Who owns the Moon?

Friday, 10 January 2014

A planetary scientist has said there is a case for developing a United Nations treaty about the moon, which currently states it cannot be owned.

No one legally owns the moon but there is a case for developing the law as space exploration continues, a planetary science professor says.

Under current UN law, member states are “prohibited from appropriating the moon.” Continue reading “Who owns the Moon?”

Russia to block websites that call for rioting, ‘extremism’ without court ruling

 

Published time: December 21, 2013 09:54

 

 

Russia’s lawmakers have passed a bill authorizing prosecutors to issue emergency orders without a court ruling that block websites promoting rioting, racial hatred or extremism. Critics fear the law may infringe constitutional rights. Continue reading “Russia to block websites that call for rioting, ‘extremism’ without court ruling”

You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even ‘imagine’ overthrowing the Queen

Government admits it mistakenly included a law that threatens to jail for life anyone who has called for the abolition of the monarchy on a list of recently repealed offences

John Hall

Friday, 13 December 2013

The government has confirmed that republicanism is still punishable by life imprisonment and that it remains illegal to even ‘imagine’ overthrowing the Queen.

The revelation comes as the Ministry of Justice embarrassingly admitted that a law threatening to jail for life anyone who has called for the abolition of the monarchy had been mistakenly included on a list of 309 offences due to be repealed before May.

Although the law has not been used to prosecute anyone since 1879, it means that it is still theoretically possible to imprison for life anybody who even so much as “imagines” overthrowing the Crown or waging war against the Queen. Continue reading “You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even ‘imagine’ overthrowing the Queen”

Proposed federal legislation targets 32 US states that retain laws making it illegal to not declare HIV status to sexual partners

New bill seeks to repeal outdated state HIV discrimination laws

Dan Roberts in Washington

theguardian.com,     Tuesday 10 December 2013 15.48 EST

South Africans protest in support of action on HIV and Aids
ProPublica’s study ound 541 cases over the last decade where people have been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, criminal charges for not disclosing their HIV status. Photo: Nic Bothma/EPA

A campaign against the criminalisation of HIV infection received a boost on Tuesday with the introduction of a bill in the US Senate aimed at repealing state laws said to discriminate against people with the virus.

Senator Chris Coons of Delaware joined existing efforts in the House of Representative by sponsoring legislation to roll back laws regulating the sexual activity of HIV-positive patients, many of which were introduced during initial waves of Aids panic in the 1980s.

His proposed federal legislation is targeted at 32 US states that retain laws making it illegal to not declare HIV status to sexual partners, regardless of whether there is a risk of transmission. Thirteen of these states also criminalise non-sexual acts, such as spitting, even though transmission by saliva is now thought impossible in such cases.

Coons, a member of the Senate judiciary committee, said such policies unfairly stigmatise the disease by applying differing legal standards for people with HIV, who can still be prosecuted for deliberate transmission of the virus under other criminal laws.

“It’s simply not fair that someone having been diagnosed with a chronic, treatable medical condition should automatically be subject to a different set of criminal laws,” he said.

Continue reading “Proposed federal legislation targets 32 US states that retain laws making it illegal to not declare HIV status to sexual partners”

Revealed: Australian spy agency offered to share data about ordinary citizens

• Secret 5-Eyes document shows surveillance partners discussing what information they can pool about their citizens
• DSD indicated it could provide material without some privacy restraints imposed by other countries such as Canada
• Medical, legal or religious information ‘not automatically limited’
• Concern that intelligence agency could be ‘operating outside its legal mandate’

 

, and

theguardian.com,              Sunday 1 December 2013 19.20 EST

Man typing on a computer keyboard
The secret document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share citizens’ “medical, legal or religious information”. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Australia’s surveillance agency offered to share information collected about ordinary Australian citizens with its major intelligence partners, according to a secret 2008 document leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share “medical, legal or religious information”, and increases concern that the agency could be operating outside its legal mandate, according to the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC.

The Australian intelligence agency, then known as the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), indicated it could share bulk material without some of the privacy restraints imposed by other countries, such as Canada.

“DSD can share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national,” notes from an intelligence conference say. “Unintentional collection is not viewed as a significant issue.”

The agency acknowledged that more substantial interrogation of the material would, however, require a warrant.

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Continue reading “Revealed: Australian spy agency offered to share data about ordinary citizens”

Thousands protest against tough new official secrets law ( Japan )

By Kiyoshi Takenaka

Politics Nov. 22, 2013 – 06:42AM JST ( 23 )

TOKYO —

Thousands of people protested in Tokyo on Thursday against a proposed secrets act that critics say would stifle information on issues such as the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The law, proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, would significantly broaden the definition of official secrets, which Abe says is vital for strengthening security cooperation with main ally the United States and other countries.

Tough secrecy regulations before and during World War Two have long made such legislation taboo, but the law is expected to pass when it comes to a vote next week, given the comfortable majority the ruling coalition has in both houses of parliament.

Continue reading “Thousands protest against tough new official secrets law ( Japan )”

Stoning for adulterers and amputation for thieves: Sultan of Brunei announces strict punishments for criminals under new Islamic laws

The punishments are set to come into force over the next six months

John Hall

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Sultan of Brunei has announced strict new Islamic punishments for criminals – including amputation for theft and stoning for adultery.

The punishments, which are set to come into force over the next six months, form part of the tiny, oil-rich monarchy’s new Shariah Penal Code and will apply to Muslims only.

In a speech unveiling the legalisation, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said the new code should be regarded as a form of “special guidance” from God and would be “part of the great history” of Borneo island.

He said: “By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled.“

Brunei’s Shariah Islamic court had previously handled mainly family-related disputes. The sultan has been hoping to implement the new law for years to bolster the influence of Islam in Brunei, where Muslims comprise about two-thirds of the population of nearly 420,000 people.

The minorities are mainly Buddhist, Christians and people of indigenous faiths.

Brunei’s top Islamic scholar Mufti Awang Abdul Aziz told a legal conference that Shariah law in the country “guarantees justice for everyone and safeguards their well-being.”

He said: “Let us not just look at the hand-cutting or the stoning or the caning per se, but let us also look at the conditions governing them“

Awang went on to say: “It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning. There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair.”

Under secular laws, Brunei already prescribes caning as a penalty for crimes including immigration offenses, for which convicts can be legally flogged.

Awang said, however, that there should be no concerns that foreign travellers might end up avoiding Brunei after the law is implemented.

“Please listen to our answer. Sir, do all potential tourists to Brunei plan to steal? If they do not, then what do they need to fear,” he said. “Believe me when I say that with our Shariah criminal law, everyone, including tourists, will receive proper protection.”

The implementation of Shariah criminal law is not expected to face vocal opposition in Brunei, which has long been known for conservative policies such as banning the public sale of liquor.

Sultan Hassanal, who has reigned since 1967, is Brunei’s head of state with full executive authority. Public criticism of his policies is extremely rare in Brunei.

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/stoning-for-adulterers-and-amputation-for-thieves-sultan-of-brunei-announces-strict-punishments-for-criminals-under-new-islamic-laws-8896939.html#

Loopholes in health care law could result in employee harassment ? May choose not to hire people that do not carry their own insurance

 

Peter Molk
Photo courtesy              College of Law


As firms grapple with the significant cost increases associated with the Affordable Care Act, the possibility emerges that employers would harass or retaliate against employees in order to avoid the law’s financial penalties, according to law professors Peter Molk (pictured) and Suja A. Thomas.

 

     7/23/2013  |  Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor  |  217-333-2177; pciciora@illinois.edu      
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The contrasting incentives of employers and employees under the Affordable Care Act ultimately may result in increased employee harassment and retaliation claims, two University of Illinois law professors say in a paper they co-wrote.

As firms grapple with the significant cost increases associated with the new health care legislation, the possibility emerges that employers would harass or retaliate against employees in order to avoid the law’s financial penalties, according to Peter Molk and Suja A. Thomas.

additional photo   Suja A. Thomas | Photo courtesy College of Law

“The Affordable Care Act incentivizes employers and employees to push in essentially opposite directions,” said Molk, an expert in insurance law. “There are safeguards that have been enacted as part of the law, and some already exist to protect employees from what employers might do. But we’ve identified other areas of the law where it looks like employees aren’t as protected as we would want them to be.”

“No one is thinking about this aspect of the law right now as a potential issue, but it will no doubt happen as employers begin to actively attempt to minimize the costs they will incur under the law,” said Thomas, an expert in employment discrimination.

Under the Affordable Care Act, beginning in January 2015, qualified employers – that is, employers with 50 or more full-time employees – must provide health care coverage or face a fine. Employees also must obtain coverage or pay a penalty.

But given the incentives for employers under the new health care legislation, as well as the past experiences of workers under other discrimination laws, additional protection for workers is warranted, the scholars warn.

“The Affordable Care Act recognizes a lot of problematic interactions and provides protections for some of them,” Thomas said. “For example, if an employer fires a worker for taking coverage offered by the employer under the act, the employee can sue for damages.”

There are, however, still some very conspicuous holes, Thomas notes.

“For employers, there are three different options: They can provide adequate coverage, inadequate coverage or no coverage at all,” she said. “In terms of loopholes, they could offer adequate insurance but could ask job applicants about their coverage in an attempt not to hire people who may seek coverage. They could offer inadequate insurance, but threaten employees not to elect coverage through the health exchanges, because then the employers would have to pay a fine. Or employers could offer no coverage at all and pay the fines, which do increase over time; it might be worth it if they calculate that they come out ahead monetarily by not offering coverage.”

“Employers obviously would like to minimize costs as well as avoid any and all penalties, and one way of doing so is offering inadequate coverage and trying to get employees to avoid buying subsidized coverage through the individual exchanges,” Molk said. “In this circumstance, what’s not currently protected is the way that some employers could pressure employees or tell employees, ‘Look, if too many of you go out and buy insurance this way, then we’re going to have to fire people or cut wages.’ That’s not protected, and that’s something that we think should be protected in appropriate circumstances.”

Employers also might restructure their workforce from full-time to part-time employees solely to avoid having to pay fines under the law.

In taking different actions, the employer’s intentions may not always be clear. Polling employees – that is, employers asking employees the seemingly innocuous question whether or not they intend to purchase health insurance through their employer or through the exchanges – is something that could have good or bad intentions, Molk said.

“If they are ensuring that they’re allocating enough money to covering health insurance costs or penalties; if they’re asking to know what employees are doing so the employer isn’t hit with some whopping bill at the end of the year – that’s fine,” he said. “There could be legitimate business intentions behind asking those types of questions, but there also could be employers who are doing it just as a means to identify the employees who are going to buy the employer-offered coverage or the subsidized individual coverage, which would impose some cost on the employers.”

If the employers can identify those employees in advance, they could put some extra pressure on them to find other insurance – or even later fire them, some of which is protected, and some of which is not.

“It’s a tricky issue,” Molk said. “You want to prevent that undesirable behavior but we also don’t want to keep employers from having some flexibility about determining what their future costs are going to be. You want to allow businesses to continue making legitimate, fundamental business decisions, but you also don’t want them using it as a smokescreen for undesirable behaviors, like moving full-time workers to part-time hours just to avoid the Affordable Care Act.”

“Actions undertaken purely to avoid the law’s penalties – those types of things shouldn’t be happening, but they undoubtedly will,” Thomas said. “So there are some actions that employers could potentially be doing – and probably are doing – given what we know about the Affordable Care Act.”

According to the paper, in analogous contexts where employees raise retaliation claims after they have complained of discrimination, employee claims against employers have had a significant level of success. Comparable retaliation under the health care overhaul is likely, and perhaps will occur even more as a result of the significant specific costs that employers face under the health care law, the scholars say.

“Employees need to be aware of these conflicts, and Congress could patch these loopholes fairly easily before the law goes fully into effect,” Molk said.

The only bad thing – Congress would have to take a vote on the issue.

“Given that the Obama administration has granted an extra year before the law fully goes into effect, it would be nice to be able to remedy those gaps and provide the protection that Congress intended,” Thomas said.

“Congress has a year and a half to get its act together, and with all the coverage in the press and the backlash from employers, it’s something that might now be higher up on their to-do list,” Molk said.

Molk and Thomas’s article will be published in the Cornell Law Review Online

Russian internet laws could make ISPs liable for user’s crimes

Published: 18 February, 2013, 13:10 Edited: 18 February, 2013, 13:15

 

New amendment that would make internet service providers disclose the identity of users who commit crimes online. If providers refuse they will become suspects in criminal cases instead of the users.

MP Sergey Zheleznyak has presented the draft law to reporters and said the lawmakers’ ultimate objective is to expand the ordinary “offline” laws to online. “For example, you cannot threaten someone’s life and health offline, so you cannot do so online as well,” the parliamentarian elaborated.

The legislators consider the most effective measure will be to force providers to uncover the end user suspected of a crime and disclose the user’s full identity to law enforcers. In order to stimulate the providers’ cooperation, the MP suggested the responsibility for the crime is laid on the companies that refuse to share the data.

At the same time, Zheleznyak told reporters that he and other authors of the bill considered the “Chinese option” when all Internet users provide their passport data to receive a connection as absolutely wrong.

If the new bill comes into force (and Zheleznyak promised the first draft will be ready by the summer) it might pose serious difficulties for service providers as they cannot always fully identify the user and registering all users activities on the web would require significant computer resources.

Russian communication law already obliges internet service providers disclose all information required by law enforcers and the administrative code details the fines that are levied for failure to do so.

In addition, recently changed rules allow the consumer rights agency Rospotrebnadzor to tell providers to close access to allegedly banned web-sites before a court order, allowing the site owners to contest this decision in court.

Internet providers, in turn, have attempted to introduce their own regulations on the internet which, they claim, would prevent the state from applying too much control and censorship. The first experiment will take place the central Russian Kostroma Region where all Internet providers agreed to provide access only to the Safe Internet – the sites hand picked and verified by experts of the safe internet league. Users who wish to browse other parts of the web would have to ask the providers for permission. The experiment caused heated discussions in the media and social networks and the authors of the initiative backed down slightly saying that there were no plans to switch to the safe internet option by default, but only at a users request.

http://rt.com/politics/russian-internet-law-providers-448/

 

Greek Courts Postpone Backlog of 1 million Cases

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Monday, 17 December 2012
Nothing seems to work in Grecia!Go-slow action by Greek judges and prosecutors since  September has resulted in more than one million cases being postponed,  adding to a massive backlog that has built up in the country’s courts  over the years, reads daily “Kathimerini”.

 

Hundreds of thousands of civil and criminal cases  have reportedly been frozen and thousands more are expected to be put  off after judges and prosecutors decided to extend their rolling  walkouts until January 19, escalating their protest at fresh cuts to  their salaries imposed by the government as part of new austerity  measures demanded by the country’s foreign creditors.

The protracted action is believed to have deprived  the cash-strapped state of millions of euros in much-needed revenue as  countless cases regarding tax arrears as well as offenses where  convictions are translated into financial penalties have been postponed.

All the country’s courts have joined the walkouts  apart from the Supreme Court and the Council of State, the country’s  highest administrative court, which is pursuing legal action on behalf  of its judges.

Last Sunday, judges and prosecutors voted to extend  their work-to-rule protest until January 19 despite the government’s  offer of concessions that would have softened the blow of the  reductions. Supreme Court president Rena Asimakopoulou and Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes had addressed their colleagues before the  vote in a bid to change their mind to no avail. Tentes had asked his  colleagues to “lower their gaze to society and heed the demand of  citizens for judicial functionaries to contribute to curbing tax evasion and widespread lawlessness.”

http://macedoniaonline.eu/content/view/22392/46/

 

MPs: ‘Chilling’ new libel law will CENSOR THE TRUTH online

 

We’re not trolling, you can silence a site with an email

By Kelly Fiveash, Networks Correspondent

Posted in Law, 12th December 2012 13:57 GMT

Free whitepaper – A Paradigm Shift in Digital Asset Storage

A proposed overhaul to the UK’s stringent libel law could have “a chilling effect on those publishing material online”, an influential human rights committee warned today.

The tabled amendments to the law of defamation [1] could force website owners to take down defamatory material on request even if there is a valid legal defence to keep it online. That’s according to Parliament’s human rights joint-select committee, which criticised [2] the draft legislation.

As the law stands right now, there are a number of defences to publishing a statement that damages a person’s reputation. One such defence is simply the provable truth: it is defamatory, for instance, to call someone a crook, but it is a justified statement if, say, a court has found them guilty of fraud.

But Clause 5 of the proposed legislation allows someone to order a website to take down a defamatory statement about them regardless of any valid legal defence. If the website complies and censors itself, it can avoid further litigation. If the website operator chooses to stand by the defamatory material then it must run the gauntlet of the High Court.

It’s this crucial Clause 5 that the committee of MPs and peers have urged the government to change. The panel’s report reads:

We are not satisfied with the government’s distinction in this matter. We think there is a real risk that website operators will be forced to arbitrate on whether something is defamatory or lawful, and to readily make decisions on commercial grounds to remove allegedly defamatory material rather than engage with the process.

As drafted, Clause 5 risks removing material from the internet, which, although it may be defamatory, may be lawful if a relevant defence applies. Material which is lawful may be suppressed because website operators are served with such notices. We recommend that the threshold for a Clause 5 notice should be elevated to ‘unlawful’, which would also ensure consistency with the E-Commerce Directive [3] and the Pre-Action Protocol for defamation [4].

The committee chairman MP Hywel Francis said the panel welcomed the steps that had been taken in the bill to “protect website operators who are merely hosting content” to allow them to have a defence against the content published on their sites.

But he said they were concerned that freedom of speech could be threatened if the government didn’t introduce a “higher threshold” to protect against material said to be defamatory being removed from the internet.

The committee said in its report that, under any new law, a defamatory statement should “only unlawful… if there are no defences that can be made against a claim for defamation, such as if the statement is true or if there is a public interest that the information should be published and the publisher has acted responsibly in testing the truthfulness of it”.

The MPs and peers also called into question the bill’s planned public interest defence to offer more protection to publishers by arguing that it lacked clarity.

“We propose an alternative that is both clearer and more flexible. This would help to ensure that the bill fulfils its main aim of rebalancing the law of defamation in favour of freedom of speech,” the committee concluded in its report.

There has been an explosion in reports of online trolling cases in the UK this year, in part because local newspapers have heavily covered web attacks on ordinary folk as well as celebrities. In many incidences, the plod has investigated a nasty tweet or sick Facebook post in response to public pressure or demands from angry mobs on social networks.

The defamation law amendments are working their way through Westminster and a House of Lords committee [5] will scrutinise the proposals next.

Separately, the Director of Public Prosecutions is putting the finishing touches to interim guidelines [6] on how offences involving social networks and the internet should be prosecuted. He has previously warned cops in England and Wales to approach such cases in a measured way to avoid what he said could end up being millions of web trolling offences being prosecuted in courts across the land.

Late last month, the Law Commission opened a public consultation [7] on contempt of court and the internet after a wave of high-profile cases of contempt online. ®

‘Worst copyright law in history:’ Panama set to crack down on piracy

Published: 28 September, 2012, 06:43 Edited: 28 September, 2012, 06:43

Panama’s legislature has approved a draconian file sharing law that gives law enforcements free hand to pursue and punish file sharers directly, and grants officials bonuses based on fines levied.

­Proyecto 510-2012 “On Copyright and Related Rights,” or the 510 Bill, which legal watchdog InfoJustice calls “incredibly unbalanced,” was passed in the Panamanian Congress Thursday. It is now awaiting the approval of President Ricardo Martinelli, which could happen in the immediate future.

The bill, which Andres Guadamuz at tech-law blog TechnoLlama called the “worst copyright law in history,” was written by Panamanian officials in order to bring the country’s Internet regulations into accordance with the US-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement – but overshoots many of the requirements it’s meant to fulfill.

For example, it ascribes copyrighted status to temporary electronic files, like those held in a computer’s random access memory (commonly known as RAM). According to InfoJustice, the 510 Bill is unique among national Internet laws in that it does not contain provisions for these so-called “transient” and “incidental” files. This means that users who stream paid-for content through services like Netflix or Pandora could be prosecuted and fined as much as $100,000, or $200,000 for repeat offenders, for having copyrighted material on their computers.

It also gives law enforcement officers incentives to punish file sharers – over and over, if they see fit – as the money collected from the fines goes directly to the Panamanian copyright office’s bonus pool, with the copyright holder not seeing a dime. “The funds accrued by the General Copyright Directorate from the fees for the services it provides and the fines imposed in the exercise of its powers, will be aimed at improving its operational infrastructure and to boost the performance of its officers,” the law reads.

However, the file sharer could still be liable to civil action should the copyright holder wish to file for it. And if convicted in either case, file sharers could be forced to pay for the publication of a press release noting that they’ve been fined for piracy.

http://rt.com/news/panama-copyright-law-piracy-168/print/

Federal court allows top donors to tax-exempt groups to remain secret

By Eric W. Dolan Tuesday, September 18, 2012 17:03 EDT

Money via AFP

The D.C. Circuit Court on Tuesday ruled that tax-exempt groups like Crossroads GPS only had to disclose donors who give money for the specific purpose of funding campaign ads.

The Court of Appeals reversed (PDF) the decision of a lower court, which held that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) had created a loophole by limiting disclosure of donors to only those who explicitly contributed “for the purpose of furthering electioneering communications.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), who challenged the FEC regulation, argued that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act required organizations engaged in campaign activities to identify all contributors who donated over $1,000. By including the “purpose” language in their regulation, the FEC allowed for outside campaign groups to improperly keep many of their top donors a secret, he alleged.

“Today, the D.C. Court of Appeals struck a blow against transparency in the funding of political campaigns and reinstated the flawed regulation that rendered the disclosure requirements meaningless – made clear by the fact that millions of dollars of special interest money has flooded the airwaves with ads from anonymous sources,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “The Court of Appeals’ decision today will keep the American people, for the time being, in the dark about who is attempting to influence their vote with secret money.”

The Center for Individual Freedom and the Hispanic Leadership Fund argued against Van Hollen, saying that forcing tax-exempt groups to disclose their donors was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

The case will return to the lower court for further consideration, giving the FEC a chance to conduct a new rulemaking.

“Hopefully, either the FEC will issue a new disclosure regulation that actually requires disclosure or the District Court will strike down the existing regulation as arbitrary and capricious,” Van Hollen said. “We will continue to examine all of our options as we move forward.”

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/18/federal-court-allows-top-donors-to-tax-exempt-groups-to-remain-secret/

More on legal remedies for ghostwriting

In an Essay that expands on a previous proposal to use the courts to prosecute those involved in ghostwriting on the basis of it being legal fraud, Xavier Bosch from the University of Barcelona, Spain and colleagues lay out three outline specific areas of legal liability in this week’s PLoS Medicine.

First, when an injured patient’s physician directly or indirectly relies upon a journal article containing false or manipulated safety and efficacy data, the authors (including “guest” authors), can be held legally liable for patient injuries, says the article. Second, guest authors of ghost-written articles published by Medicare- and Medicaid-recognized peer-reviewed medical journals used as clinical evidence for indications for off-label drugs articles may be liable under the federal False Claims Act for inducing the United States government to reimburse prescriptions under false pretenses. Finally, the authors argue, paying guest authors of ghostwritten papers—which may influence clinical judgment, increase product sales and government health care costs, and put patients at risk by misrepresenting risk-benefit— can mean that both physicians and sponsor companies may be liable under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

Although guest authors and pharmaceutical defendants may argue a First Amendment right to participate in ghostwriting, the authors say, the US Supreme Court has firmly held that the First Amendment does not shield fraud.

In the previous proposal, published in PLoS Medicine in August 2011, Simon Stern and Trudo Lemmens from the Faculties of Law and Medicine at the University of Toronto, Canada argued that it is irrelevant whether publications with academic guest authors are factually accurate. Rather, ghostwriting of medical journal articles raises serious ethical and legal concerns, bearing on the integrity of medical research and scientific evidence used in legal disputes. Furthermore, the false respectability afforded to claims of safety and effectiveness through the use of academic investigators risks undermining the integrity of biomedical research and patient care—an integrity that also underpins the use of scientific evidence in the courtroom.

According to these authors, medical journals, academic institutions, and professional disciplinary bodies have failed to enforce effective sanctions. Some journals, such as PLoS Medicine, have called for bans on future submissions by authors who act as guests, formal retraction if unacknowledged ghostwriting is discovered after publication, and reporting of authors’ misconduct to institutions. Although the authors agree that such actions may have an impact on academics concerned about their status and future publication options, they say that it is unclear whether journals can adequately monitor the practice.

They made the case for more effectively deterring the practice of ghostwriting through the imposition of legal liability on the ”guest authors” who lend their names to ghostwritten articles. The authors say: “We argue that a guest author’s claim for credit of an article written by someone else constitutes legal fraud, and may give rise to claims that could be pursued in a class action based on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act [RICO].”

The authors said: “The same fraud could support claims of ”fraud on the court” against a pharmaceutical company that has used ghostwritten articles in litigation. This claim also appropriately reflects the negative impact of ghostwriting on the legal system.”