I found the Online Media Law course by NewsU to be extremely helpful, providing solid information for those in the upcoming PR field. This course dealt with online media law, particularly in regards to defamation, invasion of privacy and copyright infringement.
As a PR student, it’s important to learn the laws of the media field and just what is acceptable to be written and what is not. It’s important to be fair and honest in all of your writing and use reliable sources. The internet is an extremely powerful tool, used to send breaking news and updates all over the world. Yet it is also a place for millions of people to see things and writers in the media have to be extremely careful with what they put on the internet.
Defamation falls into two categories: libel and slander. Libel is any kind of written defamation, and slander consists of spoken defamation. I feel like this should be common sense to any journalist: don’t say hurtful things about people in your writing. A journalist who uses good, reputable sources and is fair and accurate in what they say can protect themselves from a defamation suit. It’s also important to be careful with how you phrase your sentences of quotes. Sometimes, these can misconstrued, so anyone in the media field must be careful to be as accurate as possible.
Invasion of privacy is when you publish personal information about someone without their permission. I’ve learned that it’s important to always, always ask permission before you use someone’s words, pictures or music. I know I have done this before, without realizing, but this is something very important that we all need to be careful of. In this area, journalists and PR professionals should rely on using public information whenever possible.
Finally, copyright infringement deals with using someone else’s work without giving credit. This law makes sense to me because if I had made something, I would definitely want to receive credit for it. Being a photographer, this definitely applies to me because I want to show people my photos and would hate for them to be taken or abused on the internet. It’s important to always cite information and give credit where credit is due. That’s why I always try to cite wherever I find a picture of a news article.
I was quite interested by some of the different case studies that the course presented. I was especially struck by the one on the invasion of privacy, in which the woman tried to sue the journalist for showing video footage of her after an accident, without her consent. What struck me the most is that the court ruled this invalid because the accident was of public concern. Like the victim, I would not be happy to find video of myself in such a shocking condition on the television without my permission. Bottom line, the journalist should have asked for permission, instead of posting it without consent. There were a few of these laws that confused me a little, so I’d be interested to look into some of them further.
I really enjoyed this course and I think it is very important to anyone who uses the internet, not just those in the PR/Journalism industry. Anything that is put on the internet can be seen by the world, and so we have to be extremely careful with the things we say.