With their shapeless black robes and lined faces, the justices of the Supreme Court do not project a particularly cutting-edge image. And for the most part, that's not a problem. The judges concentrate primarily on cases related to either hot-button issues like torture and abortion, or cases dealing with the legal minutiae of how courts should properly function.
However, every once in a while, cases like Sony v. Universal (the "Betamax case") and MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. force the Justices to balance aging precedents with a rapidly advancing world. And while many of the Justices, especially the famous Luddite David Souter, have often been unfamiliar with the technology they were ruling on, President Obama's nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor has a long history of dealing with just the sort of technology-related cases the Supreme Court is likely to hear in the future.
We spoke with Jeffrey Neuburger, the co-chair of the Technology, Media, and Communications Practice Group at the law firm Proskauer Rose, and Timothy Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School who specializes in telecommunications and net neutrality law. Both identified the balance between free speech and intellectual property on the Internet as the most pressing science and technology-related issue likely to come before the Supreme Court. According to Wu and Neuburger, these cases will likely deal with the limits of fair use, what constitutes the public domain, and how news content can be aggregated and redistributed.
As it happens, Sotomayor specialized in intellectual property while at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. In 1997, she was appointed to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Since the 2nd Circuit covers New York City, Sotomayor landed right in the middle of the media capital of America right at the time when the Internet first began testing the limits of current copyright law.
That put Sotomayor in the position to write opinions for early cybersquatting cases like Storey v. Cello Holdings, L.L.C. and Mattel, Inc. v. Barbie-Club.com. Additionally, Sotomayor ruled against a group of freelancers in Tasini vs. New York Times, a resonant case that involved journalists contesting the right of Lexis-Nexus and the New York Times to re-post articles on Internet databases without further approval of the writers. The Supreme Court eventually overturned Sotomayor's decision, with Justices Stevens and Breyer affirming Sotomayor's ruling in their dissent.
With a Democrat-controlled legislature, and the extreme deference given to the President in appointing Supreme Court Justices, Sotomayor will likely win her confirmation hearing. Summaries of Sotomayor's biography and career can be found at CNN, the SCOTUS blog and The New York Times, although they all only briefly touch on Sotomayor's history in dealing with the intersection of advanced technology and copyright law.
Where's the beef? I don't know any more about her leanings than what I read in my general newspaper this morning. I know PopSci is slowly going MSNBC on us, but some indication of the 'tech savvy' byline teaser would be a nice touch (if only just to remember the old days when journalism involved actual research...)
OK Just read the Mattel vs Barbie-Club.com case as any good journalist would do.
Short and skinny:
- Mattel owns Barbie
- Other company in Australia purchased Barbie domain names from a company in Baltimore
- Mattel sues to get rights to those domain names (CaptainBarbie.com -haha)
- District Court says they don't have jurisdiction
- Mattel appeals to the Honorable Sotomayor
- In an amazing act of technological saviness, Judge Sotomayor unveils a judgement ... wait for it... upholding the District Courts decision. Wow.
If you want tech savvy lawyers and judges you need to be looking at the 40 and under crowd. The old ones are too bound to the written word. Go Drexel Law!
I cancelled my subscription to Popsci because of articles like this. Their ideology is more important than the facts.
ncredible. Not one mention of Miguel Estrada.
It is unbelievable that all this time was spent on questions as to whether Republicans might have alienated Latino voters, when it was Republicans who nominated Miguel Estrada, a Honduran immigrant, to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and his nomination was filibustered by Democrats who were worried that Estrada might be groomed for the Supreme Court, precisely because of his Hispanic status. That is how far that Dick Durbin, Pat Leahy, Ted Kennedy and the other liberals on the Senate Judiciary Committee were willing to go to advance their ideology. They were willing to kill a nomination of a Latino, based in part on his ethnicity.
The Republicans have nothing to apologize for in the Sotomayor nomination, and NPR has done a terrible job of examining the Estrada nomination.