Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, March 6, 2009

BBC Institutes New Producer Policy

The BBC is putting in place a new policy that prevents talent and agents from producing their own shows, either on radio or television. The reason? A new emphasis on compliance with BBC and Ofcom rules. However, some individuals, like Addison Cresswell, Jonathan Ross's agent, are benefitting from exceptions, although Mr. Cresswell will not be in charge of compliance. Read more here.

March 6, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Manhattan D.A.'s Office Charges Son With Identity Theft, Impersonation, In Attempt To "Influence Debate" on Dead Sea Scrolls

The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the arrest of Raphael Haim Golb, a New York attorney, on "charges of identity theft, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment" for allegedly going after those who challenged or in his opinion refused adequately to credit his father's opinions concerning the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls. His father is scholar Norman Golb, who is on the faculty at the University of Chicago. Says the Chronicle:

The Manhattan district attorney's office alleged in a statement released on Thursday that Raphael Haim Golb, 49, son of Norman Golb, a professor of Jewish history and civilization at the University of Chicago, used dozens of Internet aliases to "influence and affect debate on the Dead Sea Scrolls" and "harass Dead Sea Scrolls scholars who disagree with his viewpoint."

According to the D.A.'s office, among Mr. Golb's targets were Professor Lawrence Shiffman at New York University. The Chronicle also identifies Professor Risa Kohn of San Diego State University as one of Mr. Golb's targets.

According to the D. A. office press release:

The investigation leading to today’s arrest revealed that GOLB engaged in a systematic scheme on the Internet, using dozens of Internet aliases, in order to influence and affect debate on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in order to harass Dead Sea Scrolls scholars who disagree with his viewpoint. GOLB used computers at New York University (NYU) in an attempt to mask his true identity when conducting this Internet scheme. He gained access to NYU computers by virtue of being a graduate of the university, and having made donations to its library fund.

The investigation, which included a court-authorized search warrant that was executed this morning at GOLB’s apartment, began in response to a complaint by Lawrence Schiffman, Ph.D., that he was impersonated over the Internet. Dr. Schiffman is a NYU professor, chairman of the Hebrew & Judaic Studies Department and a leading scholar in the field of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In August 2008, Dr. Schiffman became subject to a campaign of impersonation and harassment through the Internet, by an anonymous individual. An investigation by the District Attorney’s Office revealed that this individual was GOLB, the son of Norman Golb, Ph.D., a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar who resides in Chicago. RAPHAEL GOLB used methods which were intended to maintain his anonymity, and opened an email account - larry.schiffman @ - purportedly in Dr. Schiffman’s name and sent 11 emails to multiple NYU recipients, in which he pretended to be Dr. Schiffman, and purported to admit to plagiarism.  Simultaneously, RAPHAEL GOLB, using other Internet aliases, sent emails to NYU personnel and administration accusing Dr. Schiffman of plagiarism, and created Internet blogs accusing Dr. Schiffman of plagiarism.

GOLB also created email accounts in the names of other individuals active in the field of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship, including Stephen Goranson and Jonathan Seidel.

The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of roughly 900 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves in and around the ancient ruins of Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in present-day Israel. The texts are of great religious and historical significance, as they include the only known surviving copies of biblical texts made before 100 A.D., and preserve evidence of considerable diversity of belief and practice within late Second Temple period Judaism, the Judaism of the second and first centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. These manuscripts generally date to between 150 B.C. and 50 A.D. Publication of the scrolls is now complete, however it was delayed for many decades.

There is considerable academic scholarship that surrounds the Dead Sea Scrolls, with areas of general consensus, and with areas of debate and differing opinions and theories. Because of the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and because of the delay in publication, the scrolls are also subject to some conspiracy theories.

Many scholars view the scrolls collection as having been assembled by an ancient Jewish sect, which many call the Essenes. Furthermore, many scholars believe that this sect resided in the settlement in Qumran, in close proximity to the caves where the scrolls were found.

The defendant’s father, Dr. Norman Golb, is a professor at the University of Chicago. He has been a proponent of the viewpoint that the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the caves of Qumran had nothing to do with the buildings and settlement at the Qumran site. He believes that they were not the product of the Essenes, but of many different Jewish sects and communities of ancient Israel, who hid the scrolls in the caves at Qumran while fleeing from Jerusalem.

RAPHAEL GOLB, through his Internet aliases, promoted the theories of his father and criticized the theories of others. Frequently, he criticized the manner in which the Dead Sea Scrolls have been exhibited, for not giving sufficient attention to the theories of his father.

GOLB is charged with Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, which is punishable by up to 1⅓ to 4 years in prison; Identity Theft in the Third Degree, Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, Forgery in the Third Degree and Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, all class A misdemeanors, which are each punishable by up to 1 year in prison. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Manhattan Criminal Court.

The investigation is continuing.

Here's more from Reuters and from the New York Times.

March 6, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Internet Advertising Bureau Releases Guidelines

The (UK-based) Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released its guidelines in order to try to bring some agreed-upon ethics to web advertising, after complaints have surfaced about the type and scope of ads on the net. Google is one of the most prominent companies to have agreed to abide by the new policies, but others are reluctant.

March 5, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Copyright In Live Performances

Mark F. Schultz, Southern Illinois University School of Law, has published "Live Performance, Copyright, and the Future of the Music Business," in volume 45 of the University of Richmond School of Law. Here is the abstract.
This article considers whether the emergence of business models based on free digital delivery of music and other content have rendered copyright protection less necessary or justifiable. Falling production and distribution costs have led many scholars and popular commentators to conclude that creators can and should embrace free distribution models for copyrighted works. In particular, many contend that the recording industry can survive and prosper by producing and freely distributing recordings as a form of advertising for the concert business. Some have further concluded that copyright law may need to change to reflect this new reality.

This article assesses such proposals, drawing insights from cultural economics, the literature on the economics of copying, and empirical data regarding the health of the concert industry. When free business models work, they can work quite well (e.g., Google and, long before it, commercial broadcasting). Examination of theory and practice shows, however, that such models are practicable and desirable only under certain, specific circumstances.

The success of free business models depends on a fairly tight link between the free content and a sufficiently remunerative good or service. Concert revenue is not particularly tightly linked to free recordings - certainly not as tightly as examples such as open source software and support services, or online children's games and plush toys. Moreover, the concert business is lucrative mostly for older, well-established acts. The data collected here on concert revenues indicates that a handful of older acts now make most of the money in the concert business, while ticket prices for smaller, niche acts have stagnated over the last decade. Although much maligned, the modern record business supports a vast, remarkably diverse variety of recordings. If it had to rely on concert revenue alone, some acts would probably continue to record, but diversity and consumer choice and welfare would likely decrease.

The shortcomings of the live performance model indicate that the existence and occasionally tremendous success of "free" business models do not justify wholesale changes in copyright policy or legal doctrine. Business models based on direct sales and supported by copyright still provide tremendous advantages for creators and consumers.
Download the article from SSRN here.

March 4, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

A Modest Plea For the FCC

Randolph J. May, The Free State Foundation, has published "A Modest Plea for FCC Modesty Regarding the Public Interest Standard," in volume 60 of the Administrative Law Review (2008). Here is the abstract.

This article is part of a symposium issue entitled, New Frontiers: Public Interest Regulation in a Converging Twenty-First Century Media Marketplace. The occasion of the symposium is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC. Red Lion is best known for providing further sanction against constitutional attack for the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) public interest regulation of broadcasting content. To be sure, the constitutionality of the FCC's administrative exercise of its public interest authority had been upheld in the early years of broadcast regulation, most notably in FCC v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co. and National Broadcasting Co. v. United States. But Red Lion was icing on the public interest cake - to the extent the public interest standard needed further icing. What I aim to do in this essay is, at bottom, fairly modest. I want to suggest, in light of all the changes that have occurred in the communications marketplace in the forty years since Red Lion, that the FCC itself should act more modestly. In an exercise of regulatory self-restraint, going forward the agency should narrow the exercise of its public interest authority. Through either the issuance of policy statements or case-by-case adjudication, or both, the agency should demonstrate its understanding that it no longer serves the public's interest for the FCC to exercise unbridled public interest regulatory authority. At the end, I will suggest several specific instances in which the FCC could commence this exercise in regulatory modesty. since Red Lion, that the FCC itself should act more modestly. In an exercise of regulatory self-restraint, going forward the agency should narrow the exercise of its public interest authority. Through either the issuance of policy statements or case-by-case adjudication, or both, the agency should demonstrate its understanding that it no longer serves the public's interest for the FCC to exercise unbridled public interest regulatory authority. At the end, I will suggest several specific instances in which the FCC could commence this exercise in regulatory modesty.

Download the article from SSRN here>

March 4, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Harry Potter" Defendant Found Guilty

A British court has found Karl Bishop guilty of murder in the death of actor Rob Knox, 18. The young actor had appeared in the film Happy Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as Marcus Belby and was slated to appear in the next Harry Potter film.

March 4, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obama Names New FCC Head

President Obama has named Julius Genachowski as the new FCC Chair. Mr. Genachowski is a Harvard Law graduate and served on the President's campaign. He cofounded LaunchBox Digital and also worked at IAC/InterActive Corporation. Read more here.

March 3, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Former Illinois Governor Signs Book Deal

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has landed a six-figure book deal with Phoenix Books, but some political rivals aren't happy about it. An Illinois legislator has already filed a "Son of Sam" bill aimed at prevented the former chief exec from profiting from his writings should he be convicted of a crime.

March 3, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The World Trade Organization and Online Games

Thomas Steiner, Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research, has published "Online Games Under WTO Law: Unresolved Classification Issues," as  NCCR Trade Regulation Working Paper No. 2009/3. Here is the abstract.

This paper explores the views of state and non-state actors on how to treat online games under WTO law. The author takes stock of the positions of WTO Members with a particular interest in the promotion of the online games industry on the one hand and in the protection and promotion of cultural diversity on the other. Moreover, the work examines the views expressed by a number of particularly well informed scholars. As a further contribution to the academic discourse, the author puts forward a view that considers the intrinsic characteristics of new-generation digital and online games. The thesis is that online games are complex products that do not seem to function as goods (anymore), but rather combine a piece of software with (audiovisual) content services.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

March 3, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Pornography and the Internet Under British Law

Andrew D. Murray has published "The Reclassification of Extreme Pornographic Images," at 72 Modern Law Review 73 (2009). Here is the abstract.
Legal controls over the importation and supply of pornographic imagery promulgated nearly half a century ago in the Obscene Publications Acts have proven to be inadequate to deal with the challenge of the internet age. With pornographic imagery more readily accessible in the UK than at any time in our history, legislators have been faced with the challenge of stemming the tide. One particular problem has been the ready accessibility of extreme images which mix sex and violence or which portray necrophilia or bestiality. This article examines the Government's attempt to control the availability of such material through s.63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which criminalises possession of such images. It begins by examining the consultation process and concludes that an underlying public policy objective was the root of the new offence despite the lack of a clear mandate for such a policy. The article then examines whether this weakness in the foundations for the proposed new offence caused the proposal to be substantially amended during the Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill: to the extent that the final version of s.63 substantially fails to meet the original public policy objective. The article concludes by asking whether s.63 may have unintended consequences in that it fails to criminalise some of the more extreme examples of violent pornography while criminalising consensual BDSM images, and questions whether s.63 will be enforceable in any meaningful way.

March 3, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tabloid Apologizes To Kate Moss For Pregnancy Story

News of the World has apologized to Kate Moss for speculating that she might be pregnant, but she's still annoyed. She's launched a proceeding under the Data Protection Act.

March 3, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Former NPR, BBC Journalist Arrested in Iran

The Guardian reports that an American journalist who has worked both for the BBC and for NPR has been arrested by the Iranians. Roxana Saberi is in Iran to write a book. The Iranian government says her press credentials were revoked in 2006. Read more here.

March 3, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sharon Osbourne Faces Lawsuit Over Drink-Tossing

Megan Hauserman, a contestant on Sharon Osbourne's Rock of Love Charm School reality show, is suing the star over an on-camera incident last year. Ms. Hauserman and Ms. Osbourne had words over Ms. Osbourne's husband Ozzy, and Ms. Osbourne eventually tossed a drink at Ms Hauserman. Now Ms. Hauserman is suing for "battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress," and for damages, including medical injuries, wages, and "loss of business opportunites." TMZ has the clip.

March 3, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 2, 2009

The First Amendment and the Hollywood Ten

Jose F. Anderson, University of Baltimore School of Law, has published "Freedom of Association, the Communist Party, and the Hollywood Ten: The Forgotten First Amendment Legacy of Charles Hamilton Houston, in volume 40 of the McGeorge Law Review (2009). Here is the abstract.

Charles Hamilton Houston, the most important civil rights lawyer of the first half of the 20th century who developed the legal strategy in Brown v. Board of Education, ended his fabulous legal career representing a group of Hollywood screen writers known as the Hollywood Ten. See Lawson and Trumbo v. United States, 176 F.2d 49 (D.C. App.1949). In that case convictions and jail sentences were upheld for the defendants' failure to answer questions from the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA) about their views on communism and whether or not each was members of the Communist Party. The matters in Congress led to "blacklisting" of certain persons from jobs in the film and entertainment industry who either were named as Communist or refused to provide names of others who might be.

This article suggests that Houston's "Theory of Freedom" combining various provisions of the Constitution to develop greater fundamental rights.

An examination of the documents filed in the case reveal this "prophetic" approach to constitutional litigation that is the hallmark of what some have called "Houstonian Jurisprudence". Furthermore, a historical examination of Houston's long and interesting relationship with the Communist party in matters of litigation, while at the same time maintaining a steadfast belief in the principles of Democracy create an interesting tapestry of an important historical and legal period in the United States.

Download the article from SSRN here.

March 2, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Hilden on the "Freakonomics" Lawsuit

FindLaw's Julie Hilden discusses the recent 7th Circuit decision that dismissed the defamation lawsuit against Steven Levitt, who cowrote the bestseller, Freakonomics. She thinks the court is right in one respect, and wrong in another--right to consider that if a word can be given an innocent meaning, it should do so, but questionable when it passed over the question of whether Mr. Levitt "repeated" a libelous statement without distancing himself adequately from it.

March 2, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Journalists at Independent Vote To Strike

Reporters at the Independent and the Independent on Sunday have voted to strike. The management at the papers has indicated that it plans to lay off a number of journalists and other staff and had asked for volunteers; not enough volunteers came forward. Read more here.

March 2, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Actress Equity

Amy Jenkins discusses the male/female ratio in British tv, as actors and as writers.

March 2, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The British Media At a Crossroads

Aiden Geary of the Guardian discusses the state of the press after recent libel decisions, changes in libel laws, and changes in public attitudes toward the media.

March 2, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Radio Legend Paul Harvey Passes From Scene

Broadcaster Paul Harvey has died at the age of 90. The "Rest of the Story" radio icon was famous for his notable voice and his conservative political views. Read more here in an story.

March 1, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Movie Chain Cancels Showings in Sydney In Response To Violence

Violence has forced an Australian movie chain to cancel Sydney screenings of a new film, The Combination. The film centers on race riots that broke out in 2005 in Sydney. Other Australian showings are going on as planned. Read more here in a BBC story.

March 1, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)