Attorney General Nominee No Friend of Pirates

Recently, former federal judge Michael Mukasey was nominated to be the next Attorney General of the United States. There’s lots of punditry going on within the mainstream media about his past legal leanings (surprise, they’re reactionary!), but Mukasey’s also been involved in microradio case law to a degree not experienced by any other contemporary Attorney General. It was back in 1998, when the Steal This Radio collective preemptively sued the Federal Communications Commission in hopes of stopping a station raid or other major, life-threatening enforcement action.
STR’s lawsuit was not the most well-thought-out piece of legal argument. It took a shotgun approach to the FCC’s licensing authority: some claims alleged the Communications Act itself was unconstitutional because it gave the FCC excessive latitude to restrict access to the airwaves via the licensing mechanism; one claim specifically attacked the practice of auctioning off commercial radio licenses for limiting “free expression” only to those who can afford it. Another posited the radio spectrum as a public forum, which necessitated the strictest scrutiny of government attempts to regulate it; under such analysis, the broadcast licensing regime was overly restrictive and therefore also unconstitutional. Continue reading “Attorney General Nominee No Friend of Pirates”

"Nonsense on stilts": D.C. Appeals Court Upholds Anti-Pirate LPFM Ban

More depressing news from our so-called “justice” system: the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the “no-pirates” clause in the FCC’s LPFM rules. The clause was challenged by Greg Ruggiero, a member of the former Steal This Radio collective in New York. A three-judge panel of the the same court initially declared the blanket exclusion unconstitutional about a year ago. The FCC petitioned for a re-hearing of the case in front of the full bench, which was granted – leading to the reversal of the previous decision yesterday.
After rejecting both primary arguments articulated by Ruggiero and the FCC against and for the anti-pirate clause, the court struck out on its own path to denying the challenge to the ban. Ruggiero, in part, argued that many other individuals and entities licensed by the FCC have been found guilty of worse crimes than radio piracy. Therefore, Congress’ late-2000 passage of the “Radio Broadcasting Protection Act,” which overrode the FCC’s original rule and banned pirates completely and permanently from the new service (the FCC originally granted unlicensed broadcasters a limited window of amnesty under which to apply for an LPFM license) was unconstitutional. Continue reading “"Nonsense on stilts": D.C. Appeals Court Upholds Anti-Pirate LPFM Ban”