Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Comparative Libel Law: British and US

Itai Maytal, Cardozo School of Law, has published Libel Lessons from Across the Pond - What British Courts Can Learn from the United States' Chilling Experience with the 'Multiple Publication Rule' in Traditional Media and the Internet, at 3 Journal of International Media and Entertainment Law 121 (2010). Here is the abstract.
At a time when the United Kingdom was still a global empire and the United States a sapling nation, the “multiple publication rule” (“MPR”) was a core principle of defamation law for both countries. This common law rule, begun in the mid-nineteenth century, essentially permits plaintiffs to file lawsuits for one defamatory act in multiple jurisdictions, and under an endlessly renewable statute of limitations. The MPR is consistent with early defamation law, which dictated that each time a libelous article was brought to the attention of a third person, a new publication had occurred, and that each publication was a separate, fresh tort, actionable wherever it transpired. However, by the early 1940s, exploitation of the rule, together with technological breakthroughs like the high-speed printing press, convinced U.S. courts that the rule endangered the viability of the publishing industry by threatening it with overwhelming, endless litigation. The vast majority of U.S. courts eventually abandoned the rule, where the alleged libel involved traditional media, and, later, the Internet. Meanwhile, across the pond in the United Kingdom, the multiple publication rule is still in effect today - decades after the U.S. abandoned it. Yet, policymakers in London are reconsidering the soundness of the rule, in the wake of its recent online applications by libel plaintiffs against both U.K. and foreign citizens. To complement this effort, this article provides a comprehensive account of the U.S. courts’ more than 100 year entanglement with the MPR, along with a comparison of U.K. and U.S. common law, to bring greater clarity and direction to British discourse on a legal matter of international significance.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

September 17, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Negligent Speech Torts

Deana Pollard-Sacks, Texas Southern University, THurgood Marshall School of Law, and Florida State University, has published Negligent Speech Torts. Here is the abstract.

Recent research on the effects of violent media on children has elevated longstanding controversy over civil liability for speech to a new level. Negligent Speech Torts reviews and challenges prevailing negligent speech jurisprudence and proposes wholesale reform to the rules governing civil liability for unreasonably dangerous speech. The prevailing Brandenburg incitement test is inapposite as applied to modern dangerous speech cases and should be replaced by a “constitutionalized” negligence paradigm to reconcile First Amendment and tort policies. The Supreme Court has “constitutionalized” various other speech torts – such as defamation, privacy, and emotional torts – by raising the prima facie case evidentiary requirements to meet First Amendment scrutiny. The same evidentiary tailoring approach should be used to constitutionalize the tort of negligence, to allow limited liability where fault and causation can be established to a level of First Amendment satisfaction. An analytical paradigm derived from the Supreme Court’s speech tort precedent is proposed to replace existing negligent speech liability rules, and the proposed paradigm is illustrated by reference to the contemporary problem of violent video games and children.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

September 17, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wireline Competition Bureau Statistical Reports

The FCC has released the latest common carrier statistics report. Link here.

September 16, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Craigslist Tells House Judiciary Committee It Has Shut Down US Adult Services Section Of Its Site

From the New York Times: a Craigslist official and a member of its legal team told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday that the website has "discontinued" its adult services section. However, CNN reports that concerns continue over sex trafficking in children on other sites, such as CNN also notes that the adult sex services section of Craiglist is still available in foreign countries.

September 16, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Cartoonist Goes Into Hiding After Receiving Threats

Molly Norris, a cartoonist who declared "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" in response to threats against the creators of "South Park," has gone into hiding on the advice of the FBI, according to her boss. More here from

September 16, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

User Generated Content and Platforms on the Web

Niva Elkin-Koren, University of Haifa Faculty of Law, has published User-Generated Platforms, in Working Within the Boundaries of Intellectual Property (Rochelle C. Dreyfuss, Diane L. Zimmermann, & Harry First eds.; Oxford University Press, forthcoming). Here is the abstract.

The Web 2.0 brought individuals to the forefront of creative processes, where Internet users generate their own content and share it with communities of their choosing. The availability of Internet access at low cost enables the distribution of creative materials to a large audience, thus increasing their potential impact on users.

User Generated Content (UGC), which is emerging alongside the industrial production of content, is transforming the mechanisms for producing and sharing cultural goods. Copyright law, which was designed to serve the needs of the culture industry, may play a different role in the UGC environment and may carry different consequences when exercised by the key players in this environment: users-authors and social media platforms. Users-authors are generating content and at the same time using content originated by others. UGC is facilitated by social media platforms which enable users to share their content with one another and to collaborate in producing new works. These players have distinct stakes and interests, which are different from those involved in the mass production of content. Users in the UGC environment actively engage in creating cultural flows. In sharp contrast to the consuming audience of the old media, users-authors have greater capabilities to act upon creative materials, and therefore they have a special interest in appropriating and sharing creative works. At the same time, however, new modes of production enhance the commercial pressures on individual users as these users become an independent unit of production. Conflicting desires to share and control content may come into play. Moreover, unlike the content industry, social media platforms do not engage in mass production and distribution of content. They are not dependent upon exclusive control over creative works. Quite the contrary: social media platforms often seek to promote open access and free exchange of information in order to attract more users to their social networks. Copyright law, which enables the commercialization of creative works, finds itself at the center of these processes.

This paper discusses the challenges to the copyright regime posed by the UGC environment and explores the emerging licensing practices for governing access. After a brief introduction to UGC in Part II, Parts III and IV take a closer look at social media platforms and users and discuss different challenges to the tenets of copyright law. Part III describes the rise of social media platforms as facilitators of UGC. It analyzes the interest of these new intermediaries and argues that their stake in copyright is very different from that of the old media. Part IV offers an analysis of key UGC features: that UGC reflects a wide range of creative activities, from an independent original creation to the appropriation of pre-existing works; that it is non-professional but not simply amateur; that it is generated by individual users but is sometimes the output of collaborative efforts; and that it is non-profit but at the same time might be vulnerable to commercial pressures. In Part IV, I explore the different mechanisms for governing access to creative works in Web 2.0 and examine their practical consequences as well as their normative implications. In Part V, I argue that the key UGC features discussed in Part III may have some important implications for governing access to creative works in the UGC environment. The rise of UGC requires us to reconsider the fundamental structure of copyright, which is based on exclusivity and central control, and to move instead towards a legal framework which enables collaboration. It also emphasizes the potential role of social media platforms in facilitating such a framework. Part VI offers some insights on the policy implications of this analysis.

Download the chapter from SSRN at the link.

September 15, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

ECHR Rules Against Turkey In Dink Case

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled for the widow and brother of assassinated journalist Hrant Dink and against Turkey, finding that the Turkish government did not adequately investigate his murder or protect his rights under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It awarded Mrs. Dink and her children 100,000 Euros, her brother in law 5,000 Euros, and the family court costs of nearly 30,000 Euros.

September 15, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Canadian Charter and Defamation

Jamie Cameron, York University (Osgoode Hall Law School), has published Does Section 2(B) Really Make a Difference? Part 1: Freedom of Expression, Defamation Law, and the Journalist-Source Privilege, as Osgoode Hall CLPE Research Paper No. 28/2010. Here is the abstract.
The question this article poses is whether the common law must adopt Charter-specific doctrines or remedies when Charter values are at stake. The discussion focuses on the Supreme Court’s defamation decisions, but includes brief remarks about R. v. National Post, which considered whether the Wigmore test for a journalist-source privilege is consistent with the Charter.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

September 15, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Translation of the Pirate Injunction Granted November 26, 2008

Henrick Stakemann Spang-Hanssen, University of Vienna School of Law, has published Appeal Case: Sonofon A/S v. IFPI Denmark, November 28, 2008 (English Translation). This is a translation of the Danish court's order granting an injunction in the Pirate case decided November 26, 2008. 

This is an English translation of the Danish injunction order in the so-called case decided on 26 November 2008 by the Court of Appeals, Denmark.

Appellant is a Danish ISP. Appellees are the music industry. The court affirmed the ordered from the Bailiff's Court of Frederiksberg (Copenhagen) [Frederiksberg Fogedrets Kendelse FS 14324/2007] of 5 February 2008.

The court ordered the ISP – a Danish telephone company – to block its customers from access to the Swedish website,, which helps users get music files from each other.

Indirectly, the case involves the international issue of how to block online access to information or business from foreign countries and thus hinder international exchange of data – one of the main purposes with the Internet.

It also involved the problems copyright holders are having online to protect their interests.
Download the order from SSRN at the link.

September 15, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Internet and Access To Trials

Stephanie Weiner and Charles R. Nesson, Harvard Law School, have published Public Trial in the Age of Internet. Here is the abstract.
The Judicial Conference of the United States has a longstanding policy prohibiting television and other electronic media coverage of federal district court proceedings. The public is losing a great deal from being deprived of easy access to the proceedings in its courts. Despite the top-down command to ban cameras, bottom-up resistance seems to be gaining momentum in the district and circuit courts. Internet access to gavel-to-gavel digital recording of public court proceedings would allow all who are interested to follow the proceedings. Those who would deny the public that access ought at least to bear the burden of rationally explaining why the public should be excluded from what purport to be public trials.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

September 15, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Paradox of Government Speech

Joseph Blocher, Duke Law School, has published Government Viewpoint and Government Speech. Here is the abstract.
Government speech creates a paradox at the heart of the First Amendment. In order to satisfy traditional First Amendment tests, the government must show that it is not discriminating against a viewpoint. And yet if the government shows that it is condemning or supporting a viewpoint, it may be able to invoke the government speech defense and thereby avoid constitutional scrutiny altogether. Government speech doctrine therefore rewards what the rest of the First Amendment forbids – viewpoint discrimination against private speech. This is both a theoretical puzzle and an increasingly important practical problem. In cases like Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, the City’s disagreement with a private message was the heart of the successful government speech claim. Why is viewpoint discrimination flatly forbidden in one area of First Amendment law and entirely exempt from scrutiny in another? This Article explores that question and why it matters, and suggests ways to reconcile these apparently incompatible principles.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

September 15, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Programme In Comparative Media Law and Policy Announces Registration For Monroe E. Price International Media Law Moot Court Competition Begins

From Dr. Nicole Stremlau, University of Oxford


The Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP) at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford is pleased to announce that registration has opened for the 2011 Monroe E. Price International Media Law Moot Court Competition.

The moot court competition seeks to expand interest and expertise in media law and policy amongst students by giving them an opportunity to interact with leading academics, policy makers and industry players, both from the UK and abroad. This year’s problem bridges issues of technology, content and regulation to expose students to cutting-edge areas of media law.

In previous competitions we have welcomed teams from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America and we expect that the 2011 competition will be even more international.  The oral rounds are held at the University of Oxford and offer students an opportunity to argue a case before a bench of prestigious judges from different legal systems and backgrounds.   The oral rounds will be held from 30 March – 2 April 2011.

Further information can be found at:

If you have any questions, please contact Louise Scott at We look forward to another exciting competition.

September 14, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More Celebrities Discovering They Were News of the World Targets

Two more celebrities are contemplating legal action against News of the World after being notified that their personal information was found in the newspaper's possession. Actor Steve Coogan ("Tropic Thunder") and Chris Tarrant ("Who Wants To Be a Millionaire," British edition) have discovered that they were being surveilled by the private investigator hired by NotW; their attorneys have written to the Metropolitan Police to obtain more information about the situation.

September 14, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Unknown Past of a Chronicler of Our Times

From the New York Times: the unsettling news that famed photojournalist Ernest Withers was also an F.B.I. informant.

September 14, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ninth Circuit Strikes Down City Ordinance Banning Tattoo Parlors

The Ninth Circuit has held a municipal ban on tattoo parlors unconstitutional. In Anderson v. City of Hermosa Beach, the court ruled that "tattooing is purely expressive activity fully protective by the First Amendment, and that a total ban on such activity is not a reasonable "time, place, or manner" restriction.

Our first task is to determine whether tattooing is (1) purely expressive activity or (2) conduct that merely contains an expressive component. In other words, we must determine whether tattooing is more akin to writing (an example of purely expressive activity) or burning a draft card (an example of conduct that can be used to express an idea but does not necessarily do so). ... If tattooing is purely expressive activity, then it is entitled to full First Amendment protection and the City's regulation is constitutional only if it is a reasonable "time, place, or manner" restriction on protected speech. If, on the other hand, tattooing is merely conduct with an expressive component, then it is entitled to constitutional protection only if it is "sufficiently imbued with elements of communication to fall within the scope of the First and Fourteenth Amendments."  If so, then the constitutionality of the ordinance is governed by the O'Brien test. If tattooing is conduct that is not "sufficiently imbued with elements of communication," id., then we must determine only whether the City's zoning regulation is rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest, see Schad v. Borough of Mount Ephraim, 452 U.S. 61, 68, 101 S. Ct. 2176, 68 L. Ed. 2d 671 (1981).


We hold that Hermosa Beach Municipal Code § 17.06.070 is facially unconstitutional to the extent that it excludes tattoo parlors. First, we hold that tattooing is purely expressive activity rather than conduct expressive of an idea, and is thus entitled to full First Amendment protection without any need to resort to Spence's "sufficiently imbued" test. Second, we hold that the City's total ban on tattooing is not a constitutional restriction on protected expression because it is not a reasonable "time, place, or manner" restriction.


The district court assumed that the process of tattooing is at most "non-verbal conduct expressive of an idea" rather than speech itself. This determination is consistent with cases from other courts that have emphasized the distinction between the product and the process of tattooing and have held that the physical process of tattooing is conduct subject to Spence's "sufficiently imbued" test. See, e.g., Hold Fast Tattoo, 580 F. Supp. 2d at 660 (analyzing tattooing under Spence's framework based on the premise that "[t]he act of tattooing is one step removed from the actual expressive conduct"); Yurkew, 495 F. Supp. at 1253-54 (regardless of "whether . . . the image conveyed by the tattoo[ ] is an art form or amounts to art," "the process of tattooing is undeniably conduct" that is subject to the Spence test). These courts then held that tattooing fails the Spence test. See, e.g., Hold Fast Tattoo, 580 F. Supp. 2d at 660 (holding that "[t]he act of tattooing . . . itself is not intended to convey a particularized message"); Yurkew, 495 F. Supp. at 1253-54 (holding that "the actual process of tattooing is not sufficiently communicative" to come within the First Amendment, because "there has been no showing that the normal observer . . . would regard the process of injecting dye into a person's skin through the use of needles as communicative"); White, 560 S.E.2d at 423 ("Unlike burning [a] flag, the process of injecting dye to create [a] tattoo is not sufficiently communicative to warrant [First Amendment] protection[ ]."). Similarly, the City argues that "[t]he process of injecting dye into a person's skin through the use of needles," in contrast with "any message conveyed by the tattoo image, is non-expressive conduct that must, in order to acquire First Amendment protection [under Spence], carry with it an intent to convey a message that will be understood by those who viewed it."

For the reasons set forth below, we disagree with the basic premise underlying the conclusions of both the City and the lower courts that have considered this issue. The tattoo itself, the process of tattooing, and even the business of tattooing are not expressive conduct but purely expressive activity fully protected by the First Amendment.


The principal difference between a tattoo and, for example, a pen-and-ink drawing, is that a tattoo is engrafted onto a person's skin rather than drawn on paper. This distinction has no significance in terms of the constitutional protection afforded the tattoo; a form of speech does not lose First Amendment protection based on the kind of surface it is applied to. It is true that the nature of the surface to which a tattoo is applied and the procedure by which the tattoo is created implicate important health and safety concerns that may not be present in other visual arts, but this consideration is relevant to the governmental interest potentially justifying a restriction on protected speech, not to whether the speech is constitutionally protected. We have little difficulty recognizing that a tattoo is a form of pure expression entitled to full constitutional protection.


Our next task is to determine whether the process of tattooing is purely expressive activity. We hold that it is. Spence's "sufficiently imbued" test has been reserved for processes that do not produce pure expression but rather produce symbolic conduct that, "on its face, does not necessarily convey a message." ... Burning a flag, see Johnson, 491 U.S. at 411, burning a draft card, see O'Brien, 391 U.S. at 370, and wearing a black armband, see Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 505-06, 89 S. Ct. 733, 21 L. Ed. 2d 731 (1969), can be done for reasons having nothing to do with any expression, and so require an interpretive step to determine the expressive elements of these processes.

However, neither the Supreme Court nor our court has ever drawn a distinction between the process of creating a form of pure speech (such as writing or painting) and the product of these processes (the essay or the artwork) in terms of the First Amendment protection afforded. Although writing and painting can be reduced to their constituent acts, and thus described as conduct, we have not attempted to disconnect the end product from the act of creation. Thus, we have not drawn a hard line between the essays John Peter Zenger published and the act of setting the type. ... The process of expression through a medium has never been thought so distinct from the expression itself that we could disaggregate Picasso from his brushes and canvas, or that we could value Beethoven without the benefit of strings and woodwinds. In other words, we have never seriously questioned that the processes of writing words down on paper, painting a picture, and playing an instrument are purely expressive activities entitled to full First Amendment protection.

Tattooing is a process like writing words down or drawing a picture except that it is performed on a person's skin. As with putting a pen to paper, the process of tattooing is not intended to "symbolize" anything. Rather, the entire purpose of tattooing is to produce the tattoo, and the tattoo cannot be created without the tattooing process any more than the Declaration of Independence could have been created without a goose quill, foolscap, and ink. Thus, as with writing or painting, the tattooing process is inextricably intertwined with the purely expressive product (the tattoo), and is itself entitled to full First Amendment protection.

We are further persuaded by the fact that the process of tattooing is more akin to traditional modes of expression (like writing) than the process involved in producing a parade, which the Supreme Court has held cannot be meaningfully separated from the parade's expressive product in terms of the constitutional protection afforded. See Hurley, 515 U.S. at 568 (holding that "[p]arades are . . . a form of expression, not just motion," and noting "the inherent expressiveness of marching"). Thus, we have no difficulty holding that the tattooing process is entitled to the same First Amendment protection as the process of parading.

Moreover, it makes no difference whether or not, as the district court determined, "the customer has [the] ultimate control over which design she wants tattooed on her skin." The fact that both the tattooist and the person receiving the tattoo contribute to the creative process or that the tattooist, as Anderson put it, "provide[s] a service," does not make the tattooing process any less expressive activity, because there is no dispute that the tattooist applies his creative talents as well. Under the district court's logic, the First Amendment would not protect the process of writing most newspaper articles-- after all, writers of such articles are usually assigned particular stories by their editors, and the editors generally have the last word on what content will appear in the newspaper. Nor would the First Amendment protect painting by commission, such as Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel. As with all collaborative creative processes, both the tattooist and the person receiving the tattoo are engaged in expressive activity.


Finally, the fact that the City's ban relates to tattooing businesses rather than the tattooing process itself does not affect whether the activity regulated is protected by the First Amendment. In City of Sparks, we held that even "an artist's sale of his original artwork constitutes speech protected under the First Amendment." ... We first emphasized the inherent expressiveness of the painting itself--in particular, that a painting "conveys [the artist's] sense of form, topic, and perspective[,]. . . may express a clear social position . . . [or] the artist's vision of movement and color, . . . [and] holds potential to 'affect public attitudes' by spurring thoughtful reflection in and discussion among its viewers." Id. at 956 (citation omitted) (quoting Joseph Burstyn, 343 U.S. at 501). We then rejected "the city's argument that [plaintiff's] sale of his paintings removes them from the ambit of protected expression." Id.; see also City of Lakewood v. Plain Dealer Publ'g. Co., 486 U.S. 750, 756 n.5, 108 S. Ct. 2138, 100 L. Ed. 2d 771 (1988).


Even if the City's regulation were narrowly tailored to serve its health and safety interests, a reasonable "time, place, or manner" restriction on protected speech must also "leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information." ... The City argues that, although its regulation restricts tattooists' ability to apply images to human skin via the injection of ink, there are alternative means available for applying the exact same words, images, and symbols to skin, such as airbrushing or the use of natural henna paste to create temporary tattoos. The City also points out that the tattooist could render his designs "on a traditional canvas  or other media," such as a T-shirt. In other words, the City believes that "[t]here is nothing inherently or distinctly expressive about rendering . . . designs on the skin" using the ink-injection method.

We disagree. In City of Ladue, the defendant city made an argument similar to the one the City makes here. The City argued that its ban on signs on private property was "a mere regulation of the time, place, or manner of speech because residents remain free to convey their desired messages by other means, such as hand-held signs, letters, handbills, flyers, telephone calls, newspaper advertisements, bumper stickers, speeches, and neighborhood or community meetings." ...The Supreme Court was

not persuaded that adequate substitutes exist for the important medium of speech that Ladue has closed off. . . . Displaying a sign from one's own residence often carries a message quite distinct from placing the same sign someplace else, or conveying the same text or picture by other means. Precisely because of their location, such signs provide information about the identity of the 'speaker[,]' . . . [which] is an important component of many attempts to persuade.

Id. (emphasis added). The Court held the ordinance unconstitutional because the city had "completely foreclosed a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important."...

As in City of Ladue, the City of Hermosa Beach has "completely foreclosed a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important." ... Like music, tattooing is "one of the oldest forms of human expression," Ward, 491 U.S. at 790, as well as one of the world's most universally practiced forms of artwork. 


In sum, we hold that the tattoo itself, the process of tattooing, and the business of tattooing are forms of pure expression fully protected by the First Amendment. We further hold that the City's total ban on tattoo parlors in Hermosa Beach is not a reasonable "time, place, or manner" restriction because it is substantially broader than necessary to achieve the City's significant health and safety interests and because it entirely forecloses a unique and important method of expression. Moreover, no genuine issue of material fact exists with respect to the constitutionality of the regulation. Thus, we hold that Hermosa Beach Municipal Code § 17.06.070 is facially unconstitutional to the extent that it excludes tattoo parlors, and we reverse the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the City and remand with instructions to grant Anderson's motion for summary judgment and enjoin the City to include tattoo parlors in its zoning regulations.



September 13, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)