Center Co-Director Authors New Media Law Casebook

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David Ardia, co-director of the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, is a co-author of a new edition of Media and the Law, a casebook published by LexisNexis. Congratulations, David!

The book is authored by David Kohler, Lee Levine, Ardia, Dale Cohen and Mary-Rose Papandrea.  Ardia, an assistant professor in the UNC School of Law, is a new author on the book beginning with this edition.

This marketing flyer talks about what is new in the second edition and includes a table of contents.  If you are so inclined, you can order the book here.

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Call for Papers – First Amendment Networks: Issues in Net Neutrality

FALROn October 24, 2014, we will be partnering with the First Amendment Law Review to help host their annual symposium, which will be focused on network neutrality and the First Amendment.  We’ll post more information about the symposium in the next few weeks, but if you are a scholar who writes in this area, you may be interested in submitting a paper to the First Amendment Law Review (note: the deadline is October 13).  Here is their call for papers:

The First Amendment Law Review at the University of North Carolina School of Law is delighted to announce a Call for Papers for its Symposium Edition, First Amendment Networks: Issues in Net Neutrality.

The Symposium Edition seeks papers covering the breadth of topics at the intersection of the First Amendment and the current state of network neutrality regulation. The Symposium Edition, in conjunction with the fall symposium at the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus, hopes to bring a variety of perspectives from multiple disciplines to bear on the First Amendment freedoms implicated in the net neutrality debate. The Symposium Edition seeks papers primarily with a legal focus, but is interested in outstanding papers also from economics, business, and government which can provide insights into this important discussion. Submissions should be delivered via email to falr@unc.edu by October 13 to be considered for publication.

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The First Amendment Law Review (FALR) is a student-edited legal journal that seeks to promote and protect the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment through publishing scholarly writings on, and promoting discussion of, issues related to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

FALR publishes professional and student articles for the benefit of scholars and practitioners. Professional contributions are composed of scholarly articles, symposium papers, and novel, interesting essays on a variety of issues touching the First Amendment. Student contributions are composed of scholarly examinations of discrete First Amendment topics and recent developments in First Amendment law.

As the only legal journal in the country dedicated to the First Amendment, FALR seeks to provide as broad and inclusive a forum as possible for the discussion of First Amendment issues. To that end, FALR does not apply any strict page or footnote requirements to professional papers, but considers each submission on a case-by-case basis. Substantial weight will be given to those submissions that present a subject in traditional legal journal format: introduction, background, legal analysis, legal argument, and conclusion. While strong preference is given to professional pieces, the editorial board will consider student-written articles.

All submissions should be in Microsoft Word format, 12-point font, preferably Times New Roman. The text itself should be double-spaced; footnotes should be single-spaced. FALR uses The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. All submissions should comply with The Bluebook. For more information on the journal, please visit http://www.law.unc.edu/journals/falr/

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Drone Footage of Major World Cities

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 6.50.42 PMIn the Game of Drones, you watch or you fly. Since I don’t currently own a drone, I’ll stick to Internet videos. Fortunately, there are some pretty awesome videos out there that provide a drones’-eye view of the world.

Open Culture, which describes itself as “the best free cultural and educational media on the web,” gathered a collection of videos showing Los Angeles, New York, London, Mexico City, and Bangkok in a way you’ve almost certainly never seen them before. Check out everything from the London Bridge to Mexico City’s Angel of Independence, seen in this picture. Definitely cheaper than a plane ticket.

 

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United States Supreme Court to hear Facebook true threats case

For the first time since the now-famous Virginia v. Black (2003) cross-burning case, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a “true threats” case. Commentators expect the Court to clarify confusion that has arisen among the federal circuit courts regarding whether the First Amendment requires courts to consider the speaker’s subjective intent when prosecuting the speaker under a criminal threat statute. The case, Elonis v. United States, also presents the Court with an opportunity to determine whether the true threats doctrine has evolved along with modes of online communication.

Elonis involves a defendant who was convicted in federal district court under title 18, section 875(c) of the United States Code, which criminalizes the transmission of a threatening communication in interstate commerce, including over the Internet. Anthony Elonis posted to his Facebook wall a series of posts that made references to rap lyrics by artist Eminem and a sketch comedy routine that satirized threats against political figures. The posts also used violent imagery and language to describe Elonis’s disdain for his wife, who had recently left him and taken custody of the couple’s two children. One of Elonis’s posts read as follows:

“Did you know that it’s illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife?

It’s illegal.
It’s indirect criminal contempt.

It’s one of the only sentences that I’m not allowed to say.
Now it was okay for me to say it right then because I was just telling you that it’s illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife.

I’m not actually saying it.
I’m just letting you know that it’s illegal for me to say that.
It’s kind of like a public service.
I’m letting you know so that you don’t accidently go out and say something like that
Um, what’s interesting is that it’s very illegal to say I really, really think someone out there should kill my wife.…

I also found out that it’s incredibly illegal, extremely illegal, to go on Facebook and say some- thing like the best place to fire a mortar launcher at her house would be from the cornfield behind it because of easy access to a getaway road and you’d have a clear line of sight through the sun room. Insanely illegal.

Ridiculously, wrecklessly [sic], insanely illegal.

Yet even more illegal to show an illustrated diagram.

 

===[ __ ] =====house :::::::::::::::^

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::cornfield

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

#########################getaway road

 

Insanely illegal.
Ridiculously, horribly felonious.”

Elonis followed that post with a link to a YouTube video posted by sketch comedy troupe the Whitest Kids U Know. The post tracked the language of the YouTube video nearly verbatim, evoking its cadence and core message, but focused on Elonis’s wife rather than the President. Another post purportedly made reference to Eminem’s song “I’m Back,” in which Eminem criticized his ex-wife and fantasized about participating in a school shooting.

Throughout the trial, Elonis, who adopted the online rap moniker “Tone Dougie,” testified that Facebook operated as a forum for venting his frustrations and anxieties about his home life. Elonis testified that he was not Facebook friends with his wife and that he never tagged her in the posts. He has always claimed that he lacked any specific intent to threaten her life.

At the heart of Elonis v. United States is the meaning of a key phrase in Justice O’Connor’s majority opinion in Virginia v. Black. Justice O’Connor stated that a true threat occurs when a speaker “means to communicate” a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence. But does this language require the prosecution to prove that someone like Anthony Elonis subjectively intended to threaten his wife or merely that he meant to distribute a communication some reasonable person would regard as a true threat?

In clarifying Justice O’Connor’s language, the Court may raise profound questions about how social media either facilitate or cloud the meaning, whether threatening or non-threatening, intended by speakers who use social media for catharsis.

If the Court imposes a subjective intent standard on all true threats statutes, then a defendant’s fondness for Eminem’s violent lyrics or anti-establishment comedy sketches becomes increasingly relevant and allows the jury to consider the meaning underlying cultural tropes such as gangster rap that frequently evoke violent imagery for expressive, artistic purposes.

If the Court follows the majority of the federal circuit courts and upholds the objective reasonable person standard as the only constitutional requirement under Black, then it would seem to signal that speakers in open Internet forums bear the responsibility for all reasonable interpretations of their incendiary posts, even when they lack the specific intent to threaten.

Elonis also advances the theoretical discussion of how social media create and sustain connections between speakers and listeners even when individual posts are not directed at certain persons or groups. Facebook operates as a communication ecosystem that thrives on “shares” and “likes.” The community decides the reach and value of speech, and the online community is empowered to distort the speaker’s intent and the message’s context. The Supreme Court now has an opportunity to decide whether intent matters in determining whether a speaker should bear criminal responsibility for planting a message in the Facebook ecosystem that may be palatable to some users and poisonous to others.

 

Brooks Fuller is a Roy H. Park Fellow and Ph.D Student at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Follow him on Twitter at @itsPBrooks

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Statehouse media coverage declines

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According to a recent Pew Research Center report, the number of reporters covering their statehouses has dropped 35% over the past decade. The study found a loss of 164 full-time statehouse reporters across the nation and more than two-thirds of U.S. newspapers without a statehouse reporter at all. Given the media’s role as watchdog for the government, this should be cause for public concern.

With fewer full-time journalists devoted to covering legislative matters at the state level, many journalists, legislative leaders, and industry observers fear that the public will not be kept informed of important policy decisions that will affect their daily lives. Part-time coverage, while valuable, may result in journalists missing critical stories or context that comes from being stationed at statehouses full-time. This could impact their ability to hold state politicians accountable.

Non-traditional outlets and state officials have attempted to fill the “reduction in coverage.” However, it does not make up for the numbers of jobs lost or alleviate concerns about the inherent bias of a state covering its own activities.

Daily Tar Heel reporter, Amanda Albright, sees the shrinking statehouse press corps as a call to action. In her article titled “A silver lining in Pew’s statehouse press report,” she encourages college journalists to step up and provide valuable oversight of state government. According to the Pew report, college students already make up 14 percent of all state capitol reporters.

Looking at Pew’s state-by-state data, N.C. has 47 statehouse reporters, 18 of which are full-time. While this is far from the lowest numbers in the country (South Dakota only has 2 full-time state house reporters), N.C. could still use more “watchdogs” based on the state’s population, the length of its legislative sessions, and arguably the average number of bills introduced at the statehouse.

The North Carolina General Assembly has taken action on over 400 bills this short session and will continue to tackle important issues such as the state budget until they adjourn. Their decisions will affect the lives of nearly 10 million North Carolinians. It is critical that the public be informed.

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