Monday, June 27, 2005

A Very Silly Day At The Supreme Court

Any legal fan of Supreme Court decisions, had quite a lot to digest today. Silly decisions were the rule of the day. One of the few good decisions, a narrow 5-4 decision kept a copy of the 10 Commandments from the courtrooms of Kentucky. The reasons should be obvious, it could sway a jury to decide a case based on religious rather than set legal considerations.

Some will claim that American law is based on the 10 Commandments. This is only partially true. Prohibitions on murder, theft and perjury in court are covered by the 10 Commandments. Keeping(Saturday) the Sabbath holy, honoring only Jehovah God, respect for parents, not worshipping graven images, not using God's name in a vain manner, not committing adultery are all issues between God and each individual man, woman, boy or girl. The 10 Commandments were actually part of the 510 laws of the Jewish faith, with the first 10 representative of the law given to Moses from God. Why these articles of the Jewish faith contract with God should be posted in any public courtroom is a very good question. They are specific to faith contract with a single group of believers in God, those of the Jewish faith.

In a second ruling on a 10 Commandments display, one in Texas, the court managed to cloud the waters. In another slim decision the court allowed this second display which was 40 years old to stand, which was brought to the court by a homeless man who is an attorney who hangs out at a law library across the street from the Texas courthouse. He is not opposed to faith or antiJewish or antiChristian, he simply questioned the placement on public property of this religious monument.

This Texas monument even features two Star Of David emblems, and is very much an article you'd expect to find at a Synagogue. But the court allowed this probably partly because of the age of it, 40 years, as well 17 total artistic displays are on the property including a veteran's memorial, which also has nothing to do with law as well. In the context of a merely artistic display, the court made an exception for this display. Because of age, it would seem wrong to remove a display that the public has grown used to, but the problem is that it opens the door for more such new displays with the excuse of artisic value presented as the premise for such a display.

The history of the 10 Commandments should be presented as a guide to whether any display is an appropriate display of this holy article of the Jewish faith. Jehovah God himself penned the first set of these Commandments, which were written on both sides, and were nothing like what is often portrayed. There was no numerical value to each principle as well. In anger, Moses destroyed the set penned by God and made a second replacement set by hand. This holy item was placed in the Ark Of The Covenant, which was to be the throne of god in the Jewish temple. The Ark of The Covenant was so holy that it could only be handled by specific priests. Once a priest stumbled, and a well intentioned man thought he could hold up the Ark and prevent it from falling to the ground. But God's prohibition on anyone handling the Ark was so specific that this man was immediately struck dead by God. This is an important point. God does not honor good intentions when he expects the letter of the law in specific regards. Those who place the 10 Commandments in a public place are usually Christians who do not honor the Sabbath, they attend church on Sunday, the first day of the week instead. And they disregard the prohibition in the 10 Commandments regarding prayer or worship of a graven image and have turned some 10 Commandments displays, such as the one 5,200 pound granite one placed in the Alabama courthouse by Judge Roy Moore, into a religious shrine that is prayed to. This is certainly a violation of the "golden calf", graven image prohibition, and is a crazy paradox of some violating the 10 Commandments to worship God. This makes no sense to God, and Judge Moore is lucky God no longer strikes dead those that erect "golden calfs". Essentially you have Christians who do follow or regard all of the 10 Commandments, yet they insist these must be placed publicly funded property locations. And futher, the 10 Commandments are only the first of 510 laws of the Jewish faith. Other laws restrict eating pork products, shellfish, men being required to have facial hair, how menstruation should be handled, bathing requirements, and other laws specific to the Jewish faith. Why Christians embrace this 10 Commandments and fail to honor a lion's share of all laws of the Jewish faith including important parts of the first 10 must be regarded as a political use of this holy part of the Ark Of The Covenant, and has little to do with true faith. Many churches don't even post a copy of the 10 Commandments. And some churches such as the Jehovah's Witness faith actually honor the prohibition on the graven image use of religious images and instead teach the 10 Commandments to their children, which is what Holy Scripture actually requires. The Supreme Court today managed to muddy the waters today. Now some will set up new 10 Commandments displays and futher dishonor this holy part of the Ark Of The Covenant which is so holy that few priests were even worthy enough to handle this holy Ark.

In another silly ruling, the Supreme Court decided against file sharing software. The problem with this is that you have two justices over 80, who have sided with the major film industry and have potentially put a chill on new technology development because of lawsuit fears for infringement of someone's held intellectual property copywrites. In previous rulings, the Supreme Court has always sided with new technology and the right of a consumer to record any broadcast carried into their own home. A previous ruling on the early Sony Betamax system set this precedent. The only difference appears to be the higher quality of digital transfers of files of film or music. Yet is a strange precedent to decide that because the quality is higher, that a new standard now exists that makes a broadcast into one's own home now illegal to record. This is a confused standard.

Any theft of copyrighted material from an artist or moviemaker is wrong. With great expense of production, movies and music are produced. It is a high risk business. Yet with previous rulings regarding the taping of any broadcast into one's home as being legal or even falling under "delayed viewing" standards, the Supreme Court has given too much to the major music and movie companies. VCRS, double cassette decks, radio recorders, DVD recorders, TiVo and other items are all intended to record material that is largely copywrited from TV, cable, radio, record or tape. All of these are legal. And a VCR Plus Code is offered for all popular TV or cableprogramming. This is also entirely legal. And dual CD recorders are made for copying a CD, although the record companies manage a royality from the CD-R Music discs. This is also legal. But recording from the internet is not? This is a confused standard which the Supreme Court has failed to consistantly decide.

The court has established a screwy standard where broadcast recording into one's home is now legal, and sometime not legal. On one hand those who share a file are considered similar to a radio station in broadcasting music, but are also considered to be illegal distributors of music by the record companies. Why the Internet is different than radio, cable TV or other broadcast media is a very good question. And the court has not made sure that recording artists will now receive royalties for their music. Many recording artists have never seen a penny in royalties from their record company's. Ween, The Backstreet Boys, and many other acts have been charged massive "management fees" by their record company's, and had to rely on concerts or merchandise sales to make any money at all despite millions of dollars in CDs sold. The movie industry is far better. The actors are paid upfront, and may even receive some future royalties from DVD sales or TV or cable broadcasts. And the production costs are very high to produce a film. It's a high economic risk industry where a very good film could lose millions for the producers and investors. Yet in the case of both, with an official copy of a CD or movie you get all the great packaging and booklets. For those that record illegally, they lose all that great material which is very worthwhile. It should be hoped that new technology will not be stiffled by this questionable Supreme Court decision. But file sharing has proven to record companies that immediate purchases of music online from legal services are favored by many. You hear a song on the radio, and you can immediatedly purchase a download of that song. With Hollywood films in an economic slump, perhaps someday both the DVD and download of films will be cooridinated with the theatre release. New technology is changing the state of entertainment. The older folks on the court may not completely get that fact.

And in another silly decision, some police who failed to act on a restraining order related case failed to protect a woman's children from murder. The court found no liability in this case, although the decision was not completely related to the restraining order.

It was quite a busy and confusing day at the Supreme Court today. Rather than clarify some important legal issues, some issues are now more confused than ever. Have a nice vacation Supreme Court justices. You'll need the rest when some issues return to court next year for more clarification. Today not that much was really decided.

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