December 5, 2008
News From the Programme in Comparative Media Law & Policy, University of Oxford
From the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy
New Co-ordinator of PCMLP appointed
The Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy, at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford, is pleased to announce that Dr. Nicole Stremlau has been appointed to head PCMLP, with the title of Coordinator. Her research is in the field of media and conflict particularly in Eastern Africa. She recently completed her PhD at the London School of Economics Development Studies Institute. She has directed research and training projects for DFID (the Department for International Development), the Foreign Office and others and recently published an article on public opinion research in conflict zones arising from work in Darfur. Dr Stremlau was previously Director of the Africa programme for the Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research, and will take up her new position at PCMLP in January 2009.
PCMLP is interested in sponsoring applicants for the Newton Fellowship. This scheme provides a two year fellowship for early stage post doctoral researchers from anywhere in the world (those already working or studying in the UK are excluded). Applicants in the final stages of their PhD will be considered, provided their degree will be completed by the start of the fellowship in September 2009. Please see http://www.newtonfellowships.org/ for more information. If you are interested in putting forward a research proposal, contact Louise Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org with your CV and a brief outline of your research interests. Please note that the closing date for applications to Newton International Fellowship programme is January 12, 2009 but you should contact us as soon as possible so we can develop a proposal and research agenda together.
RDR Books To Release Revised Version Of Harry Potter Lexicon Early Next Year
RDR Books is releasing a revised Harry Potter encyclopedia that complies with a federal judge's ruling after the publisher's courtroom loss earlier this year. The Lexicon: An Unauthorized Guide to Harry Potter Fiction and Related Materials will make its bookstore debut in January, according to the RDR website. Read more here.
Ofcom Sanctions Digital Channel For Misleading Ads
Ofcom has pounced again, this time on Venus TV, a digital channel popular with the British Asian community. The situation was referred to Ofcom by the Advertising Standards Authority, which was concerned by Venus TV's ads regarding Golden Bull Kastoori Capsules, Jorge Hane Weight Loss, Pandith Astrology, Pundit Maharaj astrology, and Roopamrit face cream and had issued adjudications to that effect last year. Read the ASA's ruling on Healtheeze (Golden Bull capsules) here, the ruling on Jorge Hane weight loss here, Pandith astrology here, Pundit Maharaj astrology here, and Roopamrit face cream here. [In 2004 Ofcom began referring some broadcast tv regulation to the ASA].
Ofcom told the channel that several of its ads merited sanctions and if such breaches occured in future, would be "considered seriously." Read the entire ruling here.
Read a Guardian article on the subject here.
December 4, 2008
Technology in the Courts
Technology plays an incontrovertibly central role in contemporary judicial work and lives, both on and off the bench. Along with tremendous benefits, it imports substantial new challenges that increasingly impact upon courts and judicial ethics. And yet, notwithstanding its growing relevance, the question of technology's ramifications for the judiciary has thusfar evaded scholarly inquiry almost entirely, leaving courts (for the most part) with little choice but to attempt to fit new technologies into outdates regimes and practices.
Online court records and privacy, ex parte email communication (by self-represented litigants), inadvertently e-mailed draft decisions and the matter of independence and government-owned and operated court servers are but a few of the plentiful issues arising with greater - indeed disconcerting - frequency. The cumulative effect of these, it stands to reason, is to ultimately prompt courts to revisit the conventional construction of fundamental concepts including disclosure, competence - even impartiality- and the balance to be struck between foundational values such as transparency and privacy in the Internet age.
In an effort to alert judges to up-and-coming matters deriving from the use of technology, the following will first endeavor to highlight issues arising from the interplay between technology and judging. It will then more specifically address two of the referenced issues namely, the networked environment's ramifications for out-of-court judicial expression and judicial use of online resources (including search engines and "Wikipedia") as it relates to competence and diligence, inter alia.
Advertising Standards Authority Finds Belfast Church's Anti-Gay Ad In Breach Of Code
The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a Belfast church's ad with a headline reading "The word of God against Sodomy," and addressing homosexuality as "God's judgment upon a sin" and condemning it in other ways. The ASA indicated that it had received four complaints. The church maintained that the quotations were from the Bible and represented religious beliefs.
Here is part of the ASA's ruling.
Sandown Free Presbyterian Church (SFPC) said the ad was not homophobic but was based on the statement "THE WORD OF GOD AGAINST SODOMY". They pointed out that the quotations included in the ad were biblical and, therefore, formed an integral part of SFPC's religious convictions. They said they could not be held responsible if readers were offended by the message of the Bible.
The ASA noted the ad prominently stated "Published by the Kirk Session of Sandown Free Presbyterian Church" and recognised that readers would understand that the text was representative of the beliefs of a specific group and indicative of their opinion only. We considered, however, that some of the text used in relation to homosexuality, for example, "... declaring it to be an abomination ...", "... God's judgement upon a sin ...", "... remove the guilt of their wrongdoing ...", "... a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality ...", went further than the majority of readers were likely to find acceptable.
We considered that particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of sexual orientation, and concluded that this ad had caused serious offence to some readers.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clause 5.1 (Decency) but did not breach 8.1 (Matters of opinion).
We understood that the complainants were concerned because the ad called for an outdoor meeting to be held in protest of the act of sodomy and to voice disapproval of the Belfast Gay Pride parade on the same day as the parade was arranged; they believed this action could be read as an attempt to spread hatred and incite violence against supporters and members of the Pride movement and LBGT community.
While we appreciated the complainants' concern, we considered that the ad did not in itself incorporate language likely to incite a violent emotional response. We considered that it would be clear to readers that it represented the views of a specific group, which were not universally held, and would be deemed extreme by some. We acknowledged, therefore, that the ad conveyed an opinion that was controversial for some readers but concluded that it was unlikely to provoke hatred or violence against the LGBT community.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code clauses 8.1 (Matters of opinion) and 11.1 (Violence and anti-social behaviour) but did not find it in breach.
The ad should not appear again in its current form. We told SFPC to take more care in future to avoid causing offence and advised them to seek a view from the CAP Copy Advice team before publishing future marketing material.
December 3, 2008
A New Article on Student Publications and Government Speech
Roman Polanski's Lawyers Ask D.A.'s Office To Dismiss Charges
Attorneys for film director Roman Polanski (Chinatown, The Pianist) have asked the Los Angeles District Attorney's office to dismiss charges against him. Such a move would allow the director to return to the United States from France, where he has lived for the past thirty years, since he pled guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and then left the country before sentencing. A recent documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, has raised questions about the impartiality of the judge who presided at Mr. Polanski's trial. Read more here.
Reorganizing and Rethinking Public Media
This paper argues for continuing public support for public media, but a dramatic transformation of the way that public media is conceived and structured. Specifically, media policy needs to focus more generally on public media, not public broadcasting. Public broadcast subsidies should be redeployed on a platform-neutral basis to support many kinds of media production and distribution. These subsidies should support podcasting as well as radio, citizen journalism as well as conventional journalism, and distributed systems of content creation as well as conventionally produced programming. What is needed is a system that focuses on supporting a wide range of noncommercial programs and services, and that promotes universal access to, and opportunity to engage with, quality media content.
This chapter presents ideas for transitioning the system of public broadcasting to a system of digital public media, focusing on television. This transition involves at least three components: (1) restructuring the current system so that funds are diverted from the operation of broadcast facilities; (2) redefining the entities that are entitled to public media funding; and (3) revamping the system of copyright exemptions and licenses so that public media entities have access to content on reasonable terms, can distribute public media content across all platforms, and can make content available for citizen engagement and re-use.
Download the paper from SSRN here.
British FM Station May Lose License
A small radio station in Liverpool may be the first to lose its license for failing to provide enough "local content." After warning the station, Ofcom is beginning official proceedings to strip KCR-FM of its right to broadcast. Read more here in a Guardian story.
Age Discrimination in Network Programming, Hollywood Style
This week's episode of Boston Legal (the next to last--next week's episode is the series finale) had a weird little media law subplot. In "Juiced," Catherine Piper (Betty White) convinces Carl Sack (John Laroquette) to bring an age discrimination case against the networks for failing to program enough shows that cater to older viewers. Sack's arguments are quite passionate, and eventually the judge hearing the case (the wonderful Henry Gibson) allows it to go forward. Needless to say, opposing counsel Morrison (Andy Umberger) cannot believe it. Previous seasons of Boston Legal are already out on DVD, and this season will probably be available soon.
December 2, 2008
Recent Developments In Copyright Law
Jane C. Ginsburg, Columbia Law School, has published "Recent Developments in US Copyright Law - Part II, Caselaw: Exclusive Rights on the Ebb?" in For Revue Internationale du Droit d'Auteur, Oct. 2008 (forthcoming January 2009). Here is the abstract.
The 1976 Act announces broad exclusive rights, offset by a myriad of specific exemptions, and one wide exception for "fair use." In words and intent, the exclusive rights are capacious, but new technologies may have caused some of the general phrases to become more constraining than might have been expected from a text whose drafters took pains to make forward-looking. Thus, the scope of the reproduction right turns on the meaning of "copy;" the reach of the distribution right on "distribute copies" and "transfer of ownership;" the range of the public performance right on "public" and "perform." Entrepreneurs and users of new technological means of exploiting copyrighted works have urged narrow constructions of each of these terms, arguing that broad interpretations will chill future innovation (and suppress present markets for copyright-exploiting devices or services). Copyright owners, concerned that unfettered new uses will supplant traditional copyright-controlled markets, have contended that the literal language, or, failing that, congressional intent, encompass the contested use. In addition, new technologies have called into question the identification of the person who "does" the copyright-implicating acts. Who makes a copy when the act is decomposed into steps taken by different actors? Who performs or displays a work when the work resides on one person's server, but the public perceives it through another person's website?
Several US courts have narrowly construed the reach of the exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance and public display, thus putting into doubt their efficacy in the digital environment. In particular, the Second Circuit's recent decision in Cartoon Networks v. CSC Holdings, if followed, could substantially eviscerate the reproduction and public performance rights. The growing number of decisions rejecting a "making available" right attests to some difficulties in adapting the distribution right to online exploitation. By contrast, one bright spot for authors appears in the area of moral rights, in which digital media may provide a means to make at least some authors' attribution interests enforceable. Because the decisions emanate from lower courts, including first-level courts, it is too soon to discern whether US copyright law is adopting a constricted conception of the scope of the economic rights under copyright, and if so, whether the decisions betoken an evolving (if often unarticulated) determination that copyright prerogatives should yield to technological preferences. In either event, the analyses and results contrast with solutions adopted in the European Union, and, in some instances, may be in tension with the US' international obligations.
Download the article from SSRN here.
Against the Fairness Doctrine
This comment argues against revival of the Fairness Doctrine for broadcast television and other media.
Download the entire paper from SSRN here.
Former UCLA Employee Pleads Guilty To Selling Medical Records To National Enquirer
The BBC reports that a former employee of the UCLA Medical Center has admitted to selling medical records to the media. Among the private records sold were those of pop star Britney Spears and actress Farrah Fawcett. Lawanda Jackson, who quit her position at the Medical Center last year, faces up to 10 years in prison and a hefty fine. Here's more from the Times Online.
December 1, 2008
Suspect Arrested in Hudson Family Tragedy
William Balfour, the brother-in-law of actress Jennifer Hudson, has been arrested for the shooting deaths of her mother, brother, and young nephew. MSNBC.com reports that Mr. Balfour, who was already detained on a parole violation, will be arraigned soon on formal charges. Darnell Hudson Donerson and Jason Hudson were found dead at Ms. Hudson's family home in Chicago in October. Julian King's body was found in an SUV three days later. Here's breaking news from the Chicago Tribune.
Smack Apparel Smackdown
The Fifth Circuit has ruled in favor of four universities and against a manufacturer of sports apparel, finding that the defendant's use of colors that recalled the universities' school colors and designs infringed their trademarks and constituted unfair competition and deceptive trade practices under the Lanham Act. The case is Board of Supervisors v. Smack Apparel (5th Circ., No. 07-30580, decided Nov. 25, 2008).
SRM Global Sues Wall Street Journal Over Disclosure
SRM Global, the hedge fund, is going to court over the Wall Street Journal's publication of information about its financial performance, alleging that the data revealed was confidential. SRM held major positions in both Northern Rock, the bank nationalized by the British government earlier this year, and Countrywide Financial. WSJ claims the public had an interest in the information. Read more here in a Financial Times article.
Arrests Made In Kidnapping of Western Journalists
The Guardian reports arrests in the case of two Western journalists kidnapped in Somalia as they were making their way to an airport near Bosasso. Other Western journalists are still being held. Read more here.
Man Arrested In Little Rock Anchor Murder
Police have a suspect in custody in the slaying of Little Rock anchor Anne Pressly, who was found beaten and near death in her home on October 20. She died five days later. Curtis Vance was arrested last week and is also suspected in the rape of another woman earlier this year. Read more here in this MSNBC.com story.
News Stations Cut Back On Familiar Faces
The New York Times' Brian Stelter writes about the end of an era in this piece about the laying off of local anchors. Economic times are tough, so television stations are replacing highly paid and knowledgeable newspeople with cheaper folks. Such a move may be understandable, but is it a good idea?
Somebody's Tracking Simon Cowell?
Simon Cowell's attorneys are warning the press off his trail after someone, allegedly a journalist, attacked a tracking device to Mr. Cowell's vehicle. The noted law firm Carter-Ruck has sent out letters to leading British newspapers telling reporters not to "harass" the "Idol" host and indicating that this behavior constitutes intrusion into his privacy. Read more here in a Guardian story.