This month’s Carnival of Journalism question, posed by Doug Fisher, asks — more or less — what the law can do for journalism.
My answer? As little as possible.
Keep the frontier wild.
Photo by Ushlambad on Flickr.
One of the more striking parts of the Media Law class I took a surprisingly long time ago in grad school (which I’m still in, technically speaking) was the progression of U.S. Supreme Court cases addressing libel in different media. The rules, regulations and liabilities for content producers are not the same everywhere.
For example, broadcast television and radio are highly regulated due to the limited spectrum space and the high barriers to getting a license and publishing your own program on the air.
Cable TV is a bit looser, given the size of the dial.
Newspapers? Even harder to win a libel suit against them, because anyone can write something on a piece of paper and nail it to a door somewhere. The price of entry is low (photocopies, staples, etc.) although it can take some time to build up a mass audience.
And that brings us to the Web.
The wild, wild Web, if you will.
Low barrier to entry, no barrier to publication once you have Internet access, and more importantly, the potential to completely level the playing field when an individual meets up with mass medium.
And so, I ask that the law keeps its hands off the Internet.
It doesn’t need the law’s help.
Even when it comes to Net Neutrality, I’m pretty sure that if the keepers of the bandwidth push hard enough, their local near-monopolies will fall apart as their customers flee to small businesses, rooftop wi-fi repeaters, and whatever comes next, whether it’s hacked WiMAX or iPhones on a string.
The truth is, the network balances out the imperfections in the process. That means that spammers will be filtered out, content-copy-machine splogs will approach a profit margin of zero, and trolls will be outed as such, and ignored to death when possible.
So keep the frontier wild. There’s an unlimited amount of territory out here, enough for everyone who has something to say to find someone to listen.