Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Monday, December 7, 2009

ITV: Sorry About Rat-Killing Episode

ITV has apologized for the episode on "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," during which two participants killed and ate a rat. The network said it looked into health and safety concerns, but not into whether killing the animal was legal. Read more here.

December 7, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Have Reality TV Creators Finally Gone Too Far?

In creating "Jersey Shore" and "Find My Family" reality tv types seem to have crossed some lines. And we thought there weren't any more lines to be crossed. MTV, which is premiering "Jersey Shore," has already run into trouble with advertiser Domino's Pizza and groups representing Italian-Americans. And ABC's "Find My Family," a show about adoptees in search of their biological roots, seems to have run into what looks like a buzzsaw of complaints from adoption advocates. Read more in a New York Times article by Edward Wyatt.

December 7, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The GE/Comcast Deal

From the New York Times, on the GE/Comcast deal over NBC/Universal:

With technology changing Americans’ media experience at breakneck speed, it might seem quaint to worry about the merger of an old-style cable company with a beleaguered broadcast TV company. But there is much to be concerned about in Comcast’s proposed takeover of NBC and its sister company Universal Studios.

The pairing of the nation’s largest cable company with one of the leading television broadcasters, which also owns several popular cable networks, could limit choices and raise prices for viewers and advertisers. As they evaluate the proposed merger, antitrust and communications watchdog agencies should also consider the risks to the emerging business of delivering video entertainment over the Internet — the main competitive threat to cable TV.

December 7, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Union Leader Gets Apology, Damages From News of the World

The News of the World will pay damages and has apologized to Unite election official Derek Simpson over a false story it published alleging that he had used union money and taken advantage of the union's rules in order to put himself in a better position to win re-election. The paper's attorney, Patrick Callaghan, admitted in court that the story was based on an unreliable source. "It did so in reliance on a source which it believed to be reliable. As such, the News of the World apologises to Mr Simpson for this article and for the distress and embarrassment it has caused him." Read more here.

December 7, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Queen Elizabeth Fires "Shot Across the Bow" At Paparazzi

Queen Elizabeth II has informed the paparazzi and media that they are not to publish photos of the royals and other members of the family have noted that they are entitled to their privacy when engaged in normal family activities. But some members of the media disagree. Said one, "Given the high level of secrecy already surrounding the monarchy the press must be allowed to pursue stories and take photos if there is genuine news value or public interest." Read more here in a BBC story.

December 6, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Rat-Eating Celebs Face Charges

The winners of this season's ITV version of "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" face animal cruelty charges in New South Wales after footage shows them killing and eating a rat. Police issued summons under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to Gino D'Acampo and Stuart Manning. Read more here.

December 6, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rescuing the Print Media

Mara J. Gassmann, Georgetown University Law Center, has published "Who's Watching (Out for) the Watchers?: The First Amendment and Non-Profit Newspapers." Here is the abstract.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin has introduced The Newspaper Revitalization Act, which if passed would amend three sections of the Internal Revenue Code to expressly allow newspapers to become tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations. This paper explores the question of why from a First Amendment standpoint the public might wish struggling newspapers to restructure as tax-exempt organizations in spite of the proliferation of news sources now available. It also explores some of the problems that would or could accompany tax-exempt status and evaluates how seriously we should take those concerns.

Specifically, this paper discusses the basics of Cardin's proposal; why a Madisonian or marketplace model of free speech might compel the passage of this legislation; and arguments by those who suggest that citizen journalism or other models of newsgathering can replace newspapers. It also looks at potential drawbacks to the legislation, such as constitutional challenges based on viewpoint discrimination; whether newspapers will have to abandon editorial page endorsements or can structure their business models to keep them; potential increased scrutiny of reporters' objectivity; and the potential for newspapers to appear state-controlled rather than independent.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

December 5, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Canadian Court Hears Case Against Iranian Government Over Death of Journalist

A Quebec court hears arguments in the death of an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Zahra Kazemi, who died of injuries suffered while she was in police custody six years ago. According to press reports,

Kazemi was 54 when she died in Iranian custody on July 11, 2003, almost three weeks after she was arrested for taking pictures outside a prison during a student protest in Tehran. In March 2005, Shahram Azam, a former staff physician in Iran's Defence Ministry said he had examined Kazemi in hospital four days after her arrest and found signs of torture - a very brutal rape, skull fracture, broken fingers, missing fingernails, a crushed big toe and a broken nose.

Her son brought the case against the government of Iran. Here's more.

December 4, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

GE, Comcast and NBC

Two New York Times articles on the GE/Comcast NBC deal and its implications, here and here.

December 4, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Collecting a Libel Tourism Judgment

Doug Rendleman, Washington and Lee University School lof Law, has published "Collecting a Libel Tourist’s Defamation Judgment?" forthcoming in the Washington and Lee Law Review. Here is the abstract. 
A libel plaintiff sued an American defendant in a foreign nation where he took advantage of plaintiff-favoring defamation law to obtain a hefty judgment. He brings this judgment to the defendant’s State in the United States to collect from her bank account. The defendant’s State’s court could not have entered the plaintiff’s judgment because of First-Amendment doctrines that stem from New York Times v. Sullivan.

How should the United States court respond to the “libel tourist” and his judgment? My succinct article summarizes the tangled tale that emerges. Invoking a public policy exception to comity, United States courts have rejected foreign-nation defamation judgments. State legislation has buttressed these decisions. A Bill has been introduced in Congress to repel these judgments at the water’s edge. Against this tide, my article maintains that courts in the United States ought to take a more nuanced approach and recognize at least some overseas defamation judgments.

This draft article is in press at the Washington and Lee Law Review and at the Faculty of Law, Aix-Provence, France. It will undergo the usual editorial processes. The draft that follows was presented to the Remedies Discussion Forum at the Faculty of Law, Aix-Provence in the spring of 2009.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

December 4, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What Does the Camera Capture?

French legislator Valerie Boyer wants digitally altered photos to be labelled as such. For one thing, she thinks such labelling would assist in a fight against anorexia. Not everyone agrees. Read more here in a New York Times article.

December 3, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Britain's Justice Minister Says Libel Laws Will Be Reformed; They Are Having Chilling Effect On Free Speech

Britain's Justice secretary, Jack Straw, has announced a plan to attack "libel tourism," which he says is "chilling" democracy in the country, according to this Guardian article. Mr. Straw says that current status of libel law in Great Britain "threatens free speech by making it prohibitively expensive for publishers to defend themselves." Here's more from the New Statesman, which scored an exclusive interview with Mr. Straw.

December 3, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Comparing (Internet) Network Discrimination in Canada and the US

Mark Perry and Thomas Margoni, both of the University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law, have published "Interpreting Network Discrimination in the CRTC and FCC." Here is the abstract. 

The issue of what discriminatory use of a network means has arisen in two recent decisions of the United States and Canadian federal communications commissions, the FCC and the CRTC respectively. The topic is a contemporary and hotly debated one, as when a course is fixed it will strongly influence the future of the Internet. It can be stated as the dichotomy of open and competitive or closed and oligopolistic. A study and comparison of the two different approaches is vital to clarify the debate, and hopefully guide Canadian policy in a direction that will benefit the whole community.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

December 2, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Freedom of Expression in Uganda

Musede Denis Jude has published "Limitations to the Enjoyment of Freedom of Expression in Uganda." Here is the abstract. 

Freedom of expression in Uganda has been subject to a number of restrictions since colonial period to date. However in 1986 when the NRM government under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni came into power, there was a paradigm shift into a more liberal approach to the enjoyment of this freedom. A new constitution was promulgated which guaranteed the right to freedom of expression and right of access to information in the possession of the state. One may safely argue that these provisions were domesticated into Ugandan law as a result of ratification of international covenants.These freedoms have however been restricted especially when the media, both electronic and print, have engaged government in political debate, dialogue or criticism. These constitutional guarantees have been restricted by the enactment of punitive laws and creation of institutions meant to suppress media houses and restrict access to information. This has created a situation of self censorship among the media houses as opposed to their primary role of dissemination of information and watch dog to government excesses, a cornerstone to their contribution to democracy. This paper seeks to discus the historical evolution of this freedom in Uganda and examine the legal regime governing press freedom and identify the legal and other practical limitations to the full enjoyment of this right.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

December 2, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

FTC Hosts Workshop On the Internet and Journalism

The Federal Trade Commission is hosting a workshop on the future of journalism. From the FTC website, here's more:

The Federal Trade Commission will hold two days of workshops on December 1 and 2, 2009, to explore how the Internet has affected journalism. The event is free and open to the public.  The workshop will assemble representatives from print, online, broadcast and cable news organizations, academics, consumer advocates, bloggers, and other new media representatives.

Updates regarding the December 1 and 2, 2009 workshops, including an agenda and panelists will be posted on this webpage, or can be accessed via RSS Feed from this webpage.

Due to the large number of pre-registrants, we anticipate that the FTC's Conference Center will reach full capacity. Pre-registration does not guarantee seating, and attendees will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8 a.m. each day.  Please remember to bring a picture ID.  Once the Conference Center is full, attendees will be directed to an overflow room located in the FTC Headquarters building at 600 Pennsylvania, Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20580.  The workshop will also be webcast via a link on this webpage.

December 1, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

GE, Comcast Nearing Deal Over NBC/Universal

From the New York Times: GE is nearing a deal to sell NBC to Comcast. First hurdle--helping Vivendi divest itself of its stake in the media giant.

December 1, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Did Bernard Malamud Plagiarize?

Jay Beilis, Jeremy Simcha Garber, and Mark S. Stein (Harvard Law School, Petrie-Flom Center) have published "Pulitzer Plagiarism: The Malamud-Beilis Connection," forthcoming in the Cardozo Law Review. Here is the abstract.

In writing The Fixer, Bernard Malamud plagiarized from Mendel Beilis’s memoir and debased the memories of Beilis and his wife. This short essay corrects the record.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

December 1, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Georgia Author Loses Defamation By Fiction Case

Novelist Haywood Smith lost a defamation by fiction case in a Georgia court last week. The plaintiff, Vickie Stewart, claimed that one of the characters in the book The Red Hat Society too closely resembled her, and the jury agreed, awarding her $100,000 in damages. However, she did not get attorneys' fees.

According to the Gainesville Times, the judge instructed the jury that under Georgia law, "In order to find libel, a jury must find that a publication contains false and defamatory statements concerning the plaintiff that were communicated to a third party, that the person making the statements was negligent by not exercising ordinary care in making them, and that the plaintiff was injured by the statements."

The author has said she will not appeal.

December 1, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)