Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Call For Papers in Semiotics and Law



8th International Roundtable for the Semiotics of Law (IRSL 2009)

(2-5 December 2009)




Convenor: Vijay K. Bhatia

Conference Venue: Department of English, City University of Hong Kong .


The overall aim of a State is to protect the social order in which the individual liberty of the citizen is a major concern. As a consequence the State should guarantee simultaneously and paradoxically a high level of individual freedom and an order in which such freedom is made possible and guaranteed.

The 8th International Roundtables for the Semiotics of Law invites contributors to reflect on the growing importance of Transparency, Control and Power in our international community and how these main ideas have been examined over the years. Contributors may choose to explore semiotic, rhetorical, pragmatic, sociolinguistic, psychological, philosophical and/or visual perspectives on Transparency, Control and Power.

Papers which examine the ways ‘actors’ in our society (legislators, politicians, activists, movie producers, singers, painters, graffiti artists, photographers etc.) have provoked public discourse to confront Transparency, Control and Power are particularly welcome.

The Roundtable will provide an opportunity for a general discussion of issues in the semiotics of law as well as open discussions to increase our knowledge about our Transparency, Control and Power with respect to Legal Semiotics.

In the interest of a cohesive roundtable, prospective participants are requested to adhere to the theme as outlined in the call for papers.

Proposals in either English or French (max 300 words) should be sent by e-mail by the 1st of May 2009 to Vijay K. Bhatia at and to Anne Wagner at

Selected papers will be published in a special annual issue of the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law (


Anne Wagner, Ph. D., Senior Lecturer, Université du Littoral Côte d'Opale (France)


March 27, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wiki Knowledge and Wiki Law

Matthew Rimmer, Australian National University, ANU College of Law, has published Wikipedia, Collective Authorship, and the Politics of Knowledge, in Intellectual Property Reforms: Fostering Innovation and Development (Christopher Arup & William Van Caenegem (Edward Elgar, 2009). Here is the abstract.

This chapter considers the legal ramifications of Wikipedia, and other online media, such as the Encyclopedia of Life. Nathaniel Tkacz (2007) has observed: 'Wikipedia is an ideal entry-point from which to approach the shifting character of knowledge in contemporary society.' He observes: 'Scholarship on Wikipedia from computer science, history, philosophy, pedagogy and media studies has moved beyond speculation regarding its considerable potential, to the task of interpreting - and potentially intervening in - the significance of Wikipedia's impact' (Tkacz 2007). After an introduction, Part II considers the evolution and development of Wikipedia, and the legal troubles that have attended it. It also considers the establishment of rival online encyclopedia - such as Citizendium set up by Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia; and Knol, the mysterious new project of Google. Part III explores the use of mass, collaborative authorship in the field of science. In particular, it looks at the development of the Encyclopedia of Life, which seeks to document the world's biodiversity.

This chapter expresses concern that Wiki-based software had to develop in a largely hostile and inimical legal environment. It contends that copyright law and related fields of intellectual property need to be reformed in order better to accommodate users of copyright material (Rimmer 2007). This chapter makes a number of recommendations. First, there is a need to acknowledge and recognize forms of mass, collaborative production and consumption - not just individual authorship. Second, the view of a copyright 'work' and other subject matter as a complete and closed piece of cultural production also should be reconceptualised. Third, the defense of fair use should be expanded to accommodate a wide range of amateur, peer-to-peer production activities - not only in the United States, but in other jurisdictions as well. Fourth, the safe harbor protections accorded to Internet intermediaries, such as Wikipedia, should be strengthened. Fifth, there should be a defense in respect of the use of 'orphan works' - especially in cases of large-scale digitization. Sixth, the innovations of open source licensing should be expressly incorporated and entrenched within the formal framework of copyright laws. Finally, courts should craft judicial remedies to take into account concerns about political censorship and freedom of speech.

Download the essay from SSRN here.

March 27, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Jersey Teen Faces Charges For Posting Explicit Photos of Herself On MySpace

NPR has aired this story about a teen facing charges of distributing child pornography for posting explicit nude photographs of herself on MySpace. More and more youngsters are posting such photos without understanding the possible legal consequences.

March 27, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Father of Jade Goody's Children Asks Media To Stop Taking Photos of Them

The father of late reality star Jade Goody's children has asked media to show restraint in taking photographs of their two small children, aged five and four. Pictures of the two boys have been prominent in newspapers and tabloids since Ms. Goody died of cervical cancer on March 22 at the age of 27. She had gained notoriety for lack of knowlege and objectionable remarks made during her participation in UK "Big Brother" shows.

March 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Constitutional Protection of Free Speech and Australian Copyright Law

Melissa De Zwart, Monash University Faculty of Law, has published The Future of Fair Dealing in Australia: Protecting Freedom of Communication, in volume 4 of SCRIPT-ed. Here is the abstract.

This article considers the role of the concept of freedom of communication within the law of copyright in Australia. It concludes that the judicially articulated implied Constitutional guarantee of freedom of political communication is too narrow to act as a control upon the contours or nature of copyight law. However the doctrine of fair dealing encompasses elements of freedom of communication and provides some scope for the recognition of such rights under Australian law.

Download the article from SSRN here.

March 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Votes Are In--It's Colbert By a Landslide

ABC News first reported this tidbit a few days ago, but the votes are now in. Pseudocommentator Stephen Colbert got his real fans to keyboard in his name as the moniker for the International Space Station's new add-on, and it seems that they've stuffed the ballot boxes. While NASA has an out (it gets to choose the final name of the new room--agency discretion), I suspect Mr. Colbert, and very likely his friend Mr. Stewart from the Daily Show, will have endless grist for their mills if Astronaut Central does not let "The Colbert Room," (or would that be "The Colbert Cubbyhole," "Cabin" or "Cubicle"?) make its appearance. Maybe we could name an asteroid after him instead.  

March 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Bad Little Britney

Jesse Sheidlower riffs on Britney Spears' new song "If U Seek Amy" and its not so hidden meaning here for Slate. The Parents Television Council has already complained about the lyrics, notes the Volokh Conspiracy's Jonathan Adler.

March 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Hillary: The Lawsuit"

NPR's Nina Totenberg covers the hotly contested lawsuit over "Hillary: The Movie" at the Supreme Court today here. Notes Ms. Totenberg,

During the 2008 presidential primary campaign, a conservative advocacy group called Citizens United produced Hillary: The Movie, a 90-minute documentary that was available on DVD and came and went quickly in theaters. The group wanted to run it on cable TV as an on-demand movie and maintained that it was not subject to federal campaign rules because the movie did not say explicitly that people should vote for or against Clinton. A three-judge federal court in Washington didn't buy the argument that the movie wasn't campaign electioneering. It ruled unanimously that there is only one way the movie could be interpreted: "to inform the electorate that Sen. Clinton is unfit for office." Thus, the court said, the movie is covered by a variety of provisions in the McCain-Feingold law.

Here's more coverage of the case from, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Times, and the AP.


March 24, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Department of Justice Makes Position Known In Sony/Tenenbaum Case

Here's a piece from the Wired Campus Blog (Chronicle of Higher Education) on the Sony/Tenenbaum lawsuit, discussing the position taken by the Department of Justice.

March 24, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Denies Cert In Berkeley Evolution Website Case

The Supreme Court has denied cert (2009 U.S. LEXIS 1996) in the University of California, Berkeley evolution website case. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the plaintiff's failure to establish standing.

In a published opinion, the district court concluded that Caldwell's allegations state only a generalized grievance insufficient for injury in fact, and dismissed the complaint....We also conclude that the harm asserted by Caldwell to her interest in being informed about the teaching of evolutionary theory is too generalized and remote to confer standing against the University of California faculty who administer the website and develop its content on behalf of the Museum of Paleontology. Caldwell's complaint against the Director of the National Science Foundation has become moot since her appeal was taken. Therefore, we affirm.



March 24, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Boxing Films and Censorship

Barak Y. Orbach, University of Arizona, has published, "Prizefighting and the Birth of Movie Censorship," as Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper 09-08. Here is the abstract. 

This Article offers an important historical corrective to the history of movie censorship in the United States. Censorship scholars unanimously, but mistakenly treat a 1907 ordinance of the City of Chicago as the first act of censorship in the United States. In fact, however, movie censorship in the United States was born in March 1897 with prohibitions against a now-extinct genre: prizefight films that showed real and staged boxing fights. At the time, boxing was generally illegal, yet the sport was enormously popular and boxers enjoyed privileged social status. The first censorship initiatives constituted one element in a failed social regulation. The Article also shows that content self-regulation in the motion-picture industry started with Edison's 1894 veto of the use of his equipment for prizefight films, approximately thirteen years before the presently-believed-to-be the first forms of content self-regulation. This Article, therefore, begins to close a neglected gap in the literature on movie censorship. Its findings require a reexamination of content regulation in the motion picture industry, whose presumed twentieth century origins actually reveal legislatures and industries already experienced in censorship campaigns and laws. Despite the Article's historical reach, it provides important insights into modern-day social regulation. The failures of the nineteenth-century regulators to curtail popular activities like prizefighting can inform and shape current regulatory efforts, such as the design of anti-smoking policies.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

March 23, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sixth Circuit Certifies Questions Concerning Electronic Communications To Ohio Supreme Court

In American Booksellers Foundation v. Strickland, the Sixth Circuit certified the following questions to the Ohio Supreme Court.

We certify the following questions of state law to the Supreme Court of Ohio pursuant to Rule XVIII of the Rules of Practice of the Supreme Court of Ohio:

(1) Is the Attorney General correct in construing O.R.C. § 2907.31(D) to limit the scope of § 2907.31(A), as applied to electronic communications, to personally directed devices such as instant messaging, person-to-person e-mails, and private chat rooms?

(2) Is the Attorney General correct in construing O.R.C. § 2907.31(D) to exempt from liability material posted on generally accessible websites and in public chat rooms?

Read the ruling here.

March 23, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Caught In the Middle

Tim Arango reports on the fallout from the dispute between YouTube and rights holders as other parties discover that the popular video sharing site is removing their flicks. Read more here.

March 23, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More British Reporters May Strike Over Job Layoffs

Journalists from the Manchester Evening News may be the next to strike over job cuts. The National Union of Journalists has scheduled a vote later this week. Read more here.

March 23, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Jersey State Senator Files Lawsuit Over Sports Betting

A New Jersey State Senator has filed a lawsuit to force sports betting in the 46 states that currently cannot offer it, including his own. State Senator Raymond Lesniak says the federal prohibition treats the four states allowed to offer such betting are treated differently from sister states. Read more here.

March 23, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)