First Amendment might not let Mississippi licensing board go after online map service

From Institute for Justice’s “Short Circuit”: “Using publicly available descriptions of property boundaries, startup company draws lines on satellite photos, which helps its customers, community banks, visualize their property assets and identify issues (such as a property’s legal description not describing a completed shape). Mississippi regulators: That is the unlicensed practice of surveying, a civil and criminal offense. Fifth Circuit: There is no occupational speech exception to the First Amendment. The startup’s challenge should not have been dismissed. (This is an IJ case.)” In the 2018 case of NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court rejected a former doctrine that lower levels of First Amendment protection applied to “professional speech.” “The Board’s expansive regulatory theory would allow it to shut down Google Maps, Zillow and other map-based apps.” [Institute for Justice case page]


  • This is an easy case and a hard case. First, the hard–clearly. the State has the right to regulate “surveying”—but what is surveying? (Just like what is golf–for people who have read Scalia’s classic dissent.)

    But that question doesn’t need to be answered. The easy question is whether people have a right to take publicly available legal descriptions and superimpose them on a map for a fee. And the answer is yes they do.

  • Oregon’s Professional Engineering society lost a suit against a man with a graduate engineering degree who identified as such. he did *not* claim to be a licensed PE and the matter in question had nothing to do with the responsibilities of a PE.

    • My only question there—did Oregon’s Professional Engineering Society “lose”? I think not. It sent a message–one that won’t soon be forgotten.