The Information Society Project at Yale Law School is an intellectual center addressing the implications of the Internet and new information technologies for law and society, guided by the values of democracy, development, and civil liberties. The ISP's work includes copyright, media law and policy, transparency, and privacy.
Commercial Speech and the Corporate Civil Rights Movement
Abstract: In recent years in cases like Hobby Lobby and Citizens United, the Supreme Court has been employing rhetoric that suggests that distinctions between people and corporations or between types of corporations (for-profit vs. not-for-profit) constitute some form of invidious discrimination. Freedom of speech and exercise of religion, the Court admonishes us, do not depend upon the identity of the speaker. Yet much of the public disagrees with this characterization. Corporate “personhood” is one of the most controversial aspects of these decisions. Many legal scholars tell us that personhood is actually not very controversial, that it is important to legal functioning and that the public is mistaken in objecting to it. Piety argues that this view is mistaken, that expropriating the language of civil rights is an attempt to make these decisions seem self-evidently correct when they are not. Indeed, this “corporate civil rights movement” presents substantial challenges to many existing regulatory regimes with perhaps deleterious impacts on the public welfare.