Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Law

Free speech and political stagflation

First Amendment Law is distorting public debate. We need the Supreme Court to do better. Public political debate in the United States seems to have run off the rails. The gulf between Republicans and Democrats in political opinions, views of the other party, and even factual beliefs keeps growing. Big money dominates the electoral process. Journalists and political dissenters face relentless hostility.

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What do the people want?

It has become commonplace for Government departments at all levels to ask people for their views. It seems as if no new policy or legislative plan can be launched without an extensive period of consultation with all those who may be affected. The UK government’s website page for ‘Consultations’ lists 494 consultations published already this year out of a total of 3,796 since the decade began.

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Why we still believe in the state

How do we explain the resilience of the modern state? State power, whether expressed by politicians, parliamentarians, policemen, or judges, seems to be routinely questioned. Yet, the state as an institution remains. The constitutional state is today the universal expression of power despite its constant questioning and its lack of ability to maintain a minimal order in large parts of the world.

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The traps of social media: to ‘like’ or not to ‘like’

A recent Swiss case reported in the media has raised the spectre of criminal liability and/or defamation for merely ‘liking’ a 3rd party post on Facebook. Whilst this may have been the first time that this specific issue has come up in court it may not be the last! We are all already very aware of the trouble that can result from indulging in posts and tweets on line which may cause offence but until now merely ‘liking’ a post has not, to the author’s knowledge, given rise to any liability.

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Taxing or exempting the church

Religious entities pay more taxes than many people believe. Moreover, churches and other religious organizations are treated quite diversely by different taxes and by different states. Sometimes churches and other religious entities are taxed in the same fashion as secular organizations and persons are.

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Russia, sanctions, and the future of international law

The current geopolitical and military troubles between the West and the Russian Federation are simultaneously also international legal troubles. One of the interesting aspects of the Western sanctions against Russia since 2014 has been that Moscow has criticized them as ‘illegal’. There are two elements in Moscow’s unexpected argument. On the one hand, Moscow denies any wrongdoing, from international legal perspective, in Ukraine.

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Taxing multinationals – has the international tax system been fixed?

Over the last few years, concerns have been repeatedly voiced about the effectiveness of the international tax system. Much of the debate has focused on the rules which deal with the allocation of income within multinational groups of companies. These concerns are illustrated by several recent high-profile disputes relating to the use of tax haven vehicles which involve companies such as Google, Starbucks, Amazon, and Apple.

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“The law is my data”: The socio-legal in environmental law

When I left practice to start my PhD, I was made to do a master’s degree in research methods as a condition of my doctoral funding. The ‘made’ in that first sentence is wholly intentional. I was quite clear, and quite vocal, that I had no interest in, and no need to study, methods. I knew exactly what form my PhD was going to take: an analysis of EU chemicals regulation using a new governance lens.

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Supreme Court of Canada challenges the idea of state sovereignty

It has been a busy time for the Supreme Court of Canada. In a judgment on 23 June 2017, it ruled that Facebook Inc’s forum selection clause was unenforceable in a case involving the application of British Columbia’s Privacy Act. The long-term value of that judgment is, however, questionable given that the Court was split 4-3, with one of the judges (Abella J.) deciding against Facebook, doing so on a different basis to the other three who ruled against Facebook.

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ESIL Annual Conference: the responses of international law

In preparation for the European Society of International Law (ESIL) 13th Annual Conference, we asked some of our authors to reflect on this year’s conference theme ‘Global Public Goods, Global Commons and Fundamental Values: The Responses of International Law’. How should international law respond to the fundamental challenge of defining and regulating global public goods, global commons, and fundamental values?

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How private are your prescription records?

Urgent public health crises generate pressures for access to information to protect the public’s health. Identifying patients with contagious conditions and tracing their contacts may seem imperative for serious diseases such as Ebola or SARS. But pressures for information reach far more broadly than the threat of deadly contagion. Such is the situation with the opioid epidemic, at least in Utah,

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Is advocating suicide a crime under the First Amendment?

Two different cases raising similar issues about advocating suicide may shape US policy for years to come. In Massachusetts, Michelle Carter was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for urging her friend Conrad Roy not to abandon his plan to kill himself by inhaling carbon monoxide: “Get back in that car!” she texted, and he did. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has already ruled that prosecuting her for involuntary manslaughter was permissible

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Combatting the spread of anti-vaccination sentiment

Vaccines are one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Credited with saving millions of lives each year from diseases like smallpox, measles, diphtheria, and polio, one would expect vaccines to be enthusiastically celebrated or, at the very least, widely embraced. Why is it, then, that we are witnessing the widespread proliferation of anti-vaccination sentiment?

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The ultimate quiz on environmental law and climate change

Climate change is one of the most controversial issues facing society today. The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change marked a pivotal point for the fight against environmental destruction. Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, stated, “There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent threat of a changing climate.”

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Is there a right to report a disease outbreak?

Recently the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health Systems and Innovation Cluster released its WHO Guidelines on Ethical Issues in Public Health Surveillance. This report was the first attempt to develop a framework to guide public health surveillance systems on the conduct of surveillance and reporting in public health emergencies. The guidelines are described as a ‘starting point for the searching, sustained discussions that public health surveillance demands’.

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Is memory-decoding technology coming to the courtroom?

“What happened?” This is the first question a police officer will ask upon arriving at a crime scene. The answer to this simple question—What happened?—will determine the course of the criminal investigation. This same question will be asked by attorneys to witnesses on the stand if the case goes to trial.

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