Media Law Prof Blog

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Louisiana State Univ.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ka-Boom! FIT Student Faces Felony Charges After Following "Mythbusters" Bomb Recipe

Oh, what a lovely hypo for exam period. Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) student Christian Duke built an explosive device out of "common household chemicals and items" apparently after learning how to do so from watching a "Mythbusters" episode and detonated it in a dormitory stairwell. No one was hurt, but Mr. Duke faces felony counts now.

Do the "Mythbusters" folks and their network, the Discovery Channel, face any liability for Mr. Duke's activity? While I didn't see the episode in question, I do know that "Mythbusters" runs a disclaimer during every episode, which amounts to "Don't try this at home. We are experts." The message should be clear to most people. Don't try what the "Mythbusters folks are doing. They are experts. Most viewers are not. I don't recall any episode in which the "Mythbusters" incite viewers to do what the "Mythbusters" are doing (the Brandenburg defense). I do recall that they explain the principles of chemistry, physics, and other sciences, and often psychology. I think that In their episodes they do more than present a step-by-step explanation of how to create a bomb, for example. Along with their explanations they advocate safety and note that many things people do are bad ideas. In their tests of "myths," they try out various methods of busting the myths safely, and explain what they are doing, why they do what they do, and why the myths are "busted" or not.  They don't advocate breaking the law to do so. One often sees firefighters or police officers standing by as the Mythbusters carry out their activities. Often the Mythbusters mention that they are not allowed to do certain things, because their lawyers won't let them (Ok, lawyers take the hit here, but the point is that one shouldn't act stupidly around dangerous things--chemicals, fire, objects).

More coverage of Mr. Duke's extra-curricular adventure here (Miami Herald) and here (Findlaw).

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/media_law_prof_blog/2012/11/ka-boom-fit-student-faces-felony-charges-after-following-mythbusters-bomb-recipe.html

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