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Corporations Now Have a Right To "Personal Privacy"

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the wait-till-ai's-become-legal-persons dept.

Privacy 371

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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371 comments

Why do corporations have to be people? (5, Insightful)

danaris (525051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617013)

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

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (4, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617033)

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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617067)

No, because people behind corporations want the corporations to have only the benefits of being consideren people.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617837)

True, but...

> But in its definitions, FOIA makes the mistake of broadly defining 'person' to
> include legal entities, like corporations

I thought the entire point of a "corporation" was that it was a quick trick, a hack in our terms, to create a legal entity for business that, magically, was suddenly beholden to all the laws a person was. Hence the name "corp"-oration. The embodyment of an entity.

As such, I wonder why the FOIA law needed to define corporation to begin with, since I thought its definition was basically "a fictional body that binds a company to laws", with the primary benefit being the buck stops here when sued, i.e. limited liability is now old-school as a concept.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (3, Insightful)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617443)

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!

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (5, Insightful)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617585)

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

With a massive reign of terror?

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (4, Funny)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617753)

Well....duh.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617655)

I'm not sure there are enough white flags in the world for that.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (4, Informative)

rocker_wannabe (673157) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617785)

They're only protected from losses greater than their investment in the corporation. If CEO shenanigans put shareholders at risk of losing their stock, we'd see selection of CEOs who keep a much wider margin between their behavior and unlawful conduct.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (3, Insightful)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Why do corporations have to be people? (2, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617867)

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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617631)

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 corporatti if you had the death penalty for corporations.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (5, Insightful)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (0, Flamebait)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617613)

Or better yet, just make you're own stuff and barter it for things you can't make and vote against Republicans and anybody else that fights against the consumer/lower classes.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617097)

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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

KneelBeforeZod (1527235) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617431)

Yes but... individuals don't usually have a fleet of lawyers to defend themselves. Corporations do. Hooray, i stated the obvious

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

danaris (525051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617651)

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

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (5, Insightful)

jeffasselin (566598) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617173)

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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617421)

It would be pretty easy to regulate them better; if poorly behaved corporations were dissolved, with the shareholders being zeroed out, shareholders in other corporations would quickly insist on better behavior.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (3, Insightful)

melikamp (631205) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617695)

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

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (4, Insightful)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (0, Troll)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617941)

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.

How do you explain the fact then that corporations today have far less power than they did in the late 19th, early 20th century? There is no company in the US that wields the kind of power U.S. Steel or the railroads did.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (2, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617197)

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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (3, Insightful)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617563)

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?

That's what they do now. Common slashdot belief to the contrary, actual living, breathing humans do have substantially more rights than corporations. The law simply allows them enough rights to function (and enough responsibilities to be held accountable for certain violations of the law).

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617643)

Think of it like a 10 million line codebase, with lots and lots of fragile code that uses the Person type. While reworking it to say "Legal Entity" and reserving "Person" for fleshy "Legal Entities" would be nice, it's a substantial undertaking. So instead you just say that non-fleshy legal entities count as Persons, and it all sort of works.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617663)

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).

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (3, Interesting)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617587)

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).

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (3, Insightful)

DM9290 (797337) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617875)

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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (0, Troll)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617897)

Because it wouldn't be a corporation, it would be a partnership. And partners are financially liable for a failed business venture in a way that stockholders are not.

Got take a Business 101 class before you start spouting off about things you obviously know nothing of.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617883)

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 if the economic system collapses. I know how to raise livestock, how to manage a large garden, how to cure meats and produce, how to fish, how to hunt with bow and arrow, how to set up snares and traplines, etc. I just need to make sure I can take and defend some land with which to do all those things...

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617715)

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

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617429)

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.

The Rational Libertarian answers you: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617455)

Corporations need to be treated like people because there is almost no other way to hold up the ideals of a free market. The constitution was designed to protect the freedoms of individuals, but before corporations were treated as people, they could be undermined simply by using the protections of the constitution against them. By treating corporations as people, we eliminate that loophole to ensure that corporations are able to sell their products with as little regulation and oversight as possible. This is how it should be, folks.

That doesn't answer the question (1)

danaris (525051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617729)

That's rhetoric and ideology, not legal reasoning.

Why can there not be legal language giving corporations a specific set of rights necessary to act as corporations must and should, yet not defining them as people?

Dan Aris

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

pyrr (1170465) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617761)

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 mentioned, it also allows the law to put an end to shenanigans. Without being incorporated in some form, if a business felt like misbehaving, the law could only shut it down by attempting to charge whatever bad actors individually, and the resulting chaos could make it difficult to sort responsibility out. When the business is a corpus under the law, it can be held accountable in lawsuits and concealing and shuffling assets to keep them out of reach of creditors becomes less easy.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

Twylite (234238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617797)

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 intensive activity impossible (including pharmaceutical development, heavy manufacturing, mining, etc) without the intervention of government or nobility (depending on your political system).

In case you're a mutant commie traitor and don't think people should be able to invest in someone else's operations without the possibility of getting sued into oblivion, remember that the same legal concepts enable non-government organisations, clubs and societies to exist (and in some countries trusts as well). Without the concepts of a "legal person" all members would be liable for the debts of a club/society, and the club/society would have to be reformed every time a member joined or left (like a partnership).

So we need a legal framework to facilitate the existence of such entities, hence the concept of corporate personhood. This doesn't mean that a corporation is a person, only that they are in some legal respects treated in the same way as people. There are numerous laws that distinguish between the rights of "natural persons" and "legal persons". The fact that both contain the word "person" is largely irrelevant.

As for the application is privacy laws to companys, it is Blindingly Fucking Obvious that companies have a right to privacy. Trade secrets and business plans are two examples that come to mind. Courts have in the past upheld the rights of companies to keep this information secret (e.g. punishing employees who share this information outside the company), and there are other laws that provide this right to companies (industrial espionage, anyone?). A free and competitive market - the foundation of Western economies - cannot exist without companies having the right to keep this information private.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617845)

What's so bad about it? Slashdot's summary is clearly biased and intended to stir up the anti-corporate forces who read this site. I'm left wondering why it's so wrong to Slashdot for corporations to have rights. I know it makes you look clever to your dorm room buddies to hate capitalism and stuff, but the reality is that most corporations follow the law and deserve protections too.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (5, Informative)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why do corporations have to be people? (1)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617959)

Well, I don't have much legal experience, but I do know a bit about entrepreneurship. What you are suggesting is great.... if its a BIG corporation. However, you have to remember that the structure of a corporation also exists to protect small corporations as well. So if John Doe's Flower Delivery Corporation has one of its drivers hit some little kid playing in the street, its not at his/her own personal risk. The little kid's parents can sue the corporation.... but not the owner(s). This separation protects an entrepreneur's personal assets from the corporate assets. Otherwise, you can start a business, and your whole life is at risk of your employees. Unfortunately, it looks like this is an abused loophole.

Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (4, Interesting)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617023)

Nice work. Just so you know, when the revolution comes you'll be first against the wall.

"lobbiests"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617061)

"lobbiests"?

Is that a word describing people who are the most lobbie?

And is a Hooray some sort of energy weapon made out of the sound an owl makes? :)

Re:"lobbiests"? (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617167)

And is a Hooray some sort of energy weapon made out of the sound an owl makes? :)

No, man. It's the eye beams that come out of U.S. Army soldiers when their power level goes OVER 9000!!!!!

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (4, Insightful)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617185)

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.

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (4, Insightful)

HogGeek (456673) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617411)

"VOTE FOR SMARTER CONGRESSPEOPLE"

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

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (2, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617481)

"VOTE FOR SMARTER CONGRESSPEOPLE"

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

And before that they actually have to get nominated...

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (5, Funny)

Kuroji (990107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617519)

And before that they actually have to exist.

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (1)

isama (1537121) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617567)

And usualy the smarter ones don't.

Don't you love democracy?

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (3, Funny)

dbet (1607261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617525)

VOTE FOR SMARTER CONGRESSPEOPLE.

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

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (1)

HogGeek (456673) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617597)

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"

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (1)

HogGeek (456673) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617635)

I wanted to add:

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

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617853)

So I have to continuously play disco music to hate it?

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617891)

If that is your analogy, please don't run for office

Jury duty? (4, Insightful)

danaris (525051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617795)

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

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (1)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617677)

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 respect, get raises, and find a better health care provider but 3 months later get a breathlessly excited memo about how all the great suggestions led to 5 beautiful new picnic tables in the quad.

Power and money never concede anything until they are forced to do so. When the game is as rigged as the election process it not only allows them to do nothing but they laugh at how utterly gullible we are.

Re:Hooray for lawyers and lobbiests! (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617821)

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 their function; I blame the parents of the kids that became lawyers who told them to do so for lack of a better vision for their children. It seems the american dream has become GREED. Law pays, whether you do it right or you exploit it. We need a better common vision; something beyond self interest.

Great legal minds (-1, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617049)

What I've noticed about great legal thinkers is that they tend to move upwards in the judicial system. At the same time, not-so-great legal thinkers spend a lot of time pontificating on blogs and message boards.

It's really uncanny. It's like there is an inverse relationship between actual legal knowledge and the likelihood to post uninformed comments. Perhaps someone could study this and win next year's IgNobel award for literature.

Re:Great legal minds (2, Interesting)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617189)

I, for one, believe it is time for lesser minds to have some influence on the laws which are inflicted upon them.

Re:Great legal minds (0, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617237)

Well, those lesser minds have voted in one of their own.

We'll see how well it goes.

Re:Great legal minds (0, Troll)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617319)

Sorry, Ralph Nader didn't win. Nice try, Analogy Guy.

Re:Great legal minds (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617281)

And I, for one, welcome our new lesser-legal-minds overlords.

Re:Great legal minds (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617339)

show me on "great legal thinker". where do you live? it sure can't be the United States.

Murdering a corporation (2, Interesting)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617063)

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

Re:Murdering a corporation (4, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617095)

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.

Re:Murdering a corporation (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617207)

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.

Re:Murdering a corporation (1)

Trapick (1163389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617775)

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.

The purpose is to protect shareholders, but not employees. An employee that acts negligently can be tried for a crime.

Re:Murdering a corporation (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617363)

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

Re:Murdering a corporation (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617661)

Shame and embarrassment are meaningless punishments for arrogant sociopaths.

Re:Murdering a corporation (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617927)

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 really in control of things are taught respect. By that I mean that a revolution against government will change very little, but a revolution against those in real control could change quite a lot. Imagine the impact of dozens of CEO kidnappings and killings. As violent as it may be, the change people seek will probably not be found by other means.

Interpreting laws by the wording? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617111)

"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] ?

Re:Interpreting laws by the wording? (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617205)

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

Re:Interpreting laws by the wording? (2, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617675)

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 longer one of limited and enumerated powers."

Re:Interpreting laws by the wording? (3, Informative)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Boy that's silly (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617131)

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.

Re:Boy that's silly (1)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617551)

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?

Re:Boy that's silly (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617951)

So that way when you leave the company, you take all those "secrets" with you? How is this a bad thing again?

I'm not exactly seeing this as a bad thing at all. The corporations become much harder to sue, nearly everyone on the planet gets their privacy back, and everybody wins, except for the lawyers, and that's even better.

All the Rights; None of the Responsibility (1)

the_mushroom_king (708305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617153)

So corporations get all the right of an individual, but with nothing but monetary penalties when they do something criminal like poison the ground water. The jerks responsible just close up shop and start a new corporation and rinse repeat.

Re:All the Rights; None of the Responsibility (3, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617401)

So corporations get all the right of an individual, but with nothing but monetary penalties when they do something criminal like poison the ground water. The jerks responsible just close up shop and start a new corporation and rinse repeat.

No, this ruling does not go that far. This ruling does not say that corporations get the same "personal privacy" protection as individuals in all cases, only in the way that the government responds to FOIA requests. This is not a bad ruling, it is a good ruling on a badly written law. The results of this ruling are bad, but the law was clearly written to say this. It was probably not written this way on purpose, but I wouldn't bet on that. Considering that legislators often don't even read laws that they introduce, it is possible that some staffer introduced this wording for exactly this purpose.
However, I would expect that in this case the wording was introduced to serve some other purpose in the law (such as allowing corporations to file FOIA requests) without anybody noticing that it gave corporations unintended privacy protections.

Re:All the Rights; None of the Responsibility (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617577)

The results of this ruling are bad, but the law was clearly written to say this. It was probably not written this way on purpose, but I wouldn't bet on that. Considering that legislators often don't even read laws that they introduce, it is possible that some staffer introduced this wording for exactly this purpose.

I dunno, given that there are aspects of corporations that require them to be treated as an individual (contracts, property ownership) they might have just picked up a generic definition from some other location to save time. (The old "never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity" defense.)

The real problem is these laws don't get the full fine-tooth comb treatment until they get challenged at which point everyone comes out with magnifying glasses arguing that a smudge is a comma and vice versa. Unfortunatly, laws are a numbers game for politicians rather than something that should be considered their legacy: "I've introduced XXX bills!" Yeah, but how many were actually good?

Public Company has expectation of Privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617183)

Why should a Publicly Traded Company have any expectation of privacy?
And saying that Corporations in general are entitled to the same privacy protections as individuals seems really silly to me.

Re:Public Company has expectation of Privacy? (2, Insightful)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617815)

Why should a Publicly Traded Company have any expectation of privacy?

Good point. Except for the details of trade secrets (KFC's "11 secret herbs & spices", for instance), they shouldn't.

Notice I said trade secrets, not copyrights. Copyrights need dissolving after a certain amount of time. Somebody unfreeze Walt and tell him this, the old fascist...

And saying that Corporations in general are entitled to the same privacy protections as individuals seems really silly to me.

Except that individuals seem to have no expectation of privacy, so in effect, this would give corporations more rights than individuals. This trend keeps up, I'm gonna have to incorporate myself in order to get comparable rights and privileges of 'other' corporations...


That's still legal, isn't it???

bankrupt murder? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617261)

So does this mean that if a corporation goes bankrupt the CEO can be brought up on murder charges?

Problem easily resolved (1)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617273)

This can easily be resolved by acknowledging that there is no right to privacy.

Re:Problem easily resolved (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617565)

Privacy is an unalienable right.

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

Re:Problem easily resolved (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617637)

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.)

Re:Problem easily resolved (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617699)

Except for the 300 million of us who do not think that would be easy.

Re:Problem easily resolved (1)

DM9290 (797337) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617949)

This can easily be resolved by acknowledging that there is no right to privacy.

yeah but there is.

Story's First Premise Is Wrong (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617285)

"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. "

There is no U.S.A.! You obviously have been living in the 20th century. The U.S.A. was disbanded by President
Rrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggguuuuuuuuuunnnnnn,
the first U.S. president who conned the proletariat into thinking that that the Republican AND Democratic Parties cared for anyone beyond the political oligarchs.
proletariat.

Yours In Borisoglebskt,
K. Trout [youtube.com]

Corporations are not people! (2, Insightful)

foo fighter (151863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617307)

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:Corporations are not people! (2, Funny)

moose_hp (179683) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617717)

Corporations are not people! [...]

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

Sorry, couldn't resist the joke.

I agree so much (1)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617425)

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.

Right to Personal Privacy (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617433)

Cool story, bro.
So when do people get that right?

Good. (2, Interesting)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617679)

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 (2, Interesting)

pmontra (738736) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617691)

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?

But YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT no more (1)

CHRONOSS2008 (1226498) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617771)

haha

not thanks to 3rd Circuit (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#29617829)

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 traded company? Sensitive personal information is normally limited to things like birthdates, Social Security numbers/Tax ID numbers, mother's maiden name, and other identifying bits of information. In this case, it would be proper for the TIN of a corporation to be kept private, since someone could use that to take out credit in the name of the corporation, just like ID theft of individuals. Any other information that can be used in that way should also be protected. Whether the data that AT&T was trying to protect counts as protected remains to be seen, the FCC will still have to rule on that.

Disclosure: I work for AT&T, though not in any department or division relevant to this case.

Section F... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29617833)

Section F of the linked statute seems to already make exemptions (subsection b) for certain information, including:

(6) personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;

Given that the meaning of "personal privacy" here can in no way be construed as pertaining to a corporate person, which has no construable medical information or personnel data pertaining to it, or similar files, how can the court possibly interpret the phrase to include them in another section? The law must be read as to have consistent meaning of terminology for it to be coherent and enforceable. The court has made a grievous error in judgment, and this should be quashed on appeal.

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