The US Constitution’s First Amendment Clause embodies was adopted in 1791, together with the other amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights (Trager et al. 62).
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Brief Overview of the First Amendment
The First Amendment establishes broad and diverse constitutional safeguards for all Americans. Its provisions guarantee every US Citizen’s entitlement to expression, free press, religion, peaceful assembly and association, and to petition and engage with government to address their concerns (Valbrune and De Assis). Accordingly, the First Amendment focuses on distinct but related rights that advance personal liberty through the prohibition against or limitations on intrusions by government.
Legal Issue Raised by the First Amendment
The free speech or freedom of expression aspect of the First Amendment raises multifarious issues with regard to business. The constitutional guarantees accorded to individuals also cover companies and business endeavours (Valbrune and De Assis). Consequently, normal commercial activities like marketing, branding, and advertising, trademarks, copyrights, and even campaign financing have implications for free speech. Commercial speech is covered by the First Amendment although, compared to other types of speech, more stringent government regulation is permissible if such oversight is reasonable and directly advances a legitimate government objective (Beatty et al. 124). Thus, the regulation of commercial speech is a potentially contentious issue.
Examples of Legal Issues Raised by the First Amendment
The conflict between the First Amendment protections and the business utility provided by various intellectual property entitlements such as trademarks and copyrights is an apt example of possible legal issues. There are concerns that the prevailing contours of trademark law and free speech safeguards leave a grey area that precipitates conflict on the extent to which trademark law must accommodate the principles of free speech (Simmons).
Another legal issue within the business context relates to the equation of money to speech such that campaign contributions made by businesses are safeguarded under the First Amendment. There are major concerns that such trends undermine the democracy process as they facilitate the influence of public policy by private interests (Ticchio 66). Hence, the application of this provision within the commercial context is contentious in various respects.
‘Real World’ Case on the First Amendment
The Supreme Court case, Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010), is an actual case in which restrictions on campaign contributions by businesses were lifted because they infringed on the constitutional free speech stipulation.
Beatty, Jeffrey F et al. Business Law and the Legal Environment. 8th ed., Cengage Learning, 2019.
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Simmons, Joshua. “Trademarks and the First Amendment: Litigation Trends.” Law. 2020. Web.
Ticchio, James. “Money as Speech: Campaign Financing in the Democratic Process.” Ramapo Journal of Law and Society, 2018, pp. 66-86. Web.
Trager, Robert et al. The Law of Journalism and Mass Communication. 6th ed., Sage Publishing, 2018.
Valbrune, Mirande, and Renee De Assis. Business Law I Essentials. Openstax, 2019. Web.