Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Corporate Limits Redux?

Opponents of untrammeled corporate campaign spending may have cause for optimism if a conservative organization “dedicated to fighting environmental extremism” persuades the Supreme Court of the United States to hear its case.

American Tradition Partnership, Inc., (ATP) is challenging Montana’s campaign contributions law, the Corrupt Practices Act of 1912. Unlike the relevant Massachusetts statute (M.G.L. c. 55, Section 8) the Montana law does not ban corporate campaign contributions outright. In fact, corporations are free to make campaign contributions so long as they solicit them from employees and shareholders, then pass them on to candidates via separate, transparent accounts, and file two simple forms with the state.

When Montana’s state’s supreme court upheld the law, ATP asked the Supreme Court of the United States to stay the decision, effectively granting an injunction. Although the Supreme Court did, indeed, grant the stay the accompanying statement from Justices Ginsberg and Breyer suggests that the Court may be take advantage of the Montana case to revisit Citizens United.

The case is American Tradition Partnerships, Inc. v. Bullock, Attorney General of Montana and you can read about it here

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pirates throw liberals overboard

In the German state of Saarland, the Pirate Party blasted a massive hole below the watermark of the centrist Free Democrats, the Financial Times reports, effectively sinking the Christan Democrats' junior coalition partner in the federal government. With just 1.3% of the votes, the Free Democrats sank below the level parties need to reach in order to win seats in the legislature, while the Pirates -- in their first electoral voyage -- captured over 7%. Unlike the Greens and the Left Party, who Saarland's voters left clinging to the wreckage, the Pirates rode an electoral swell all the way into the state parliament. This makes policy-making in the area of intellectual property even more interesting. 

Politics is changing, clearly
Buoying the Pirate Party is the growing popularity of its signature issues, namely Internet freedom, copyright reform, and opposition to the now dead (or resting) Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). The party's Saarland success is its third noteworthy win in Europe so far, and the resources that come with parliamentary representation seem likely to help the party grow.

How will this affect the European Parliament's deliberations over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which would make it easier for powerful copyright owners to crack down on online infringement? Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Trademark rights in your own name

Karen Millen
Karen Millen

A lesson in trademark policing from Iceland. Fashion designer Karen Millen (pictured) would like to open a business, and she would like to do so using her well-known name. But administrators at Icelandic bank Kaupthing are telling her she can't.

Intrigued? Here's the story.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rumbles, real and legal

Dryden, NY

Earlier this month a 4.7 magnitude earthquake hit Greenbrier, Arkansas, possibly as a result of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Two quakes in Britain last year prompted the drilling company to admit that the events were "probably" the result of its activities. Given the fact that natural gas helps drive climate change, and with so many questions about the local impact of fracking, is there anything communities can do to prevent fracking?

As the people of Dryden, NY, will confirm, the answer is yes.
In 2011 the town enacted an ordinance prohibiting all activities relating to natural gas exploration, production, and storage. Not surprisingly, an energy company sued. More surprisingly, on February 21, 2012, the trial court upheld the ordinance and granted the town's motion for summary judgment. After reviewing the state's Oil, Gas & Solution Mining Law (OGSML) Judge Phillip R. Rumsey found that the legislature had not intended to preempt the field, and that OGSML allows a municipality "to completely ban oil and gas production within its borders."

Not a legal earthquake, admittedly, but certainly a mild tremor.

This may not be the last word in the case of Anschutz v. Town of Dryden, but it should encourage active citizens to keep up their grassroots work in the struggle for climate justice.