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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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19 Special Classes of Speakers


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Special Classes of Speakers

Throughout this book, there are references to the First Amendment applying equally to everyone. The professional journalist does not have a greater constitutional right than the ordinary citizen. The government must treat all speakers equally. These are important and consistent principles in First Amendment jurisprudence.

Alas, there are a few exceptions. The Supreme Court has crafted different rules for a few categories of speakers: students, government employees, and those who are speaking with government funds. This chapter will discuss the rules and circumstances that apply to each of these special classes.


Although the Supreme Court has said that students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, the Court has allowed student speech to be punished or censored in many circumstances. Traditionally, the speech that was punished or censored has occurred at school, but in recent years, there have been several cases involving off-campus speech, particularly cases involving internet postings.

This section will discuss the tests and considerations the Supreme Court has used to evaluate the constitutionality of restrictions on student speech and how that has been interpreted or expanded to off-campus speech.

The Court’s first decision on student speech was full of promise. In Tinker v. Des Moines Indp. Community School Dist., students wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam war and were suspended for violating school policy. The Court...

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