Recently in Winter 2003 Category

2003 Silha Center Spring Ethics Forum

Since the September 11 attacks, journalists face new ethical challenges. Concerns about national security, personal safety and tighter restrictions on government and law enforcement information have prompted some reporters to ask how they can do their jobs and still be good citizens.

International Journalists Face Danger, Censorship

By Kirsten Murphy, Silha Fellow, and Anna Nguyen, Silha Research Assistant

Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF), or Reporters Without Borders, a media advocacy group based in Paris, France, has released its annual report on worldwide freedom of the press. According to the report, 25 journalists were killed in 2002, down from 31 in 2001. Arrests of journalists increased from 489 to 692, and cases of censorship increased from 378 to 389 in 2002. The group reports that 1,420 reporters were physically attacked or threatened last year and 118 journalists are in prison as of the end of 2002. According to the report, China, Turkey, Iran, Russia, Colombia and Saudi Arabia are among the worst offenders.

Can Press Releases Be Considered Commercial Speech?

By Kirsten Murphy, Silha Fellow

On Jan. 10, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a controversial California Supreme Court decision, Nike, Inc. v. Kasky, No. 02-575, involving the shoemaker Nike and a California activist. The Supreme Court of California ruled on May 2, 2002, in Kasky v. Nike, 45 P. 3d 243 (Cal. 2002) that Nike's statements regarding its overseas labor practices constituted commercial speech. Because Nike's speech was found to be commercial, and therefore entitled to less First Amendment protection, the California court ruled that a claim against Nike for violation of California unfair trade practice and false advertising laws could go forward. If the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the decision, corporations like Nike that sell products in California could be held liable under the California laws for statements considered commercial speech.

Two Newspapers Lose In Satire, Parody Cases

By Anna Nguyen, Silha Research Assistant

A Texas appeals court has ruled again that the First Amendment does not protect a weekly newspaper's satirical piece. The 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, Texas on Nov. 21, 2002 rejected the Dallas Observer's request to throw out a libel lawsuit filed by two Denton County officials in New Times, Inc v. Isaacks, 91 S.W. 3d 844 (Tex. Ct. App. 2002).

Sex Offender Registration Ruled Not Punitive

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon, Silha Fellow and Bulletin editor

Two separate cases, handed down the same day by the U.S. Supreme Court, both ruled that registration of convicted sex offenders in a publicly-accessible database that collected certain personal information about them did not constitute a punitive measure. The cases, Smith v. Doe, 123 S. Ct. 1140 (2003) and Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe, 123 S.Ct. 1160 (2003), were argued on Nov. 12, 2002 and decided on March 5, 2003.

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon, Silha Fellow and Bulletin editor

In a per curiam decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals (8th Cir.) found no error in a District Court's ruling in a case involving the seizure of a journalists' videotape of a farewell banquet for city council members. (See Berglund v. City of Maplewood and Zick v. City of Maplewood, 500 Fed. Appx. 805 (2002)). The two cases were appealed separately but were consolidated for consideration by the appeals court.

By Kirsten Murphy, Silha Fellow

On Jan. 16, 2003 a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (4th Circuit) held in Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516 (4th Cir. 2003), that local law enforcement officials in Maryland may be sued for violating the First Amendment rights of a St. Mary's County, Md. newspaper by purchasing large quantities of the paper with the intent of squelching critical commentary.

By Kirsten Murphy, Silha Fellow and Elaine Hargrove-Simon, Silha Fellow and Bulletin editor

ABC News has started reviewing cases for a Colorado version of "State v.," a national television program that offers a behind-the-scenes look at a criminal trial from the prosecution and defense preparation work through the verdict.

By Kirsten Murphy, Silha Fellow

In a unanimous ruling on Nov. 15, 2002, the Utah Supreme Court struck down the state's 1876 criminal libel statute. The case, I.M.L. v. Utah, 2002 UT 110, arose when a 16-year-old in Milford, Utah posted defamatory statements on the Internet.

By Anna Nguyen, Silha Research Assistant

The U.S. Court of Appeals (4th Cir.) in Richmond, Va. decided on Dec. 13, 2002, that a Virginia prison warden may not bring a libel suit in Virginia over articles appearing on the Web sites of two Connecticut newspapers.

By Kirsten Murphy, Silha Fellow

The High Court of Australia, that country's highest court, unanimously dismissed an appeal by Dow Jones on Dec. 10, 2002, seeking to stop the progress of a defamation suit by Australian mining magnate Joseph Gutnick. The decision in Dow Jones & Company Inc. v. Gutnick (2002) HCA 56 means that Gutnick can sue New York-based Dow Jones in his home state of Victoria, Australia. The High Court ruled that the Internet story was published where it was read, but did not address the merits of the libel case. A copy of the case is available online at

By Kirsten Murphy, Silha Fellow

Congress sought to extend the term of copyrights in 1998, by passing the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. On Jan. 15, 2003, in Eldred v. Ashcroft, 123 S.Ct. 769 (2003), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act. As a result, film classics such as "Snow White," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone with the Wind" will not pass into the public domain.



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