Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

PCC Investigates BBC Complaints Over Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph Headlines

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has investigated and resolved two complaints concerning inaccurate headlines involving the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph and stories they published about the BBC, its program "Lambing Live" and the lodging of its crew at hotels recently. The two papers claimed that the BBC had paid £279 per night for hotel rooms for crews who staff the show. The BBC told reporters that the real cost was actually £58 per night.  Here's a link to the Daily Mail  story. Here's criticism of the coverage from the site iMediaEthics.

The papers told the PCC that the BBC had not responded to their inquiries about the costs by the time they needed to post their stories. 

Here is a link to the PCC ruling. The PCC writes in part:

The newspaper said that the article had included the BBC's response, which had not mentioned the actual price of the rooms. It had been informed by the BBC only after the publication of the actual price; it had published the BBC's letter addressing this point. It has amended the online article and published the following footnote:

The BBC asks us to point out that in fact the BBC paid £58 per night, not the £279 quoted. This rate amounted to a discount of around 50% off the standard rate, substantially less than other hotels in the area and within the BBC expenses policy. Having the team stay in one location simplified travel arrangements to and from the farm. They also say that a crew of 65 is typical for a production of this kind. The article was updated after the BBC provided further comment on the price of rooms following publication. 

June 11, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Oliver Stone Plans Film On Snowden Story

From the Hollywood Reporter: Filmmaker Oliver Stone ("JFK," "Natural Born Killers,") has entered into a deal for the movie rights to Time of the Octopus, a novel by Edward Snowden's attorney, Anatoly Kucherena. Together with Luke Harding's The Snowden Files, Mr. Kucherena's book will be the basis for a film about a U. S. whistleblower who leaves the country and spends nearly a month in the Moscow airport. 


June 10, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Will Mr. Cat Please Take the Stand?

In summing up for the jury in the phone hacking case against Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor, Mr. Justice Saunders put a particularly amusing comment from witness Dan Evans in context. Mr. Evans, who has pled guilty to hacking, said that the practice was systemic at the defunct tabloid. In fact, it was so prevalent that "even the office cat knew," meaning, said Mr. Justice Saunders, that many people (including presumably the defendant) knew it was going on. But, noted the judge, the defense responded, "Where is the office cat?" Where is the proof that many people were aware?

More here  (on the phone hacking trial, not cats) from the Guardian, here from CNN.

As someone who has long shared her home with felines, I feel constrained to point out that while they do know many, many things, they disclose very few. And the human-cat privilege (concerning neighbors, bathroom rituals,  and screening calls from one's mother, among other things) is, in my opinion, sacred. 


Patrick beret

A cat keeping it under his beret

June 10, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Right of Publicity, Political Speech, and Celebrities

Michael G. Bennett, Northeastern University School of Law, has published Celebrity Politicians and Publicity Rights in the Age of Obama at 36 Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal 339 (2014). Here is the abstract.

The right of publicity is a relatively marginalized yet increasingly radical form of intellectual property. Typically, celebrities use it to prevent freeloaders from profiting on their fame by making unauthorized use of their image, likeness or signature to make goods or services more attractive to consumers. The right of publicity allows famous individuals to stop this type of behavior by providing a property right in identity or persona. Brandished by celebrities who are also political figures, though, the doctrine can become a powerful means of chilling political speech, and therefore a direct threat to First Amendment free speech rights. The descriptive goal of this article is to explain how publicity rights can cause problems in the context of political figures that also have celebrity status. This article extends the existing literature on the tension between publicity rights and free speech rights, and uses the spectacle of Barack Obama's initial presidential bid to theorize how a publicity right suit can be used to undermine the political speech of an individual whose public persona is similar to that of a celebrity. This is a new form of strategic intellectual property litigation that could have crippled the first Obama campaign, and a strategy that is likely to be used against future candidates. The normative section of this article argues that individuals who gain a nontrivial measure of pop cultural fame and then go on to become political figures should have no publicity rights, and that denying such figures the power to stop unauthorized commercial use of their likenesses is the only way to avoid societally detrimental chilling of political speech.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

June 9, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

International Law and Incitement

Richard Ashby Wilson, University of Connecticut School of Law, is publishing Inciting Genocide with Words in volume 36 of the Michigan Journal of International Law (2015). Here is the abstract.

This article calls for a rethinking of the causation element in the prevailing international criminal law on direct and public incitement to commit genocide. After the conviction of Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity, the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide was established in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide in 1948. The first (and thus far, only) convictions for the crime came fifty years later at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The ICTR’s incitement jurisprudence is widely recognized as problematic, but no legal commentator has thus far offered an adequate solution to one central contradiction, namely the Trial Chamber’s repeated claims of a causal connection between defendants’ speech and subsequent acts of genocide. Such claims imply that the commission of genocide is relevant to determining incitement, despite the fact that incitement is an inchoate crime and therefore only the speaker’s intention matters. Drawing upon J.L. Austin’s ordinary language philosophy, the article disentangles the intention of the speaker from the consequences of speech acts. In determining incitement to commit genocide, international law might differentiate between three aspects of performative utterances, or what Austin terms the "locutionary" (the meaning and content), the "illocutionary" (its force) and the "perlocutionary" (the consequences) qualities of speech acts. Specific intent to commit genocide is found in the content, meaning and force of speech acts, rather than in consequences, which can be an unreliable guide to intention. By using this template, international tribunals might better distinguish modes of liability that require causation (such as instigating) from inchoate crimes such as direct and public incitement to commit genocide, where the meaning and the force of public statements is paramount. Other benefits of this approach include refocusing attention on the prevention of genocide and clarifying and narrowing the range of impermissible speech.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

June 9, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

How Long Will "Free Music" Last?

Time Inc. Spins Off From Time Warner

The New York Times' David Carr and Ravi Somaiya report on the solitary, and financially dangerous, way ahead for Time, Inc., after it parts ways with Time Warner.

June 9, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Supreme Court Denies Cert In Risen Appeal

The Supreme Court has denied cert in New York Times reporter James Risen's appeal in a case brought by the Justice Department. Mr. Risen had sought the Court's review of a Fourth Circuit ruling that ordered him to comply with a subpoena requiring him to testify concerning Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. operative and information Mr. Sterling had disclosed to him, that Mr. Risen had published in New York Times articles and in his book State of War (2006).

Said the Fourth Circuit in part:

Like the Branzburg reporters, Risen has "direct information . . . concerning the commission of serious crimes." ...Indeed, he can provide the only first-hand account of the commission of a most serious crime indicted by the grand jury -- the illegal disclosure of classified, national security information by one who was entrusted by our government to protect national security, but who is charged with having endangered it instead. The subpoena for Risen's testimony was not issued in bad faith or for the purposes of harassment. ...Risen is not being "called upon to give information bearing only a remote  [499]  and tenuous relationship to the subject of the investigation," and there is no "reason to believe that his testimony implicates confidential source relationships without a legitimate need of law enforcement."  Nor is the government attempting to "annex" Risen as its "investigative arm."  (internal quotation marks omitted). Rather, the government seeks to compel evidence that Risen alone possesses -- evidence that goes to the heart of the prosecution.

The controlling majority opinion in Branzburg and our decision in Shain preclude Risen's claim to a First Amendment reporter's privilege that would permit him to resist the legitimate, good faith subpoena issued to him. The only constitutional, testimonial privilege that Risen was entitled to invoke was the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, but he has been granted immunity from prosecution for his potential exposure to criminal liability. Accordingly, we reverse the district court's decision granting Risen a qualified First Amendment reporter's privilege that would shield him from being compelled to testify in these criminal proceedings.


The Fourth Circuit also rejected Mr. Risen's common law reporter's privilege claim. Rehearing en banc, denied by United States v. Sterling, 732 F.3d 292 (4th Circ. 2013).

Mr. Risen seems ready to refuse to comply with the subpoena, although it's not entirely clear that the Justice Department will demand jail time. More coverage here from U. S. News & World Report.

June 2, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Cellular Interception Technology and the Threat To Privacy and Security

Stephanie K. Pell, Stanford University, Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society, and Christopher Soghoian, Yale University Yale Information Society Project, are publishing Your Secret Stingray's No Secret Anymore: The Vanishing Government Monopoly Over Cell Phone Surveillance and Its Impact on National Security and Consumer Privacy, in the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology (forthcoming).


In the early 1990s, off-the-shelf radio scanners allowed any snoop or criminal to eavesdrop on the calls of nearby cell phone users. These radio scanners could intercept calls due to a significant security vulnerability inherent in then widely used analog cellular phone networks: calls were not encrypted as they traveled over the air. In response to this problem, Congress, rather than exploring options for improving the security of cellular networks, merely outlawed the sale of new radio scanners capable of intercepting cellular signals, which did nothing to prevent the potential use of millions of existing interception-capable radio scanners.  Now, nearly two decades after Congress passed legislation intended to protect analog phones from interception by radio scanners, we are rapidly approaching a future with a widespread interception threat to cellular communications very reminiscent of the one scanner posed in the 1990s, but with a much larger range of public and private actors with access to a much more powerful cellular interception technology that exploits security vulnerabilities in our digital cellular networks.
This Article illustrates how cellular interception capabilities and technology have become, for better or worse, globalized and democratized, placing Americans’ cellular communications at risk of interception from foreign governments, criminals, the tabloid press and virtually anyone else with sufficient motive to capture cellular content in transmission.  Notwithstanding this risk, US government agencies continue to treat practically everything about this cellular interception technology, as a closely guarded, necessarily secret “source and method,” shrouding the technical capabilities and limitations of the equipment from public discussion, even keeping its very name from public disclosure. This “source and method” argument, although questionable in its efficacy, is invoked to protect law enforcement agencies’ own use of this technology while allegedly preventing criminal suspects from learning how to evade surveillance.
This Article argues that current policy makers should not follow the worn path of attempting to outlaw technology while ignoring, and thus perpetuating, the significant vulnerabilities in cellular communications networks on which it depends.  Moreover, lawmakers must resist the reflexive temptation to elevate the sustainability of a particular surveillance technology over the need to curtail the general threat that technology poses to the security of cellular networks. Instead, with regard to this destabilizing, unmediated technology and its increasing general availability at decreasing prices, Congress and appropriate regulators should address these network vulnerabilities directly and thoroughly as part of the larger cyber security policy debates and solutions now under consideration.  This Article concludes by offering the beginnings of a way forward for legislators to address digital cellular network vulnerabilities with a new sense of urgency appropriate to the current communications security environment.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

May 30, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Government Funding and Free Speech

Charles W. (Rocky) Rhodes IV, has published Speech, Subsidies, and Traditions: AID v. AOSI and the First Amendment in the 2013 Cato Supreme Court Review 363. Here is the abstract.

In a victory for free speech and individual liberty, Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. (AID v. AOSI) — the only First Amendment decision of the Supreme Court’s 2012-13 term — struck down a government funding condition requiring recipients to pledge ideological support for government policies. In this essay, written for the Cato Supreme Court Review, I outline the Court’s prior holdings on the constitutionality of conditions on government funding and other subsidies before examining AID v. AOSI in detail. While I applaud its holding, the dispositive distinction the Court pronounced between funding conditions operating within and without a government program can’t govern every funding condition; otherwise, the government could manipulate the scope and funding for its programs as a subterfuge to regulate its citizens’ beliefs and communications. As with other situations in which the government attempts to alter typical First Amendment expressive protections, the overarching appraisal should necessitate continued judicial acquiescence in traditional regulatory practices. While inside-program limitations are one such tradition in the government funding context, additional complementary traditions exist that must be taken into account to protect public forums and other expressive spheres from government overreach.
 Download the article from SSRN at the link.

May 30, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Copyright and Privacy

Pamela Sameulson, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, is publishing Protecting Privacy Through Copyright Law? in Visions of Privacy in the Modern Age (Marc Rotenberg, ed.; 2014). Here is the abstract.

A quartet of recent copyright cases have extended protection to privacy and other personal interests of individuals depicted in copyrighted works. Victims of so-called revenge porn are also relying on copyright to protect their privacy interests. This short essay revisits the seminal Warren and Brandeis article on "The Right to Privacy," which relied heavily on copyright cases to support the notion that privacy interests were and should be legally protectable. It asks whether Warren and Brandeis would have approved of this renewed direction for copyright law.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

May 30, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sprint Signs Consent Degree, and To Stop Calling Consumers On Do Not Call Lists

Sprint has agreed to pay $7.5 million to the U.S. Treasury for violating the FCC's Do Not Call rules and for continuing to call and/or send texts to consumers who had specifically told the company they did not want any communication with the company. Sprint said it has investigated internal policies; under the decree, it must put a compliance program into place to ensure that it does not violate Do Not Call regs again. The FCC notes that the settlement is the largest so far ever paid by a company under such circumstances.

A link to the Consent Decree is here. Coverage here from TechTimes, here from

May 21, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sexting, Social Media, and the Law

JoAnne Sweeny, University of Louisville School of Law has published Sexting and Freedom of Expression: A Comparative Approach in volume 102 of the Kentucky Law Journal (2013/2014). Here is the abstract.


According to a recent poll, one in four American teens could be legally labeled a child pornographer. Nearly thirty percent of teens in this poll admitted to engaging in "sexting," which may expose them to criminal prosecution under existing child pornography laws. "Sexting" is the modern term given to "the practice of sending or posting sexually suggestive text messages and images, including nude or semi-nude photographs, via cellular telephones or over the Internet." It is an increasingly popular practice in the United States and abroad and, according to current child pornography laws, can result in teens serving long prison sentences and having to register as sex offenders. Download the text from SSRN at the link.

May 20, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Website Blocking Injunctions in the EU

Martin Husovec, International Max Planck Research School for Competition and Innovation, is publishing CJEU Allowed Website Blocking Injunctions with Some Reservations in volume 9 of the Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice (July 2014). Here is the abstract.

The Court of Justice of the European Union issued its long awaited decision on admissibility of the website blocking injunctions. The ruling generally allows website blocking, but at the same time makes its permissibility dependent on the number of requirements. Because the decision addresses primarily website blocking injunctions which omit to specify exact blocking technology and/or fixed address of the website (so called open-ended injunctions), it is subject to the interpretation to what extent its principles apply also to the website blocking injunctions that are specific. This case note comes to the conclusion that open-ended website blocking injunctions just: (i) be strictly targeted, (ii) at least partially prevent and seriously discourage the access to a targeted website, (iii) not lead to unbearable sacrifices for an access provider, (iv) must give a court in enforcement proceedings a possibility to asses their reasonableness, (v) provide for a possibility for users to challenge the scope of the blocks once the implementing measures are known (§ 56) and (vi) be transparent in their implementation. If the above six conditions are not met, the open-ended website blocking injunction may not be issued. On the other hand, only some of these conditions will probably apply to specific website blocking injunctions.


The full text is not available from SSRN for download. 

May 20, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Truth, Truthfulness, Defamation, and the Civil and Common Law

Eric Descheemaeker, University of Edinburgh School of Law, is publishing Truth and Truthfulness in the Law of Defamation in Les apparences en droit civil (Lionel Smith ed.; Montreal, 2014). Here is the abstract.

This paper provides a comparative overview of two related, but analytically distinct, issues in the law of defamation. The first is whether the true character of a defamatory statement relieves the defendant from liability. On this issue, the civilian and common-law traditions have historically settled on two markedly different stances, the latter accepting the sufficiency of truth simpliciter while the former never did. Some of the reasons for this distinction are explored. Different is the issue of truthfulness, in the sense of belief in truth. Does it, and should it matter, that a defendant believed that what they said was true albeit (prima facie) defamatory? Should we distinguish on the basis of the ‘quality’ of the belief? This paper argues that reasonable truthfulness ought to be recognised as a defence in the law of defamation. De lege lata , the law has never come up with such a general principle, but observation suggests that it has in fact been beating about the bush for a long time, using other analytical tools. Besides, a number of recent developments internationally can be understood as attempts to get closer to the above position.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.


May 20, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Times Publisher Says Dismissal of Executive Editor Because of Management Style

Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., released a statement at 5 p.m. EDT today stating that the decision to terminate Jill Abramson's employment as the New York Times' executive editor was based on her management style, and not due to a disagreement over pay, or gender issues. 

More in a story here from Times reporter Ravi Somaiya. Coverage here from the Guardian. A piece here from Buzzfeed on salaries in media. 

May 17, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

FCC Unveils New Regs For Open Internet

The FCC has voted, 3-2, to craft a set of regulations for the Internet under which content providers could pay for faster service, but ISPs could not discriminate against providers who did not opt to pay for that service. Critics have already pointed out that, by default, "non-payers" could still find themselves in a "slow lane."

Link to video of the meeting here.

The proposal is now open for public comment for four months. Fact sheet here.

Selection from the news release below.

The FCC has previously concluded that broadband providers have the incentive and ability to act in ways 
that threaten Internet openness.  But today, there are no rules that stop broadband providers from trying to 
limit Internet openness. That is why the Notice adopted by the FCC todays starts with a fundamental 
question: “What is the right public policy to ensure that the Internet remains open?”
The FCC proposes to rely on a legal blueprint set out by the United States Court of Appeals for the 
District of Columbia Circuit in its January decision in Verizon v. FCC, using the FCC’s authority to 
promote broadband deployment to all Americans under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 
1996. At the same time, the Commission will seriously consider using its authority under the 
telecommunications regulation found in Title II of the Communications Act.  In addition, the Notice:
? Proposes to retain the definitions and scope of the 2010 rules, which governed broadband Internet 
access service providers, but not services like enterprise services, Internet traffic exchange and 
specialized services.
? Proposes to enhance the existing transparency rule, which was upheld by the D.C. Circuit. The 
proposed enhancements would provide consumers, edge providers, and the Commission with 
tailored disclosures, including information on the nature of congestion that impacts consumers’
use of online services and timely notice of new practices.
? As part of the revived “no-blocking” rule, proposes ensuring that all who use the Internet can 
enjoy robust, fast and dynamic Internet access.
? Tentatively concludes that priority service offered exclusively by a broadband provider to an 
affiliate should be considered illegal until proven otherwise.
? Asks how to devise a rigorous, multi-factor “screen” to analyze whether any conduct hurts
consumers, competition, free expression and civic engagement, and other criteria under a legal 
standard termed “commercial reasonableness.”
? Asks a series of detailed questions about what legal authority provides the most effective means 
of keeping the Internet open:  Section 706 or Title II.
? Proposes a multi-faceted process to promptly resolve and head off disputes, including an 
ombudsperson to act as a watchdog on behalf of consumers and start-ups and small businesses. 

More here from the New York Times, here from CNET, here from


May 15, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Two Female Newspaper Execs Out at Major Papers

Two female editors-in-chief are out suddenly at prestigious papers, Jill Abramson at The New York Times, and Natalie Nougayrede at Le Monde. Ms. Abramson apparently parted ways with the Times after she asked why her salary and benefits were substantially less than her male predecessor's. Dean Baquet will replace her as the first African-American Times executive editor. More coverage here from The Guardian,  here from the New York Times, here from Fox News.

Ms. Nougayrede indicated that she ran into differences of opinion between her and staff over restructuring of the paper. More here from The Guardian, here from the New York Times. 

May 15, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Social Media and Mainstream Media in the Russian Media Landscape

Bruce Etling, Hal Roberts, and Robert Faris, Harvard University, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, have published Blogs as an Alternative Public Sphere: The Role of Blogs, Mainstream Media, and TV in Russia's Media Ecology. Here is the abstract.

Applying a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, we investigate whether Russian blogs represent an alternative public sphere distinct from web-based Russian government information sources and the mainstream media. Based on data collected over a one-year period (December 2010 through December 2011) from thousands of Russian political blogs and other media sources, we compare the cosine similarity of the text from blogs, mainstream media, major TV channels, and official government websites. We find that, when discussing a selected set of major political and news topics popular during the year, blogs are consistently the least similar to government sources compared to TV and the mainstream media. We also find that the text of mainstream media outlets in Russia (primarily traditional and web-native newspapers) are more similar to government sources than one would expect given the greater editorial and financial independence of those media outlets, at least compared to largely state-controlled national TV stations. We conclude that blogs provide an alternative public sphere: a space for civic discussion and organization that differs significantly from that provided by the mainstream media, TV, and government.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

May 15, 2014 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The ECJ's Google Data Privacy Ruling and Its Interpretation