Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Communications Law
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In a license revocation proceeding before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the United States sought to admit classified evidence relating to electronic surveillance it had conducted against China Telecom (Americas) Corporation (China Telecom). Pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA),the government filed this petition for a determination that the electronic surveillance was lawful and that fruits of the surveillance were admissible in the underlying FCC proceedings. After the district court granted the government’s petition, the FCC revoked China Telecom’s license in the underlying action and we then denied China Telecom’s petition for review of the FCC order without relying on or otherwise considering the classified evidence.   The DC Circuit vacated the district court order granting the government’s petition because the government’s petition no longer presents a live controversy. Accordingly, China Telecom’s appeal from the district court order is moot. The court explained that here, the district court’s review of the surveillance materials was triggered by the government’s notice of its intent to use the surveillance in a “trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before [a] court, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, or other authority of the United States.” In response, China Telecom principally requests disclosure pursuant to section 1806(g), asserting a due process right to discover the classified materials so that it may defend itself in the underlying FCC proceeding. The court explained that any order requiring the government to disclose classified evidence at issue in an FCC revocation proceeding would be wholly ineffectual because the proceedings in which the parties sought to use that evidence have ended. View "USA v. China Telecom (Americas) Corporation" on Justia Law

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This petition involves Bermuda's efforts to secure rights from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to operate a satellite at the 96.2 degree W.L. orbital location. Bermuda partnered with EchoStar to deploy and maintain its satellite at this orbital location. Meanwhile, the Netherlands also sought rights from the ITU to operate a satellite at a nearby orbital location. Petitioner, Spectrum Five, a developer and operator of satellites working in partnership with the Netherlands, filed an objection to the FCC to EchoStar's request to move its satellite from 76.8 degrees W.L. to 96.2 degrees W.L. The FCC granted EchoStar's request and determined that Bermuda secured rights to the 96.2 degree W.L. orbital location. Spectrum Five petitioned for review of the Commission's order, claiming principally that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously. The court dismissed the petition for lack of Article III standing because Spectrum Five failed to demonstrate a significant likelihood that a decision of this court would redress its alleged injury. View "Spectrum Five LLC v. FCC" on Justia Law

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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,50 U.S.C. 1881a,2008 amendments, permit the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to acquire foreign intelligence information by jointly authorizing surveillance of individuals who are not "United States persons" and are reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. They normally must first obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approval; 1881a surveillance is subject to statutory conditions, congressional supervision, and compliance with the Fourth Amendment. United States persons who claim to engage in sensitive international communications with individuals who they believe are likely targets of surveillance sought a declaration that 1881a is facially unconstitutional and a permanent injunction. The district court found that they lacked standing, but the Second Circuit reversed, holding that they showed an "objectively reasonable likelihood" that their communications will be intercepted in the future and that they suffer present injuries from costly and burdensome measures to protect the confidentiality of their communications. The Supreme Court reversed. The plaintiffs do not have Article III standing, which require an injury that is "concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent; fairly traceable to the challenged action; and redressable by a favorable ruling." Allegations of possible future injury are not sufficient. Plaintiffs’ standing theory rests on a speculative chain of possibilities. The Court stated that it is "reluctant to endorse standing theories that require guesswork as to how independent decision-makers will exercise their judgment." Plaintiffs cannot manufacture standing by choosing to make expenditures based on hypothetical future harm that is not certainly impending. View "Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l USA" on Justia Law

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Wiley, an academic publisher, often assigns to its foreign subsidiary (WileyAsia) rights to publish, print, and sell Wiley’s English language textbooks abroad. WileyAsia’s books state that they are not to be taken (without permission) into the U.S. When Kirtsaeng moved to the U.S., he asked friends to buy foreign edition English-language textbooks in Thai book shops, where they sold at low prices, and mail them to him. He sold the books at a profit. Wiley claimed that Kirtsaeng’s unauthorized importation and resale was an infringement of Wiley’s 17 U.S.C. 106(3) exclusive rights to distribute its copyrighted work and section 602’s import prohibition. Kirtsaeng cited section 109(a)’s “first sale” doctrine, which provides that “the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title ... is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.” The district court held that the defense did not apply to goods manufactured abroad. The jury found that Kirtsaeng had willfully infringed Wiley’s American copyrights and assessed damages. The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that section 109(a)’s “lawfully made under this title” language indicated that the “first sale” doctrine does not apply to copies of American copyrighted works manufactured abroad. The Supreme Court reversed; the “first sale” doctrine applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad. Section 109(a) says nothing about geography. A geographical interpretation of the first-sale doctrine could re¬quire libraries to obtain permission before circulating the many books in their collections that were printed overseas; potential practical problems are too serious, extensive, and likely to come about to be dismissed as insignificant—particularly in light of the ever-growing importance of foreign trade to America. View "Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law

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Wiley, an academic publisher, often assigns to its foreign subsidiary (WileyAsia) rights to publish, print, and sell Wiley’s English language textbooks abroad. WileyAsia’s books state that they are not to be taken (without permission) into the U.S. When Kirtsaeng moved to the U.S., he asked friends to buy foreign edition English-language textbooks in Thai book shops, where they sold at low prices, and mail them to him. He sold the books at a profit. Wiley claimed that Kirtsaeng’s unauthorized importation and resale was an infringement of Wiley’s 17 U.S.C. 106(3) exclusive rights to distribute its copyrighted work and section 602’s import prohibition. Kirtsaeng cited section 109(a)’s “first sale” doctrine, which provides that “the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title ... is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.” The district court held that the defense did not apply to goods manufactured abroad. The jury found that Kirtsaeng had willfully infringed Wiley’s American copyrights and assessed damages. The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that section 109(a)’s “lawfully made under this title” language indicated that the “first sale” doctrine does not apply to copies of American copyrighted works manufactured abroad. The Supreme Court reversed; the “first sale” doctrine applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad. Section 109(a) says nothing about geography. A geographical interpretation of the first-sale doctrine could re¬quire libraries to obtain permission before circulating the many books in their collections that were printed overseas; potential practical problems are too serious, extensive, and likely to come about to be dismissed as insignificant—particularly in light of the ever-growing importance of foreign trade to America. View "Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,50 U.S.C. 1881a,2008 amendments, permit the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to acquire foreign intelligence information by jointly authorizing surveillance of individuals who are not "United States persons" and are reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. They normally must first obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approval; 1881a surveillance is subject to statutory conditions, congressional supervision, and compliance with the Fourth Amendment. United States persons who claim to engage in sensitive international communications with individuals who they believe are likely targets of surveillance sought a declaration that 1881a is facially unconstitutional and a permanent injunction. The district court found that they lacked standing, but the Second Circuit reversed, holding that they showed an "objectively reasonable likelihood" that their communications will be intercepted in the future and that they suffer present injuries from costly and burdensome measures to protect the confidentiality of their communications. The Supreme Court reversed. The plaintiffs do not have Article III standing, which require an injury that is "concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent; fairly traceable to the challenged action; and redressable by a favorable ruling." Allegations of possible future injury are not sufficient. Plaintiffs’ standing theory rests on a speculative chain of possibilities. The Court stated that it is "reluctant to endorse standing theories that require guesswork as to how independent decision-makers will exercise their judgment." Plaintiffs cannot manufacture standing by choosing to make expenditures based on hypothetical future harm that is not certainly impending. View "Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l USA" on Justia Law

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The Belfast Project collected taped interviews of the recollections of members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the Provisional Sinn Fein, the Ulster Volunteer Force, and other paramilitary and political organizations involved in the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland from 1969 forward. The Project had various confidentiality measures in place, but in 2011, the United States submitted an application to the district court ex parte and under seal pursuant to the US-UK Mutual Assistance Treaty and 18 U.S.C. 3512, seeking appointment of an Assistant U.S. Attorney to collect evidence and to take other action to effectuate a request from law enforcement authorities in the United Kingdom, concerning the 1972 murder and kidnapping of Jean McConville. The district court granted the government's application. The First Circuit affirmed, stating that there was no First Amendment basis for challenging the subpoenas. The fact that communications were made under a promise of confidentiality does not create a privilege. View "In Re: Request from the United Kingdom" on Justia Law