January 16, 2009
John Mortimer Dies
Sir John Mortimer, creator of the iconic Horace Rumpole, "Rumpole of the Bailey," has died at the age of 85. Read more here in a BBC story.
High Profile Italian Murder Trial To Be Open To Press, Public
The Meredith Kercher murder trial will be open to the public, in spite of attempts by the victim's family to close it to the press. An Italian judge has noted that some proceedings might be held privately. One of the defendants, American Amanda Knox, is already suing over a forthcoming book about the case and over articles that have appeared in an Italian newspaper, claiming that they prejudice her right to a fair trial. Read more here.
"Watchmen" Agreement Reached
Fox and Warners Brothers seem to have reached an agreement over their dispute regarding the rights to the big budget film Watchmen and will ask Judge Gary Feess to look it over and dismiss pending litigation. Fox had gotten a favorable ruling from Judge Feess earlier regarding rights to the property. Here are more details in an article by Anthony McCartney, Fandango News and from Nikki Finke's blog, which provides information on the settlement.
January 15, 2009
Sharon Osbourne Wins Damages In Defamation Suit
The Sun has agreed that it defamed Sharon Osbourne by printing a story saying that she was "driving her frail husband Ozzy Osbourne to destruction." The paper is paying damages and costs. Read more here.
Judge Grants "Narrowcasting" Motion In P2P Lawsuit
A federal judge has granted the defendants' motion to "narrowcast" the proceedings in the P2P lawsuit brought by Capitol Records and Sony BMG. Judge Nancy Gertner wrote that "recording and broadcast falls squarely within the public interest....“Public” today has a new resonance, especially in this case. The claims and issues at stake involve the internet, file-sharing practices, and digital copyright protections. The Defendants are primarily members of a generation that has grown up with the internet, who get their news from it, rather than from the traditional forms of public communication, such as newspapers or television. Indeed, these cases have generated widespread public attention, much of it on the internet. Under the circumstances, the particular relief requested -- “narrowcasting” this proceeding to a public website -- is uniquely appropriate."
BBC Apologizes To Man Identified On Reality Show
The BBC has apologized to Mohammed Amar, who was shown being arrested in an episode of the show "Cars, Cops, and Criminals," first broadcast July 9 of last year. Mr. Amar was never charged with any crime and later sued the network for defamation and invasion of privacy. The BBC has also agreed to pay Mr. Amar fifty thousand pounds in damages and fees.
Israeli Ban On Media Access To Gaza Continues
Media are continuing to complain about their lack of ability to report on events in Gaza, a ban instituted by Israeli forces. Read more here in a Guardian article.
Advertising Standards Authority Nixes Biofuels Ad
The Advertising Standards Authority has taken action to ban a Renewable Fuels Assocation biofuels ad after Guardian columnist George Monbiot complained to the agency that the ad was misleading. The ASA said in part:
The ASA acknowledged that fossil fuels such as oil and coal were a finite resource and that developing alternatives was a widely reported part of the current global political and business agenda. We noted the arguments put forward by RFA in support of the claim that biofuels were sustainable, which included that the feedstocks were renewable rather than a finite resource.
We also noted, however, that a review commissioned in the UK by the Secretary of State for Transport, the Gallagher Review of the indirect effects of biofuels production, concluded that, while there was definitely a future for sustainable production of biofuels, there were a number of provisions that needed to be observed. The review concluded there was likely to be sufficient land to meet the needs of food, animal feed and biofuel production to 2020 but that policies needed to be in place to ensure biofuel production targeted idle or marginal land. Without those policies, the review considered biofuel production would result in net greenhouse emissions and loss of biodiversity through habitat destruction in the period to 2020 and that consideration also needed to be given to the period beyond 2020. The review concluded that an EU-wide obligation needed to be set up to encourage production techniques that did not impact on agricultural land and that, outside the EU, stronger policies were needed to slow rates of deforestation, especially in South America, Africa and parts of South-East Asia....
We noted the Oxford English Dictionary definition of "sustainable" RFA had put forward. We considered, however, that the term was used and understood in many different ways. Although the RFA had not referred to it specifically in their response, we understood initiatives were currently attempting to work on the development, implementation and verification of credible global standards for the sustainable production and use of biofuels. We noted a final certification system had, however, not yet been agreed. We also noted RFA believed biofuels should also be considered in terms of economic sustainability. We considered, however, that most readers were likely to consider the concept of sustainability primarily in environmental terms in the context of the ad. We understood the best practice guidance on environmental claims in Defra's "Green Claims Code" stated that, although sustainability was a widely used term, it was not defined by a common methodology when applied to products and that, therefore, claims containing the words "sustainability" or "sustainable" should be avoided. We concluded that, despite the documentation RFA had provided and the arguments they had made, in the light of the advice given by Defra on the use of the claims "sustainability" and "sustainable" and the conclusions of the Gallagher Review, RFA's evidence did not substantiate the claim and that, at the present time, references to biofuels in general as "sustainable" were likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 3.2 (Division of informed opinion), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 49.1, 49.2 and 49.3 (Environmental claims).
January 14, 2009
Original Meaning of the 14th Amendment As Expressed In the Print Media of the Time
In District of Columbia v. Heller, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed a form of original popular understanding as its method of Constitutional interpretation. This method recognizes that, with a Constitutional provision, the critical question is not the intent of the body that proposed it, but the understanding of the people at large who ratified it.
This article applies original public understanding analysis to the 14th Amendment. It is possible to apply this method in a way not possible with regard to the framing of the original constitution. Both the outlets and the circulation of American print media massively expanded between 1791 and 1866. In 1866, just the three largest newspapers had a circulation that would (in proportion to population) equal two million modern readers. Further, the style of reporting tended toward reprinting transcripts of legislative debates, rather than digesting and interpreting them.
When original public understanding is applied to the 14th Amendment, the case for incorporation of the Bill of Rights via the Privileges or Immunities Clause appears exceptionally strong. A prime example is Senator Jacob Howard's floor speech, which specifically listed Bill of Rights liberties as meant to be within the Amendment's protection. Transcripts of his speech were carried on the front page of the New York Times and the New York Herald (then the largest newspaper in the United States). A transcript was also carried in the Philadelphia Inquirer, while smaller newspapers summarized it.
Download the paper from SSRN here.
January 13, 2009
Cultural Diversity on the Net
User created content (UCC) has often been celebrated as a grassroots cultural revolution that as a genuine expression of creativity, localism and non-commercialism can arguably also cater for a sustainable culturally diverse environment. The present article puts these claims under scrutiny and in a more differentiated manner seeks to identify the value of UCC within digital game environments considering the constraints upon players and upon creative play that these impose. The article subsequently tests whether UCC in its dynamic sense of a creative and communicative process can be seen as a channel for the promotion of cultural diversity and if so, what the State should (and could) do about this.
Australia and Internet Censorship
Australia's decision to implement Internet censorship using technological means creates a natural experiment: the first Western democracy to mandate filtering legislatively, and to retrofit it to a decentralized network architecture. But are the proposed restrictions legitimate? The new restraints derive from the Labor Party's pro-filtering electoral campaign, though coalition government gives minority politicians considerable influence over policy. The country has a well-defined statutory censorship system for on-line and off-line material that may, however, be undercut by relying on foreign and third-party lists of sites to be blocked. While Australia is open about its filtering goals, the government's transparency about what content is to be blocked is poor. Initial tests show that how effective censorship is at filtering prohibited content - and only that content - will vary based on what method the country's ISPs use. Though Australia's decisionmakers are formally accountable to citizens, efforts to silence dissenters, outsourcing of blocking decisions, and filtering's inevitable transfer of power to technicians undercut accountability. The paper argues Australia represents a shift by Western democracies towards legitimating Internet filtering and away from robust consideration of the alternatives available to combat undesirable information.
Download the paper from SSRN here.
January 12, 2009
BBC Apologizes For Editing Scholar's Comments For Radio Program
The BBC has had to apologize yet again, this time to a noted scholar, for misrepresenting her views on religion. It so heavily edited Dr. Dorothy Rowe's comments for the radio program "What Do You Believe?" that Dr. Rowe says her remarks sounded as if she believed the opposite of what she really thinks. Read more here in a Guardian story.
January 11, 2009
FCC Chair: Away With Those Rabbit Ears!
FCC Chair Kevin Martin says delaying the digital switchover would cause chaos and cost companies money. He made these comments during a Q&A at the International Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Read more here in an MSNBC.com story.