Center joins Carnegie Media Law Project

The UNC Center for Media Law and Policy has joined the Carnegie Media Law Project on Journalism Schools as News Providers.

Funded with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the project aims to identify and address the legal needs and concerns of journalism schools whose students are publishing online.  The project is directed by Geanne Rosenberg, professor in the Department of Journalism and the Writing Professions at the Baruch College of the City University of New York.

Participating schools and organizations, in addition to the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, include Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, The Poynter Institute, Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center’s Citizen Media Law Project, Howard University, Arizona State University, Boston University, CUNY, American University, University of Missouri, University of Minnesota and USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.

In February Professor Rosenberg met in Chapel Hill with members of the faculty of the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication to hear their thoughts about how to best protect the valuable journalism UNC students are contributing to the public.

On April 8, 2011, representatives of all the participating schools and organizations will meet at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., to continue work on the project.  The UNC Center for Media Law and Policy will be represented at the meeting by Center Director Cathy Packer.


Research prizes and presentations

Six UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication graduate students and one faculty member have had media law research papers accepted for presentation at the Southeast Colloquium for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Columbia, S.C., March 17-19, 2011.  Among their papers are the first and second-place prize winners in the student paper competition.

These are the authors and the titles of their papers:

  • Jonathan D. Jones (M.A./J.D. dual-degree student), top student paper, “Personal Jurisdiction and Internet Libel:  Why the First Amendment Should Have a Role in the Decision to Exercise Jurisdiction.”
  • Roxanne Coche (Ph.D. student), second-place student paper, “Blurring and Tarnishment:  How Federal Court Have Applied the 2006 Trademark Dilution Revision Act Standards.”
  • Scott Parrott (Ph.D. student), “Does ‘Free Press’ Mean It’s Free to Use?  Fair Use and the Unauthorized Reproduction of News Content Online.”
  • Gillian Wheat (master’s student), “Retransmission Consent:  An Exploration of its Past, Present and Future.”
  • Lydia E. Wilson (master’s student), “Felony Use of an Audio-Enabled Video Phone or Political Speech?  All-party Consent Anti-Wiretapping Statutes and the Public’s Right to Monitor Police Work.”
  • Stephanie Soucheray-Grell (master’s student), “The Drug-Maker and the Doctor:  Recent FDA Warning Letters and Direct-to-Professional Promotional Speech.”
  • Debashis “Deb” Aikat, associate professor, with Nikhil Moro of the University of North Texas, “Adjudicating Libel:  Freedom of Expression Theory in the Digital Age.”

Congratulations, everyone!


Dinner with the N.C. Supreme Court

A group of students and faculty from the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication had dinner with members of the N.C. Supreme Court and the N.C. Press Association on Feb. 16, 2011.  After dinner the people at each table (there was a justice at each table) discussed one of these topics:

1.  Do you believe in the concept of judicial independence?  Should media endorsements be made on the basis of decisions made in certain cases?  If you believe in both, how can the two ideas be reconciled?

2.  Given that public financing limits the campaigns of judicial candidates, which results in most voters being uninformed (1/3 of voters do not vote for judges, and 1/2 of those who do vote for judges likely cast uninformed votes), should the media be more proactive in covering judicial races and helping in this aspect of civic education?

3.  What is the appropriate role of the media in covering appellate court decisions?  Does an incentive to cover the more controversial decisions conflict with a duty to inform the public of important, yet less intriguing, decisions?  Do controversial decisions receive too much editorial commentary, as opposed to general, fact based coverage?

4.  In the case of criminal trials, particularly high-profile crimes, where should courts draw the line on media coverage in order to ensure a fair trial, or should they draw a line at all? Could a trial closed to the public ever be fair to the defendant or the victims?

5.  Are voters qualified to elect appellate judges? Most have no real idea of who is on the ballot now. What might be better ways to select people to serve on the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court? Should they have life terms such as federal judges?


FCC Commissioner McDowell visits J-School

FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell visited the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Feb. 10, 2011, to discuss why he voted against the net neutrality regulations adopted by the FCC in December 2010.  He held a 75-minute question-and-answer session with undergraduate students in Dr. Cathy Packer’s Internet law class.  This is JOMC major Natasha Duarte’s Twitter feed on the event (in reverse order, of course):

•  New tech innovation is taking less and less time to reach an audience. We need to look at general consumer laws, not tech specific — McDowell

•  McDowell: transparency rules for ISPs blocking content would be helpful to consumers, but the FCC doesn’t have the legal authority

•  “(wireless) not substitutable (for cable), but when we think something’s not substitutable, that’s when it starts becoming substitutable.”

•  McDowell: wireless-only broadband is the fastest growing segment of broadband.

•  @hartzog asked if wireless/mobile will provide meaningful competition for cable broadband

•  McDowell says Comcasts’s blocking Bit Torrent was a bandwidth efficiency decision, not an anticompetitive business move

•  In 2008, Comcast was sued for blocking file sharing Bit Torrent; court said FCC didn’t have legal authority over Comcast

•  McDowell says he hasn’t seen anticompetitive content-based discrimination by ISPs.

•  McDowell: Statutes already exist to address collusion and “refusal to deal” by ISPs and other companies

• McDowell says he thinks #netneutrality will go to the courts (lawsuits have been filed)

•  McDowell: Congress could defund FCC enforcement of #netneutrality, but it probably won’t pass the Senate. If it does, Obama will veto.

•  McDowell: #netneutrality was embedded in Obama’s campaign promises in 2008. The promise was written by @FCC Chairman Genachowski.

•  McDowell: 90 percent of @FCC votes are unanimous and bipartisan. It’s not like Congress

•  McDowell: “Internet architecture defies authoritarian management”

•  McDowell: There’s a role for the #FCC to shine a light on allegations of discriminatory practices on the Internet

•  McDowell: The #FCC doesn’t have statutory authority to litigate over the Internet

•  #netneutrality has 3 components: Transparency, no blocking and no unreasonable discrimination

•  Here’s the #netneutrality order passed by the @FCC in December:

•  McDowell’s here. I just shook his hand. OK, I’m going to stop being nerdy and start being a journalist now.

•  I’m tweeting from the @UNCJSchool N.C. Halls of Fame room where @FCC Commissioner McDowell will address students & faculty on #netneutrality

McDowell also was interviewed by The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer.  Here’s that story:


New rules for the media? A look at government policy in 2010

The role of federal policy in shaping journalism will be the topic of a free, public lecture on Wednesday, Sept. 15.  Josh Silver, president and CEO of Free Press, will speak at 7 p.m. in 111 Carroll Hall on the UNC-CH campus.

Silver will discuss some of the major regulatory issues facing the U.S. media today.  Those issues include how to expand broadband Internet service to all American homes, whether to continue to allow Internet service providers to censor their customers’ communications and how best to fund professional news reporting.

Free Press is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, the group supports diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, quality journalism and universal access to communications.  The group has offices in Washington, D.C., and Florence, Mass.  To learn more about Silver and Free Press, visit

View the lecture on YouTube: