13 June 2011

They've Gone Back to Metric Without Telling Us!

This is being posted late because I've been struggling with plumbing most of the day...

  • I've heard that the real reason that Anthony Weiner is taking a leave of absence is to upgrade from Oscar Mayer to Nathan's. "It was either that or publicly choose a brand of mustard to endorse, and that's just too difficult a choice," said a hypothetical nonspokesperson. Calls to the Beenie-Weenie Rights Action League were not returned by press time, probably because the operator was too busy snickering to tell us that he couldn't find the number in the phone directory.
  • The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit almost got it right on student satires of school officials. In two decisions released today on reconsideration after they were inconsistent the first time around — J.S. v. Blue Mountain Sch. Dist., No. 08–4138 (en banc 3d Cir. 13 Jun 2011) (PDF), and Layshock v. Hermitage Sch. Dist., No. 07–4465 (en banc 3d Cir. 13 Jun 2011) (PDF) — the Court held in each instance that students have a First Amendment right to create parodic/satiric profiles of school administrators off-site (that is, using computers and networks not located on school property) that "did not disturb the school environment and was not related to any school[-]sponsored event" (Layshock II, slip op. at 4). Under those circumstances, the school may not discipline the students.

    The situation was a little bit more tangled at Hogwarts the Blue Mountain Middle School, where Deputy Headmaster Principal McGonigle (really!) disciplined the student in question (twice) for unspecified "dress code violations" resulting in a mock MySpace profile with what the Court characterizes as "adult language and sexually explicit content" that "was so outrageous that no one took its content seriously" (Blue Mt. Sch. Dist II, slip op. at 3, 4). There, the First Amendment claim was validated, but the attendant due process claims were not — leaving the school district free to screw up a student's life for years and then "gracefully" concede when called on it. That is almost exactly what the dissent suggests is the appropriate way to keep control over the school environment. Of course, at least three of the dissenters attended private (not public) high schools... and I seriously doubt that any of them were ever "disruptive influences" themselves, and the same goes for their clerks.

    <SARCASM> Those of us who ran off-campus-produced underground newspapers during our own misspent teen years can stop shakin' in our boots now. </SARCASM> Policies like these are going to continue as long as school administrators overreact to student dissatisfaction and expressions thereof — that is, until some time after the heat-death of the universe. Of course, if the school administrators would avoid arbitrary and capricious policies, not to mention arbitrary and capricious enforcement of those policies, things would be much simpler for everyone! It might help, too, if more school administrators were drawn from the upper ten percent of their own high school classes; but that's an argument for another time.

  • The Supreme Court continued its march toward the end of the term today, with four more opinions and a few other items. I'll have more to say on them in the context of the whole month later; suffice it to say, for now, that the emphasis on collegiality promised by Chief Justice Roberts at his confirmation hearings is steadily receding.
  • Professor Goldman discusses an interesting DMCA-misuse case on his blawg, and states one reason that I never use the online forms provided by some ISPs (under the DMCA's definition of ISP) for filing infringement complaints: As the defendant/copyright holder noted, the ISP's form didn't allow for anything other than assertion of copyright as a reason for takedown. I also disdain those forms because they are never set to send a copy of what one sends in back — the minimum possible recordkeeping requirement. Under § 512(i) and the reasoning of Ellison, that might not be a "reasonable" policy...