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Mass Media Law

The Printing Press to the Internet

Arthur S. Hayes

Digital media law is now the dynamic legal territory. Mass Media Law: The Printing Press to the Internet is a textbook designed to introduce students to the panoply of legal theories raised by the Internet revolution as well as those supporting traditional media. The book takes a historical approach beginning with the printing press and the telegraph and proceeding to the digital technologies of today, such as social media and search engines. Concepts such as defamation, broadcast regulation, privacy, and free expression are covered along with new media legal theories including Internet exceptionalism, cyber libertarianism, and digital speech and democratic culture. These are introduced to explain why traditional theories such as First Amendment medium-specific analysis, common carriage, and network neutrality are just as relevant today as they were in the early twentieth century. In order to help readers develop critical reasoning skills, each chapter opens with a highly readable realworld vignette and goes on to identify and explain legal doctrines and tests. Key passages from court opinions are highlighted, and each chapter closes with a list of online media law resources and thought-provoking questions, including legal hypotheticals, to give readers a solid understanding of the area in question. Mass Media Law is designed to be the main text and a valuable resource for undergraduate and graduate courses covering media, mass communication, free expression, and journalism law.

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2. History and Impact of Media Law

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C H A P T E R T W O History and Impact of Media Law CONTROVERSY: After you receive your semester grades, many of you are likely to grade your professors on the wildly popular RateMyProfessor.com. Some of you might post unfavorable—possibly false and reputation-damaging—comments about professors. You might say something similar to the following, a slightly revised version of a real stu- dent posting taken from RateMyProfessor.com: “Socrates is a lousy teacher and prob- ably would be fired. But these professor dudes have tenure and are untouchable. He has an ego-centric, pompous personality. He is rude, mean, disrespectful, all of which take away from any teaching ability he may have. Other profs don’t like him.” You are likely to post such comments anonymously and, generally, the law will protect your anonymity. As Justice Hugo Black explained, under the First Amendment, “Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind…the Federalist Papers, written in favor of the adoption of our Constitution, were published under fictitious names. It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes.”1 Moreover, a federal statute provides immunity from liability to the owners of RateMyProfessor.com for student postings. That’s why the social media site works so well, at least in the eyes of students and the website owners. In contrast, a sensible newspaper publisher would not provide such a forum in its pages because no law shields print publishers...

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