Media law for today

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Lecture notes for ALJ724 - Media Law - SCCA Deakin University July 2013

Lecture notes for ALJ724 - Media Law - SCCA Deakin University July 2013

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  • 1. Media Law and Communicators What we need to know and why
  • 2. Why do we need to know this stuff  Every decision about:  what we communicate,  how we communicate  who we communicate to, or  who we talk about is made in a legal context  Journalists, PR consultants and corporate communicators are subject to the laws of the land; there is no exemption  Some specific laws are applied to acts of communication including:  reporting on court cases, whether finished, or ongoing  giving a reference for someone to an employer or other person  communications covering children in certain circumstances  situations in which privacy might be compromised  situations in which commercial information is being communicated  Instances where a ‘privilege’ can be claimed or denied
  • 3. The most important reason The most important reason for knowing about media and communications law is simply: SELF PRESERVATION THE "Human Headline" Derryn Hinch is once again facing the prospect of jail time after being charged with contempt of court for allegedly breaching suppression orders covering the Jill Meagher murder case. A FoxNews.com Reporter Is Facing Jail for Refusing to Identify Police Sources By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY Published: April 9, 2013 AFox news reporter is being asked to turn over information from her reporting on the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., last summer Privacy obligations are changing – is your consultancy ready? Public Relations and Communication organisations have eight months to prepare for the vast changes to our privacy obligations. Time magazine and CNN suspended Fareed Zakaria, the writer and television host, on Friday after he apologized for plagiarizing a New Yorker article in his column on gun control in the Aug. 20 issue of Time.
  • 4. Pearson’sThree Imperatives  Public responsibility  Abusing freedom of speech is not freedom of speech  The public (greater) good must prevail  Honesty is [mostly] the best policy  Self-protection  Costly, painful mistakes, ruined careers  Do unto others…  Professionalism  Professional awareness sets us apart from ‘amateurs’ and ‘charlatans’
  • 5. Communicators and the Legal System  Australia’s legal system derives from the Constitution and British common law heritage  The High Court decides constitutional matters, including the constitutionality of legislation and legal statutes  Separation of powers provides a [modest] amount of independence for the judiciary  Judiciary + Parliament + Executive (including public service) + the Media = the Four ‘Estates’
  • 6. Separation of powers under the Constitution
  • 7. Sources of Law in Australia Statute Law  Legislation at state and federal levels  S.51 of the Constitution gives Commonwealth some powers  States get the rest: health, roads, education, police & emergency services  S.109 says Commonwealth law prevails in areas of disagreement Common Law  Common law is also known as ‘judge-made law’  Cases decided in courts and also interpretation of statute law  Higher courts take precedence  An adversarial system  Civil and criminal law
  • 8. Hierarchy of courts in Australia Precedents are set in the higher courts and must be followed in the lower courts Appeals from lower to higher courts
  • 9. Civil & Criminal Law Criminal Law  Offences against the state  Trial and punishment  Crimes Act (Commonwealth)  Criminal Code (State)  Drugs, theft, assault, sexual crimes, etc.  Trespass  Beyond reasonable doubt Civil Law  The rights and obligations of doing business  The defence of reputations (defamation)  Intellectual Property  Trade practices (including advertising)  Penalties are usually financial or forms of restraint on action  Negligence  Balance of probabilities
  • 10. Laws affecting creative content creators  Defamation – laws to protect reputation  Contempt – laws to protect the sanctity of the legal system  Copyright – laws to protect creativity and intellectual property rights  Trade Practices – laws to protect consumers from misleading marketing / advertising (also consumer law)  Privacy – laws to protect data about us – not to protect us from media intrusion  Broadcasting – laws about who controls radio & television and types of content  Blasphemy, sedition, censorship – laws to control content of communications  Family – to protect the rights of children and vulnerable people
  • 11. Law is open to interpretation  The laws affecting the practices of communication are subject to both interpretation and change  The techno-legal time-gap  The ethico-legal paradox “Despite what we may think, law is not simply about the black and white of what is wrong and what is right…While some aspects of the law can be stated with clear and precise certainty…other laws are subject to interpretation…” Leiboff, 2007, p.5 Techno-legal time-gap Media law does not always keep pace with technological change. For example, the law is still playing catch-up with many functions of social media Ethico-legal paradox What is legal maybe unethical Sometimes ethics and the law collide