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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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5. Defamation: Constitutional and Cyber Law


C H A P T E R F I V E Defamation Constitutional and Cyber Law CONTROVERSY: In late August 2008, two individuals who worked in the modeling profession in New York told Liskula Cohen about what they had read on a blog, “Skanks in NYC.” They told Cohen, a former Vogue model, that an anonymous blogger had described her as a “psychotic, lying, whoring skank I would have to say that the first place award for ‘Skankiest in NYC’ would have to go to Liskula Gentile Cohen.” The anony- mous blogger also called her a “ho,” an “old hag,” and a “fortysomething” who “may have been hot 10 years ago,” among other disparaging remarks. Cohen, 36 at that time, petitioned a New York state court for pre-action discovery from Google, Inc., in January 2009 so that she could sue the anonymous blogger for libel. (, where the comments were posted, is a subsidiary of Google.) Google grumbled a bit; it said it would not comply unless a judge ordered it to do so. Eventually, a judge ordered the search engine company to out the blogger. Before that occurred, the still-anonymous blogger removed the postings, and, through an attorney, argued that she had not defamed Cohen. That August, however, the judge, persuaded that an average per- son would find the words in question defamatory and that Cohen had established a strong enough case to go to trial, ordered Google to comply.1 Later that month, Cohen dropped her $3 million libel...

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