Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Sixth Circuit Affirms Lower Court Ruling Dismissing Defamation Suit Against New York Times

The Sixth Circuit affirms a lower court ruling dismissing a defamation lawsuit against the New York Times. An Ohio State University professor sued over a NYT article, but the lower court held, and the 6th circuit agreed, that a reasonable reader would understand the the article presented a standard approach to investigative journalism or statements complained of were substantially true. The success of his IIED claims rested on his ability to prevail on his defamation claim. Read the ruling here.

July 19, 2019 | Permalink

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Ó Fathaigh on The Chilling Effect of Turkey's Article 301 Insult Law

Ronan O Fathaigh, University of Amsterdam, Institute for Information Law, has published The Chilling Effect of Turkey’s Article 301 Insult Law at 3 European Human Rights Law Review 298 (2019). Here is the abstract.

This article discusses how the approach of the European Court of Human Rights has evolved in seeking to protect freedom of expression from the chilling effect of Turkey’s controversial Article 301 insult law. The article reveals the early reluctance within the Court in finding that the law’s provisions were incompatible with freedom of expression, and yet, the analysis now demonstrates how the Court’s concern for the chilling effect has led the Court to two adopt notable approaches: first, the Court permitting applicants to argue that the law, in and of itself, violates the European Convention on Human Rights, even where an applicant has not been convicted, nor even prosecuted under the law; and second, the Court’s application of its rarely-used competence under Article 46 of the European Convention, finding that amending Article 301 would “constitute an appropriate form of execution” of the Court’s judgment.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

July 16, 2019 | Permalink

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Chicago Defender Ends Its Print Edition Run, Goes Digital Only, Today

From the New York Times:  The Chicago Defender ceases print publication today. It will continue its digital edition. Notes the Times, "Decade by decade, the newspaper told the story of black life in America. It took note of births and deaths, of graduations and weddings, of everything in between. Through eras of angst, its reporters dug into painful, dangerous stories, relaying grim details of lynchings, of clashes over school integration and of the shootings of black men by white police officers. Among a long list of distinguished bylines: Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks." 

Visit the Chicago Defender website here. 

More coverage from ABC7 Eyewitness News (Chicago) here,  Jezebel here, the Smithsonian Magazine here.


July 10, 2019 | Permalink

Monday, July 8, 2019

Reposted: CFP: Program of the Section on Communication, Media & Information Law, AALS 2020 Annual Meeting @LiliLevi_UMLaw @TheAALS







The Section on Communication, Media & Information Law is pleased to announce a Call for Papers from which an additional presenter will be selected for the Section’s program to be held during the AALS 2020 Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. 


The program title is Danger, Drama & Self-Defeat? Diagnosing What Faces “the Press.”  The theme for the 2020 Annual Meeting is Pillars of Democracy: Law, Representation and Knowledge.  Obviously one of the critical pillars of democracy is a robust and independent press.  The press today faces a variety of threats, of which the panel will examine three kinds:  1) Danger:  physical threats against journalists and newsrooms; 2)  Drama: lawsuits against the press as “weaponized” political theater; and 3) Self-defeat:  self-destructive press behavior.  Although Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has focused the discussion of violence against the press on threats to the press abroad, we are also facing home-grown press-targeting and threats to the physical safety of working journalists.  Do we need more laws protecting journalists from such harm, or are proposed legislative options flawed?  In addition to physical threats, the press today faces a bourgeoning strategy designed to cripple it in the court of public opinion.  Eerily reminiscent of prior strategic attempts to marshal law to deter criticism, cases like the $250 million Sandmann v. Washington Post defamation suit read as little more than political theater designed to delegitimize the press and sow public distrust.  Do we need responses like federal anti-SLAPP laws to protect the press from such “drama” lawsuits?  Or do stories of press misbehavior—like  revelations of “catch and kill” policies, plagiarism charges, conflicts of interest and the substantial number of  #MeToo claims against prominent media figures—counsel caution?  What do recent charges of a politicized press, of coziness between news organizations and government—of the “Fox News White House” and the Sinclair management’s “must run” statements to independently-owned affiliates—mean for the identity of the independent “press”?  What can be done to improve press function and bolster confidence in the institution of the press in light of a clear-headed look at modern media practice? 


The panel will feature both law professors and non-law speakers (including one or more journalists).


If you’re interested in presenting on this panel, please send a proposal electronically by 5:00p.m. Friday, June 14, 2019 to Lili Levi (Chair of the Section for this upcoming meeting) at  Proposals should contain a title, an explanation of the substance and likely argument you plan for the presentation, and a description of how your paper will support the panel’s stated objectives.  The papers will be selected after review by a committee appointed by the Section Chair from members of the Section’s Executive Committee. The selection will be by “anonymized review,” so we would appreciate your submitting your proposal with a cover page including your name and paper title but without identifying information on the proposal itself.  We would hope to notify the author of the selected paper by August 30, 2019.


If you have any questions about this Call for Papers, please feel free to contact Lili Levi at or 305.284.2289 (O) or 305.772.8187 (C), or the other officers of the Section:  Professor Sonja West (Chair-elect), Professor RonNell Andersen Jones (Secretary), and Professor Catherine Sandoval (Treasurer).  


Thank you very much for your interest.


July 8, 2019 | Permalink

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Frohock on The Law as Uncopyrightable @frohock_c

Christina Frohock, University of Miami School of Law, is publishing The Law as Uncopyrightable: Merging Idea and Expression Within the Eleventh Circuit’s Analysis of 'Law-Like' Writing, in volume 73 of the University of Miami Law Review (2019). Here is the abstract.

The Eleventh Circuit recently issued an opinion in Code Revision Commission v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc. that meditates on the law as much as resolves a dispute. For that reason alone, attention should be paid. A commission acting on behalf of the Georgia General Assembly and the State of Georgia filed a copyright infringement action against a nonprofit organization that had disseminated annotated state statutes. The Eleventh Circuit took these modest facts and delivered a philosophical analysis of the nature of law, finding that statutory annotations are outside copyright protection because the true author of such “law-like” writing is “the People.” The court’s opinion respects democracy by amplifying the voice of the People. Such amplification works best, however, on narrow facts. Applied broadly, in line with the scope of the court’s philosophy, the opinion risks distorting the People’s voice by muting intragovernmental disagreements.That voice is more often cacophony than clarion call, and the loudest strain comes from the least representative branch. Focusing on the exercise of sovereign authority, a different area of copyright law supports the same case outcome. The law, along with law-like annotations, is uncopyrightable because its idea and its official expression merge.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

July 2, 2019 | Permalink

Bosland on Restraining "Extraneous" Prejudicial Publicity

Jason John Bosland, University of Melbourne, Centre for Media and Communications Law, is publishing Restraining 'Extraneous' Prejudicial Publicity: Victoria and New South Wales Compared in volume 41 of the University of New South Wales Law Journal (2018). Here is the abstract.

This article explores the powers available to courts in Victoria and New South Wales to restrain the media publication of ‘extraneous’ prejudicial material – that is, material that is derived from sources extraneous to court proceedings rather than from the proceedings themselves. Three sources of power are explored: the power in equity to grant injunctions to restrain threatened sub judice contempt, the inherent jurisdiction of superior courts and, finally, statutory powers in New South Wales under the Court Suppression and Non-publications Orders Act 2010 (NSW) and in Victoria under the Open Courts Act 2013 (Vic). It argues that the approach of the Victorian courts is much broader in terms of the scope and application of orders, which potentially explains why orders restraining extraneous material are more commonly made in Victoria than in New South Wales. It further argues that the Victorian approach presents some significant consequences for publishers.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

July 2, 2019 | Permalink

Mass Shootings, U.S. Society, and the Media @center4inquiry @BTRadford

From Benjamin Radford and the Center for Inquiry (CFI): a three part series on mass shootings, U.S. society, and the media.

Part 1: How Common Are Mass Shootings?

Part 2: Who Are Mass Shooters? Mass Shooter Demographics

Part 3: Mass Shootings and Media Literacy

July 2, 2019 | Permalink

Monday, July 1, 2019

ICYMI: Data Protection and Privacy: The Internet of Bodies (Hart, 2018) @hartpublishing

ICYMI: Data Protection and Privacy: The Internet of Bodies (Ronald Leenes, Rosamunde van Brakel, Serge Gutwirth, and Paul De Hert, eds., Hart Publishing, 2018). Here from the publisher's website is a description of the book's contents.

The subjects of Privacy and Data Protection are more relevant than ever, and especially since 25 May 2018, when the European General Data Protection Regulation became enforceable. This volume brings together papers that offer conceptual analyses, highlight issues, propose solutions, and discuss practices regarding privacy and data protection. It is one of the results of the eleventh annual International Conference on Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection, CPDP 2018, held in Brussels in January 2018.The book explores the following topics: biometrics and data protection in criminal justice processing, privacy, discrimination and platforms for men who have sex with men, mitigation through data protection instruments of unfair inequalities as a result of machine learning, privacy and human-robot interaction in robotized healthcare, privacy-by-design, personal data protection of deceased data subjects, large-scale face databases and the GDPR, the new Europol regulation, rethinking trust in the Internet of Things, fines under the GDPR, data analytics and the GDPR, and the essence of the right to the protection of personal data.This interdisciplinary book was written while the reality of the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 was becoming clear. It discusses open issues and daring and prospective approaches. It will serve as an insightful resource for readers with an interest in computers, privacy and data protection.
Data Protection and Privacy

July 1, 2019 | Permalink

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Campbell and Exner on A Calgary Chiropodist Who Complained of Libel, 1916 @TheHeidikins

Lyndsay Campbell and Heidi J. T. Exner, both of the University of Calgary, have published An Elusive Remedy: A Calgary Chiropodist Complains of Libel, 1916 at 6 Law & History 115 (2019). Here is the abstract.

The decision of a chiropodist - a man who called himself 'Doctor' and developed and sold foot products - to prosecute a small Calgary newspaper for criminal libel in the summer of 1916 touched off a series of events that ultimately resulted in the chiropodist's convictions for holding himself out as a doctor and practising medicine without a licence. The proceedings against the editor were stayed. These legal proceedings demonstrate the mutually reinforcing commitments of doctors and lawyers to protecting the professionalisation of medicine, and especially orthopaedic surgery, against the threat of interlopers in early twentieth-century Canada.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

June 20, 2019 | Permalink

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Wisconsin Judge Issues Summary Judgment For Plaintiff In Defamation Case Against Authors Who Denied Truth Of Sandy Hook Killings

Dane County (Wisconsin) Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington issued a summary judgment in the defamation case that Lenny Pozner, father of 6 year old Noah Pozner, brought against James Fetzer and Mike Palacek, authors of Nobody Dies at Sandy Hook. Mr. Pozner sued the two over their claims that he was a crisis actor, that Noah never existed, and that the murders at Sandy Hook never happened. The publisher of the book has pulled it from sale, saying that he believes Mr. Pozner is "telling the truth about the death of his son."

Other parents of children killed at Sandy Hook in 2012 have also brought suits against those who claim that the killings by Adam Lanza are a hoax, including Robbie Parker, whose daughter died that day, and who is suing Infowars host Alex Jones.  Mr. Jones currently faces at least two lawsuits, one in Texas and one in Connecticut, over his statements that the shootings never occurred, although he now has retracted those statements. In the past few days, lawyers for the plaintiffs in one of the suits said that Mr. Jones's lawyers had turned over materials that include child pornography. They have alerted the FBI. More here from CNBC.

June 18, 2019 | Permalink

Monday, June 17, 2019

SCT: Private Entities Designated By Local Government To Operate Public Access Channels Are Not State Actors

The Supreme Court, voting 5-4, has reversed the Second Circuit in Manhattan Community Access Corp., v. Halleck.   In the case, petitioner Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) argued that it is not a state actor and is not required to allow the producers of a film critical of it to gain access to the public access channels it carries, even though New York City designated it as the operator of public access channels on the Time Warner cable system that serves Manhattan. 

Justice Kavanaugh, for the majority (Kavanaugh, Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch) wrote that MNN is not a state actor. "[I]s operation of public access channels on a cable system a traditional, exclusive public function? If so then the First Amendment would restrict MNN's exercise of editorial discretion over the speech and speakers on the public access channels....[W]e conclude that operation of public access channels on a cable system is not a traditional, exclusive public fuction. Moreover, a private entity such aws MNN who opens its property for speech by others is not transformed by that fact alone into a state actor." He continues, "[M]erely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints. If the rule were otherwise, all private property owners and private lessees who open their property for speech would be subject to First Amendment constraints and would lose the ability to exercise what they deem to be appropriate editorial discretion within that open forum. Private property owners and private lessees would face the unappetizing choice of allowing all comers or closing the platform altogether."


Justice Sotomayor dissented, writing in part, "The channels are clearly a public forum: The City has a property interest in them, and New York regulations require that access to those channels be kept open to all. And because the City (1) had a duty to provide that public forum once it granted a cable franchise and (2) had a duty to abide by the First Amendment once it provided that forum, those obligations did not evaporate when the City delegated the administration of that forum to a private entity. Just as the City would have been subject to the First Amendment had it chosen to run the forum itself, MNN assumed the same responsibility when it accepted the delegation."





June 17, 2019 | Permalink

Roberts on False Influencing @lexlanham

Alexandra J. Roberts, University of New Hampshire School of Law, has published False Influencing. Here is the abstract.

Social media influencers and the brands that engage them are bound to comply with the portions of the FTC Act that regulate advertising and endorsement. But many don’t. While the FTC has promulgated guidelines, sent warning letters to repeat offenders, and occasionally brought actions against influencers and brands whose practices run afoul of the guidelines, it tends to apply most of its resources to issues it considers more pressing than regulating influencer marketing claims. Private parties, meanwhile, lack standing to challenge competitors' practices based on violations of the FTC Act. The Lanham Act provides companies with a false advertising cause of action, but so far few have called upon it in an attempt to enjoin false or misleading claims their competitors make via influencer marketing. Can an influencer’s failure to disclose that a post is a paid endorsement — a clear violation of FTC Guidelines — constitute a misleading statement under §43(a)(1)(B)? If an influencer’s testimonial about a product or about her experience with it is untrue, might that falsehood be material to consumers’ purchasing decisions, and thus actionable? This article will explore the potential for private actors to use the Lanham Act to challenge competitors’ “false influencing” — disseminating false or misleading advertising messages via influencer marketing — as a means to increase consistency in how ads are regulated across platforms and types of media.

The text is not available from SSRN.

June 17, 2019 | Permalink

Friday, June 14, 2019

Ayoubi on Deciphering the "Right to Read" Under International Human Rights Law @Lida_Ayoubi

LIda Ayoubi, Auckland University of Technology, Law School, is publishing Deciphering the 'Right to Read' under International Human Rights Law: A Normative Framework for Equal Access in volume 36 of the Wisconsin International Law Journal (2019). Here is the abstract.

While much has been written about the Marrakesh Treaty, its legal standing, and its content, a detailed analysis of the human rights principles that it encompasses is not available. Furthermore, even though the Marrakesh Treaty was adopted nearly five years ago, the pace of its ratification remains low. Therefore, this paper analyzes the normative and legal foundations for the validity of the claim that lack of satisfactory access to copyrighted material is discriminatory and a violation of the visually impaired persons’ human rights. This analysis highlights the need for the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty as a key step towards provision and facilitation of better access to copyrighted works for the print-disabled.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

June 14, 2019 | Permalink

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Zeno-Zencovich on What We Mean by "Media" Today @CAPBooks

Vincenzo Zeno-Zencovich, University of Rome III, Department of Law, is publishing What Do We Mean By 'Media' Today? in R.L.Weaver, A. Koltay, M.D.Cole, S.I. Friedland (eds.), Free Speech and Media Law in the 21st Century, Carolina Academic Press 2019 (Forthcoming). Here is the abstract.

The article aims at pointing out that the traditional notion of media is no longer functional to the contemporary information and communication technology environment and requires a different approach in order to avoid applying obsolete rules to new means.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

June 12, 2019 | Permalink

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Volokh on Anti-Libel Injunctions and the Criminal Libel Connection @VolokhC

Eugene Volokh, UCLA School of Law, is publishing Anti-Libel Injunctions and the Criminal Libel Connection in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Here is the abstract.

An injunction against libel, which carries the threat of prosecution for criminal contempt, is like a miniature criminal libel law -- just for a particular defendant, and just for statements about a particular plaintiff. That is its virtue. That is its danger. And that is the key to identifying how both the First Amendment and equitable principles should constrain such injunctions. Properly crafted anti-libel injunctions, I argue, are constitutional. But most existing injunctions are not properly crafted, and thus threaten criminal contempt punishment for libel without offering the protections that even criminal libel provides -- not just trial by jury, but also proof beyond a reasonable doubt and the availability of a criminal defense lawyer. Courts should therefore change the way they word and implement these injunctions; and courts should also be attentive to how the injunctions interact with state executive and legislative decisions, even apart from First Amendment concerns.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

June 11, 2019 | Permalink

Jim Acosta on His New Book "The Enemy of the People" and Trump's Rhetoric @Acosta

Jim Acosta on how Trump's "fake news" charges have gotten out of hand. He discusses Trump's rhetoric here in which he also discusses the genesis of his new book The Enemy of the People. Mr. Acosta says in part,  "But what may have begun as something of a reality TV-style parlor trick has mutated into a full-blown assault on the American free press, one that the President apparently can no longer control."

June 11, 2019 | Permalink

Monday, June 10, 2019

Governor Ivey (Alabama) Signs HB 498, To Protect Free Speech on College Campuses

The Governor of Alabama has signed HB498 into law. HB498 "would require state two-year and four-year colleges and universities to protect and uphold free speech rights for students and faculty, and would provide a cause of action for violations." (synopsis).

Read the text of the bill here.

More here from The Hill. 

June 10, 2019 | Permalink

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Minow on The Changing Ecosystem of News and Challenges for Freedom of the Press @Harvard_Law

Martha Minow, Harvard Law School, is publishing The Changing Ecosystem of News and Challenges for Freedom of the Press in the Loyola (New Orleans) Law Review. Here is the abstract.

The ecosystem of news has changed beyond the imagination of anyone living when the First Amendment was drafted. Changes in the private industry of the press leave some communities with no local news coverage.A majority of people in the United States now receive news selected for them by a computer-based mathematical formula derived from their past interests, producing echo chambers with few opportunities to learn, understand, or believe what others are hearing as news. Traditional news media—now called “legacy media”—is shrinking, cutting staff, and relying on freelancers. Meanwhile, digital platforms surge in usage, profits, and revenues from advertising, which are used to stimulate engagement and collect data to further target users. This contributes to a world in which fewer than one-third of those surveyed trust mass media to report the news fully and accurately—the lowest number since such surveys began. The recent indictment of thirteen Russians for disrupting the 2016 United States presidential election by spreading divisive and false messages through Facebook, Google, and Twitter underscores what Alexander Meiklejohn put so well: reliable press expression is fundamental to democratic self-governance. What can be done when transformations in technology, economics, and communications jeopardize the production and distribution of, and trust in, news that is essential in a democratic society?

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

June 6, 2019 | Permalink

Monday, June 3, 2019

Trevor Timm: Journalism Is Under Assault

From Medium: Trevor Timm writes about the charges against Julian Assange and the police raid on journalist Bryan Carmody's home, arguing that we are now seeing serious attacks on freedom of the press.

June 3, 2019 | Permalink

Friday, May 31, 2019

Heymann on Reasonable Appropriation and Reader Response

Laura A. Heymann, William & Mary Law School, has published Reasonable Appropriation and Reader Response at 9 U.C. Irvine L. Rev. 343 (2019). Here is the abstract.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., many courts have considered, when evaluating a claim of fair use in copyright, whether the defendant’s use of the plaintiff’s work is “transformative,” which the Campbell Court described as “add[ing] something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message.” In Cariou v. Prince, the Second Circuit shifted the focus of the analysis, both confirming that a work could be transformative even if it did not comment on the original work or its author and stating that the key to the transformativeness analysis is “how the work in question appears to the reasonable observer, not simply what an artist might say about a particular piece or body of work.” The Cariou court’s focus on the reasonable observer might be said to align with a reader-response approach to the transformativeness analysis. The task is to determine whether the second work has “alter[ed] the first with new expression, meaning, or message,” but that determination, in the Cariou court’s view, is dependent not on authorial intent but rather on audience perception. A grounded sense of the reasonable reader should recognize the value of taking into account questions of context and meaning, including considerations of gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and privilege, among others. A requirement that the interpretation be “reasonable” can be read to mean that interpretations that the courts or dominant interpretive communities find too transgressive can be deemed outside artistic (and therefore legal) boundaries. The first fair use factor, by focusing on the purpose and character of the use, is asking how the defendant’s work contributes in a different way from the plaintiff’s work to “promote the Progress of Science.” And that, as the Court indicated in Campbell, requires consideration of how the works are received, which requires, in turn, consideration of interpretive communities. Courts that do not situate themselves as part of an interpretive community, engaging with other observers, risk having their transformativeness decisions seen as a fait accompli, rather than as a reasonable conclusion based on available evidence. This is, I think, the way to give meaning to the concept of a “reasonable observer” or meaning that may “reasonably be perceived” in a world where every interpretative community has the ability to contest meaning but where existing structures may privilege the views of those already seen as more “reasonable.” Putting this engagement on the record recognizes that transformativeness is cause, not effect; that a work is ultimately not what it is but what it does. The result may well be that fair use disputes will be less frequently resolved at earlier stages of litigation if it turns out that courts feel more confident undertaking this task with the benefit of evidence, expert or otherwise, as to the existence of interpretive communities. Fully recognizing that the resulting cost is not the author’s to bear, this paper — a contribution to a symposium on ‘The Discursive Turn in Copyright” at the UC Irvine School of Law — contends that it is likely the better outcome for the development of fair use doctrine.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

May 31, 2019 | Permalink