In the back of the Apple Store in Berkeley, California, at the end of the bar where those “geniuses” repair iPhones and MacBooks, is a placard with this warning: “If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation.” Read the safety instructions in the manual, it tells consumers. Or else.
The Apple Store posted the notice to comply with a Berkeley city ordinance—the first in the nation—requiring retailers to alert consumers to the federal guidelines for safe cellphone use. The warning drew little attention when I visited that Apple Store in October. But such notices drew the attention—and the ire—of CTIA, a trade association representing some of the nation’s largest cellphone manufacturers and carriers, including Apple, Samsung, Verizon and AT&T. CTIA went to court, arguing that Berkeley’s notice infringes on cellphone retailers’ First Amendment rights. The ordinance, it said, forced retailers to “distribute its one-sided, innuendo-laden, highly misleading and scientifically unsupported opinion on a matter of public controversy.” Berkeley maintains in court documents that the notice is “nothing but an arrow that points to the very manuals written by manufacturers.”
The so-called right-to-know ordinance has sparked an epic dispute between two of the nation’s foremost, and formidable, legal titans.
CTIA hired Theodore Olson, a former solicitor general who argued the case that put George W. Bush in the White House and is considered one of the nation’s most effective U.S. Supreme Court advocates. Berkeley is represented by Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and cyberlaw expert who last year ran for president as a Democrat to push for an overhaul of campaign finance. The two are now jousting over the Berkeley ordinance in federal court.
Lessig, who helped craft the Berkeley ordinance in a way that he hoped would withstand a cellphone industry lawsuit, is not charging the city for his services. He volunteered because he believes corporations discourage governments from imposing regulations by filing First Amendment lawsuits that are prohibitively expensive to defend, he tells Newsweek. “I’m a constitutional scholar, and I am very concerned,” he says.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of San Francisco allowed the Berkeley cellphone warning law to take effect in January. In a hearing last year, Chen read from an iPhone manual cautioning that the device could exceed federal radiation-exposure guidelines if carried closer than five-eighths of an inch from the body. “The mandated disclosure truthfully states that federal guidelines may be exceeded where spacing is not observed, just as the FDA accurately warns that ‘tobacco smoke can harm your children,’” Chen wrote.
The wireless association appealed Chen’s decision to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In September, Olson and Lessig debated the matter before a three-judge panel. The judges are expected to issue a written ruling in the next few months.
Read the full article at: Radiation Waring Sign Sparks First Amendment Battle
Don’t forget, Professor Leszczynski from the University of Helsinki will be speaking in Melbourne on the harmful effects of wireless technology on Sunday 20 November. Click here for more information.