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Public Communications Law

3 Credits

This course is a part of:
Certificate Program
Associate's Degree Program
Bachelor's Degree Program

Recommended Prerequisite:
PLG-110: Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure

This course explores the role of the law in both protecting and limiting the media. The course looks at the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press and how that impacts the government’s ability to regulate the media. Key concepts, such as prior restraint, obscenity, false advertising, election rules, etc., will be examined. We will look at federal regulation of the media and of private remedies people may have against the media regarding issues such as defamation and copyright infringement. The court will also look at public access to information and the rights afforded by the Freedom of Information Act.

Course Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the administrative agencies that are involved in regulating the media and describe their roles in doing so
  • Explain how the First Amendment protects the media and allows the media the right to communicate news and ideas to the public
  • Describe the methods of prior restraint employed by government to stifle speech by the media and the extent to which these are allowed
  • Explain the elements of defamation and the extent to which the media is protected from defamation lawsuits by the First Amendment
  • Describe the various actions that constitute invasion of privacy, especially as it relates to the media broadcasting information about people or companies
  • Apply the copyright laws to determine whether a media’s usage of copyrighted material is an infringement or is protected under the fair use rule
  • Apply the trademark laws to determine whether a media’s usage of a company’s trademark is an infringement of the owner's rights
  • Explain the extent to which political speech is protected and the limitations that the government can subject free speech to protect the integrity of elections
  • Describe the manner in which the First Amendment protects commercial advertising
  • Research and apply the false and deceptive advertising rules that exist under federal law
  • Determine whether a communication is obscene and thus not protected by the First Amendment
  • Describe the extent and manner in which the broadcast of "indecent" material is limited under federal law
  • Explain the steps that judges may take against the media to limit the media's ability to poison the jury pool in preparation for a trial
  • Describe the protections that are given to journalists under federal and state law, that allow then to keep their sources confidential
  • Determine what government information can and cannot be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and state equivalents
  • Seek information under the Freedom of Information Act