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MMC 4200, Week 5 Notes

by: Deena Acree

MMC 4200, Week 5 Notes MMC 4200

Deena Acree
GPA 3.87

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End of chapter 3 and beginning of chapter 4. Son of Sam laws, libel, defamation, sources of defamation laws, requirements for a libel plaintiff, a plaintiff's burden of proof in libel cases, def...
Law of Mass Communications
Sandra Chance
Class Notes
media law, Law, mass communication, law of mass communication, first amendment, court systems, SCOTUS
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Deena Acree on Sunday February 7, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to MMC 4200 at University of Florida taught by Sandra Chance in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 48 views. For similar materials see Law of Mass Communications in Journalism and Mass Communications at University of Florida.

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Date Created: 02/07/16
Class Nine (Chapter 4) — 2/2/16 Announcements • No class on Thursday • Office hours immediately after class today • Exam review o Tuesday, February 9th o Time: 7:20-8:20om o Location: LIT 113 o We do still have class that day **TA is teaching the class again today Chapter 3 cont'd • Simon & Schuster v. NY Crime Victims Board (1991) o Basis for GoodFellas (movie) o Son of Sam law in NY • Required monies earned by a person accused/convicted of a crime that produces a book/media that describes their crimes to turn any money earned into an escrow account • State of NY ordered Henry Hill to turn over all payments received for a book publishing deal § Also included all monies not yet received § Simon & Schuster was the publisher § They requested that they file an injunction that o "Son of Sam" law - constitutional or not • Ruling was that it is unconstitutional to "impose a financial burden on speakers because of the content of their speech" • The statute is over broad, over inclusive, and it is not narrowly tailored to advance o "Son of Sam" Law • Simon & Schuster v. NY Crime Vi ctims Board (1991) • Danny Rolling § FL has a statute that is the same as the "Son of Sam" Law § Statute was used to prevent him from writing a book detailing the gruesome details of his crimes Chapter 4: Defamation • Libel o Conflict between "right to reputation " and § The FA right to free expression and § The media's right to publish newsworthy stories o Problem with online publishing: § Difficult to find out who actually published the statement § Things can be taken out of context § Potential for links to say one thing and story to say another § The internet is more permanent & audience is much bigger o What is defamation? § Expression which injures a person's reputation or standing in the community. § Can be libel (written) or slander (spoken) § Traditionally, libel is the writt en word and slander is the spoken word § Slander used to be treated with less scrutiny than libel (less punishment) § Idea was that libel was more permanent • You had to have thought about what you wrote • You took the time to write the statement • More of a culpabl e intent § Slander could be fleeting § In recent years, the distinction hasn't mattered nearly as much (now, even spoken word can become permanent more quickly) § Most defamation, written or spoken, is now treated as label o Civil or Criminal? § Libel cases started out as criminal, but today most libel cases are civil § Two private individuals, no jail time, not state crimes, just damages Source of Defamation Law • Common law (case law) • Statutes • Constitution Defamation Law • All 50 states have laws defining defamation and legal cause of actions • Florida Statute 836.04 - Defamation o "Whoever speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a wont of chastity, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree." (1899) o Still in the books today o Most of these defamation statutes (even though they exist) are violated a lot o Today, it's more of a FA analysis (balancing act between FA rights and rights to reputation) Libel Plaintiff § Living individuals • The reason the family of someone dead can't sue for defamation is because they don't have a reputation to uphold • If it isn't about/concerning family members, they cannot sue • Only exception is that if a living individual brings suit for defamation and dies, the family can see the entire case through § Businesses • WWE "Smackdown" o Lawsuit that centered on several statements made by the Parents Television Council § Made statements linking the deaths of four children to the WWE Smackdown § Also said that several advertisers had stopped advertising w ith them because of these deaths o They sued them and won $3.5 million § Government NOT! • A city cannot sue you for defamation § Libel Proof Plaintiffs • People that cannot sue for defamation because their reputation is already so bad that any statements made about them cannot harm their reputation (because it's already so bad) • You can only sue if you're really trying to protect a good reputation Plaintiff's Burden of Proof • Publication • Identification • Defamatory statement • Falsity • Fault o Plaintiff has the burden of proof just like any civil suit) o All of the 5 burdens of proof have to be met for a defamation case Publication • Requirements o Takes 3 people § Person being defamed § Person saying the statement § A person who acts as the audience § Very different than the publicati on standard of privacy § Literally all you have to do is be sitting in a room with someone and say something defamatory (that's publication in this sense) § No publication, no lawsuit o Significant number if collecting damages § If the plaintiff wants to recover damages, it does have to be widespread publication § It isn't a specific number, it just has to be more than a few people § If not damages, they could sue for: Injunctive relief (to enjoin a newspaper if something is going to be • published that's defamatory) • A retraction of the statement or apology o Republication § Could also be punished under defamation law § If someone publishes a defamatory statement and you repost/republish the statement you can be held liable as if you wrote it initially • Context of social media : courts are struggling to define this, but it appears that you have to be at fault (know it's false) to be charged • Attributing libelous statement to someone else or accurately quoting and attributing statement does not automatically protect you o You need to fact check and make sure that you aren't publishing inaccurate information • When you republish, you take legal responsibility for the content of the quot o Example: letters to the editor § Editor is responsible for the defamatory statement • Narrow exception - neutral reportage privilege o Only adopted by a few states o In order for this privilege to apply, you must be a public figure speaking about another public figure § Example: politicians talking about each other, a journalist reporting what they said is protected o There are a lot of things that come into play with this, but not a lot of states have adopted it • So, may be sued - key issue becomes element of fault, "Was I at fault?" • Publication on the Internet • Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) o Made ISPs not responsible for the comments made by their users § Example: Facebook can't be held responsible for a user's statements • On-Line Bulletin boards — NOT publishers so NOT responsible o Case: Zeran v. America Online, Inc. (1997) § VIDEO: • In the online community, the ability has to be put in place to remove anonymous information that is defamation • It is impossible for service providers to review everything that is posted before it is published • Exception: websites that do review everything that is posted before allowing it (they can be sued) Identification • "Of and concerning" plaintiff o Reason why families cannot sue for a deceased family member o Still includes specific descriptors (doesn't necessarily mean that the person has to be specifically named) o Has to be positioned so that people in the community could figure out who it is about • Group libel o Large groups (over 100) cannot complain that defamatory statements were made toward them (individually) and affected their personal reputation § "over 100" is a benchmark, not exact § None of their individual reputations are harmed by (most) statements o Groups under 15 usually can meet identification requirement § Their individual reputations will actually be harmed Defamatory Content • Crime o Stating that they committed a crime when they didn't • Occupation o Stating a person's occupation is incorrect (but it has to be in a way that is defamatory) • Business • Product Disparagement or Trade Libel o If you talk badly about a product, that could apply • Personal Habits or Character • Politics, Religion, and Race • Humor and Ridicule o There are defenses that can apply to this situation Defamation • Libel per se o Example: thief, traitor o These are words that are defamatory when said about anyone • Libel per quod o Innocent on its face • Not considered defamatory to just anyone, only to the person applied to o Used to be that it was defamatory to call someone gay; is not any longer Forms of Libel • Words • Implications, innuendoes, and circumstances • Headlines o Some courts have said that you have to look at the entire content of the story (but other courts have said the opposite) • Advertisements • Photographs, cartoons • Political cartoons o Often not under this category because it is political speech • "Red Flag" Words: Addict Adultery AIDS Alcoholic Atheist Bigamist Boozehound Bribery Groveling Fawning office sycophant seeker Brothel Nazi Unmarried Hypocrite Kept Mental Paramour Hit Con Child mother woman illness man artist abuse KKK Divorced Unethical Fraud Gangster Drug Ex convict Gay Herpes Deadbeat abuser Product Disparagement or Trade Libel • Texas Cattlemen v. Oprah • During mad cow disease crisis, Oprah stated that she didn't want to eat beef anymore • Beef sales dropped a significant amount ("as a result of her statement") • Cattlemen sue her for the defamatory statement • Courts ruled that her statement was more a matter of opinion § First Amendment protection for opinion • Special state statutes • 13 states, including Florida, have "veggie libel laws" • Florida Statute 865.065 • Pink Slime § Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) sued ABC, Diane Sawyer, and 2 of their producers for $1.2 billion for product disparagement and for the implication that there was corruption going on with officials § Case is still ongoing—South Dakota Supreme Court rejected ABC's motion to waive the case saying that there's no evidence to prove the course § BPI (plaintiffs) still have the burden of proof to prove all of the libel Falsity (different requirements for different plaintiff) • Private plaintiff o Only needs to prove (that a statement that was made is false) when it's a matter of public concern § You can still be sued for telling the truth if it's not a matter of public concern § The only exception to this is if they want to sue for damages (then they have to prove falsity) • Public plaintiff o Always have to prove that the statement is false § Public figures: politicians and others who have a general standing in the community • Defamation by implication o When different elements come together to give an impression of a defamatory meaning (when in reality the individual elements don't imply that) o Narrow exception: someone can sue for defamation by implication, regardless of if the thing that they are implying is true or not New York Times v. Sullivan • The most important case about First Amendment jury prudence ever • The first case that gave constitutional (FA) protection for some libel • 1960s—wide racial gap (segregation, etc.) o MLK had been arrested multiple times (and finally arrested for tax evasion) to silence him • Advertisement published by the NY Time s (full text in textbook) o Headline: Heed Their Rising Voices o Published to raise awareness and money o Also published o Some of the statements weren't entirely accurate § Said that students in Montgomery sang an incorrect song § Said that MLK had been arrested 7 t imes (really only 4) o Man named Sullivan sued the NY Times (even though he wasn't named) because he was the police commissioner in Birmingham at the time, the ad implicated that he had performed poorly and injured his reputation § Sued NY Times for $3 millio n, convinced that § NY Times claimed that they had relied on the good reputation of the people who submitted and sponsored the ad § Jury awarded him with $0.5 million Burden of Proof Before NY Times o Strict liability o Plaintiffs could win suits by proving: § Defamatory statement § Identification § Publication o Defendants had to prove truth or some other "privilege"


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