Monday, 11 March 2013

Media and The Law:

     Although I have been writing journalistic pieces for a number of years, I have never seriously considered how involved the law is. But thanks to ‘Law for Journalists’ by Frances Quinn and a lecture from David Mascord, that’s all changed.

The Damage of Defamation:

Defamation: "... the publication of an untrue statement which tends to lower the person it refers to in the eyes of reasonable people." (Quinn, 2011)

According to Quinn, Defamation can occur in:
- Direct criticism
- Hints and innuendoes
- The effect of words and pictures together
- The effect of context and juxtaposition
- Reporting of rumours
- Untrue implications drawn from true facts (Quinn, 2011)

    Defamation was the first aspect I came across with regards to media law. Basically, it means publishing something that may lead to ruining someone’s reputation, make them the object of ridicule or causing people to think they are incapable of their job. And surprisingly, it’s not just about celebrities fighting for more publicity, although you are far less likely to be sued for potentially offensive material if you aren't wealthy.

   Interestingly, the person claiming for defamation doesn't even have to have any substantial evidence of the defamation; only the potential. So even if the journalist did not even intend to cause it, the law is on the ‘victim’s’ side. All the claimant needs to prove is that the statement and/or image was published somewhere and some form of identification and that it deforms them.

    Unsurprisingly, changes in the world of journalism have led to variations in the law, such as social networking. You can even be sued for repeating someone else’s reformatory statement! If that’s not going to make me more vigilant when re-tweeting, I don’t know what will! Even  books can be defamatory.

The Only Way is Ethics:

       As a journalist, I have a ‘Privilege’ to report aspects of public interest objectively but luckily, the term ‘honest comment’ could legally save me against my opinion. But let’s face it; it’s pretty tricky to review something like an album or film without stating your personal view.

    Notably, there are only two organisations in the UK that deal with media regulation; the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) and Ofcom who oversee the broadcast side of things and have much more power than the PCC.

    Although I have never interviewed a child, it was fascinating to discover the ethical boundaries of it. For one, the press cannot identify children under 16 who have been involved with sexual offences  You must also legally inform someone you’re interviewing, that they are being recorded and that their statements may be published.

Copyright Rights:

     The laws of copyright are designed to protect someone’s intellectual property; their work and reputation. That’s something I already knew. But I wasn't aware that, the rights to a novel for example, extend to the author’s life and 70 years after their death. In fact, it was extended to help benefit the friends and relatives of those who are successful writers of web and print material.

    Something that came as a relief for me, as a freelance journalist, was to learn that you automatically have the right to copyright your own work when you produce it. The only way you can transfer copyright to someone else is if you officially assign it to them.

    I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the basics of media law and just how cautious journalists have to be. There’s a lot to take into account next time I click publish!

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