in a major victory for digital privacy advocates and a setback for law enforcement authorities.
In the 5-4 ruling, the court said police generally need a court-approved warrant to get the data, setting a higher legal hurdle than previously existed under federal law. The court said obtaining such data without a warrant from wireless carriers, as police routinely do, amounted to an unreasonable search and seizure under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
In the ruling written by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, the court decided in favor of Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted in several armed robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Ohio and Michigan with the help of past cellphone location data that linked him to the crime scenes.
Roberts stressed that the ruling did not resolve other hot-button digital privacy fights, including whether police need warrants to access real-time cellphone location information to track criminal suspects. The ruling has no bearing on “traditional surveillance techniques” such as security cameras or on data collection for national security purposes, he added.
Roberts was joined by the court’s four liberal justices in the majority. The court’s other four conservatives dissented.
Although the ruling explicitly concerned only historical cellphone data, digital privacy advocates are hopeful it will set the tone for future cases on other emerging legal issues prompted by new technology.
“Today’s decision rightly recognizes the need to protect the highly sensitive location data from our cellphones, but it also provides a path forward for safeguarding other sensitive digital information in future cases – from our emails, smart home appliances and technology that is yet to be invented,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Nate Wessler, who represents Carpenter.
“We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information,” Roberts said.
Roberts said the ruling still allows police to avoid obtaining warrants for other types of business records. Police could also avoid obtaining warrants in emergency situations, Roberts added.
The high court endorsed the arguments made by Carpenter’s lawyers, who said that police needed “probable cause,” and therefore a warrant, to avoid a Fourth Amendment violation.
Police helped establish that Carpenter was near the scene of the robberies by securing from his cellphone carrier his past “cell site location information” that tracks which cellphone towers relay calls. His bid to suppress the evidence failed and he was convicted of six robbery counts.
The big four wireless carriers – Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, T-Mobile US Inc and Sprint Corp – receive tens of thousands of such requests annually from law enforcement.
Carpenter’s case will now return to lower courts. His conviction may not be overturned because other evidence also linked him to the crimes.
The case underscored the rising concerns among privacy advocates about the government’s ability to obtain an ever-growing amount of personal data. During arguments in the case in December, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who joined Roberts in the ruling, alluded to fears of “Big Brother,” the all-seeing leader in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, a former prosecutor, said in a dissenting opinion that the ruling could do “far more harm than good.”
The decision “guarantees a blizzard of litigation while threatening many legitimate and valuable investigative practices upon which law enforcement has rightfully come to rely,” Alito added. Alito also said the ruling does not address “some of the greatest threats to individual privacy” that may come from data collection by private companies.
It was the third ruling in recent years in which the court has resolved major cases on how criminal law applies to new technology, each time ruling against law enforcement. In 2014, it required police in most instances to obtain a warrant to search a cellphone’s contents when its user is arrested. In 2012, it decided a warrant is needed to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle.
The U.S. Justice Department argued that probable cause should not be required to obtain customer records under a 1986 federal law. Instead, it argued for a lower standard: that prosecutors show only that “reasonable grounds” exist for the records and they are “relevant and material” to an investigation.
Roberts said the government’s argument “fails to contend with the seismic shifts in digital technology that made possible the tracking of not only Carpenter’s location but also everyone else’s.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
There has been rising concern over the surveillance practices of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and whether companies like wireless carriers care about customer privacy rights.
Various tech firms, including Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, joined a brief in the Carpenter case urging the court to adopt strong privacy protections.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Masterpiece Cakeshop, which has been hailed as a victory for religious freedom–and a loss for gay rights advocacy groups–is getting some cheers from a surprising corner of the U.S.: non-religious entrepreneurs.
“While I thoroughly disapprove of [Jack] Phillips’ values, I fully respect his right to run his business in accordance with those values, just as I reserve the right for myself,” says Shel Horowitz, a marketing consultant and founder of the firm GreenAndProfitable.com. He notes that while the ruling, at face value, seems unfair to gay and lesbian patrons, the logic of the Court’s decision is solid; it similarly protects entrepreneurs who object to serving, say, openly racist clientele.
Entrepreneurs aren’t siding with Jack Phillips–the owner of the Lakewood, Colorado bakery, recently vindicated in this case–for religious reasons. Rather, some support the High Court’s decision because they simply don’t want to be told how to run their companies. That’s true even among religious founders.
“For me, I prefer to run my practice without government coercion and decide proactively to assist people from divergent perspectives, as opposed to being forced by the heavy hand of the law to do that,” says David Engelhardt, a practicing Christian and founder of his eponymous New York City law practice, Engelhardt Law.
Clearing the Path for Discrimination?
Of course, plenty of entrepreneurs are livid about the ruling, as they fear it could give businesses and other institutions the freedom to mistreat minority customers. “This case will embolden even more bigots to discriminate against us,” says J Mase III. The transgender entrepreneur is the founder of a Seattle-based talent agency called awQward, which represents around 25 musicians and artists identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ).
Rachel B. Tiven had a similar reaction. In a statement, the CEO of the LGBTQ advocate Lambda Legal, based in New York City, writes: “The Supreme Court has become an accomplice in the right’s strategy to hollow out one of its finest achievements, the right to equal marriage.”
Brittny Drye, the founder of CEO of Love, Inc., is similarly concerned that the decision will serve as a pretext for mistreatment of same-sex couples in the future. “While this isn’t a ‘defeat’ for the community, per se, it does give people an argument for not serving gay people,” Drye added. Her company, an integrated wedding site and digital magazine that serves heterosexual as well as LGBTQ couples, promotes a ‘Love List’ of vendors that support same-sex unions.
That fear may be overstated, cautions Wendy Patrick, a business ethics lecturer at San Diego State University. “The court’s limited ruling is focused on anti-religious bias against Jack Phillips, which doesn’t necessarily translate into ‘businesses can now discriminate,” she said.
The decision in the case, as Patrick alludes, has been described as “narrow,” meaning that other similar cases may not necessarily be decided along the same lines. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy insisted on Monday that the Colorado state commission had simply violated the baker’s right to religious freedom back in 2012, when it ruled against him after the couple sued. “The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here,” Justice Kennedy wrote in his slip opinion of the court (PDF.)
Narrow Focus, but Long Reach
Even so, legal observers suspect that despite the narrow focus of this decision, the issue will continue to crop up. Because the commissioner supposedly treated Phillips with ‘hostility’ in the 2012 ruling, per Justice Kennedy’s telling in the slip opinion–discrimination did not occur to begin with.
“That argument doesn’t hold water,” suggests JoLynn Markison, a partner with the international law firm Dorsey and Whitney, of the idea that Phillips merely exercised his religious freedom. “The fact of the matter is that he would sell a wedding cake to a heterosexual couple, but not to a homosexual couple and the inquiry ends there.” She adds that such an idea–which smacks of the Jim Crow-era notion of ‘Separate but Equal’–has been used to discriminate against other minorities in decades previous. “Let’s say someone has a sincerely held religious belief that black and white people shouldn’t marry. That’s discrimination,” she says, adding that it’s no different from what happened here.
Although the Supreme Court has hedged, as it were, on deciding whether Phillips’ was within his rights to deny service to the couple, the ruling could influence other high-profile cases–including Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington, in which a flower retailer refused to make a wedding arrangement for a same-sex union. “There are a number of cases that are percolating in the court system right now that involve similar questions,” notes attorney Markison. “Even though the court didn’t decide that religion trumps the right to be free from discrimination, it does send a dangerous message to society at large, who may not appreciate the rationale.”
For Mase, the transgender talent agent, the signal point here is that the Supreme Court has drawn what he calls a “false equivalence” between gay people and religious business owners. “There is an assumption that LGBTQ folks have enough capacity to discriminate on the same level, which we know is not possible just based on the numbers,” he says. “This country had sodomy laws until 2003. We cannot act as though the application of the law is the same across the board.”
I’m a baseball fan. When I lived in the Bay Area, I was a season ticket holder to the San Francisco Giants. And every baseball fan knows about Pete Rose, the preternaturally talented player who scandalized his sport when it was revealed he bet on baseball, including games involving his own team. Now, no one is contemplating allowing players or managers to bet on games in their own sport. But the Pete Rose story serves as a grim reminder of what can happen with sports gambling.
The trouble is that sports gambling is fun! The thrill of making some dough on your team just adds to the excitement of the sport. It’s also hugely profitable for business and government. So when the Supreme Court of the United States released their decision on Murphy vs. NCAA last week, the gambling-loving world rejoiced. SCOTUS determined that the 1992 federal law called Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) violated the Constitution’s anti-commandeering clause, thus striking down the law.
Mark Conrad is a professor of law and ethics at Fordham University, where he has taught in the School of Law and in the Gabelli School of Business. He’s also the director of Gabelli’s Sports Business Concentration, and is the author of The Business of Sports -; Off the Field, In the Office, On the News. Professor Conrad was kind enough to share with me some of his thoughts on this landmark decision.
1. Nothing’s Actually Changed…Yet.
The Court’s decision caused an avalanche of news and commentary, but, “At the moment, not much has changed,” says Conrad. The decision opened the door to huge change, but nothing is actually different yet. Conrad explains, “The court declared unconstitutional the Federal law that prohibits sports gambling. It did not sanction or permit sports gambling.” So what happens now? Conrad says no one really knows: “It is now up to the states, or the federal government, to decide.” Here’s where it get interesting!
2. The Devil Is in the Details.
“This story is only beginning,” says Conrad, who also has a degree from Columbia’s School of Journalism. “No state has enact a gambling scheme, although New Jersey may soon,” he says. The question is what happens next. For starters, Conrad asks, “Will states legalize it? And if so, which ones, and when?” Next comes the what. Conrad wants to know, “Will it apply to all sports or just pro sports?” And finally, the how. Conrad ponders: “What will be the license fees for companies wishing to do business in the state? Taxes? Anti-corruption measures?” The potential complexities are endless.
3. Congress May Not Be Done.
The Court may have struck down Congress’ PAPSA law, but that doesn’t mean Congress can’t still have the final word. Conrad explains, “The problem with PAPSA was it prevented states from exercising their powers. The law did not mandate a ban on sports gambling – rather, it told the states they were not allowed to enact laws ‘authorizing’ such gambling schemes.” The problem was the way this law was structured, but not the idea behind the law. In fact, Conrad says, “The decision did state that Congress has the power to enact a ban on gambling.” It’s possible Congress could throw some very cold water on all the excitement.
4. Integrity May Be an Issue…Or May Not.
The potential implications for the integrity of sport are fascinating. As with any gambling, there’s risk of corruption. Conrad recalls, “It has occurred in the past, notably in point-shaving in college sports.” But cheating isn’t a given. “In fact, the risk of corruption may decrease with a properly regulated integrity oversight,” Conrad explains. There are examples the US could look to for inspiration. Conrad says, “The UK model has worked well. The betting companies engage in analytics and metric systems to police suspicious gambling patterns and report these anomalies.” The key is not to over-regulate or over-tax it, which may push otherwise legal gambling underground.
5. This Decision Could Have Major Implications for State Versus Federal Authority.
“This is the underlying constitutional issue in this ruling,” Conrad explains. “Ultimately, it is a constitutional law case regarding state powers under the Tenth Amendment.” Here’s his plain-English explanation of the finer constitutional points: “PAPSA was problematic because it ‘commandeered’ states rights. Instead of banning sports gambling, it said could not enact laws authorizing gambling. It’s a subtle difference, but a constitutionally defective one.” This is an important decision in part of a greater shift. According to Conrad, “It continues a trend to give greater deference to state sovereignty.” It will be fascinating to watch as the complexities continue to develop.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider whether to let states force out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases in a fight potentially worth billions of dollars pitting South Dakota against e-commerce businesses.
South Dakota is asking the nine justices to overturn a 1992 Supreme Court precedent that states cannot require retailers to collect state sales taxes unless the businesses have a “physical presence” in the state.
The state, appealing a lower court decision that favored Wayfair Inc, Overstock.com Inc and Newegg Inc, is being supported by President Donald Trump’s administration.
A ruling favoring South Dakota could eventually lead to online customers paying more for many purchases.
Such a ruling could help small brick-and-mortar retailers compete with online rivals while delivering up to $ 18 billion into the coffers of the affected states, according to a 2017 federal report. The justices are due to decide the case by the end of June.
South Dakota depends more than most states on sales taxes because it is one of nine that do not have a state income tax. South Dakota projects its revenue losses because of online sales that do not collect state taxes at around $ 50 million annually, while its opponents in the case estimate it as less than half that figure.
The justices will hear the case against a backdrop of Trump’s harsh criticism of Amazon.com Inc, the dominant player in online retail, on the issue of taxes and other matters. Trump has assailed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, a newspaper that the Republican president also has disparaged.
Amazon, which is not involved in the Supreme Court case, collects sales taxes on direct purchases on its site but does not collect taxes for items sold on its platform by third-party venders, amounting to about half of total sales.
South Dakota is supported by industry groups representing major retailers that have brick-and-mortar stores, and therefore already collect state sales taxes. The National Retail Federation, which supports the state, has a membership that includes Walmart Inc and Target Corp, as well as Amazon.
E-commerce companies supporting Wayfair, Overstock and Newegg include two that provide online platforms for individuals to sell online: eBay Inc and Etsy Inc.
The 2016 South Dakota law requires out-of-state online retailers to collect sales tax if they clear $ 100,000 in sales or 200 separate transactions. The state sued a group of online retailers to force them to collect the state sales taxes, with the aim of overturning the 1992 precedent.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham
The U.S. government’s Supreme Court battle with Microsoft Corp over whether technology companies can be forced to hand over data stored overseas could be nearing its end, after federal prosecutors asked that the case be dismissed.
President Donald Trump on March 22 signed a provision into law making it clear that U.S. judges can issue warrants for such data, while giving companies an avenue to object if the request conflicts with foreign law.
“This case is now moot,” the U.S. Department of Justice said, citing the newly passed legislation, in a 16-page court filing on Friday that requested the dismissal.
The Supreme Court on Feb. 27 heard arguments in the case, which had been one of the most closely watched of the high court’s current term. Some justices urged Congress to pass a law to resolve the matter.
Microsoft and the Justice Department had been locked in a dispute over how U.S. prosecutors seek access to data held on overseas computer servers owned by American companies. The case involved Microsoft’s challenge to a domestic warrant issued by a U.S. judge for emails stored on a Microsoft server in Dublin relating to a drug-trafficking investigation.
The bipartisan new law, known as the Cloud Act, was supported by Microsoft, other major technology companies and the Trump administration. But civil liberties groups opposed it, saying it lacked sufficient privacy protections.
Microsoft, which has 100 data centers in 40 countries, was the first American company to challenge a domestic search warrant seeking data held outside the United States. The Microsoft customer whose emails were sought told the company he was based in Ireland when he signed up for his account.
A representative for Microsoft did not immediately return requests for comment on the Justice Department’s filing.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Mexican mogul Carlos Slim’s America Movil must allow competitors to use its network and infrastructure, essentially holding up aspects of the 2014 telecoms reform.
The court said the obligation imposed by the reform on America Movil, Mexico’s largest telecommunications firm, to lend interconnection services to competitors does not violate its rights.
“Because the constitutional decree itself recognized that there are certain obligations that are imposed on the preponderant economic agent, which will expire once there are conditions of real competition in the market,” it said.
The case was filed by America Movil’s Telmex unit.
A central pillar of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s reform sought to bolster competition by giving other companies free use of Slim’s network, which grew from the former state monopoly he acquired in the 1990s.
The policy was later abandoned by the government after the country’s Supreme Court ruled in August that America Movil’s interconnection rates should be set by the telecommunications regulator, not legislators.
The IFT telecommunications regulator said in November that America Movil would be able to charge rivals 0.028562 peso per minute for calls to its network as of Jan. 1. Competitors can charge 0.112799 peso per minute for mobile calls to their networks, it said.
Rival AT&T Inc calculated that for every peso cent America Movil can charge for interconnection fees, the company’s competitors in Mexico would collectively pay about $ 20 million per year.
America Movil declined to comment.
Slim holds about two-thirds of mobile phone subscriptions in Mexico.
Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Stephen Coates