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Laws and Ethics

Highlights and Questions

Licensing, seditious libel and contempt First amendment. Attempts to limit first amendment rights (Alien and Sedition Acts, Comstock law, Smith Act, Clear and Present Danger Doctrine) Broadcasting regulations
Rules that exemplify the spirit of regulation How was de-regulation justified?

Highlights (2)
Obscenity and indecency. How are they defined. What is the difference between them? Laws that protect privacy; do public figures have the same privacy rights as private individuals? Laws regarding defamation Definition of copyright, what does copyright protect; fair use, first sale doctrine. Levels of free speech protection.

Ethics Highlights
Objectivity Absolutist ethics situational ethics
Golden mean and its application to journalism.

Duties of media practitioners (conflicting loyalties)

Ethics and Laws, definitions

Ethics: guidelines that help individuals determine right from wrong. Ethics relates to self-determined, voluntary conduct Laws: written rules that reinforce values, protect rights, reinforce and punish behavior.

Absolutist ethics - right is clearly distinguishable from wrong in every situation. Situational ethics - actions are good or bad depending on the situation.
Golden mean, utilitarian principle, Machiavellian ethics.

Ethics as responsibility
Responsibility to personal conscience
Thoreau: Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right

Ethics as responsibility
Responsibility to the organization or firm Responsibility to the profession Responsibility to society.

Ethics and laws as related concepts

Laws and ethics reflect the value systems of the societies in which they are created. Laws enforce specific ethical principles.

American values
Colonial history:
Puritan views
People are constantly tested, and must choose good over evil to achieve salvation. Hard work honors God, and leads to prosperity, which is a form of blessing.

Other values
Individual rights Independence and self-reliance Exceptionalism (city on the hill)

Values and Media Laws

Freedom of speech and press - First amendment
Related to Areopagitica (Milton)
Individuals can only make proper choices if they have access to both, truth and falsehood.

Other first amendment rights

Freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and right to petition the government.

How much freedom of speech should we have?

Balancing individual rights and governmental needs
Balancing individual rights and the rights of the community.

Individual rights and government

Desire to control dissent or limit speech/writing that is seen as a threat to the nation.
Colonial times: Seditious libel contempt, licensing. Early America: Alien and Sedition Acts. 20th Century: Sedition Act of 1918, Smith Act. Post 9-11: PATRIOT Act

Zenger case - individuals should not be punished for publishing truthful criticism of government Repeal of Alien and Sedition Act. Lawsuits regarding the Patriot Act.

Privacy, reputation vs. Right to know.

Expectation of privacy, especially in the home.
Private facts Intrusion Appropriation

Has the expectation of privacy changed over time? Are public figures entitled to the same privacy protection as private individuals?

Individual rights and communal rights

Freedom of expression and the right to protect societal values and morals.
Obscenity and indecency laws.

Rights of businesses / corporations /individuals to earn profits.

Regulation vs De-regulation Copyright

Views on obscenity.
City upon a Hill (John Winthrop)
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if wee shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by word throughout the world.

Obscenity laws
Comstock law: indecent or immoral material could not be sent through the mail. Miller vs California: three part test
Appealed to prurient interest in sex Portrayed sexual conduct in a patently offensive way Lacked serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.