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Supreme Court hears arguments on false political statements, TV copyright

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in two cases Tuesday. In Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus [transcript, PDF] the court heard arguments on whether an Ohio law that imposes penalties for making knowingly false statements about political candidates violates the right to free speech. The Ohio law makes it a criminal offense to make knowingly or recklessly false statements about a candidate, with a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and six months in prison. Despite never facing actual penalties, two conservative groups, the Susan B. Anthony List and Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes [advocacy websites], argue that the possibility that the Ohio statute would be enforced against them deterred them from issuing statements during the 2010 election campaign criticizing a Congressman Steven Driehaus for supporting the health care law. Lawyers for the state of Ohio say that the groups could not show that the law threatened their First Amendment right to free speech or that they were likely to be prosecuted. A federal judge in Ohio dismissed the groups' challenge in 2011, and in May 2013 the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] upheld that decision. The court will determine whether the two groups had grounds to challenge the law.

In American Broadcasting Co. v. Aereo, Inc. [transcript, PDF] the court heard arguments on the Aereo [corporate website] online service that streams and records publicly broadcast television programming without paying the broadcasters. Aereo charges users a monthly fee to view broadcast TV channels on the users' computers or mobile devices. The plaintiffs, including the networks ABC, 20th Century Fox, CBS and NBCUniversal [corporate websites], filed the petition for certiorari [text, PDF] after the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] denied their requested injunction [opinion] to shut down Aereo until the case is heard. The broadcasters claim that Aereo's service violates their copyrights on the broadcast materials and will affect their ability to generate subscription and advertising revenue.

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