Media Law

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.

Intellectual Property

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

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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.

Publications Related to Media Law

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