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Corporations Now Have a Right To "Personal Privacy" 371

Posted by kdawson
from the wait-till-ai's-become-legal-persons dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Thanks to a recent ruling (PDF) by the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, corporations now have a right to 'personal privacy,' due to the application of a carelessly worded definition in the Freedom of Information Act. FOIA exempts disclosure of certain records, but only if it 'could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.' But in its definitions, FOIA makes the mistake of broadly defining 'person' to include legal entities, like corporations. The FCC didn't think that 'personal privacy' could apply to a corporation, so they ignored AT&T's claim that releasing data from an investigation into how AT&T was overcharging certain customers would violate the corporation's privacy. The Third Circuit thought that the FCC's actions were contrary to what the law actually says. So now the FCC has to jump through more hoops to show that releasing data on their investigation into AT&T's overcharging is 'warranted' within the meaning of 5 USC 552(b)(7)(c) before it can release anything."
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Corporations Now Have a Right To "Personal Privacy"

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  • by danaris (525051) <danaris @ m ac.com> on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:08AM (#29617013) Homepage

    Seriously. Can anyone with a legal background explain what part of corporate daily business requires that corporations be legally considered equivalent to people?

    If there's nothing truly fundamental that requires it, I think it might be time to start writing letters to our representatives and senators asking that corporate personhood be revoked, or at least replaced with something much more watered-down. It's really starting to go too far...

    Dan Aris

    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:10AM (#29617033) Homepage Journal
      While this "loophole" seems bad on the surface, maybe it isn't. If corporations are considered people, perhaps we can start locking them up/shutting them down when they are breaking the law... you know... just like everyone else.
      • by Killer Orca (1373645) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:23AM (#29617221)

        While this "loophole" seems bad on the surface, maybe it isn't. If corporations are considered people, perhaps we can start locking them up/shutting them down when they are breaking the law... you know... just like everyone else.

        I agree with you, but you and the mods are being a little too idealistic; that would never, ever happen.

        • by sjames (1099) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:37AM (#29617443) Homepage

          So you're saying corporations are the new nobility? (not that I'm disagreeing with you). In a country that forbids the very concept of a nobility? Perhaps we should look to French history for guidance in the proper handling of nobility!

          • by Daimanta (1140543) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:46AM (#29617585) Journal

            "Perhaps we should look to French history for guidance in the proper handling of nobility!"

            With a massive reign of terror?

            • by Sporkinum (655143) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:00AM (#29617753)

              Well....duh.

            • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:30AM (#29618157)

              With a massive reign of terror?

              More specifically, terrorizing overpaid CEOs [cnn.com] and executive boards with the guillotine.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Mr. Slippery (47854)

              With a massive reign of terror?

              This "nobility" has given us a military-industrial complex that has killed millions, a prison-industrial complex that has deprived millions of their freedom, a medical-industrial complex that leaves thousands to die because giving them the treatment they paid for isn't profitable enough, and an agriculture-industrial complex that produces poor quality food while destroying the land and the water.

              I hope for a peaceful solution, but if a "reign of terror" is the only way to ch

          • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:28AM (#29618115)

            So you're saying corporations are the new nobility? (not that I'm disagreeing with you). In a country that forbids the very concept of a nobility? Perhaps we should look to French history for guidance in the proper handling of nobility!

            That's rather a good way of thinking about it. All the rights of commoners, plus some, and none of the responsibilities. They have ear of the government -- their concerns weigh upon the state much more than the riff-raff. If a company is threatened, it claims how its employees would suffer were it sanctioned, just as a nobleman might cite his responsibilities to his peasants. And of course, most of the money.

        • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:43AM (#29618341) Journal
          Here's a good place to start: AMENDMENT __: "The enumerated rights and privileges apply only to individuals." QED no more free speech, privacy, or other rights would apply to corporations. The individuals inside the corporation would still have rights, but not the corporation itself, which make it easier to regulate it, audit it, and restrain its power.
          • To get there, you need an act of Congress, whose members are highly susceptible to lobbying by corporations. This has to be addressed by the Supreme Court, the same body who screwed this up a century ago. Thanks to Obama's recent appointment to the Court, this question is actually being raised [wsj.com], and there's at least one other Justice inclined to agree with her. Of course, they're still in the minority but it's unclear how the rest of them think, and even a strong minority opinion on this issue could be he

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              Or you could just have the 50 State governors meet together, propose the amendment, and then submit it to their state legislatures for ratification. You can bypass the Congress completely.

      • by rocker_wannabe (673157) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:42AM (#29617511)

        Corporations are fined when they are caught breaking the law because, so far, that's all the courts can do. Please explain how anyone can "lockup" a corporation and I'll be the first support it. The whole idea of incorporating is to AVOID personal responsibility. If someone could hold the CEO, or anyone in the company, personally responsible for the actions of a corporation then the whole concept of a corporation becomes mostly useless.

        • by Dog-Cow (21281) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:03AM (#29617787)

          You can "lock up" a corporation by disallowing it to do any business that results in a profit.

          Not that it's necessarily a good idea.

          I think the best thing to do would be to simply identify the people responsible for the actual illegal activities and kill them. Or whatever is appropriate as punishment.

          The idea of a (limited liability) corporation started to protect the private assets of the corporation owners. And that's where it should have ended.

          When a CEO authorizes expenditures for illegal activities, the CEO shouldn't be absolved. Instead he should be charged with theft (of corporate money) on top of the illegal activity he authorized. The idea that he should go free instead is so completely backwards that it tells you who really runs things in this country.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sumdumass (711423)

            A lot of what you say can and does happen right now. States and federal agencies as well as courts can ban or bar companies from doing business in their jurisdiction. When illegal activity does happen, they do attempt to find who actually did the act and bring them to the full accountability under the law. The problem is that a lot of times, the only way to track who did what is by examining the accounting and internal documentation of a company and by interviewing employees. If the person knows their actio

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Chyeld (713439)

          Dissolution (you no longer exist as a company, your holdings fall to your 'estate', either the stock holders or financers) and removal of freedom (such as blocking the ability to do business) are the first to come to mind. I'm fairly certain that anyone with a wit of imagination could come up with approrpiate translations for other punishments that are applied in criminal cases.

        • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:23AM (#29618069)

          Corporations are fined when they are caught breaking the law because, so far, that's all the courts can do. Please explain how anyone can "lockup" a corporation and I'll be the first support it. The whole idea of incorporating is to AVOID personal responsibility. If someone could hold the CEO, or anyone in the company, personally responsible for the actions of a corporation then the whole concept of a corporation becomes mostly useless.

          Well exactly. We want to incarcerate the corporation, not the employees. Yes, corporations exist to avoid personal responsibility for the investors, and to some extent for other interested parties. That doesn't mean the corporation itself is not responsible for its actions.

          So how do we incarcerate a criminal corp? Incarcerating a person means taking away their freedom of movement, their ability to hold an outside job, their ability to see friends and family at their convenience or do most voluntary activities. We'd have to find a corporate equivalent, like making the company do "prison work" at "prison pay". It could be prevented from all sorts of activities that a "free" corporation could do, like hiring, firing, making deals and purchases without court permission. Obviously these are just top-of-the-head suggestions, and the subject warrants more thought than this.

          Now one could argue that this would cripple the corporation and also potentially harm the employees and shareholders, but that's the whole point. That's what happens when we lock up a person. He's not able to hold a job to support his family, potentially causing them financial distress. And his family is probably just as innocent as Joe punchclock. But we lock up natural persons even though it has an adverse effect on their family, community and friends, so one can hardly argue that corps couldn't be treated the same way. When a person commits a crime, we consider that worthy of punishment, even though punishing them may affect the innocent. It's the price of justice, I guess.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Several people pointed out that you can "lock up" a corporation by dissolution/stopping if from doing business. This is unworkable for two reasons.

            Firstly, if a corporation couldn't make a profit anymore then it would "un-incorporate" and possibly a new corporation with a different name and the same people would pop up. I have heard of this happening for smaller limited-liability corporations that specialized in government bid projects and were banned from bidding. They just started over with a new name.

            • by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot&gmail,com> on Friday October 02, 2009 @01:17PM (#29619565) Homepage Journal

              Firstly, if a corporation couldn't make a profit anymore then it would "un-incorporate" and possibly a new corporation with a different name and the same people would pop up.

              I don't see any reason we couldn't specifically disallow this from happening when a corporation is being punished. Make it so anyone director level or above *cannot* create or join a new corporation until their "sentence" is served. If they are on multiple company's boards they would have to either give up the position or become a silent director until the sentence is finished or commuted. Considering there are natural humans in jail right now for *life* for nothing other than possession of marijuana, I don't think this could be considered "too harsh".

              Don't do the crime if you can't do the time & all that.

            • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday October 02, 2009 @01:23PM (#29619653)

              Firstly, if a corporation couldn't make a profit anymore then it would "un-incorporate" and possibly a new corporation with a different name and the same people would pop up. I have heard of this happening for smaller limited-liability corporations that specialized in government bid projects and were banned from bidding. They just started over with a new name. The government, local, state or federal, is so bureaucratically constrained that this seems to work most of the time.

              I've been thinking about this for a little while now. When I read the story in Wired about people disappearing and trying to start a new life (and the accompanying "find the author" contest), I got to wondering why a person who'd screwed up couldn't just "re-incorporate" themselves and move on. Apparently, it's because our identity is inextricably linked to our physical body, not just our name. If we go to jail, our body is kept there. If we try to evade out debts by changing our name, our creditors will try to track down our body and still try to collect their "pound of flesh" from it.

              A corporation can get away with these things because it doesn't have a physical body. Its body is its capitalization. So "jailing" a company would mean restricting the movement of its capital, i.e. its accounts, assets, patent portfolio, land, plant, etc. Locking up a company would therefore look like "nationalizing" it. Shareholders could go right ahead and invest in a new company, but without their old capital.

              This thought is a work in progress.

        • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:53AM (#29618469) Homepage Journal

          you can't "lockup" a corporation, but there is the corporate death penalty.

          When was the last time you heard someone say we should revoke a corporate charter? With the bad corporate actors we have out there why isn't there more talk of this?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          What freedoms does a flesh-and-blood person lose when they are incarcerated?

          Well, they lose the freedom of freedom to move around -- you could simulate this with a corporation by forbidding them from moving their facilities or starting new ones, or preventing them from making changes to their business plans in areas related to the crime that got them incarcerated.
          They lose the freedom to make decisions about what actions they can take -- make the corporation get approval from a neutral party (the corporatio

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        I've always advocated that since corporations are "persons" they should be subjected to the death penalty. Jack In The Box knowingly sells undercooked hamburgers with e-coli that kills children (real world example, it happened), it's found guilty of negligent manslaughter and all stock is transferred to the victims' families and other heirs. Sony is convicted of rooting its customers' computers (a felony), death sentence - all Sony stock is divided between the victims.

        You'd have a lot more law abiding corpo

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dare nMc (468959)

          all Sony stock is divided between the victims.

          You do realize Sony stock (as with all NYSE/NASDAQ stocks) is held by lots and lots of people who have little to no say so or knowledge of they day to day activities, and very little disposable income, and thus many would lose a significant part of their retirement/savings/whatever. If it were to become common for some action of middle management to be able to transfer that kind of wealth, then the stock markets would be closed in short order. Business would go back to soley serving the rich (granted not

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mcgrew (92797) *

            You do realize Sony stock (as with all NYSE/NASDAQ stocks) is held by lots and lots of people who have little to no say so or knowledge of they day to day activities, and very little disposable income, and thus many would lose a significant part of their retirement/savings/whatever.

            If this were law thay'd be forced to pay a little more attention to what kind of people run the corporation they were thinking about buying stock in, now wouldn't they? If the CEO of Acme Rockets was the former CEO of CornCorn, w

    • by Alien Being (18488) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:14AM (#29617073)

      "I think it might be time to start writing letters to our representatives..."

      The irony is that they won't listen to you unless you send corporate lobbyists with bags of money.

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Protecting the liability of employees/owners in the case of lawsuit, misconduct or fraud.

      It has some merit, but really, its gone way to far in recent years.

      • by danaris (525051)

        Protecting the liability of employees/owners in the case of lawsuit, misconduct or fraud.

        It has some merit, but really, its gone way to far in recent years.

        My understanding was that this is the purpose of corporations. It, too, as you say, has gone too far lately, but my question was about the purpose of corporate personhood.

        Unless I'm misunderstanding you?

        Dan Aris

    • I concur. The whole corpocratic oligarchy mess stems from giving corporations rights which should be reserved for actual people. Giving "rights" to entities like corporations, but without them having the same restrictions and motivations as an actual human being (like reason, conscience, morality and guilt) is the source of the biggest issues facing us since the later 20th century: the corporations are now in control of our government, our institutions and our resources. They have all this power but no real responsibility behind it.

      They care only about one thing: making the most profit for their shareholders as possible. They will do anything, including killing people and destroying the planet, to achieve this goal. They are the ultimate parasite.

      • by melikamp (631205) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:54AM (#29617695) Homepage Journal

        All successful corps use reason. Many successful people have only trace amounts of conscience, morality and guilt.

      • by Dog-Cow (21281) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:10AM (#29617893)

        Corporations do not care one whit for the shareholders. This is a gross misconception I see repeated here often.

        "Corporations", this is: the Board of Directors, only cares about increasing the wealth of the Board of Directors.

        Most shareholders have little or no say in what the corporation does, thanks to the invention of non-voting stock.

      • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:25AM (#29618085) Homepage Journal

        You're missing a really big item on your list (no reason, conscience, morality, and guilt)... corporations don't have the restriction of *death.* When people amass huge amounts of power at the very least they are going to die someday and that power will dissipate. Corporations are essentially immortal. Remember that scene in the Highlander when he shows his girlfriend all those priceless artifacts? It's the same idea.

        Corporations should not be treated like people because they don't operate under the same constraints as people. As a matter of fact the lack of accountability that the Limited Liability Corporation structure gives individuals is a great enabler of evil. People do things behind the shield of the corporate structure they would NEVER do otherwise. We need to go back to the founding father's concept of corporations and move away to what it morphed into during the 1800s big railway era.

      • the corporations are now in control of our government, our institutions and our resources. They have all this power but no real responsibility behind it.

        Yes, but it's worse than that - corporations are extensions of government. Only the government grant of existence, immunity, and immortality enables a corporation. Without government, we just have partnerships.

        So, you have tentacles of government controlling government, especially regarding how those tentacles are operated, but with massive bleed-over i

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nomadic (141991)
      Can anyone with a legal background explain what part of corporate daily business requires that corporations be legally considered equivalent to people?

      Entering into contracts and owning, buying and selling services and property.
      • by schon (31600) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:38AM (#29617461)

        Entering into contracts and owning, buying and selling services and property.

        Why do they need to be the equivalent of people for that?

        Why not codify the law to say that corporations or people can do those things, rather than saying that corporations are people?

        • by corbettw (214229)

          So you're suggesting we jettison several centuries worth of law, change entire volumes of published legal precedent and laws, so we can basically the same situation we already do? What would we gain from that?

          The problem isn't that corporations are considered "persons" in some already narrow definitions, it's that a particularly poorly written law granted personal protection to a corporation when none may not be needed (I haven't looked too closely at this law, this may all be much ado about nothing).

      • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:46AM (#29617587) Journal

        Not to mention to shield investors from losing everything they own if the corporation fails ("corporate veil"). Without that proviso, our entire economic system would collapse (which I'll grant some people wouldn't have a problem with because they don't understand what life would be like then).

        • by DM9290 (797337) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:09AM (#29617875) Journal

          The entire economic system is already collapsing. Or haven't you noticed?

          And why would shareholders lose everything they own if the corporation fails? That's an incredibly false dichotomy. Not every failing corporation fails so spectacularly that every investor will necessarily lose everything they own simply for holding a single share. But then again, people would be more willing to trust corporations if the investors were investing their LIVES into the endevour. Investors who absolutely wanted to insure that the corporation worked legally, economically and didn't harm anyone in a way to create a liability, because if would be their own heads the sword falls on if they do wrong. Just like people.

          These laws shielding investors simply spread the hurt to everyone else in the economy. Its not like the hurt vanishes. Why should innocent bistanders have to pay for the mistakes of investors?

          Investors would still be willing to invest in corporations managed by people who they truly trusted as moral and legal representatives of the power that their money gives them. Business leaders would then actually deserve the title for the first time in hundreds of years. Corporations would begin to behave like true members of the community who care about others. i would still invest in some way, just not as detached from the process or the consequences.

          Money is power. And with power must come responsibility or the inevitable result is power that answers to nobody and cares about nobody. You can call that prosperity if want. But it sounds more like tyranny. And that is what every corporation wants to be: a tyrant.

        • Without that proviso, our entire economic system would collapse (which I'll grant some people wouldn't have a problem with because they don't understand what life would be like then).

          Well, *I* don't have a problem with the collapse of our economic system because I've been stockpiling guns, ammo, fuel, canned food, farming supplies, women, and gold in my baseme^Wbunker compound.

          Not really. But some of those kooks do exist, and some of them even post on slashdot.

          Hell, I actually like my comparative chances

      • by sjames (1099)

        Those require the existence of a legal entity but do not imply any other rights of personhood.

    • This has nothing to do with what is required, but simply needs a single unscrupulous bill writer and the pack of useless morons in Congress to work. The people voting on our laws don't even read them, so provisions like this can be slipped in fairly easily.
    • by pyrr (1170465)

      It is to disentangle the personal affairs of the principals from the business and to create a tidy framework for the business to be owned by multiple people but still be treated as a single entity under the law for taxation and other purposes. It was rather messy if a principal died or had to transfer his interests in the business, and it was all tied directly to him. Corporations are legal fictions that allow these commonplace issues to be resolved and the business to continue operating. As another poster

    • by Twylite (234238)

      They're not equivalent to natural people.

      In society we need certain entities that are able to exist independently of their creators & stakeholders, to continue their existence beyond the lifetimes of the original creators/stakeholders, and to limit the liability of the creators/stakeholders to the investment made. Without such entities no private endeavour could manage more wealth than could be accumulated by a relatively small number of trusting partners. This would make just about any capital intens

    • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:11AM (#29617899)

      Seriously. Can anyone with a legal background explain what part of corporate daily business requires that corporations be legally considered equivalent to people?

      Because if Corporations didn't have First Amendment rights, Richard Nixon could have shut down the New York Times for publishing the Pentagon Papers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times_Co._v._United_States [wikipedia.org]). Similarly, organizations like the ACLU, NOW, NARAL, NRL, NRA, ... (remember, most political advocacy organizations are incorporated) would be subject to restrictions on what they could say or publish in furtherance of their causes. The whole debate over the "7 deadly words" and FCC regulation of TV/radio would be a moot point if the corporations that hold those licenses had no legal right to any expression.

      In the case of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dartmouth_College_v._Woodward [wikipedia.org]) the legislature of NH decided that they have the right to unilaterally rewrite the charter of Dartmouth college and appoint their own trustees to manage it. Again, if the corporation had right to a binding contract, there would be no impediment to the fairly naked power grab attempted there. The power grab was even more blatant in Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts v. Town of Pawlet (http://supreme.justia.com/us/29/480/ [justia.com]), in which the Town basically tried to seize land from an unpopular missionary group on the grounds that corporations have no right to property. Again, if corporations have no right, their property could just be taken with no compensation.

      IMO, the protection of the rights of corporations is little more than protection of the right of individuals when they want to accomplish something larger than they can do by themselves. If you and I wanted to start a nerdrage business on the internet (nevermind the lack of a serious way to make profits), we should be able to do so and retain the rights that we do as individuals. The fact that you and I are cooperating on the matter does not detract from the fact that we still have those rights.

      I'm tempted to quote soylent green here -- Corporations are made of PEOPLE.

      • by divisionbyzero (300681) on Friday October 02, 2009 @12:53PM (#29619229)

        So basically people were lazy. Instead of explicitly enumerating the rights and responsibilities of corporations they said, "Uh, let's just treat them like people." Lame. Not surprising but still lame. We should just right an explicit list of corporate rights and responsibilities instead of relying on piecemeal case law.

      • by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot&gmail,com> on Friday October 02, 2009 @12:56PM (#29619271) Homepage Journal

        That's fine. They just need to be held responsible when they break the law, in a similar fashion to natural people. If you are stupid rich & speed everywhere & just pay the tickets & thumb your nose at the law, eventually you are going to have your right to drive taken away completely regardless of how much money you have. Something similar needs to happen to corporations that constantly bend & break laws. Sometimes a fine can *never* be an appropriate punishment, especially in cases where the CEOs & Directors get paid regardless of what actually happens in the company.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by plopez (54068)

      Check out this debate:
      http://www.treesandthings.com/story/2009/9/17/125739/636 [treesandthings.com]

      Corporations were given status of people in the 1800s with huge unintended consequences. And begs some interesting questions including free speech.

      And taking it to extremes do they have the right to:

      Keep and bear arms? Arm all their employees?

      Freedom of religion? Would they be able to have symbol of that religion imposed on all US locations of their business? Have their employees follow some of the strictures of that religion, e.g

  • by InlawBiker (1124825) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:09AM (#29617023)
    Nice work. Just so you know, when the revolution comes you'll be first against the wall.
    • by Absolut187 (816431) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:21AM (#29617185) Homepage

      I knew someone would try to blame lawyers.
      This the result of a federal law passed by the US Congress.
      If you don't like it, VOTE FOR SMARTER CONGRESSPEOPLE.
      Bitching about "lawyers" isn't going to change anything.

      • by HogGeek (456673) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:34AM (#29617411)

        "VOTE FOR SMARTER CONGRESSPEOPLE"

        In order to vote for them, they need to actually run for the office...

      • by dbet (1607261) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:42AM (#29617525)

        VOTE FOR SMARTER CONGRESSPEOPLE.

        Smart people are smart enough to avoid public service. Congress, jury duty, etc. Sad but true.

        • by HogGeek (456673)

          Apparently we have a different definition of "smart". If one was truly smart, they would realize the (social) benefit(s) of public office, jury duty,...

          I would postulate that most don't because of "selfish" issues in most cases, and possible history (e.g.; They have done something they don't want public, and it will be found).

          I believe, the only "fix" is to return "public service" back to actually being public - Abolish "Professional Politicians"

          • by HogGeek (456673)

            I wanted to add:

            If you are not willing to participate in society, then you have no grounds to complain about it...

        • Jury duty? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by danaris (525051) <danaris @ m ac.com> on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:03AM (#29617795) Homepage

          I consider myself reasonably smart, and I wouldn't mind serving on a jury.

          Only problem is, from everything I've seen and heard, my intelligence, basic working knowledge of the legal system, inquisitive mind, and sense of justice would result in me getting removed in the first round of jury selection.

          Dan Aris

      • If you don't like it, VOTE FOR SMARTER CONGRESSPEOPLE.

        I can't be only one who is tired of this advice.

        At what point do people admit that they can push the button on the machine all they want but it won't make it actually DO anything? The mechanism is broken. At this point its only function is to pacify us and make us think we have some vestige of control when we know in our hearts that we have none. Voting has become the great national corporate Suggestion Box where people ask to be treated with respec

      • Right... because all the lawyers in office (most popular profession of politicians), making laws, and doing nothing about the litigious bullshit that makes America look like an episode of Maury/Springer, and taking money from large lawyer-infested lobbies, using exploits of law to harass good people....

        wait a minute what the hell am I talking about? lawyers or politicians? both?! ah shit... I just can't tell them apart anymore.

        It's ok, though. I don't blame the oversupply of lawyers for the ugliness of

  • by the_raptor (652941) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:13AM (#29617063)

    At the rate this idiocy is going it won't be long until directors of failed corporations get charged with manslaughter or murder....

    • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:15AM (#29617095) Homepage Journal

      At the rate this idiocy is going it won't be long until directors of failed corporations get charged with manslaughter or murder

      The way corporations are run, maybe they should.

    • by iamhigh (1252742)

      At the rate this idiocy is going it won't be long until directors of failed corporations get charged with manslaughter or murder....

      Don't count on that... the main purpose of a corporation is to protect the shareholders and employees. And they have a lot of money, too.

    • by bhima (46039) *

      I'd love to see public canings for malfeasance and misconduct.

    • At the rate this idiocy is going it won't be long until directors of failed corporations get charged with manslaughter or murder....

      That won't happen thanks to the duality of corporate personhood: corporations get the rights of the person yet no 'person' exists in the corporation to be held accountable.

      It is for lack of personal responsibility/accountability that corporations carry out wrongs with no regret.

      Remove personhood or establish responsibility and we'll see some good come out of it. I'd like to see a few CEOs held responsible for the evils they control. In reality, nothing in the US will change unless the people who are real

  • "The Third Circuit thought that the FCC's actions were contrary to what the law actually says".

    Can we do this for the Commerce Clause [wikipedia.org]?

    • You're going to have to elaborate for us non-lawyers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        IANAL, but to sum up, the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution grants the US government the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. In practice, it has been used to regulate things that go well beyond its original intent, such as non-navigable waterways and homegrown (non-commercial, intra-state) marijuana.

        In the words of Clarence Thomas, "If Congress can regulate this [homegrown marijuana] under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything - and the federal Government is no
    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:30AM (#29617349)

      In theory, yes. The Legislative branch writes laws with no hints towards how they should be interpreted. The Executive branch arrests people or otherwise enforces those laws based on its own interpretation. The Judicial branch reviews and decides if the Executive's actions are correct based on the wording of the law.

      In practice, Judicial branch depends on prior decisions and sometimes other hints, as well as their own intelligence, when deciding what a law means.

      It makes sense that only lawyers should write legislation, because they would be familiar with the legalese (jargon which is relatively specific compared to its usage in ordinary contexts). In practice, any joker good at winning popularity contests can write a law, summarize it to their fellow lawmakers, and have it pass without much in the way of reviews.

      That's how bad laws get passed. That and a whole lot of other ways.

      The commerce clause has been the subject of a number of lawsuits, so there is a lot of prior case law which has to be considered. We basically painted ourselves into a corner at this point, and I believe it would take a major challenge to change anything, much more than an individual citizen with a legitimate complaint.

  • The obvious answer is that corporations as part of their activities would say that everything on their computers belongs to the people using them, and their employment is a purchase of some assets or IP back. Everything else, your emails, your non-contracted work product, etc, would be your personal property, and then corps would literally own nothing to produce in court, except a finished product and some bills.

    • by schon (31600)

      Everything else, your emails, your non-contracted work product, etc, would be your personal property, and then corps would literally own nothing to produce in court

      So that way when you leave the company, you take all those "secrets" with you?

      How is this a bad thing again?

  • This can easily be resolved by acknowledging that there is no right to privacy.
    • by Joe U (443617)

      Privacy is an unalienable right.

      Corporations, however, are not, therefore, we can do what we want to them.

    • No problem. Now, these electricians are going to be installing webcams into your house now so we can monitor your daily life a la The Truman Show.

      (Not sure if you're trolling or just going for brevity...but if it's the latter, I do believe some qualifiers need to be added.)

  • by foo fighter (151863) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:27AM (#29617307) Homepage

    Corporations are not people! They are not endowed by their creators with certain unalienable rights! They have no freedom of speech! The have to right to privacy! God damn corporatists, literally!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by moose_hp (179683)

      Corporations are not people! [...]

      But just like Soylent green, they are made of people!

      Sorry, couldn't resist the joke.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        But because of the Limited Liability nature of corporate structure they don't act like persons even if they are made of people.

        If you don't limit the rights of corporations (and I mean LIMIT not ELIMINATE) they essentially have more rights than persons do.

  • I get so tired of hearing about who corporation XXX screwed today. Give them some privacy with their sex lives. I don't even want to imagine what Microsoft and Apple do when alone together.
  • Good. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:53AM (#29617679) Homepage

    The government should not have the right to publish private information that they have seized just because it does not pertain to a natural person. What if they seize your customer records in the course of an investigation of one of your customers? Should your competitors be able to see those records just because you took the sensible precaution of incorporating your business?

  • Voting and jailing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pmontra (738736) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:54AM (#29617691) Homepage

    Corporations might have a right to corporate privacy but not to personal privacy.

    If they are people give them a right to vote. I mean by pencil, not by money ;-)
    And jail them if they do something wrong and make them stop operating until they get out. Would they accept?

  • After reading through the decision and the relevant law, I feel confident in stating that the 3rd Circuit did not just "invent" a right to personal privacy for corporations: it appears that right is codified in law, at least as regards the Freedom of Information Act. This is not a big deal, since all that means is that Federal agencies can't publish private data about corporations, which they don't really need to do perform their regulatory functions.

    The real question is, what is private about a publicly tr

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