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CHAPTER 14: COMMUNICATION LAW AND REGULATION IN THE DIGITAL AGE LEARNING OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, students should know: 1. The legal framework for understanding the nature of freedom of speech and press and how media are regulated in the United States. 2. The key concepts in law protecting and restricting freedom of speech and press, including threats to national security, libel and censorship. 3. The regulation of content in the United States, especially regarding commercial speech and political speech. 4. The principal legislation that defines communication regulation in the United States and the principal federal communications regulatory agency, the Federal Communications Commission. 5. Details of intellectual property issues, especially copyright, and how it is affected in the digital age. 119
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CHAPTER SUMMARY/LECTURE OUTLINE I. Vignette: A look at Josh Wolf’s fight for First Amendment protections from demands by federal authorities that he appear before a grand jury and hand over his footage of an anti- G8 demonstration held in San Francisco. The self-described blogger served 226 days in jail. II. The Legal Framework A. Ever since the invention of the printing press, there has always been a tension between authorities and people wanting to publish information opposed to authority. B. The First Amendment protects the rights of free speech, although it does not mean there is unlimited free speech. The U.S. government has attempted to limit speech at various times during its history. C. Fourth estate is another term for the press, or journalism, in which it acts as a fourth branch of government and one that watches the other branches—executive, legislative, and judicial. 1. Print media have much more freedom than film or electronic media, which are more heavily regulated. 2. Most legal scholars agree that there should be some limitations on free speech, and a preferred balancing theory has been proposed that attempts to maintain most free speech rights while protecting others when free speech is practiced. a. Media Quiz: Legal Limits: Questions test students’ legal knowledge as it relates to the First Amendment, media regulations, and copyright. III. The Foundations of Freedom of Expression A. National Security: U.S. Congress passed a series of four acts in 1798 limiting freedom of speech. The Alien and Sedition Acts were passed as a response to a threat of war with France. The Acts prohibited spoken or written criticism of the U.S. government, and imposed penalties of a fine or imprisonment upon conviction. 1. Clear and present danger is one restriction on free speech, and must meet two criteria. a. It is likely to incite or produce dangerous activity (such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater). b.
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