Media Law is a legal field that relates to legal regulation of the telecommunications industry, information technology, broadcasting, advertising, the entertainment industry, censorship, and internet and online services among others.
As the popularity of various media have proliferated, the field of media law has become more important. Just over a century ago, the media would have consisted of print and live performances alone. Today, the media comprises not only the printed word and live actors, but also radio, television, movies, video games, mobile devices, and the Internet.
One of the biggest areas of concern related to media law is intellectual property. This can take the form of copyright concerns for original works, trademarks for different brands, or even patents for media related technologies or processes. Licensing has been an enormous area of concern in recent years as means of illegally disseminating copyrighted works has become increasingly prevalent. Whether using peer-to-peer technologies or torrents, electronic file sharing has been seen as both an enormously beneficial means of spreading word for a new creative work or as a vehicle for enormous revenue losses to the TV, movie, and music industries.
First Amendment and Censorship
Another enormous area of concern for media law relates to the right to free speech, censorship, and defamation. In the mid-20th century, a number of political groups put pressure on the entertainment industry to begin self-regulating its content. This led to things like the movie rating system (G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17) that virtually every moviegoer is familiar with today. Similar pressures led to warning stickers on music albums with explicit lyrics and ratings for television shows and video games. However, this has also resulted in a backlash, as creatives have pushed against the boundaries of this censorship, raising arguments of de facto infringement on free speech.
Given the nature of the media, the threat of defamation spreading far and wide through modern technologies is a matter of great legal concern. Defamation is the spreading of untruthful information about a person or entity that results in damages. When spoken, as on a television broadcast, an Internet video, or in a movie, defamation is called slander. When written, as on a website, newspaper, or other publication, defamation is called libel. Both slander and libel can be devastating to a person or entity, and recent media laws involve concerns such as cyberbullying, Internet stalking, and other forms of harm that modern media make readily possible.
For more information about Media Law, please visit the resources identified below. You can also find legal assistance with your Media Law question or issue by vising our Law Firms page.
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Articles About Media Law
- Is it Legal to Film Police Officers?Police activity has been in the spotlight in St. Louis, and Nationwide since the Ferguson, Missouri riots began this past August. As riots escalated, numerous arrests were made because reporters or witnesses took out their phones to capture footage of police officers assigned to the scene. Leaving many to ask the question: Is it legal to film police officers?
- Suing for ConversionProsecutors are responsible for bringing charges against people who have stolen property. Conversion is the civil equivalent of criminal theft charges. Individuals who want to sue to reclaim the value of their property may sue in small claims court or by hiring a civil attorney to handle the case for them.
- How Do Movies, TV Shows, Music, and Video Games Get Rated for Content?Most parents are concerned with the things their children see and hear in the media. It is an ugly world out there, and while it may be inevitable that they will eventually learn about all of those things, most parents do not want their kids to see graphic violence or mature content or hear offensive language at too your an age.
- How Lawyers Help with MediationEven if a person is embroiled in litigation, he or she can still benefit from the process of mediation. Lawyers can assist their clients with this process in a number of ways before, during and after litigation.
- How Do Attorneys Charge for their Work?When a person needs to hire an attorney, one of the first questions he or she asks is how much it will cost. Different attorneys charge different ways for their work. Here is an overview of some of the possibilities.
- I Rented a Vacation Home and It’s Not Available on ArrivalEvery year, people flock to different locations for a change of scenery. Whether contracting with a vacation home agency, organization, national chain or individual homeowner, there may be a variety of remedies available if the home is not available upon arrival. However, the first step is usually to try to work it out before seeking legal remedies.
- What Are Common American Censorship Laws?How often have we heard someone say “It's a free country, I can say what I want to?” In most cases, that person is correct. But, America does not always allow free speech without constraint.
- For a Friendly Divorce, Florida Couples Find Help in Divorce MediationIf couples can put their differences aside to create an atmosphere of teamwork, they can work with a divorce mediator to help them achieve a friendly divorce.
- To Sue or Not To Sue- A Pretty Good QuestionTo sue or not to sue is indeed a pretty good question. The lawsuit can be underway at the time of the ADR; or, the success or failure of the ADR can determine whether a lawsuit is even necessary.
- What Can I Do if I Dispute Legal Fees from My Attorney?If you have received a bill from your attorney and believe that the fee is too high or if you anticipate that this situation will arise, there are a few ways that you can handle this situation to provide a resolution that you are comfortable with.
- All Communications Law Related Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Communication including: advertising, marketing law and media.
Media Law - US
- ABA - Forum on Communications Law
The more than 2,500 members of the Forum on Communications Law represent a wide variety of specialized legal talent. The principal aim and objective of the Forum are: * To encourage discussion of problems relating to legal counseling and representation of the the print media, the telecommunications industry, and the electronic media. * To promote the exchange of information among practitioners in the field. To support and promote research, forums, and publications focusing on communications * To keep abreast of developments in the law and to discuss evolving issues. * To preserve and develop professional competence and integrity in the practice of law.
- Citizen Media Law Project
The Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) is jointly affiliated with Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, a research center founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development, and the Center for Citizen Media, an initiative to enhance and expand grassroots media.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions.
- First Ammendment - Radio and Television
Because there are a limited number of broadcast frequencies for radio and non–cable television use, the Federal Government licenses access to these frequencies, permitting some applicants to utilize them and denying the greater number of applicants such permission. Even though this licensing system is in form a variety of prior restraint, the Court has held that it does not present a First Amendment issue because of the unique characteristic of scarcity.
- Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
The Freedom of Information Act, commonly known as the FOIA, was enacted by Congress in 1966 to give the American public greater access to the Federal Government's records. The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 expanded the scope of the FOIA to encompass electronic records and require the creation of "electronic reading rooms" to make records more easily and widely available to the public. Most recently in December 2005, Executive Order 13392, "Improving Agency Disclosure of Information," reaffirmed that FOIA "has provided an important means through which the public can obtain information regarding the activities of Federal agencies" and required Federal agencies to make their FOIA programs "citizen-centered and results-oriented."
- Media Law - Overview
Freedom of the press is a fundamental liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. As such, courts and legislative bodies have been hesitant to impinge on that freedom. In fact, there are numerous state and federal statutes that seek to ensure the full extent of the guarantee of the First Amendment such as the Freedom of Information Act, and the Privacy Act.
- Wireline Competition Bureau
The Wireline Competition Bureau develops and recommends policy goals, objectives, programs and plans for the Commission on matters concerning wireline telecommunications. The Wireline Competition Bureau’s overall objectives include: ensuring choice, opportunity, and fairness in the development of wireline telecommunications services and markets; developing deregulatory initiatives; promoting economically efficient investment in wireline telecommunications infrastructure; promoting the development and widespread availability of wireline telecommunications services; and fostering economic growth.
Media Law - Europe
- Media Law and Policy - European Audiovisual Observatory
Set up in December 1992, the European Audiovisual Observatory is the only centre of its kind to gather and circulate information on the audiovisual industry in Europe. The Observatory is a European public service body with 36 member States and the European Union, represented by the European Commission. It owes its origins to Audiovisual Eureka and operates within the legal framework of the Council of Europe. It works alongside a number of partner organisations, professional organisations from within the industry and a wide network of correspondents.
Media Law - International
- IBA - Media Law Committee
The Media Law Committee is dedicated to gathering and disseminating, amongst its members and friends, knowledge in all areas of law related to the media industry.
- International Media Lawyers Association
The International Media Lawyers Association is an international network of lawyers working in the areas of media law, media freedom and media policy, and committed to promoting and defending the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of information.
Organizations Related to Media Law
- Center for Media and Communication Studies (CMCS)
The CMCS produces scholarly and practice-oriented research addressing academic, policy and civil society needs. CMCS research and activities address media and communication policy and the democratic potential of the media, civil society and participation, fundamental communication and informational rights, and the complexities of media and communication in transition.
- Communication and Media Law Resources
This site has media law resources compiled and edited by Karla Tonella, University of Iowa.
- Communications and Media Law Association - CAMLA
The Communications and Media Law Association (CAMLA) brings together a wide range of people interested in law and policy relating to communications and the media. The Association includes lawyers, journalists, broadcasters, members of the telecommunications industry, politicians, publishers, academics and public servants.
- Institute in Free Speech and Mass Media Law
The Ellen K. Solender Institute in Free Speech and Mass Media Law is a unique international resource center, providing materials to researchers from courts, legislatures, bureaucracies, the legal profession, legal education, mass media, and telecommunications services.
- Media Bureau - FCC
The Media Bureau develops, recommends and administers the policy and licensing programs relating to electronic media, including cable television, broadcast television, and radio in the United States and its territories. The Media Bureau also handles post-licensing matters regarding Direct Broadcast Satellite service.
- Media Law Center for Ethics and Access
The Media Law Center for Ethics and Access, originally named the Center for Privacy and the First Amendment, offers workshops and seminars in media ethics and access to government information.
- Media Law Resource Center
The Media Law Resource Center – formerly the Libel Defense Resource Center – is a non-profit information clearinghouse originally organized by a number of media organizations to monitor developments and promote First Amendment rights in the libel, privacy and related legal fie
- Media Program - OSI
The Open Society Institute works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve its mission, OSI seeks to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, OSI implements a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media.
- Online Media Legal Network (OMLN)
The Online Media Legal Network (OMLN) is a legal referral service that connects qualifying online journalism ventures and digital media creators with lawyers willing to provide legal services on a pro bono or reduced-fee basis. OMLN supports promising ventures and innovative thinkers in online and digital media by providing access to legal help that would otherwise be unavailable.
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was created in 1970 at a time when the nation's news media faced a wave of government subpoenas asking reporters to name confidential sources. One case particularly galvanized American journalists. New York Times reporter Earl Caldwell was ordered to reveal to a federal grand jury his sources in the Black Panther organization, threatening his independence as a newsgatherer.
- Society of Professional Journalists
The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry through the daily work of its nearly 10,000 members; works to inspire and educate current and future journalists through professional development; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press through its advocacy efforts.