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What Is Communications and Media Law?

Communications and Media Law Issues

Communications and media law encompasses all legal issues affecting the media and telecommunications industries. These issues include free speech issues, defamation, copyright, and censorship. There are also issues involving privacy and whether content may be printed, broadcast over the air, or published online.

Communications and media law used to primarily affect journalists, publishers, and large telephone companies. But since the advent of the Internet and desktop publishing, everyday people are just as likely to face similar legal complications. Restaurants may sue people who post defamatory reviews online, and blogging websites might be forced to remove content that violates its terms of service. Responding to these possible infringements may require the legal expertise of a lawyer.

Terms to Know

  • Freedom of Speech - The right to express information, ideas, and opinions free of government restrictions based on content and subject only to reasonable limitations, as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution
  • Media - All forms of communication, usually related to news platforms; the plural of medium, which is a single form of communication, such as print
  • Copyright - A person's exclusive statutory right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and create derivative works from his or her original work of authorship
  • Censorship - The act of suppressing all or some of someone's creative work
  • Telecommunication - Any form of communication through a wire or electronic device, especially a phone or Internet connection
  • Prior Restraint - The governmental review and suppression of speech before the expression of speech actually takes place; usually unconstitutional

For more legal definitions, visit the FindLaw Legal Dictionary.

Other Considerations When Hiring a Communications and Media Lawyer

Communication and media law is becoming increasingly important to everyday citizens who interact online. The law draws very fine lines between many legally permissible forms of speech and unprotected speech that could expose you to liability. What may seem like a constitutionally protected opinion to you may, in fact, be defamatory statement for which you could be liable.

What you may think is a fair use tribute to your favorite television show may actually be copyright infringement. This is why it is important to consult an experienced attorney immediately if your content is taken down by a website or if you receive a "cease and desist" letter. Getting legal aid quickly can help you identify any allegedly offending matter and know when you do not have to comply.

If you are facing a communications or media law issue, contact a communications and media lawyer immediately to protect your rights and explore your legal options.

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