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Supreme Court Rules On Corporate Privacy

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the dirty-laundry-must-air-dry dept.

Privacy 408

heptapod writes "The Supreme Court unanimously decided (PDF) Monday that AT&T can't keep embarrassing corporate information that it submits to the government out of public view; 'personal privacy' rights do not apply to corporations. 'We trust that AT&T will not take it personally,' concluded the ruling."

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408 comments

good start, long way to go (5, Informative)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35356908)

we still have quite a few other personal rights that have been given to corporations that shouldn't have

No need to break what isn't broken (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357230)

we still have quite a few other personal rights that have been given to corporations that shouldn't have

I'll be glad when this fad goes away. The whole reason for corporate personhood is to protect the rights of the people involved with the corporation. If the US dismantled the corporate personhood machinery, it would have to be replaced with something else that does pretty much the same thing. Else groups of people would have their rights trampled. It's not rocket science.

Also, note that even moderately controversial decisions (such as the frequently reviled Citizens United v. FEC case) are decided by narrow majorities (5-4 decision in that case) while obvious stretches of corporate personhood are decided by 9-0 rejections. This isn't an area that is careening out of control.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357254)

Yes, but without a constitutional amendment those new rights could be taken away without much trouble. As it is we need to pass a constitutional amendment declaring corporations to not be people. Which is a lot harder.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (0)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357294)

I wonder if all the people saying "Corporations are not people" have fully thought through the implications of that stance. For one, if corporations lack personhood then they can't be charged with crimes. Policing them will be much harder when criminal charges all have to be tied to a specific person within the corporation rather than the organization as a whole.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357410)

Has a company ever been put in prison?

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (1)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357502)

No, but they've been fined millions of dollars or ordered to do various things.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357570)

Which typically amounts to a slap on the wrist.

When a company is fined, who pays? (4, Insightful)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357698)

When a company is fined, who pays the price? For public companies (most of the companies we care about), the answer is basically shareholders -- almost all of whom had no part in the wrongdoing. So the main effect is that some people in the company do something wrong, then all shareholders get fined. I think more fines should be leveled on the people who actually did the wrongdoing (although fining the company is still somewhat useful as it does provide an incentive not to break the law -- it's just that the burden of the fine is mostly misplaced).

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (5, Insightful)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357438)

No, it would be much easier as we would have to charge individuals with crimes and therefore, individuals in the company would have real personal consequences for their actions instead of having the company take the fall. It also wouldn't have to be a single person; a group of people in collusion would be just as effective.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (2, Insightful)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357478)

The problem is then that you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that person's involvement with each element of the crime. Part of the reason we tend to prosecute the corporation as a whole is that it's often not easy to pin the whole crime on any specific person given the distributed nature of responsibility in most large corporations.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (2)

memnock (466995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357602)

RICO is good at nailing individuals in distributed organizations. I think it would possible to use a similar idea for corporate or corporate employee malfeasance.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (5, Insightful)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357656)

You have summed up the problem pretty effectively. All the execs have to do is pass the buck and they know they can basically get away with whatever they want. And if they are caught, the harshest penalty is monetary - not even personal fines, but rather the corporation. It is like legally removing your conscience.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357732)

The problem with that is that the entire corporation is charged with whatever crime we're talking about and it gets fined some tiny amount of money. Then the company does the same crime again (sometimes two or three more times) because it's cheaper to get fined than to stop committing whatever offense it is. Of course they'll cover their tracks a little better to avoid getting caught for half a decade. In any case, the lawyers keep the case in the courts for another half decade or so until the only choice for the government is to reach some settlement which is beneficial for the company.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357568)

So who do we send to jail or fine for the Toyota gas pedal problems? Ford & Firestone's tire issues?

Hint: Everybody from the top down (you know, the people who have money to afford a lawyer) will point the finger at the assembly line worker, and say "it's his fault."

Good luck collecting your multi-million dollar award from that single assembly line worker, and enjoy destroying his life in revenge for the damage (most likely accidental) that "he alone" caused you.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357858)

So who do we send to jail or fine for the Toyota gas pedal problems?

Well that one is simple, the journalists whom made the whole thing up for the pageviews.

Good luck collecting your multi-million dollar award from that single assembly line worker, and enjoy destroying his life in revenge for the damage (most likely accidental) that "he alone" caused you.

The aviation industry solved that by always blaming the pilot, whom coincidentally was dead. An unintended consequence would be the auto industry increasing their lethality so the driver always ends up dead, thus can take the blame.

Metalworking shops etc already carry hefty liability insurance. The social engineers in congress would have an interesting problem, as thats currently paid pre-tax but if individual worker had to buy first of all they'd be screwed to higher prices just like health insurance and secondly they'd be paying post tax money. So it would be quite a drag on the economy as a whole, although insurance companies would make more, and special interests love to donate to politicians, so I suspect its inevitable in the future...

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357572)

Whoa whoa whoa.

No, it would be much easier as we would have to charge individuals with crimes

Think about it. It's already illegal for individuals to commit crimes. It's already illegal for groups of people to commit crimes too. Collusion is already illegal. And police already can arrest people and courts convict and mete punishment for crime.

So given that all this illegal activity is by definition illegal with a big stick to back it up, why do you suppose that Stormy Dragon said it'd be harder to police corporations without charging the corporation itself for the crime?

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357444)

Our current legal system has laws that differentially govern the activities of organizations and individuals, so no - organizations could still be held legally accountable for their actions. It could adjust to have more targeted at organizational activities if really necessary. It's not like you can extract conceptually different legal remedies from criminal vs civil prosecution of a corporation currently; no corporation is doing jail time.

Besides, if such a change occurred and it led to more prosecution of individuals for activities undertaken by an entire organization, I'm not convinced that would be a bad direction.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357474)

A simple middle ground would be to dissolve more corporations.

The whole argument for limited liability is that it reduces the cost of capital (or the risk of providing/using it for business, very similar things), which is supposed to be good for the public. If the limited liability is being used in ways that are obviously not good for the public, dissolving the corporation should not be controversial.

And really, if a few people inside of a corporation are breaking the law, I'd much rather see them punished than have the corporation pay some fines.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357614)

Problem is, "the public" is not what you think it is. that does not mean you or me but "major shareholders" which is the top 1% of the population. Liability to you or me, even if we hold 1,000 shares is nothing. liability to the guy that owns 20% is there.

the public was sold a bag of goods that was rigged from the start to protect the riches of the top 1% and NOT that of the public.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (4, Insightful)

Baki (72515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357540)

Many countries make a distinction between natural persons (i.e. humans) and a legal person (entities, corporations). I have to assume that there must be some distiction between the two in the US too, though it is smaller than elsewhere. If not, a corporation being a natural person would have a nationality, and if it is a US nationality, it would have the right to vote in elections, which is not the case.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357566)

Sure they can. For instance, if corporations are property, thanks to asset forfeiture [wikipedia.org] it's possible for the government to charge property with a crime and confiscate it.

Or alternately, assume they are neither property nor persons. That means that Congress can pass whatever laws about corporations they like (since they nearly always fall under interstate commerce), and the state where the corporation is incorporated can also exercise unchecked control. Either of them could pass a law that states something like "Corporations who commit criminal offenses will be tried as criminal defendants."

One could argue whether either of those is a good or bad thing, but it's hardly a situation where they can't be charged with a crime.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (2, Insightful)

MattSausage (940218) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357688)

Just out of curiosity, what corporation has been held liable for any 'crime' prosecuted in a criminal court. I'm willing to believe it has happened, but I postulate that it is so rare for this to happen that the corporate personhood clause should go away.

How does giving a corporation personal rights and freedoms somehow protect the people within that corporation? Are their personal rights not protected by the same constitutional provisions that protects those of us NOT in a Corporation? By what moral imperative do their rights get 'protected' twice while mine may only be 'protected' once?

For example: Citizens United. Corporations have a right to free speech to support any candidate they so choose. Tell me, before this ruling did the actual human beings within this corporation not actually have those rights? Were they somehow barred from voting or donating their money? I fail to see how granting personhood to any corporation does anything but give members of that corporation extra protections under the constitution the rest of us do not have.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (2)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357690)

A dog can't be charged with a crime but if it kills someone it's shot.
simply apply the same to corporations.
commit a serious enough crime, company gets liquidated.

you don't have to be human to be punished.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (2)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357764)

if corporations lack personhood then they can't be charged with crimes.

Why do you say that? What's to stop the government from passing such laws?

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (3, Insightful)

Utini420 (444935) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357268)

Wouldn't those people's rights be protected by, ya know, being people?

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357432)

Wouldn't those people's rights be protected by, ya know, being people?

No. Even in the US that isn't true. If your rights have been violated by law or action, you still have to act to redress your grievance, either in the courts or through communication. What you don't get is that procedures frequently have to be implemented in order for the right to be properly honored.

For example, the Miranda warning is a judicially mandated action that was deemed necessary so that people who were arrested would aware of their rights. It doesn't follow naturally from the Constitution and didn't come about until about 45 years ago.

Similarly, corporate personhood is a legal invention. It came about precisely because the courts of the time deemed it necessary in order to honor the rights of the people making up the corporation.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357492)

There's a big difference between having some form of legal entity and personhood. The one big thing that must be brought back is actual enforcement of the requirement that a corporation be in the public interest. Breaking the law is never in the public interest, so a corporation that does so is dissolved.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (1)

nomorecwrd (1193329) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357664)

Breaking the law is never in the public interest, so a corporation that does so is dissolved

Death penalty? I guess only in Texas :-)

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357740)

There's a big difference between having some form of legal entity and personhood. The one big thing that must be brought back is actual enforcement of the requirement that a corporation be in the public interest. Breaking the law is never in the public interest, so a corporation that does so is dissolved.

My view is that people aren't held to this ridiculous standard because it would be both impossible and harmful, so on similar grounds of practicality and ethics, corporations shouldn't be either.

Consider driver's licenses. If I'm caught speeding slightly, my license isn't dissolved. Often the punishment isn't significant either, a "slap on the wrist" as someone else in the thread would put it.

If for some reason, we actually did enforce a stupidly rigorous law for drivers like you outline above for corporations, then the only people who could drive in the long either either are breaking the law or have special connections that keep them from being charged or ticketed with breaking the law.

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357784)

When "the public" are shareholders in the corporation, then sometimes public interest is served by corporations breaking laws. Especially when they gain huge profits doing so!

Re:No need to break what isn't broken (1)

randizzle3000 (1276900) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357578)

The whole reason for corporate personhood is to protect the rights of the people involved with the corporation.

IANAL but isn't this the main reason for the entity called "corporation" to exist? I mean that isn't this the reason to incorporate, so that the person (human) is legally seperate from the company? Or is it just for tax purposes?

Re:good start, long way to go (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357598)

we still have quite a few other personal rights that have been given to corporations that shouldn't have

We also have quite a few personal "rights" that have been given to people that shouldn't have been given (via court decisions).

I must be dreaming. (1)

Squiddie (1942230) | more than 3 years ago | (#35356912)

Finally, some common sense. Now if only they would have done the same in previous cases.

I don't think it's common sense (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35356954)

I think they just don't like the idea of not knowing what the companies in their stock portfolio are up too. Make no mistake, the Supreme Court is in it for the money [wordpress.com]

Re:I don't think it's common sense (2)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357020)

Give it a week. They'll throw a few billion dollars at the Robberbaronicans and next thing you know, there'll be a "Personal Privacy for Corporations" clause slipped into the next budget bill.

Re:I must be dreaming. (0)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357264)

I will be perfectly honest, I see this ruling as being exactly the same sort of ruling as the Citzens United vs FEC ruling. In both cases the Court looked at the intent of those who wrote the law in question and applied the law as the framers of the relevant statute would have. In this case that law was the Freedom of Information Act. In the Citzens United vs FEC the law in question was the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Re:I must be dreaming. (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357658)

Don't worry. The Supreme Court will be back to their old tricks again in Al Kidd v Ashcroft [npr.org]. They may throw us a bone once in a while, but don't think for a second that they are on our side.

"personal privacy" rights dont apply (4, Interesting)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35356924)

About frakking time. Corporations should have no more access to human rights than a tree or rock or building. If an entity can not vote, then it should not have rights.

Privileges like trademarks and advertising? Sure. But such privileges should be strictly regulated and limited (unlike individual speech rights which should be unlimited).

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (2)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 3 years ago | (#35356982)

If an entity can not vote

Shhh don't give them ideas!

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357100)

If an entity can not vote

Shhh don't give them ideas!

Didn't you hear? Lobbying is the new voting.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357148)

At least buying a politician is more likely to achieve a change than voting for him.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (2)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357446)

Too bad private citizens don't have the financial resources to lobby the government.









Wait, I have an idea! We should form a corporation, invite every citizen to join, and then pool our money together in it for lobbying. This way we can out-lobby the big corporations and finally return control to the people.

I propose we call this new corporation "Federal government of the United States".

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357014)

About frakking time. Corporations should have no more access to human rights than a tree or rock or building. If an entity can not vote, then it should not have rights.

lolwut?
Children under the age of 18 can't vote, nor can convicted felons in many states... care to rethink that statement?

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (1)

heptapod (243146) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357086)

Children under the age of 18 can't vote

They can vote when they reach the age of sufferage.

nor can convicted felons in many states

They used to have the capacity to vote before becoming a felon.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357168)

Children under the age of 18 can't vote

They can vote when they reach the age of sufferage.

Oh, so they can only get rights once they reach the age of suffrage?

nor can convicted felons in many states

They used to have the capacity to vote before becoming a felon.

Oh, so they can't have any rights then, either?

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357274)

Part of the price you pay when committing a serious legal violation is forfeiting some of your rights, otherwise we couldn't have jails or prison terms at all. There are some unfortunate cases where somebody is incarcerated despite being innocent, but by and large losing some rights is necessary for the functioning of the state.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (2)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357766)

And how, exactly, does permanent (12 states) or temporary (36 + DC states) disenfranchisement assist the "functioning" of the state, assuming some value of "function" that is more meaningful than "letting the scumbags in charge stay in charge?"

Answered will be checked for spelling and logical coherence.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (0)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357892)

>>>Answered will be checked for spelling

This looks like a great signature. "Answered will be checked for spelling and logical coherence." - geminidomino

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357034)

If an entity can not vote, then it should not have rights.

I'd hate to be a tourist in your glorious republic. Or a minor.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357040)

If an entity can not vote, then it should not have rights.

So no rights for animals or minors then? How about people in vegetative states? Why not just refine that statement to 'If you are not a human being, then you are not given rights, though you may have legal priveleges.'

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357728)

Animals: No.

Minors: Yes.

Vegetative Humans: No.

I don't think it should be based on voting, but self-awareness.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357078)

This is about interpreting the FOIA, not Constitutional rights, so the "rights" involved are whatever Congress wanted to specify in the law, which could have included things relating to corporations if Congress chose to.

Congress wrote in the FOIA that people can generally request government records, and the government must respond to such requests, except in a list of specific exceptions where the agency is allowed to withhold them. If Congress had wanted to, they could have included "the request would reveal sensitive information about a corporation" in the list. This case just holds that Congress did not in fact include such an exception, implicitly or otherwise.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357860)

If Congress had wanted to, they could have included "the request would reveal sensitive information about a corporation" in the list. This case just holds that Congress did not in fact include such an exception, implicitly or otherwise.

Don't worry. I'm sure a new revision of the FOIA is being hammered out by the Corp lobbyists for the Congress Critters to pass in the next session.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (3, Funny)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357204)

If an entity can not vote, then it should not have rights.

Of course corporations can vote. They just use the special ballot that lists Benjamin Franklin as a candidate every election.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (1)

theBully (1056930) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357210)

I think the biggest issue is not whether they have rights or they don't. This is dust in the eye.

The biggest issue is that corporations are not accountable for their actions. Nor corporation executives. Take Monsanto. Huge screw-ups with insignificant consequences.

I thing this decision along with others like it is just dust in the public eye.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (1, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357292)

Corporations should have no more access to human rights than a tree or rock or building.

Unlike trees or rocks or buildings, corporations are made up of people. And those people have rights. Hence, there are things you cannot do to corporations without violating the rights of the people who comprise that corporation. Corporate personhood is merely a legal invention for enabling efficiently those rights that already exist.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357350)

Hey... let them have the same rights... If they will have the same obligations... like jail-time (freezing all assets for X years)... not loosing all their debts just because they go bankrupt... let the owners/CEO be held responsible for debts or crimes..

Should not matter if it's on the stock-market or privately owned... the debt should be shared equally among the owners.

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (5, Insightful)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357364)

If an entity can not vote, then it should not have rights.

So non-citizens residing the US have no rights? Or children?

Also, have you considered the full implications of that stance? Could the US, for example, censor Busboy Productions, Inc. on the grounds it has no first ammendment rights? Could they sieze Twitter's computer servers without a warrant on the grounds it has no fourth ammendment rights? Can they tap your wokplace phone without a warrant because your employer has no expectation of privacy?

Re:"personal privacy" rights dont apply (2)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357412)

About frakking time. Corporations should have no more access to human rights than a tree or rock or building. If an entity can not vote, then it should not have rights.

More importantly, if a corporation can't be put in jail for wrongdoing, it shouldn't have rights.

What do they care? (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35356970)

Even with the deregulation, competitors still have to use AT&T copper to run their services. It's not like they're going anywhere.

Re:What do they care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357094)

Last I checked, Comcast doesn't use AT&T copper.

Re:What do they care? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357156)

Verizon does not need to use AT&T copper any more than AT&T needs to use Verizon's copper. Verizon is one of the "Baby Bells" (actually it is the merger of several of the "Baby Bells"), so is AT&T. The AT&T that exists today is not the company that was left after the various local phone companies were split off into "Baby Bells". AT&T is now actually one of those "Baby Bells" (SBC) that bought what was left of AT&T when its post breakup business plan met the changes in communication technology and failed.

Don't Worry AT&T (2)

mattwrock (1630159) | more than 3 years ago | (#35356996)

I am sure if you make some "donations", a bill will quickly be passed to change this ruling. I think bill's name will be the "Freedom Defense".

Re:Don't Worry AT&T (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357212)

Care to check out #2 on the list [opensecrets.org] of top political donors since 1989?

Re:Don't Worry AT&T (3, Informative)

RingDev (879105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357498)

I believe that is direct contributions, not total political expenditures.

Take the Koch brothers recent activity in Wisconsin. They donated $43,500 to Governer Walker's election campaing. But, they also donated $1M to the Republican Goveners association (which spent over $2M in Wisconsin) and funded another $2+ million in political activity in Wisconsin through their Americans for Prosperity PAC.

So if you look at the Koch's contribution to Walker, it doesn't seem all that significant. But if you look at their spending, it's tremendous.

True, that example is at the state level and the list you linked to is at the federal level. But I would really be surprised to find that that chart includes all investments besides direct contributions by all PAC and subsidiaries and their PACs by all of the groups listed.

-Rick

Re:Don't Worry AT&T (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357708)

Nope it will be a rider in the "telecommunications terrorism prevention act."

I'm NOT joking. They will pull this shit.

The ruling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357018)

"We trust that AT&T will not take it personally" concluded the ruling.

I SEE WHAT YOU DID THAR!

Re:The ruling (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357196)

The opinion was delivered by Roberts; did he write it? If so, I want to remove one of the pins from my voodoo doll of him, in appreciation for the delightful joke it ended with.

OK (4, Insightful)

killmenow (184444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357080)

First off: "We trust that AT&T will not take it personally"

Hahahaha! That's like a big middle finger stuck right into the ruling. Nice!

Now that I got that out of my system...the whole corporate personhood thing is such a farce anyway. A corporation is nothing but a group of people. It could be one person or 100,000 people. But if you remove all the people from the corporation, can it make a decision? Can it sign a piece of paper? Can it continue to function at all? NO.

What's worse: the idea that people do things "on behalf" of corporations. Such as the fallacy that a corporation is to blame and not the person who does the wrong thing and rationalizes "I'm not a sociopath because I decided to pollute that river with toxic waste then obstruct justice during the investigation by shredding all those documents on behalf of the corporation."

Corporations don't commit crimes. People do. Maybe it's "on behalf of" the corporation. But it's always a person doing the deed.

Again, a corporation is its people. It's not its own person.

Re:OK (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357138)

A human is made up of cells. It's not its own lifeform

Re:OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357272)

Shut up stupid troll. That is the worst argumnet ever.

Re:OK (4, Insightful)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357280)

A single human cell cannot function without the rest of the body.

A single employee can function without the rest of the corporation.

Re:OK (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357768)

In fact a single employee functions BETTER if all the management parts were removed.

that makes Management in a corporation.... Cancer?

Re:OK (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357770)

I was hoping you would say a single person can function without other people. But a person cannot function without a cellular structure any more than a corp can function without people. The people are the cellular structure, fully differentiated and everything. If we are to ever give rights to robots for their "intelligence", then we have to rethink the personhood of anything we create when it takes a life of its own. That's why intelligence is a bad benchmark to use.

Yes it is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357652)

Yes it is.

But a corporation doesn't live.

Re:OK (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357752)

Enron got a lot of press. You don't hear as much about the thousands of other lawsuits that are wending their way through the courts involving corporations, most of which don't involve deliberate, "malice aforethought" crimes - many of them involve negligence, or downright accidental events.

SO... when you slip and fall at Wal-Mart because there was no "wet floor" sign up, will you take the individual janitor and the cashier to court to cover your medical bills? Good luck collecting enough money to even cover your bills, much less cover for loss of work.

Now you've got WAY more legal paperwork involved (adding friction to an already inefficient system), and you've got a bunch of people who have NO MONEY trying to squeeze money out of one another. Yeah, that sounds like a great system, we should totally do that.

Does this mean Murray Hill Inc. isn't a "person"? (1)

Johnberg (1642323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357088)

What does that mean for our elections? Can Murray Hill Inc. still run for office? Can it still run, only without any personal privacy?

Dialing back corporate personhood... (2)

terraformer (617565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357124)

Thankfully, this dialing back corporate personhood and granting personal rights to corporations has long been overdue. Odd case to have it happen in, as the outcome is not clearly positive in all cases, but the overall result for the law in general is a positive one.

corporations-as-individuals = insanity (5, Insightful)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357220)

If corporations were individuals they would be sociopaths as this 2003 Canadian documentary [wikipedia.org] endeavors to show. In D&D they would be considered either lawful evil or chaotic evil (depending on the corporation). They are narrowly selfish and greedy to such an extent that as an individual they would almost certainly be criminals. Profit trumps every other concern without exception. So corporations are an evil institution, but are they a necessary evil? The price we pay for economic prosperity. Perhaps, but that doesn't mean we have to give them any more power than necessary to get what we (as a society) want from them (inexpensive, innovative, useful products).

I consider myself a Libertarian, but I would argue that even in a free society corporations-as-individuals should be prohibited. It simply does not make sense to grant them the same rights as an individual not only because they clearly are a group of individuals, but because corporations need to have limitations on their power and on their predictably ruthlessly selfish/evil behavior. Corporations are the only institutions that can even remotely compete with governments in terms of power and abuse of power and they should be treated warily because of this.

Re:corporations-as-individuals = insanity (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357390)

I consider myself a Libertarian, but I would argue that even in a free society corporations-as-individuals should be prohibited. It simply does not make sense to grant them the same rights as an individual not only because they clearly are a group of individuals, but because corporations need to have limitations on their power and on their predictably ruthlessly selfish/evil behavior. Corporations are the only institutions that can even remotely compete with governments in terms of power and abuse of power and they should be treated warily because of this.

Well, if you're going to argue that, you're not a libertarian. You're a socialist. Welcome to revolution comrade! Down with the Koch brothers!

Reading too much into the ruling (4, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357226)

Folks here are already saying things about this ruling diminishing the "person" aspect of corporations. The ruling doesn't really do that. Instead, it rests on a question of statutory construction. In particular, the court says that "personal privacy", a phrase used in FOIA, does not merely mean the privacy of a person, as AT&T argued, but instead refers to particular elements of privacy that only carry meaning when you're talking about an actual human being.

Re:Reading too much into the ruling (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357348)

That was more or less my thought on this. This didn't seem to be so much a rolling back of the rights as a refusal to extend more rights to corporations. I don't really recall previously corporations being allowed to have personal privacy, and in fact such a notion would leave regulatory agencies in a tough place because typically 5th amendment protections would also apply as well as other places where privacy is conveyed in the constitution.

Businesses trying to tell us what to do (3, Insightful)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357288)

Sadly, most elected officials do not realize, that we the People, ALLOW these businesses to do business in our country.
Just like they think they lead us, when the words lead, leader and leadership, do not exist in the U.S. Constitution.

The tail shall not wag the dog. End of story. Get out and vote against these idiots! It is your DUTY as an informed
electorate.

WRONG (-1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357354)

The United States is founded on the basic legal philosophy that anything which is not illegal is allowed. That is also known as "Freedom". Corporations are just, at the end of the day, people working together to achieve a common good - stockholders, board members, executives, managers, and rank-and-file employees. People.

People have basic rights and freedoms which the government cannot allow them, but only take away from them. I personaly don't see why people working together should have less rights than people working alone.

Re:WRONG (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357482)

And I don't see why a group of people working together should have MORE rights then the individuals that make up the group.
Corporations are not people. The people working in the corporation... wait for it... are people. If we crippled the power of the corporations, they'd have the exact same rights as you or me.

Re:WRONG (3, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357522)

I personaly don't see why people working together should have less rights than people working alone.

They don't. The people working at a corporation are nowhere even the subject of the discussion. The rights at stake are additional rights given to the corporation.

I personally don't see why people working together should have more rights than people working alone.

Scaling is the difference (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357586)

I personaly don't see why people working together should have less rights than people working alone.

Scale. Gangs of thieves also don't get to have 100,000 employees worldwide. You can put a whole gang of thieves in jail, effectively dissolving their "corporation."

Thief corporations can only be dissolved and jail pretty much avoided in the USA --look at Bernie Madoff's cover-up of his 'nonexistent' accomplices. A result is that the same 100,000 thieves will be out there doing other thieving and banding together after a PR rebranding effort.

The question is which 'status' would most people choose given a default 'evil' mentality?

Re:WRONG (1)

radl33t (900691) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357606)

I do when their cooperation limits their liability, hence their accountability to illegal or unethical behavior.

Re:WRONG (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357824)

And every single one of those parties enjoys the freedom of the individual, as well as the responsibilities that come with that freedom.

Corporations want the same freedoms, but cannot be held to the same responsibilities as the individuals involved.

Re:WRONG (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357844)

"People working together" is a partnership. That's something the state should not be able to prevent. But a corporation is a distinct entity, created with the permission of the state, to shield groups of people from individual liability. When we, the people, grant such permissions, we have the right to withhold any individual rights or impose duties and responsibilities as we see fit.

As a creation of the state, it should not be possible to create a corporation that is granted rights with the state itself does not possess. That's just an end run around the Constitution.

Re:WRONG (0)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357910)

People working in corporations have MORE freedoms than those not working in one. One tasty bit is that unless it can be proven that a single individual broke a very specific law, individuals are NOT held responsible for things that were done in the name of corporation. Another one is that only assets held in the name of the corporation can be seized in case a corporation did something wrong, or is going bankrupt. This means that an individual acting on behalf of a corporation has more freedoms and less risks than someone who isn't. This needs to be balanced.

Re:Businesses trying to tell us what to do (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357596)

Oh, they know this perfectly well, but for $25000 in campaign contributions they can conveniently forget it.

Outraged (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357340)

Apparently, these eight supreme court justices need to be taught a lesson.

Don't they know that the original intent of the framers of the Constitution was that corporations are persons, except when it comes to paying taxes? Also, union members are not persons.

Re:Outraged (1, Troll)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357394)

Should people working together as a group have less rights than those same people if they are working on their own?

The group should have less rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35357496)

Each individual in the group already has 100% of their rights as a person. Nothing is lost.

Re:Outraged (3, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357508)

The people certainly not.

But why does the group need extra rights for itself, if all the people within it already have them?

Re:Outraged (2)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357560)

Corporations generally give those people the right to participate in the activities of the corporation without being fully responsible for those activities, and people can work together without forming a corporation, so what's your point?

Re:Outraged (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357738)

Should people working together as a group have less rights than those same people if they are working on their own?

As a corporation, yes. If you want to retain your entire set of rights, form a partnership.

Re:Outraged (0)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 3 years ago | (#35357778)

The onus is on you to explain why a person working alone should have less rights than if they were still working alone, but bought a corporate charter from the government. If I buy airtime to tell malicious lies about a politician, I can be sued. If I buy a corporation, I can say the corporation told me to say those things. Now I am immune from suit. The corporation gets sued, it goes bankrupt. But it's not me, we are wholly independent people. So, I am fine.
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