Armstrong Dome, Moonbase Alpha, Colonial Lunar Administration Zone -- 27 Feb. 2057: The Constitutional Court of Personhood Rights and Definitions heard the opening arguments today in the trial of Omnicor Hypercorp LLC. & State of Denmark, a landmark case which some are predicting will determine once and for all the question of corporate personhood.
In 2052 a local subsidiary of Omnicor was found guilty by the Danish state supreme court of violating strict fraud statutes and tax laws and its corporate charted was ordered dissolved and its assets seized. The parent company stepped in, seeking an injunction on the basis that the corporation was a legal person and that such an action would be tantamount to judicial murder. The injunction was denied but the case was appealed to the Constitutional Court with a request that Denmark pay severe restitution.
The head of the plaintiff's legal team, Svend Svendsson, is arguing that sufficiently complex corporations can be classified as a form of sapient hive-mind, a designation that was added to the class of legal persons protected under the Armstrong Convention by action of the court after the near-extermination of Mathematical Bees.
"The form of a corporation fits exactly the definition of a sapient hive-mind," Svendsson claimed in his statement to the court, "as a collection of semi-autonomous agents whose rote cooperative behaviour, like that of cells in a brain or circuits running an emulated consciousness, creates the emergent property of intelligent action and conscious experience."
Svendsson went on to assert that Omnicor Hypercorp LLC. was a conscious being with intentions, thoughts, and desires that could not be reduced to those of its individual employees or shareholders, and that when a corporation is dissolved "something unique and irreplaceable, something which has been called 'the human spirit' or even a 'soul', is lost to the universe forever." He then announced his intention to produce internal memos, earnings reports, and other communications which express the extirpated corporation's "innermost desires, its joy in life and its fear of dissolution, of death."
The State of Denmark's defender, noted personhood law specialist Albix van Heuvenheffner, gave short shrift to such claims. "No corporate body has ever had a thought or feeling that could be seperated from those of its entirely sapient and autonomous parts," he retorted, noting that the tests of potential gestalt personhood were well-established as applied to parliamentary neuromorphs and that "we look forward with great anticipation to the plaintiff's attempts to establish that any statement produced by a corporation can pass such a test." He took the opposition to task for "abusing the sapient hive-mind ruling" and called the proceedings a "cynical sham of the highest order" and the plaintiff a "legal fiction, not an autonomous agent; and the idea that such a legal fiction will stand here in this court and testify on its own behalf is ludicrous."
During the proceedings, Anonymous hacktivists launched no less than 17 cyber-attacks on the court network, succeeding in getting a fragmentary statement entered into the court record which threatened in part that if corporations were found to be persons, "they will be subjected to the highest class of personal attacks" and that "hunting season on corporate persons will be declared open -- EXPECT US".
According to activist Wilberforce Braunstein of the corporate watchdog group Fair Dealings, the Omnicor case is the culmination of a campaign that has been decades if not centuries in the making. "The notion of 'corporate personhood' is one that goes back very nearly to the first emergence of the limited liability commercial corporation as a legal entity," Braunstein replied to our inquiries in a series of tweets. "And it's a notion that the wealthy shareholders and directors of these organizations have always been quick to support and expand." According to Braunstein, since the revolution in our concept of what is and is not a 'person' which came with the end of the Softwars, "the idea has grown new legs. The potential of corporations being declared protected persons by the Armstrong Court is regularly floated in meetings of the hyper-rich, extreme back-wing political circles and the writing of certain academics." Braunstein says that such a decision would be disastrous. "It would severely curtail the power of governments to regulate and restrict corporate activity. Corporations don't have the ethical subroutines that are hardwired by evolution into biological minds and by law into synthetic ones. They have no conscience. If they really are people, they're sociopathic ones by nature. I can't imagine how corporate civil rights could possibly be compatible with the civil rights of anyone else, unless something like the Convention on Neurocitizen Rights were applied to them. In three centuries we haven't yet found a way to get corporations to behave ethically."