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In the 17th and 18th centuries, America went through what was known as the Industrial Revolution, where Western culture as a whole went from using hand-tools to using machines that mass-produced the same items. What once took a week to produce now took a day to produce.(Kitano, 1999) Now, as we cross over into the 21st century, we have entered what has been called "The Information Revolution," or the "Information Age." We live in a time where information is only a mouse-click away for a large portion of the country and the world. Up until ten years ago, people had to go to their local library or purchase an expensive encyclopedia set for their home just to obtain information. Now, information is free and easily accessible from the home. Why pay five hundred dollars for an encyclopedia set when you can get on the Internet and obtain even more information for free? Also, within the past year, Internet service to the home has become available free of charge through certain providers that subsidize their service through advertisements. But with all these advantages, there definitely has to be a "flip side of the coin." An old adage says that everything comes with a price, and that is definitely true of the Internet. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how this new technology has affected Mass Media Law and society as well. For the sake of time and space, I will give only a brief overview of each act, bill, or case that is presented so that I can focus more on the effects and implications of each. With the Internet becoming more and more popular, the world now faces many new legal and moral questions raised by this emerging technology. I will address several of the more important of these questions, including the following: "How do we keep indecent material from minors?," "How do we protect authors of original material from having their creation spread all over the world for everyone to copy?," and "How do we create a system where people that libel other individuals anonymously on the Internet can be prosecuted for their crime?" It is questions like these that our world has had to face in the past two to three years since the Internet has come into the foreground. A work of this length would have a great difficulty trying to exhaustively address every angle and issue involved in media law and the effects that the internet has upon it, and instead must give a cursory overview of several main issues in the forefront of today's legal news.
A. Brief Overview Of The Communications Decency Act of 1996 and The Child Online Protection Act (CDA 2)
In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996.(Telecommunications Act, 1996) The purpose of this act was "To promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies."(Telecommunications Act, 1996) In and of itself, the act was intended to create healthy competition in the new, fast-emerging, unregulated market that the Internet, cable television, and telephone companies had helped to create. It was also to help foster fair competition in this new market.
It is Section 5 of this act that gets the most attention, however. Section 5 is also known as The Communications Decency Act of 1996. The CDA attempted to restrict all people, regardless of age, from creating, viewing and transmitting "indecent" material via the Internet. Indecent speech is defined as "material that may be sexually graphic but is protected by the First Amendment. Indecent material is also referred to as adult material or sexually explicit material."(Pember, 1999) This is a very vague description of the term "indecency," but so far, it has yet to be challenged in the Supreme Court. As District Judge, Dalzell said in his response to the CDA, "The definition of indecency, like the definition of obscenity, is not a rigid formula. Rather it confers a large degree of autonomy to individual communities to set the bounds of decency for themselves."(Dalzell, 1998)
The term "obscenity" also seems to attract attention in today's legal system. The definition of "obscenity" was agreed upon by a majority of the Supreme Court after the case Miller v. California in 1973. Chief Justice Warren Burger set the following standards for defining obscenity: "1) An average person, applying contemporary local community standards, finds that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest. 2) The work depicts in a patently offensive way sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law. 3) The work in question lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."(Dalzell, 1998) Before the CDA, the law protected indecent speech, but not obscene speech. The Telecommunications Act was passed in 1996, but Section 5, otherwis
Quotes talked about in this paper
- "xxx" at the end of the domain name, such as "www.playboy.com.xxx" which would automatically inform filtering software or ISP's that the site contains pornography as defined by the standards of the federal government.
- "whether defendant Drudge (1) regularly does or solicits business in the District of Columbia, or (2) derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered in the District, or (3) engages in any other persistent course of conduct…"(Blumenthal v. Drudge, 1998) It was later revealed that Drudge regularly sent emails to residents of the District of Columbia, as well as received financial support from residents of D.C. In the first court case, AOL was also named as a defendant, but was later granted a summary judgment, not being found liable for Drudge's actions due to protection for OSP's under section 509 of the Telecommunications Act. Drudge had come face to face with what is commonly referred to as the "long-arm" statute of the District of Columbia, because "(1) of the interactivity of the web site between defendant Drudge and District residents; (2) the regular distribution of the Drudge Report via AOL, ...
- "indecent" material via the Internet. Indecent speech is defined as "material that may be sexually graphic but is protected by the First Amendment. Indecent material is also referred to as adult material or sexually explicit material."(Pember, 1999) This is a very vague description of the term "indecency," but so far, it has yet to be challenged in the Supreme Court.
- Congress made another attempt to attack indecency on the internet by passing what was called The Child Online Protection Act or as it was so aptly named, "CDA 2".
- they state, "I understand that Mindspring reserves the right to terminate my account at any time, for any reason, including, but not limited to, my failure to abide by the terms of this agreement… I understand that violation of certain generally accepted guidelines on Internet usage, such as restrictions on mass e-mailings and mass advertising, or posting to inappropriate newsgroups, may cause severe operating difficulties for MindSpring, and would be a likely cause for termination of my account."(Mindspring, 1999) After researching these "service agreements" ...
- "The Drudge Report," Drudge posted a clearly libelous statement concerning Sidney Blumenthal and an alleged ...
- Dalzell said in his response to the CDA, "The definition of indecency, like the definition of obscenity, is not a rigid formula. Rather it confers a large degree of autonomy to individual communities to set the bounds of decency for themselves."(Dalzell, 1998) The term "obscenity" ...
Terminology referenced in this report
ISP, state law, domain name, CDA, Drudge, Media Law, Copyright Law, telecommunications, telephone companies, paid advertising,
Technology mentioned in this report
Names included in this research paper
Miller, Mr. Blumenthal, Judge Friedman, Chief Justice Warren Burger, Domino, Jonathan Bick, libel, Paul, the author and “publisher, Dalzell, George W. Bush, Judge Sarokin, themselves."(Dalzell,
Organizations mentioned in this essay
federal government, Supreme Court, Congress, them, Federal Communications Commission, American Civil Liberties Union, University of Michigan, COPA, Department of Justice, IRS, Federal Radio Commission,
Locations included in this report
California, America, Washington, United States, District of Columbia, Virginia, Reno,
Facility included in this research paper
Companies referenced in this term paper
e-mail, InterNIC, compuserve.com”(CompuServe, IBM, Prodigy,
Keywords included in this term paper
internet, domain name, service provider, libel, internet services, internet service provider, computer, web page, Supreme Court, web site, mindspring, drudge report, obscenity, copyright law, indecency, world wide web, indecent, unsolicited email, Child Online Protection Act, pornography, unsolicited bulk e mail, filtering software, Matt Drudge, summary judgment, telecommunications, United States, the drudge report, Communications Decency Act, christian, information, copyright infringement, Internet pornography, long arm statute, legal system, Internet access, email message, internet sites, Section 5, Internet server, Internet law, CompuServe, Internet usage, pornographic web site, internet traffic, media law, legal notice, service agreements, license plate, Diamond Rio, user,