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Real Kato Blog: Supreme Court Rulings
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Supreme Court Rulings
Monday, 2005 June 27 - 11:19 pm
Today's SCOTUS rulings shouldn't really be a surprise or disappointment to anyone.

The Supreme Court ruled today that certain displays with religious subjects should not be displayed on government property. In Kentucky, where framed copies of the Ten Commandments were posted, the Court ruled that it was a predominantly religious display, and that it should be taken down. In Texas, where the Ten Commandments were displayed on with other monuments and statues, the Court ruled it was okay. Both were narrowly worded 5-4 rulings that might not be much of precedent for future cases.

In a separate decision, the court unanimously ruled that file-sharing services such as Grokster and StreamCast could be sued by Hollywood for the fact that copyrighted materials are distributed via their networks. But they only said so with because the companies had the "unmistakable" objective of promoting illegal distribution. So this ruling, too, has some wiggle room.

These rulings are all in keeping with this Court's tradition. We've seen a lot of rulings that are in keeping with common sense and the majority sentiment of the country, but are also targeted narrowly enough such that changing future circumstances could cause a reversal. So in that sense, I see the current Court as a little bit timid. They don't want to make big overreaching decisions (except, maybe, when it comes to crowning a President in a disputed election).

In fifty years, when current copyright laws are hopelessly out of date, the file-sharing decision will be utterly meaningless. And in three hundred years, when "Star Wars" and "The Da Vinci Code" have replaced Christianity as the predominant religions in the United States, the Ten Commandments rulings will be meaningless too.

One other sidebar about the Ten Commandments, by the way: there are actually multiple interpretations of what the Ten Commandments really are. That's something I mentioned a while ago. There's a document (42 kB PDF file) about it, if you're interested.
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Posted by Ken in: commentarypolitics


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