Friday, April 6, 2007
Today the dramatization of the Clifford Irving Howard Hughes biography hoax reaches the big screen. Mr. Irving's fake-ography was rejected when his ruses were found out, and he went to jail, but he eventually rehabilitated himself, and he writes about his adventure in The Hoax. A. O. Scott reviews the movie adaptation, in which Richard Gere plays Mr. Irving, in the New York Times here. For another consideration of Mr. Irving's work, and of the role of fakes and frauds in art and society, there's Orson Welles' F For Fake, in which Clifford discusses the question for the camera, Elmyr De Hory talks about faking famous painters, and Orson does some magic tricks.
Turkey may soon be censoring some websites under a new bill. The draft legislation would allow such censorship if the websites "insult" the founder of the modern Turkish state, Kemal Ataturk, or question the founding principles of the state. How easily such legislation, should it be passed, could be harmonized with EU norms of freedom of speech is a question for much debate. Read more here.
District Court Judge Richard Smoak, who found Joe Francis, the "Girls Gone Wild" impresario in contempt of court last week, has now ordered him to jail after Mr. Francis apparently refused to continue engaging in talks intended to lead to a settlement with seven women who alleged that he and his company inserted footage of them in videos without their consent. Read more in a CNN story here and here in an Orlando Sentinel story.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Stanford has unveiled a new searchable database that logs the status of so-called "orphan works" published in the United States between 1923 and 1963. If you want to see whether such a work is still under copyright, the database provides a first place to check, although it is not a guarantee that the work has not entered the public domain. Here is a post from the Chronicle of Higher Education blog about the database. Here's a link to Stanford's Copyright Renewal Database.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
After posting footage on his website that has long been desired by federal prosecutors, and also agreeing to turn it over to them, videographer Joshua Wolf has been freed from prison. His 226 days are the longest anyone claiming a reporter's privilege has served for defying a grand jury subpoena. Mr. Wolf still says he will not testify, and will not give up unpublished materials. Read more here in a Washington Post story. Here's more from the Reporters' Committee for the Freedom of the Press.
Scott Gant, a Harvard Law grad, is publishing We're All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age with the Free Press division of Simon & Schuster. It's due out in June of this year. Here's a description of the book from its jacket.
The rise of the Internet and blogosphere has blurred the once distinct role of the media in our society. It wasn’t long ago that the line between journalists and the rest of us seemed relatively clear: Those who worked for news organizations were journalists and everyone else was not.
Those days are gone. On the Internet, the line has totally disappeared. It’s harder than ever to answer the question, "Who is a journalist?" Yet it is a question asked routinely in American courtrooms and legislatures because there are many circumstances where those deemed "journalists" are afforded rights and privileges not available to the rest of us. The question will become increasingly important as the transformation of journalism continues, and bloggers and other "citizen journalists" battle for equal standing with professional journalists.
Advancing arguments that are sure to stir controversy, Scott Gant leads the debate with a serious yet accessible discussion about whether, when, and how the government can decide who is a journalist. Challenging the mainstream media, Gant puts forth specific arguments about how to change existing laws and makes elegant suggestions for new laws that will properly account for the undeniable reality that We’re All Journalists Now.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Zygmunt J. B. Plater, Boston College Law School, has published "Law, Media, and Environmental Policy," in volume 33 of the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review. Here is the abstract.
The functional linkages between law and media have long been significant in shaping American democratic governance. Over the past thirty-five years, environmental analysis has similarly become essential to shaping international and domestic governmental policy. Environmentalism - focusing as it does on realistic interconnected accounting of the full potential negative consequences as well as benefits of proposed actions, policies, and programs, over the long term as well as the short term, with careful consideration of all realistic alternatives - provides a legal perspective important for societal sustainability. Because environmental values and norms are often in tension with established industrial interests that resist public interest accountability, they are inevitably forced to play on political battlefields dominated by lobbyists' spin and corporate stratagems for manipulating public perceptions. The press, to which Thomas Jefferson entrusted the critical task of informing the discretion of the populace, is a crucially important and often disappointing resource of democratic governance, not least in the area of environmental law. This Essay surveys these problems and explores the potential for environmental lawyers to improve the relationships among environmental analysis, media, and societal governance at both the micro level of daily practice and macro level of national policy and law-making.
Download the entire article from SSRN here.
The House of Lords has refused to hear an appeal in the right of privacy case brought by singer Loreena McKennitt against the writer of an unauthorized biography. Ms. McKennitt won a lower court decision against the author, Niema Ash and Ms. Ash appealled. Ms. Ash has since edited the book to omit the offending passages. Read more in a Globe and Mail article here. Read about the original ruling here. The case is Ash v. McKennitt,  EWCA Civ 1714 (decided 14 December 2006).
Robert Love writes about the tradition of "fake news" in the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review here. As he notes, Jon Stewart fits along a continuum of folks who bring us what purports to be reportage. Stewart and his buddy Stephen Colbert at least let us know they are parodists and the news they "report" is either wildly exaggerated or complely invented. But, as Mr. Love points out, what about others engaged in the reporting of biased or fabricated news? What about those who have an undisclosed conflict of interest in the news they report?
Monday, April 2, 2007