July 7, 2006
Sixth Circuit Vacates Newspaper's Complaint Against Former Mayor As Moot
The Sixth Circuit has vacated a newspaper's appeal in a case against the former mayor of Youngstown, Ohio. The mayor had forbidden his staff to speak with reporters for the Youngstown Business Journal, allegedly in retaliation for the Journal's unflattering articles about him. The Journal complained that its First Amendment rights had been violated. The district court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss. Before the appeal could be heard, a new mayor took office. The Sixth Circuit has vacated the district court's decision, dismissed the appeal, and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the case as moot since the new mayor has now "withdrawn [the former mayor's] edict." You may recall a similar case involving Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich and the Baltimore Sun that hit the courts in 2005. Read more here in an article by Kirsten B. Mitchell and here in a previous Media Law Prof post.
Read the Sixth Circuit's opinion in Youngstown Publishing Co. v. McKelvey here.
July 6, 2006
European Publishers Hostile to Google's Attempt to Digitize Books for the Web
In a Guardian article published today, Richard Wray and Dan Milmo discuss the reactions of European book publishers to Google's project to digitize books. Already under fire in the U.S., Google is now running into opposition elsewhere as well. A German publisher tried unsuccessfully to get an injunction against the company. Harry Potter's publisher has tagged the Google program as an attempt to destroy copyright. Read more here.
July 5, 2006
FCC Issues Ruling On Prepaid Calling Cards
In In the matter of Regulation of Prepaid Calling Card Services (WC Docket No. 05-68), the FCC has [taken] "steps necessary to protect the federal universal service program and promote stability in the market for prepaid calling cards. In particular, we will treat certain prepaid calling card service providers as telecommunications service providers. As such, these providers must pay intrastate access charges for interexchange calls that originate and terminate in the same state and interstate access charges on interexchange calls that originate and terminate in different states. They also must contribute to the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) based on their interstate revenues, subject to the limitations set forth below. We also address a petition for interim relief filed by AT&T and adopt interim rules to facilitate compliance with the universal service and access charge rules. Specifically, on an interim and prospective basis, we require all prepaid calling card providers to comply with certain reporting and certification requirements." [footnotes omitted]
NYT Editorial on China's Proposed "No News Is Good News" Law
The New York Times has an editorial on China's proposed new "no news on disasters" legislation. Here's a link.
Chinese Journalists Can't Report On Disasters Without Permission
Under proposed legislation, neither PRC journalists or non-Chinese media will be allowed to report on disasters or other emergency situations without prior permission from the authorities. Read more in a Guardian story here.
Ireland To Propose New Defamation Legislation
The government of the Republic of Ireland is ready to introduce new legislation on the subject of defamation that will harmonize Irish law with recent EU changes, including the 2004 verdict won by Caroline of Hanover (Monaco) stating that in terms of publication of photographs of a public figure "the decisive factor in balancing the protection of private life against freedom of expression should lie in the contribution that the published photos and articles make to a debate of general interest. It is clear in the instant case that they made no such contribution since the applicant exercises no official function and the photos and articles related exclusively to details of her private life." The government also has new right of privacy measures under consideration. The government says the new press laws will prevent an already identified "chilling effect." But some members of the UK press have already objected to the new proposals, saying they were unncessarily subject to government control. Read more here in an article in the Guardian.
July 3, 2006
UK Authorities, Others Concerned About Teen Websites
Authorities in the UK are increasingly concerned about sites such as FaceBook and MySpace. Reports that youngsters are posting questionable photos and intimate details have led the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre to begin an investigation, law enforcement officials have taken steps after victims have reported crimes, and teachers have expressed qualms generally about the extent to which children have confided personal information to their pages on these sites. Read more in an article in the Guardian.
British Phonographic Institute Planning to Sue Russian Music Downloading Service
The British lobbying group BPI (British Phonographic Insitute) has received a go-ahead from the nation's High Court to sue Russian website allofmp3.com, a Napster-like site that permits users to downloaded copyrighted music. Ultimately, alleges BPI, Media Services, allofmp3.com's owner, does not pay royalties properly to the copyright owner. Media Services says it is following Russian copyright law. BPI will pursue litigation on behalf of its members, who include the biggest of the recording companies, such as EMI. Read more here.
New York Drops Objection to Skating Rink Ads
The New York Division of Human Rights has dropped its objection to Skate Time 209's "Christian Skate". The Division had notified the privately owned rink that the special skate periods, which featured Christian music, were "evidence of discrimination." The Division also sent a letter to the Ulster County Press maintaining it had violated New York's Human Rights Law by publishing the ad. Skate Time 209 has now renamed its event "Spiritual Skate". Read Howard Friedman's blogpost from Religion Clause on the original situation here.
July 2, 2006
First Season of Murphy Brown Out on DVD
The first season of Murphy Brown, the classic 80s sitcom about a career newswoman, is now out on DVD. In that first season we meet Eldon the painter, discover why Murphy can't keep a secretary, and accompany Murph and the gang through several journalistic crises. How far will they go to improve their ratings? What did Murphy do during the '68 Democratic Convention? Also available on DVD is Murphy's journalistic predecessor, Mary Richards. Four volumes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, starring Moore, Valerie Harper as Rhoda, Ed Asner as Lou Grant, Gavin MacLeod as Murray, and Ted Knight as the quite amazing anchorman Ted Baxter are currently available. Both series pose legal as well as ethical questions about broadcast journalism and include additional material, such as documentaries about the filming of the shows.
Investigative Reporting In Latin America
Read Tina Rosenberg's article on the dangers and successes of investigative reporting in Latin America in today's New York Times.
New York Times Defends Itself Against Administration, Critics Over Swift Database Story
After more than a week of vociferous criticism from the administration and its supporters, the New York Times today published an article and an editorial concerning the June 22nd story on the government's secret tracking of possible terrorist financing through a Belgian banking system. Scott Shane's "A History of Publishing, and Not Publishing, Secrets" reviews when, and why, newspapers publish stories that governments ask them to withhold for national security reasons. Frank Rich's op-ed "Can't Win the War? Bomb the Press!" offers another perspective. Byron Calame, the Times' Public Editor, comments here that he thinks Executive Editor Bill Kellar was right to publish the story, in spite of the overwhelming number of negative emails the paper has received concerning Kellar's decision. (L. A. Times editor Dean Baquet ran a similar letter to his paper's readers on June 27). Eric Lichtblau, one of the authors of the June 22nd article, appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources this morning, and ably defended the Times decision to go to press.