Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Revenge of the Nine-Year-Old Blogger

Martha Payne, a nine-year-old Scottish future foodie and journalist who blogs under the name "Veg" (from Veritas Ex Gustuat) at Never Seconds had been posting photographs and reviews of school lunches and discussing her opinion of them. She is also working to raise money for her cause, Mary's Meals, which funds school lunches in Africa. On Thursday, she posted this forlorn note:

This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to
her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school
dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.

I only write my blog
not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss
sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send
me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a
kitchen for Mary’s Meals either.


Her loyal readers went ballistic. Supporters took to the web and Twitter. Wired covered the shutting-down of Veg's lunchtime photography exposes. The New Scotsman posted a photo and story about Martha's meetup with TV chef Nick Nairn. Within a day, the local council, with egg on its face, overturned the photography ban, and the result is that Martha's meaty message is back, starting Monday.

Here's her post from today, June 15.

I think you know why I don't have a picture today but I will have on Monday!
Thanks to everyone that has helped to get my blog back on track. I would have
missed writing it a lot and I'm looking forward to sharing my dinners and

I worried yesterday that I would never reach enough money to buy a
Mary's Meal kitchen in Malawi (31
seconds!) but we have raised a total of £45,889.46 which is more than
one kitchen! It could be many kitchens or one kitchen feeding many children for

A small thank you isn't enough so here's a big THANK YOU
to you all!

See you on Monday,


All kidding aside, congratulations to Martha Payne, who has shown us, yet again, the power of technology and the importance of ideas.


June 15, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The First Amendment, New Technologies, and Democracy

Jorge R. Roig, Charleston School of Law, is publishing Decoding First Amendment Coverage in the Age of Youtube, Facebook and the Arab Spring in the NYU Annual Survey of American Law. Here is the abstract.

Computer source code is the lifeblood of the Internet. It is also the brick and mortar of cyberspace itself. As such, it has been argued that the degree of control that a government can wield over code can be a most powerful tool for controlling the development of new technologies. With the advent and dramatic proliferation in the Internet of social networking media and platforms for the publication and sharing of user-generated content, the ability of individuals across the world to communicate and share ideas with each other has reached truly revolutionary dimensions. 

The influence of Facebook in the popular revolutions of the Arab Spring has been well documented. The use of YouTube in the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign has also left its indelible mark in the political landscape. These and other new platforms have allowed millions of individuals to unleash their artistic and creative potentials. The ability of people to learn more about the nature of their surroundings, and the world at large, through the use of such tools as Google Earth, has allowed entire populations to reconsider their places in the world. And the combination of smartphones and Twitter has created new tactics for protests and redefined the way in which individuals can assemble to petition their government for a redress of grievances. 

In this context, the question of how source code may be regulated by the government takes on particular urgency. Hence, it seems especially timely to reconsider the issue of whether computer source code is “speech” for First Amendment purposes. Furthermore, the question of First Amendment coverage, in this context, seems well suited to a discussion of First Amendment values. In this article, I propose a three-step framework for analyzing questions of First Amendment coverage in a manner consistent with Supreme Court doctrine. In applying this framework to computer source code, I attempt to explore the interrelation between the different values that the Court and commentators have ascribed to the First Amendment, and to reach some insights regarding the speech-conduct distinction and the question of First Amendment coverage in general.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

June 15, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Examining Fox News's Political Influence

Joshua David Clinton, Vanderbilt University Department of Political Science, and Ted Enamorado have published The Fox News Factor: How the Spread of Fox News Affects Position Taking in Congress. Here is the abstract.

Scholars have argued that the media can affect voter opinions and turnout, but it is unclear whether elected officials might also be affected in policy consequential ways. We explore whether representatives to the US House take more conservative positions once Fox News begins broadcasting in their congressional district and whether more conservative representatives are more likely to be elected. We use the fact that the Fox News Channel was launched in October 1996 and it gradually spread across congressional districts in the United States in a manner that was unrelated to the ideology of the district and the incumbent representative to show that there is a modest effect on elected officials' positions. Comparing the change in behavior of representatives where Fox News does and does not emerge in otherwise similar districts reveals that members from districts where Fox News emerges become slightly more conservative and the effect is largest among Democrats. There is no evidence that Fox News affected which representatives were re-elected or replaced. As a result, the emergence of new media may have a slight effect on the prospects for policy change by affecting representatives' expectations and causing them to slightly adjust the positions that they take.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

June 15, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

"Game of Thrones" Showrunners Apologize To Former President Over Fake Head Incident

In a statement on the DVD commentary accompanying Season 1 of "Games of Thrones," showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have apologized to former President George W. Bush for using a fake GWB head on a pike in one scene. Mr. Benioff and Mr. Weiss said they "rent [fake heads] in bulk," the "demand for them is high" and no one noticed that the fake Bush head was in the group that was used. " “We meant no disrespect and apologize if anything we said or did suggested otherwise.”

HLN provides a clip. 

HBO has issued its own apology.

We were deeply dismayed to see this and find it unacceptable, disrespectful and in very bad taste. We made this clear to the executive producers of the series who apologized immediately for this inadvertent careless mistake. We are sorry this happened and will have it removed from any future DVD production.

June 15, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Re-Examining Section 230

Joel Reidenberg, Fordham University, Jamela Debelak, Fordham CLIP, Jordan Kovnot, Fordham CLIP, and Tiffany Miao, Fordham CLIP, have published Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act: A Survey of the Legal Literature and Reform Proposals. Here is the abstract.

The goal of this study is to identify the trends in the legal literature and reform proposals surrounding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. 

This study sets forth a survey and analysis of the legal and policy landscape and seeks to be a comprehensive, objective resource designed to assist scholars and policy-makers in their search for materials addressing the purpose and substance of the statutory provision. The study does not take any position on the wisdom, implementation or evolution of Section 230 nor does it take any position on the merits of the materials presented. The study’s purpose is to report on the body of information and the observable trends addressing Section 230. 

As such, the study sets out the history of the passage of Section 230 and then reports on the major cases, legal scholarship and legislative reform proposals addressing Section 230. The study reports on how the statute has been interpreted by the courts and discusses the major trends in the academic literature defending and critiquing Section 230. The study also reports on legislative reform and policy debates that have arisen since the passage of the CDA.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.


June 14, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

CBS Asks For Documents In "Glass House" Litigation

The latest on CBS's discovery request in the "Glass House"lawsuit. Coverage from the Hollywood Reporter.

June 14, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Prime Minister Gives Evidence To Leveson Panel

The Guardian reports that Prime Minister David Cameron is appearing before the Leveson Inquiry to give evidence today. One of the matters under examination is a text that former News of the World Rebekah Brooks exec sent to Mr. Cameron in 2009 reading, "We're in this together!"  At the time Mr. Cameron was not yet Prime Minister.

More here from the Guardian, here from Reuters, here from the New Statesman.

June 14, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Law, Public Policy, and Digital Copyright Windfalls

Peter S. Menell, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; Stanford Law School, has published Judicial Regulation of Digital Copyright Windfalls: Making Interpretive and Policy Sense of Viacom v. YouTube and UMG Recordings v. Shelter Capital Partners as UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2049445. Here is the abstract.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), passed at the dawning of the Internet Age, sought to foster “reasonable assurance” to copyright owners “that they will be protected against massive piracy” while insulating online service providers (OSPs) from copyright liability in the ordinary course of their operations so that they will make “the necessary investment in the expansion of the speed and capacity of the Internet.” Section 512's safe harbor provision plays a principal role in effectuating that balance. At the time that Congress crafted this regime, the World Wide Web operated on a simpler model in which webmasters actively controlled material made available on webpages. With the advent of Web 2.0 services, such as YouTube, in which users upload, edit, and collaborate in information dissemination, webmasters came to be replaced by automated systems and the potential liability of OSPs became more uncertain. On the one hand, Web 2.0 websites greatly expanded Internet functionality and the ability of amateur creators, fans, and the public at large to reach worldwide audiences quickly and easily. On the other hand, they greatly expanded the level of infringing activity. 

This article critically examines the Second and Ninth Circuits' recent, much anticipated decisions applying the Section 512 safe harbor to Web 2.0 services. It highlights the difficulties of interpreting copyright law in a rapidly evolving technological age. After working through the complex statutory conditions governing the operation of the safe harbor, it contends that the courts have interpreted the DMCA's "red flag" provisions in an overly narrow manner, possibly out of understandable concern for creating undue windfalls. Unfortunately, the courts' interpretation rewards cavalier business models that undermine the balance of copyright protection and responsible OSP activities. The article concludes that Congress can better effectuate the DMCA's dual goals by tightening the responsibilities of Web 2.0 OSPs while significantly recalibrating the statutory damage regime to avoid undue digital copyright windfalls.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

June 13, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

TV Land Cutting Don Rickles Obama Joke For "Airtime" Purposes

The Hollywood Reporter tells us that when TV Land airs its American Film Institute tribute to Shirley MacLaine June 24, Don Rickles' joke about President Obama will not make make the broadcast. The joke compared the President "to a janitor." Mr. Rickles's representative told the trade paper that AFI and TV Land are not "censoring" Mr. Rickles. " 'Before all of this started, we knew Don's spot would be cut a bit for time...This is a non-story and requires no further comment.' " 

June 13, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Digital Marilyn

The Hollywood Reporter discusses the possible litigation developing between Digicon Media, which has developed a "Virtual Marilyn," (a digitized version of the late Marilyn Monroe), on which the company says it holds a copyright, and Monroe's estate, which takes the position that the company is infringing on its intellectual property rights. Read up on this emerging story here.

June 11, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Network Parental Guideline Systems Migrate Online

CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox, as well as Spanish language broadcasters Univision and Telemundo, will begin using the same content ratings systems for online content that they now use for broadcast television, starting as early as December of this year. The networks indicated that they are responding to the fact that many more children watch network content on devices other than traditional tv screens. 

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski reacted to the networks' announcement with this statement

I applaud the networks’ commitment to empower parents. With our rapidly changing media marketplace, it is vital parents have tools to help them make informed choices.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel released this statement. 

We are fast moving to a world where our children’s video viewing is not limited to the
television screen—but is on any screen, at any time. The way we watch is clearly changing. But what is not changing is the need to provide parents with simple and honest means to monitor and manage their children’s viewing. Today’s announcement is a first step in the right direction. I applaud ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TeleFutura, Telemundo, and Univision for making this commitment.

June 11, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Aaron Sorkin's New Journalism Drama

Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter gives us an early review of the new HBO drama The Newsroom, which stars Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer. He says it's identifiable Sorkin: densely written and packed with characters and ideas. The Newsroom airs Sundays beginning June 24th at 10 p.m., 9 Central time.

June 10, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)