This module is a study in a range of key laws which affect the commercial media. We begin with a consideration of what actually constitutes "the media", from the earliest beginnings in the theatre of the ancient world, through the advent of the mass media via the printing press, the development of cinema, broadcast media, home video, and the interweb. This will explore how each new development in media technology raised (and, in some cases, continues to raise) new questions for the relationship between the media and the law. The first major area of law and its affect upon the media we consider will be intellectual property, with particular regard both to the media's protection of its own generated content and media use of intellectual property owned by others. This will include such pertinent topics as format rights, fair use exemptions (review, public interest, et cetera), and the emergent concept of personality right in some jurisdictions, alongside the development of passing off in relation to the commercial power of celebrity image in the UK. Thereafter, several weeks will be spent considering the effect of the law in relation to privacy and reputation. English law lacks a direct protection of privacy as such, however, post the Human Rights Act coming into force, we have seen the development of the tort of misuse of private information, with caselaw reaching the point of providing an arguable de facto right of privacy in certain circumstances. The impact upon the media of data protection law and freedom of information will also be covered. On the flipside of protecting the private person is the notion of protecting public reputation, and we will spend several lectures exploring in depth the substance of English libel laws, and how they impact upon the commercial media. The final section of the module will look at the regulation of certain forms of criminal content, as well as age-restricted material. We will explore the law in relation to hate-speech, looking at its origins, debating the rationale (freedom of expression versus laws restricting criticism of religion/race/sexuality; is hate speech a thought crime?). Thereafter we will consider one of the most significant areas of law which affect the commercial media: obscenity, indecency and the classification of material which the state (or alternative, representative body) deems suitable for adults only. The development of digital technologies and online distribution of the so-called New Media have made this a particularly contentious area in recent years.
Take home examination