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Media Law

A Practical Guide (Revised Edition)

Ashley Messenger

Media Law: A Practical Guide (Revised Edition) provides a clear and concise explanation of media law principles. It focuses on the practical aspects of how to protect oneself from claims and how to evaluate the likelihood of a successful claim. This new edition has been revised to reflect important changes and updates to the law, including recent developments relating to scandalous trademarks, embedding, fair use, drones, revenge porn laws, interpretation of emoji, GDPR, false statements laws, lies, and the libel implications of the #MeToo movement.

Media Law is divided into five sections that help non-lawyers understand how the principles apply to their actual behavior: background information about the legal system; things you can be sued for; how you actually gather information; ways the government can regulate speech; and practical issues that are related to media law. This book is perfect for courses in media and communications law or a combination course in journalism law and ethics, as it covers both the legal and ethical aspects of communication.

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11 Is There a Right of Access to Information, Places, or Events?

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CHAPTER 11

Is There a Right of Access to Information, Places, or Events?

For those who wish to gather information or materials for the purpose of disseminating them—whether as a traditional journalist or otherwise—there are certain legal issues to consider:

1. Do you have a right to access to the information you want?

2. Can you be sued or prosecuted for accessing it?

These questions are related, but do not necessarily overlap. For example, you might not have a right to a particular document, but, on the other hand, it’s not necessarily illegal to obtain it, nor can anyone sue you for possessing it. The same may be true for taking photos. Depending on the circumstances, you might not have an affirmative right to take a photo, but on the other hand, there is nothing illegal about taking one. There is a difference between not having an affirmative, enforceable right to something, and it not being illegal or tortious to get it. There is a lot of information that exists in that middle ground.

This chapter will address the first question: when you have a right of access to information or places. The second question of whether you can be sued or prosecuted is addressed in Chapter 12. This chapter will be divided into three sections:

1. General rules with respect to whether you have a right of access to information...

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