Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt In Revolution

CNN reports that internet outages in Egypt during this week's violent clashes have been "coordinated" and "extensive" and many think the government is behind them.'s Wilson Rothman examines what faces the Egyptian economy if internet access isn't restored by Monday. He also asks if access to the 'net is a human right. Within the past few hours, President Hosni Mubarek has announced that his government is resigning and that he will institute reforms.

January 28, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Dr. Phil" Guest Who Showed Approaches To Discipline Now Facing Child Abuse Charges

An Alaskan mother who appeared on the "Dr. Phil" show last November and showed video of her approaches to child discipline is now facing child abuse charges. Her attorneys have entered a "not guilty" plea on her behalf.

January 28, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Charlie Sheen Taken To Hospital

From The Hollywood Reporter: After complaining of abdominal pains, Two and a Half Men's Charlie Sheen was taken to Cedars-Sinai Hospital early this morning. The show is currently on hiatus. More here from

January 27, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Contractual Relationships and the Passive Online Media User

Woodrow Hartzog, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communication; Stanford University Center for Internet & Society, has published The New Price to Play: Are Passive Online Media Users Bound by Terms of Use? at 15 Communication Law and Policy 405 (2010). Here is the abstract.
When individuals turn on the television, listen to the radio, or read newspapers, they are not forming contractual relationships. Yet almost without exception, online readers, viewers and listeners are required to enter into “terms of use” contracts. These ubiquitous agreements are generally unfavorable for the user in areas of intellectual property rights and privacy. In addition, the terms often restrict users’ behavior and their ability to litigate any disputes with a Web site. In analyzing the implications of contracts for Web site users, this article examines whether courts have recognized a distinction between online consumers, interactive users, and “passive media users” - online readers, listeners or viewers who engage in little, if any, of the activity traditionally required to form contracts. Case law reveals a frequent de facto exemption from online agreements for passive media users, but not highly interactive users. This exemption could be formally recognized to benefit all parties to a contract.
The full text is not available from SSRN.

January 27, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

London Police Reopen News of the World Phone Hacking Case

Scotland Yard is reopening its investigation of News of the World's phone hacking of prominent persons, four years after the case seemed to have been closed and NOTW's royal editor Clive Goodman received a four month sentence for intercepting some Clarence House phone messages. The story seemed over, but in 2009, the Guardian began reporting that others besides Mr. Goodman had eavesdropped and that the police had evidence. Stories alleging the bad behavior continued to surface; just this week, Kelly Hoppen, a well known decorator and the stepmother of actress Sienna Miller, filed a suit against NOTW. Whispers grew about former NOTW editor Andy Coulson, who had taken a position with the government. He resigned last week. Roger Graef of the Guardian suggests that the initial police investigation may have been soft-pedaled for the usual reasons. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch, owner of News of the World, tries to deal both with the phone hacking mess, and with a proposed repurchase of BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting), which Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, may oppose.

January 27, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Man Wins $400,000 In Damages In Internet Libel Case

Gene Cooley has won a libel suit and more than $400,000 in damages against a woman who posted libelous statements on the Internet against him. Beginning in 2008, shortly after the death of Mr. Cooley's fiancee, Sybil Denise Ballew began posting false statements about Mr. Cooley, including accusations that he was "a pervert and a drug user." Mr. Cooley lost his job and the trust of friends. He moved but then hired an attorney, who instituted the suit against Ms. Ballew. More here from the Chicago Sun Times.

January 27, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

True Threats, Advocacy, and the First Amendment

Mark Strasser, Capital University Law School, has published Advocacy, True Threats, and the Constitution at 38 Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 339 (2011). Here is the abstract.

Brandenburg v. Ohio is thought by many to offer very robust speech protections, but the true threat exception to the First Amendment can swallow up much of the protection that Brandenburg offers. Regrettably, the Court has failed to offer guidelines to help determine when Brandenburg rather than true threat analysis applies, which has caused lower courts to reach radically different results in relevantly similar cases. Unless the Court addresses the current inconsistencies in the jurisprudence, the interests in security and in robust debate will both continue to be sacrificed.

The full text is not available from SSRN.

January 26, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Narrative of Citizens United

Reza Dibadj, University of San Francisco School of Law, is publishing Citizens United as Corporate Law Narrative in the forthcoming Symposium Issue of Chapman's Journal of Law and Policy. Here is the abstract.

In a 5-4 opinion, decided January 21, 2010, Citizens United struck down § 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 which prohibited corporations and unions from using general treasury funds for “electioneering communications” – defined as broadcast, cable or satellite communications that are publicly distributed, within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election, and advocate for or against a particular candidate in a federal election. This Essay analyzes Citizens United through two lenses – constitutional law and corporate law. It suggests that while the majority’s opinion is breathtaking as a piece of constitutional law, it is actually unremarkable when considered as a narrative in corporate law.

The argument is structured into two principal sections. Part I argues that the opinion is truly unusual from a constitutional perspective. To begin with, it eschews the principle of constitutional avoidance, refuses to consider § 203 as a time, place and manner restriction, and pays precious little attention to stare decisis. Beyond these technical concerns, the majority’s opinion presents deeper constitutional issues: its bold rhetoric is divorced from First Amendment doctrines, other relevant constitutional provisions are ignored, and untested assumptions are proffered about money and speech, corruption, and corporate constitutional rights. By contrast, Part II suggests that the opinion is entirely unremarkable when viewed through the narrative of corporate law. By giving corporations the ability to use general treasury monies to fund political speech, the majority in Citizens United is privileging a class of corporate insiders in a manner consistent with corporate doctrines such as the business judgment rule. Moreover, the opinion’s depiction of voters as autonomous, rational, well-informed participants in political discourse has striking parallels to the manner in which corporate law idealizes shareholders.

The full text is not available from SSRN.

January 26, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Interception of Electronic Communications Under Spanish Law

Cristina Zoco Zabala, Universidad Publica de Navarra, has published Interception of Electronic Communications in volume 4 of InDret (2010). Here is the abstract.

The objective of this work is to analyse Chapter II of Royal Decree 424/2005, dated 15th April, by which a procedure is regulated to tap electronic communications with the aim of verifying if this practice affects the conditions that limit the essential content of article 18.3 CE. It is concluded that these regulations do not affect article 18.3 CE as refers to the enumeration it includes of the types of data associated to electronic communications that can be legally intervened together with the content thereof. It does, however, mutilate the essential content of article 18.3 CE as refers to the obligation of the judge to determine at least some of such data in the legal tapping order. Inasmuch as the secret of communications is a formal right that limits its content to the possibility of intervene communications by means of a previous judicial resolution detailing the causes thereof, the associated data obtained as a consequence of such an intervention are not protected by article 18.3 CE, but in any case by articles 18.1 and 18.4 CE. This means that once the judicial organ has explicated in its judicial intervention order the objective suspicions of an alleged serious crime as well as the inexistence of other means to prove such a crime that would clarify the alleged criminal conduct that is being investigated, the data obtained as a consequence of such an interception would be protected by article 18.1 CE if that information is revealed to third parties, or by article 18.4 CE if the information is used for other purposes that are different from those for which the tapping was authorised. As a derivation of this, it is also not necessary that organic legislators regulate what data associated to the communications the judges are to mention, as it is necessary to leave a margin of action for the judicial authorities to determine if they believe it is convenient to gather certain associated data mentioned in the regulations, or if a generalised judicial opening of electronic communications is necessary that gathers both the content of the communication as well as data that are associated thereto.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

January 26, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BBC Apologizes For Remarks On Quiz Program Concerning Double A-Bomb Survivor

The BBC has apologized for the poor taste of celebrity participants on the quiz show QI, who joked after answering a question about the dropping of the two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The question involved the fact that one man happened to be in both cities and survived the bombings. The celebs made jokes at his expense; the Japanese Embassy in London protested the remarks as did others who heard the show or heard about the incident. More here from the BBC News.

January 25, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New York State Senator Introduces Amendment To Expand Shield Law To Include Bloggers

New York State Senator Thomas Duane has introduced an amendment to the state shield law that would include "those for gain or livelihood," [are] "engaged in gathering, preparing, collecting, writing, editing, filming, taping or photographing of news intended for a newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association [or], wire service or WEB LOG OR other professional medium or agency which has as one of its regular functions the processing and researching of news intended for dissemination to the public; such person shall be someone performing said function either as a regular employee or as one otherwise professionally affiliated for gain or livelihood with such medium of communication." 

Senator Duane introduced similar bills in 2007 (Senate Bill 8746)  and 2009 (Senate Bill 4642). 

January 25, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Images of Politicians in the Egyptian Media

Sherif Elgebeily, University of Westminster School of Law, has published David and Goliath: The Polarised Media Portrayal of the Politicians in Egypt. Here is the abstract.
President Hosni Mubarak is currently the 5th longest living African head of State, having been in power for 29 years since the assassination of Anwar Sadat. In the most recent elections in 2005, Mubarak won with 88% of the vote. However, if you asked Egyptians away from the prying eyes of police officers, army troops or presidential guards whether they support him or not, the overwhelming answer would be one of hatred, bitterness and resentment against a leader whom they feel has failed his people at every turn.

Of course, the media has no small part in the falsification of the sentiments of the nation. In this paper I will address how the newspapers and television channels, many of which are under state-controlled, have built an image of Mubarak as defender, protector, peacemaker and economic saviour, which at best is untrue and at worst deliberately fabricated. I will also address how these same media outlets have vilified any opposition that might face him, from the state media’s endorsement of the imprisonment of Ayman Noor to the more recent return of former IAEA chief, Elbaradei.

Over a quarter of the population aged 15 and above in Egypt are illiterate; there is, thus, a heavy reliance on the visual media in swaying the political opinions of Egyptians. I intend to support my argument by drawing upon photos of the billboards that line the streets of Egypt from the capital, Cairo, to smaller towns and on highways in between. Mubarak’s face in its various guises from the now tattered and dirty posters of his youthful 1980’s face through to more stern photos taken at the turn of the century provide an almost farcical storybook of a dictator who simply refuses to give up power.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

January 24, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wrigley, GM Abandon "Skins"

Advertisers Wrigley and GM have left MTV's "Skins," Wrigley saying it does not want to "offend" consumers. More here from The Hollywood Reporter.

January 24, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

A Blogger Acts, and a Community Reacts

When blogger Daniel Cavanagh started writing, and posting photos, about what happens in his community, Gerristsen Beach, New York, he didn't expect the explosion that has followed. But his posts revealed the activities of a local non-profit, which found itself in trouble with the parks department. The non-profit, Gerritsen Beach Cares, was unhappy. Sparks flew. Meanwhile, Mr. Cavanagh continued to report on activities and post information, including an interview with someone, although he didn't tell the interviewee he was taping the conversation and would post it on his blog. He copied Facebook posts, to which some take exception.

Mr. Cavanagh says he's not a journalist, just someone documenting the scene around him. So what legal and ethical standards apply? More here in an article from the New York Times.

January 24, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Why Keith O Left

In the New York Times: explaining the Olbermann exit.

January 24, 2011 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)