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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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3. Cyberspace & the Free Expression


C H A P T E R T H R E E Cyberspace & the Free Expression CONTROVERSY: When J. Snyder and “K.L.” were eighth graders attending Blue Mountain Middle School in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, in 2007, they created a MySpace parody profile of their school principal. Some of the least offensive text read as follow- ing: “HELLO CHILDREN yes. it’s your oh so wonderful, hairy, expressionless, sex addict, fagass, put on this world with a small…PRINCIPAL I have come to myspace so i can pervert the minds of other principal’s [sic] to be just like me.”1 The students used their home computers to create the site. They were suspended for 10 days. J.Snyder’s par- ents sued, arguing that the suspension violated their daughter’s First Amendment free speech and state and federal due process rights. In Snyder v. Blue Mountain School District, 593 F.3d. 286 (3d Cir. 2010), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 2–1, ruled that the school district did not violate J. Snyder’s First Amendment free speech rights by suspending her for statements she attributed to her principal on the MySpace profile. On the same day, another Third Circuit three-judge panel drew the opposite con- clusion in a case involving a student who used an off-campus computer to create a vul- gar, fictitious MySpace parody profile of his principal. In Layshock v. Hermitage School District, 593 F.3d 249, 263 (2010), the panel ruled, 3–0, that, “the District is not empow- ered to punish...

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