This seminar will study the comparative treatment of selected problems in mass media law by the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights, and some transitional democracies in the former Soviet bloc. Particular attention will be given to the forms of governmental regulation of the content of the mass media, analyses of the theories of free expression, and permissible regulation that are representative of several legal systems. The seminar will consider, system-by-system, the national security/free press dilemma: society's goals of protecting the rights of the mass media to cover and criticize government while at the same time organizing an effective form of self-rule; the paradox of unregulated speech coexisting with the goals of national defense and stable self-government; and the doctrines and mechanisms deployed in various legal systems to suppress the mass media, ostensibly in the name of security and effective governance.
The course will address, comparatively, other regulatory problems including defamation, seditious libel, privacy, election coverage, hate speech, incitement, fair trial/free press controversies, broadcasting, the Internet, and the use of prior restraints and contempt. The course aims in part to enable students, by reverse projection, to understand and reflect critically on the distinguishing features of the American system of free expression. Students will read cases, legislation, and essays and write a paper covering at least two legal systems.