Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Judge Rules Congressman Must Provide Deposition in Defamation Lawsuit

District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer has told Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) that he must provide further information via a deposition the defamation lawsuit that Marine Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich has filed against him before she will dismiss the lawsuit. Congressman Murtha made comments regarding “cold-blooded murder and war crimes” by soldiers in Iraq, whom he did not name, at a 2006 news conference. Read more here.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 28, 2007

FCC Releases Annual Report, "Reference Book of Rates"

The FCC has released its annual "Reference Book of Rates, Price Indices, and Household Expenditures for Telephone Service." Here's an excerpt from the press release, giving some interesting statistics about the cost of long distance calling, and charges paid by consumers. Read the entire press release here.

·     The average revenue per minute of wireline long distance calling, which reflects rates paid by residential and business consumers, remained at 6 cents in 2005 for the third consecutive year, and represents a decrease of 60% from 1992, when discount and promotional long distance plans were introduced.

·     During 2006, the consumer price index (CPI) for wireline interstate toll service rose 5.1% and the CPI for intrastate toll service increased 3.3%, while the overall CPI rose 2.5%.

·     Long-term, the CPI for wireline interstate toll service in December 2006 was 33% lower than in December 1997, and for intrastate toll service, 24% lower, while the overall CPI rose by 25% during the same period.

·     The December 2006 CPI for wireless service remained unchanged from December 2005.  Long-term, the CPI for wireless services was 35% lower in December 2006 than it was in December 1997.

·     The Lifeline universal service program subsidizes the monthly phone charges for low-income households, while the Link Up program subsidizes charges for the connection of a phone line.  Based on a sample of cities, Lifeline conferred an average monthly benefit of $14.65, and Link Up conferred an average benefit of $29.94.

·     The average rate paid by business customers for a single phone line was $45.31 in 2006, compared to $43.75 in 2005, an increase of 3.5%.  The average connection charge for single-line business customers fell from $74.18 in 2005 to $72.26 in 2006, a decrease of 2.5%.

·     The average rate paid by residential customers for unlimited touch-tone calling was $25.27 in 2006, compared to $24.64 in 2005, an increase of 2.6%.  The average connection charge for residential customers increased to $42.92 in 2006 from $42.80 in 2005.


September 28, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Irish Journalist, Others, Receive Death Threats

The Irish Times reports that a newspaper editor as well as members of Sinn Fein have received death threats that appear to be from the "Red Hand Defenders", a name used by "loyalist terrorists." Police are investigating. Read more here.

September 28, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Judge Rules Condit Must Pay Newspaper's Lawyer Fees

Gary Condit, the former Congressman who has filed numerous lawsuits against various media who have covered his involvement with Chandra Levy, the young woman whose remains were found in Washington DC's Rock Creek Park, has been by an Arizona judge to pay the legal fees of the attorney who defended the newspaper he sued recently. The Sonoran News ran a story about Mr. Condit's brother, but included a sentence about Mr. Condit himself, and the result was what Judge Kristin Hoffman considered a frivolous lawsuit. She dismissed it earlier this year, and told him to pay more than $42,000 to Daniel Barr, the attorney who defended the paper. Read more here in a Modesto Bee story.

September 27, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Right to Make Private Copies in European Law

Natali Helberger, University of Amsterdam, Institute for Information Law, and P. G. Hugenholtz, University of Amsterdam, have published "No Place Like Home for Making a Copy: Private Copying in European Copyright Law and Consumer Law," in the 2007 volume of the Berkeley Technology Law Journal. Here is the abstract.

The ability to make private copies is among the main concerns of consumers of information goods and services, as recent studies conducted among European consumers have demonstrated. What is surprising then is that this general expectation does not seem to rest on legally solid ground. European copyright law, while permitting the Member States of the European Union to provide for a private copying limitation, does not provide legal certainty as to its scope, legal status and enforceability, both in contractual relationships and in situations where private copying is impeded by digital rights management (DRM). Consumer protection law in Europe may on occasion give “teeth” to private copying limitation. However, as recent case law from courts in France and in Belgium has revealed, the application of consumer law to private copying still raises an array of difficult questions, some of which are directly connected to the law of copyright.

This article examines the intersection between copyright law and consumer law relating to private copying in Europe. In doing so, we will query the effectiveness of copyright law and consumer law as legal instruments to protect consumers in their dealings with information suppliers. Our goal is to demonstrate that while copyright law in Europe does offer a measure of comfort to consumers, the legal instruments of European consumer law are potentially more effective in achieving the freedom to make private copies that European consumers generally expect.

Download the entire article from SSRN here.

September 26, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Google and Fair Use

David Kohler, Southwestern Law School, has published "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us--Or Is It? Reflections on Copyright, the First Amendment, and Google's Use of Others' Content," in the 2007 volume of the Duke Law & Technology Review. Here is the abstract.

Using a variety of technological innovations, Google became a multi-billion dollar content-delivery business without owning or licensing much of the content that it uses. Google's principal justification for why this strategy does not contravene the intellectual property rights of the copyright owners is the doctrine of fair use. However, over the last several years, some copyright owners began to push back and challenge Google's strategy. Much of this litigation presents the courts with something of a conundrum. On the one hand, it is beyond dispute that Google's services have great social utility. By organizing and making accessible an enormous volume of information on the Internet, Google facilitates broad access to a diverse array of material, a core value of the First Amendment. At the same time, Google's actions do not always fit comfortably within traditional notions of fair use. In this respect, the Google cases present an opportunity to explore the relationship between copyright and the First Amendment; a subject that has received inadequate attention in the courts, and particularly the Supreme Court. How the apparent tension between the marketplace of ideas and the commercial marketplace is resolved may have significant impact on the development of Internet-based services designed to facilitate access to information, and this subject is the focus of this iBrief.

Download the entire article from SSRN here.

September 26, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reporter Mirthala Salinas Returns to the Newsroom

Journalist Mirthala Salinas, the "other woman" in Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's life, is returning to on-air work, to cover the inland counties beat for Telemundo's KVEA Channel 52. After the news broke that while she had been covering Mayor Villaraigosa, she had also been involved with him, she was placed on paid leave and eventually suspended for two months without pay. Read more here.

September 25, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

College Paper's Editor Says He'll Stand His Ground Over Controversial Headline

J. David McSwane, the editor of the Colorado State University Rocky Mountain Collegian, says he won't step down in the wake of that controversial headline: "Expletive Bush". He may lose his job, but he won't step down. The campus College Republicans want him fired. Mr. McSwane said the paper's editorial board decided to use the headline after it discerned that CSU's student body is "apathetic" over freedom of speech. The paper has since lost $30,000 in advertising revenue. The paper is apparently supervised by the Board of Student Communication, not the University. Read more here.

September 25, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ofcom Says Channel 4 Program About Diana OK

Media watchdog agency Ofcom has ruled that Channel 4's recent documentary about the late Princess Diana did not breach any rules, even though several thousand viewers objected to some of the images, including one showing an injured Diana receiving treatment from a French EMT. The agency said the content was "in line with expectations for an investigative historical drama on Channel 4".  Diana's sons William and Harry also asked Channel 4 to edit the documentary but the network refused. Read more here in a BBC story.

September 24, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Changing State of Media Regulation in Britain

Secretary of State of Culture, Media and Sport James Purnell addressed the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention on September 13, and announced a new agenda concerning media regulation. He plans to assemble a group to think through how to achieve some new goals including deregulation as well as "universal access" to content, and address questions of content regulation. Analog signals are ending in Britain in 2012. Read Mr. Purnell's speech here.

September 21, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

China Releases New York Times Journalist After Three Years in Prison

China has released a New York Times journalist, whom it jailed three years ago after a very controversial trial that was protested around the world. Zhao Yan was charged both with fraud and with revealing state secrets. The national secrecy charges were dismissed, but he was convicted of the fraud charges. Mr. Zhao still works for the Times. Here's more from

September 21, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Family Sues Virgin Mobile for "Grief and Humiliation" Over Photo

A Texas family has filed suit over Australia's Virgin Mobile's use of their daughter's photo in the company's current ad campaign. The company picked out the girl's photo from Flickr, the Yahoo-owned website, and incorporated it and current Virgin Mobile slogans in the ads. The slogans in question are "Dump Your Pen Friend" and "Free text virgin to virgin". The family claims that the company has now "damaged Alison's reputation and exposed her to ridicule from her peers and scrutiny from people who can now Google her". Read more here in an AP story. Here's more from the Melbourne Sun.

September 21, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tale of Another Socks

The BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, has called the decision to name a cat on the show Blue Peter "Socks" instead of the viewer choice ("Cookie") a "truly terrible idea." The show's director's, Richard Marson, has lost his job. No word from the cat, or T. S. Eliot.

September 21, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dan Rather Sues CBS, Viacom

Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather has sued CBS, Viacom, and CBS President Leslie Moonves for forcing him to leave the position he had held for over two decades in the aftermath of the questions raised over the story he did on President George W. Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam conflict. Mr. Rather claims in the suit that "CBS intentionally caused the public and the media to attribute CBS' alleged bungling of the episode to Mr. Rather." Read more here in an AP story.

September 20, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Founders, Freedom of the Press, and the Copyright Clause

Edward Lee, Ohio State University College of Law, has published "Freedom of the Press 2.0" as Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 97. Here is the abstract.

In today's digital age, copyright law is changing. It now attempts to regulate machines. Over the past twenty years, and particularly with the advent of the Internet, copyright holders have increasingly invoked copyright law to regulate directly - indeed, even to prohibit - the manufacture and sale of technology that facilitates the mass dissemination of expressive works. Although the concerns of copyright holders about the ease of digital copying are understandable, the expansion of copyright law to regulate - and, in some cases, to prohibit - technologies raises a troubling question. Can the government regulate under copyright law technologies that facilitate the dissemination of speech, consistent with the First Amendment? If so, are there any limits to what the government can do? Or does copyright law have constitutional carte blanche to regulate technologies, without any First Amendment scrutiny? Because copyright law, dating back to the first Copyright Act of 1790, traditionally refrained from regulating technologies directly, these questions were scarcely considered before. But, today, these questions have vital importance as copyright law and other laws proposed in service of copyright holders contemplate even greater regulation of emerging technologies that are revolutionizing the ability of individuals to create expressive content on the Internet, in the “Web 2.0” culture of user-created content. However, despite their importance, these questions have escaped attention in legal scholarship. This Article attempts to answer these questions by tracing the historical development of the “freedom of the press” that led to the Framers' inclusion of the concept in the First Amendment. My core thesis is twofold: (i) the Framers understood the freedom of the press as the freedom of the printing press - a speech technology - to be free of intrusive governmental regulation, including restrictions on technology imposed under copyright law; and (ii) today, the Sony safe harbor operates as a “First Amendment safeguard” within copyright law that is designed to protect the freedom of the press and the development of speech technologies. All future attempts by Congress to regulate speech technologies under copyright law must answer to the Free Press Clause or the Sony safe harbor.

Download the entire paper from SSRN here.

September 18, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

German Court Denies Zundel Appeal

Author Ernest Zundel has lost a chance to appeal his conviction before the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof). Mr. Zundel was convicted under a German law that forbids denying the existence of the Holocaust. He received a five year sentence.

Whoever publicly or in a meeting approves of, denies or renders harmless an act committed under the rule of National Socialism of the type indicated in Section 220a subsection (1) [genocide], in a manner capable of disturbing the public piece (sic) shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine. (translation by the Federal Ministry of Justice)

He had been convicted under a similar Canadian law; that law was ruled unconstitutional by the Canadian Supreme Court. Here's more from an AP story.

September 18, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Second Circuit Upholds Lower Court Ruling Against American Citizen Who Violated Order Not to Travel to Iraq

The Second Circuit has upheld a district court order against a plaintiff/appellant, Judith Karpova, who visited Iraq in 2003 as "an ordained minister to bear witness to the effect on Iraq's people of economic sanctions, as a professional writer and journalist sending letters or reports to the Jersey Journal, a daily newspaper in Jersey City, New Jersey, and as a human shield to prevent destruction of civilian infrastructure in the event of renewed hostilities" even though several executive orders and Treasury Department regulations stated quite clearly that these activities were forbidden. In response, she was fined $6700. She sued to set aside the fine, claiming that it was in violation of the APA and the First and Fifth Amendments and the Iraqi Sanctions Act.

The court rejected all of her arguments. With regard to the claim that Ms. Karpova was a journalist, the Second Circuit ruled that "

The case is Karpova v. Snow, U.S.C.A. 2d Cir. 2007, 06-0104-cv.

Similarly, even if plaintiff is correct that some of the transactions she engaged in in Iraq related to journalistic activities and thus were exempted from sanction by § 575.207, remand on that basis would be futile. By way of background, § 575.207 provides that transactions "[r]elating to journalistic activity by persons regularly employed in such capacity by a newsgathering organization" are not sanctionable, and § 575.416(b)(1) clarifies that certain freelance journalists are covered by § 575.207's exemption. Karpova's argument is that her solicitation of funds, her travel to Iraq, and her purchase of food all related to her freelance journalistic activity, and thus were not sanctionable under the  regulations. Unfortunately, the Agency did not provide much explanation on this issue; it merely noted in the Prepenalty Notice that Karpova acted as a freelance journalist while in Iraq, but failed to address in its final decision whether she qualified as a journalist under § 575.416 and whether these transactions were covered by this exception. Yet, plaintiff overlooks § 575.416(c), which notes that "[a]uthorized travel transactions are limited to those incident to travel for the purpose of collecting and disseminating information for a recognized newsgathering organization, and do not include travel transactions related to any other activity in Iraq" (emphasis added). Karpova admits that among her activities within Iraq were excursions to "defend Iraqi civilian infrastructure from bombing." Such activity clearly would not fall within the journalistic exception, and thus we are confident the Agency would reach the same conclusion even were we to determine that some of Karpova's activities in Iraq were exempted by the journalistic exception."

With regard to the Free Speech claim, the court said, "Under the First Amendment, a restriction against traveling to a specified country is "an inhibition of action," not speech.... As the Zemel Court explained, many restrictions on action could "be clothed by ingenious argument in the garb of decreased data flow.".... Yet such arguments are to no avail since the First Amendment guarantees a citizen the right to speak and publish, but does not guarantee an unrestrained right to gather information....Karpova was fined because of her actions in violating the travel regulations, not for her speech.  Consequently, her First Amendment rights were not violated."

Read the entire opinion here.

September 18, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pitching Fake Shows

Lee Kern writes about the fun and profit involved in pitching fake tv concepts to real media here in the Media Guardian. But in a world where Stephen Colbert can be confused with real journalists (indeed some people think he is a real journalist), and where a recent Dutch tv show set off a whirlwind of protest until its producers revealed it was a hoax, are the responses Mr. Kern got any surprise?

September 17, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Hip Hop Within the Public Sphere

Akilah Folami, Hofstra University School of Law, has published "From Habermas to `Get Rich or Die Tryin': Hip Hop, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the Black Public Sphere," in volume 12 of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law at p. 235 (2007). Here is the abstract.

This Article explores the manner in which gangsta rappers, who are primarily young urban Black1 men, navigate the mass media and rap's commercialization of the gangsta image to continue to provide seeds of political expression and resistance to that image. While other scholars have considered the political nature of rap in the context of the First Amendment, this Article's approach is unique in that it is the first to explore such concepts through the lenses of Habermas' ideal public sphere and those of his critics. While many have written gangsta rap off as being commercially co-opted or useless given its misogyny, violence, and unbridled exhortation to material consumption, “political” expression, resistance and social commentary can still be found therein. This resistance and social commentary can be found when gangsta rap is analyzed within the broader framework of the public sphere, particularly given the invisibility and marginalization of Black men in much public space in America, and the entangled relationship between gangsta rappers, the market, and the mass media.

In addition, this Article is the first to consider the Telecommunications Act of 1996 within the context of hip hop and its contribution to the proliferation of gangsta rap and to dissuading the voices of more “positive” rappers that would contest such gangsta rap. Contrary to Habermas' view that the law facilitates communication in the public sphere, and between the public sphere and the dominant society, the Telecommunications Act has contributed to stifling discourse within the hip hop community by increasing and solidifying corporate media conglomeration and control of the nation's radio airwaves. This conglomeration has been instrumental in creating the dominant gangsta image that has become, for the most part, the defacto voice of contemporary hip hop culture. In order to achieve the participatory democracy that Habermas and others envisioned, a wider understanding of political expression and resistance must be embraced, and the law, specifically, the Telecommunications Act, must not inhibit the articulation of alternative voices within the hip hop community that might resist, or provide a counter-hegemonic expression, to gangsta rap, and the resulting, gangsta image.

Download the entire article from SSRN here.

September 17, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 14, 2007

No Love Lost

A Chinese court has ordered an Internet web site to pay a text message writer the equivalent of thirteen thousand U.S. dollars for infringing his copyright by selling his "love notes" without his consent. Fu Zhanbei sued the site after it continued selling his messages after their agreement expired a year and a half ago. Read more here.

September 14, 2007 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)