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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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15 Punishing or Restricting Sensitive or Offensive Topics

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CHAPTER 15

Punishing or Restricting Sensitive or Offensive Topics

The government will inevitably find topics it deems unacceptable. However, the law is very clear that First Amendment principles generally prohibit the government from banning or punishing speech unless some very high burdens are overcome.

Laws that target a particular kind of speech based on its content are called “content-based” laws. When a law is content-based, the courts examine it more carefully than if the law were content-neutral, or focused on some aspect other than its content, such as the time, place, or manner of speech. When laws are content-based, the courts typically apply “strict scrutiny,” meaning that the government will have the burden of proving that there is a compelling interest that must be protected and that the law or regulation is narrowly tailored to serve that interest. Courts may also strike down laws that are vague, overbroad, or give too much discretion to government officials. And there are other legal principles or tests that the courts have applied with respect to particular types of speech. This chapter discusses six subject areas that are popular targets of government regulation:

1. National security and classified information

2. Hate speech

3. Sexual content

4. Violent content

5. Threats

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