February 2012

Revisiting copyright claims against Westlaw and LexisNexis: Does selling access to court-filed attorney briefs violate copyright law?

Edward L. White, a Oklahoma City, Okla., lawyer, and Kenneth Elan, claim WestLaw and LexisNexis have engaged in “unabashed wholesale copying of thousands of copyright-protected works created by, and owned by, the attorneys and law firms who authored them” — namely publicly filed briefs, motions and other legal documents.

December 2011

“The Right to Privacy” by Warren and Brandeis

The modern “right to privacy” is frequently attributed to Warren and Brandeis’ groundbreaking 1890 law review essay of that same name. Its initial purpose, according to Steven Childress, was to recognize, within the traditional common law, “a civil and non-contractual right of protection against invasions of privacy.”

Privacy as secrecy and privacy as autonomy

The concept of “privacy”–as in “the right to privacy”–can be understood in a number of ways. This multitude of potential meanings and uses is partly why the concept is controversial, confusing, and perhaps even contradictory. Previously I have discussed the difference in perceptions of privacy in the 19th century, where the legal focus seemed to be more on “confidentiality” than what we have come to understand as “privacy” today. That is, the 19th century concern was with maintaining trust relationships between people rather than with protecting either secrecy or autonomy (although that is not to say that these were not valued).

November 2011

Copyright and authorship: reading Thomas Streeter’s Selling the Air

Copyright law is often approached in terms of debates over competing interpretations of the law: should copyright be used to protect the author’s freedom, or to encourage the public distribution of culture and information, or to turn intellectual products into marketplace commodities, or to serve the interests of corporate publishers and distributors?

October 2011

Thinking about privacy and the First Amendment

This post is about Eugene Volokh’s article on free speech and privacy in relation to Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis’s 1890 law review article, “The Right to Privacy.” This highly influential piece advocated for “the fundamental right to be let alone.” But is it impossible to reconcile such a right with an equally compelling right to free speech?