Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Levels of Protection For "Sexting"

John A. Humbach, Pace University School of Law, has published "'Sexting' and the First Amendment." Here is the abstract.
'Sexting' and other teen autopornography are becoming a widespread phenomenon, with perhaps 20% of teenagers admitting to producing nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves and an ever greater proportion, perhaps as many as 50%, having illegally received such pictures from friends and classmates. It is, moreover, beginning to result in criminal prosecutions, and the statutory penalties are severe. Given the reality of changing social practices, mores and technology utilization, today’s pornography laws are a trap for unwary teens and operate, in effect, to criminalize a large fraction of America’s young people. As such, these laws and prosecutions represent a stark example of the contradictions that can occur when governmental policies and initiatives built on past truths and values collide with new and unanticipated social phenomena.

The focus of anti-pornography enforcement in recent years has been the child pornography laws. The landmark cases of New York v. Ferber and Osborne v. Ohio have established and defined a categorical exclusion that denies First Amendment protection to sexually explicit visual depictions of minors. Even though Ferber and Osborne may not strictly speaking require a conclusion that sexting and other autopornography are unprotected speech, at least some lower courts and prosecutors appear to regard them that way.

By contrast, the language and reasoning of the more recent case of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition gives strong reason to believe that the scope of the categorical exclusion for child pornography should be closely aligned with the governmental objectives that Ferber and Osborne relied on - which would mean constitutional protection for teen sexting and autopornography that occur on the teens’ own initiative. Ashcroft strongly implies, though does not quite say, that the categor¬ical exclusion should be limited to materials that are produced by means of criminal child abuse and exploitation. Also, current standards of strict scrutiny for content-based regulations, if applied, would probably prevent (on the present state of the studies and research) self-produced teen materials from being subsumed into the Ferber categorical exclusion. How this issue will be decided, however, remains to be seen.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

October 9, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rehabilitating Stalin

The BBC reports that Joseph Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili is suing the newspaper Novaya Gazeta for defamation over statements that the paper made alleging that Mr. Stalin ordered the deaths of Soviet citizens. Some commentators say that the lawsuit is part of a campaign to rehabilitation the reputation of the former Soviet leader. Here's more in a September article from the European Radio Network.

October 8, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Balancing Privacy and Autobiographical Speech

Sonja West, University of Georgia School of Law, has published "The Story of Us: Resolving the Face-Off between Autobiographical Speech and Information Privacy," as UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-014. Here is the abstract.
Increasingly more “ordinary” Americans are choosing to share their life experiences with a public audience. In doing so, however, they are revealing more than their own personal stories, they are exposing private information about others as well. The face-off between autobiographical speech and information privacy is coming to a head, and our legal system is not prepared to handle it.

In a prior article, I established that autobiographical speech is a unique and important category of speech that is at risk of being undervalued under current law. This article builds on my earlier work by addressing the emerging conflict between autobiographical speech and information privacy. Both interests foster personal autonomy and encourage participation in public debate, and both interests seek to give individuals the power to control if, when and how their personal information is shared with the world. The conflict between speech and privacy has proven to be a pervasive and especially difficult problem, and prior attempts to balance the two interests - through the lens of property or contract law - have failed.

In this article, I propose a new, workable framework to resolve the conflict by reexamining the tort of public disclosure of private facts. This analysis reveals that the current over-emphasis on whether the information disclosed was “newsworthy” is misplaced and likely unconstitutional. The tort’s protection of individual privacy, however, can be reconciled with the First Amendment by interpreting the “offensiveness” element to include an examination of the purpose of the disclosure. A number of courts have implicitly adopted this view and, in doing so, are reflecting community norms that disclosures made for sufficient justifications - such as sharing newsworthy information or, I submit, engaging in autobiographical speech - are not highly offensive. Disclosures made for purely voyeuristic reasons, however, are highly offensive.

This “justified disclosure” approach encompasses community norms and expectations in a way that is more predictable and fair than other proposed frameworks. It further promises to be applicable not just to the conflict between autobiographical speech and information privacy but to broader disputes involving privacy and speech.
Download the paper from SSRN here.

October 8, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Do Bloggers Need Regulation?

Comment from across the pond on the FTC's new disclosure rules concerning bloggers.

October 8, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Brazilian TV Host Disappears After Warrant Issued For His Arrest

The Brazilian TV host of a popular crime show accused of orchestrating murders in order to increase his ratings has disappeared. Authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of Wallace Souza Monday, and since then no one has heard from him. Read more here.

October 8, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Italian PM Berlusconi Loses Constitutional Immunity, May Face Trial

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has lost the constitutional immunity that prevented his prosecution on a number of charges and involvement in proceedings connected with his media empire. The Italian Constitutional Court has ruled that the statute granting him and the three other highest office holders in the country such immunity violated a rule against equality before the law, according to this New York Times story. Here's more from NPR.

October 8, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Editorial Rules In at BBC

The BBC Trust is publishing new editorial and behavior rules for its staff and independent contractors in the wake of highly publicized mishaps such as the outrage over the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross phone calls to veteran actor Andrew Sachs that cost Mr. Brand his on air hosting job and the "Blue Peter" phone in scandal.  Read more here in a Guardian story.

October 7, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

A New Business Model For YouTube Clips

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em seems to be the motto of some media who are now allowing YouTube to sell advertising along with those popular clips that pop up on the website. The rights owners split the revenue collected with YouTube. Read more here in a New York Times story.

October 7, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Opposition Gathers To Google Book Settlement

From yesterday's New York Times, an update on the forces opposing the Google Book Settlement plan. Among the opponents: librarians. That's never a good sign. As Spider Robinson has said, "Librarians are the secret masters of the universe. They control information. Never piss one off."

October 7, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law Launches; Seeks Submissions

The Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law has launched and is issuing a Call For Submissions. See below for the letter from EIC Ashwin Krishnan and Submissions Editor Josh Podoll.

September 29, 2009

On behalf of the editorial board, it is my distinct pleasure to announce the formation of the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law (JSEL).  JSEL will provide the academic community, the sports and entertainment industries, and the broader legal profession with scholarly analysis and research related to the legal aspects of the sports and entertainment communities.

   JSEL, published under the auspices of Harvard Law School, is accepting articles, essays, book reviews, notes, and comments regarding legal and/or public policy issues from academics and legal practitioners for its upcoming inaugural issue in Spring 2010.  JSEL is one of the few journals in the United States that focuses exclusively on legal topics related to sports and entertainment.


   As you are probably aware, legal topics that affect sports and entertainment include antitrust law, civil procedure, constitutional law, contract law, corporate law, copyright law, labor law, and real estate law.  In addition, there are many other legal topics that have an impact on the sports and entertainment industries, or otherwise have an application to sports and entertainment. 


   Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis.  To be considered for our first issue, due to be published in Spring 2010, please send completed submissions no later than November 15, 2009.  An indication of your interest before that date would also be greatly appreciated.

All submissions must be sent to Josh Podoll, Submissions Editor, as an attached Microsoft Word document via email to Please visit our website for further details regarding the submissions process at Also, please feel free to contact Josh regarding any questions you may have concerning citation format, topic, or other issues involving the submissions process. If you know of other scholars, practitioners, or students whose work seems appropriate for our journal, please encourage them to submit their work to JSEL.


We look forward to receiving your submissions!

October 7, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Revamping the Australian Copyright Law Regime

Sophia Christou and Alana Maurushat, University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law, have published "‘Waltzing Matilda’ or ‘Advance Australia Fair’? User-Generated Content and Fair Dealing in Australian Copyright Law," at 14 Media and Arts Law Review 46 (2009).
In 2005, the Australian Government conducted a review of copyright legislation and the exception of fair dealing. Following this review, the framework of the existing fair dealing exemptions was retained, with the addition of a new exception of fair dealing for the purpose of parody or satire. Debate on the topic was posited within the traditional framework of commercial producer and consumer. The surge of user-generated digital content, and the novel issues surrounding such content, only emerged in the periphery. This article will examine the potential scope of fair dealing exemptions applied to user-generated digital content. Emphasis is placed on the ‘grey zone’ of user-generated content: those works that push the boundaries of copyright law into unchartered territory. As parody and satire constitute a novel area in Australian copyright law, less restrained by prior court decisions, the article places emphasis on fair uses within user-generated content for these purposes.
Download the article from SSRN here.

October 6, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Director Polanski Denied Bail

The Swiss justice ministry has denied director Roman Polanski bail, having determined that he is a flight risk. Read more here in a BBC story and here in an article from the Guardian. Mr. Polanski is fighting extradition to the U.S. on a thirty year old warrant.

October 6, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Mail On Sunday Admits Invasion of Privacy Over Pix, Will Pay Damages To Madonna

The Mail on Sunday will pay damages to Madonna after it printed privately taken photographs of her wedding to director Guy Ritchie. The Mail on Sunday's attorney apologized for the invasion of privacy and copyright infringement. The paper, which paid for the pictures, obtained them from a decorator who took copies while working at the singer's California home. Madonna, who has since divorced Mr. Ritchie, will donate the money to her charity, Raising Malawi. Here's more from the New York Times.

October 6, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Federal Trade Commission Revises Rules on Endorsements

The Federal Trade Commission is issuing new guidelines regarding endorsements and reviews by bloggers on their posts. Bloggers must disclose payments or gifts. Check out the text of the Federal Register notice here.

October 5, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Regulating VoIP in the EU and the US

Rebecca Wong, Nottingham Trent University Law School, and Daniel Garrie, Rutgers School of Law, Camden, have published "Privacy in Electronic Communications: The Regulation of VoIP in the EU and the United States," at 2009 Computer Telecommunications Law Review 139. Here is the abstract.

The growth of internet telephony or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services has led to questions by policymakers and legislators over the regulation of VoIP. In this article, the authors consider the extent to which VoIP services are protected from an EU/US perspective and the concerns arising from the current legislative framework, mainly from privacy perspective. The second part considers VoIP services in general. The third part examines the European framework and in particular, the current categorisation of VoIP services, before considering the privacy perspective, taking into account the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications 2002/58 and the general Data Protection Directive 95/46. The fourth part will consider the US framework in protecting the privacy of communications, asserting that the federal courts and legislatures should act to explicitly protect VoIP oral internet communications. The final part will conclude by discussing the principal areas that still need to be addressed.

Download the article from SSRN here.

October 5, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)