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MSTD 400 Court Cases for FINAL EXAM


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Reno v. ACLU, 1997
The Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA), which they said was an unconstitutional attempt to control communications on the Internet. First, t he court said, the Internet and the World Wide Web should be considered as having full First Amendment protection, such as the print media, and should not be regulated like radio and television broadcasting. While noting that it was within the government's power to set "time place and manner" restrictions on obscene communications, and that obscenity did not have First Amendment protection, the court said that the CDA had problems: #1. Existing technology did not include any effective method for a sender to prevent minors from obtaining access to its communications on the Internet without also denying access to adults.#2 " The breadth of the CDA's coverage was unprecedented. Its open-ended prohibitions embraced not only commercial speech or commercial entities, but also "all nonprofit entities and individuals posting indecent messages or displaying them on their own computers in the presence of minors." Because the CDA did not define the terms "indecent" and "patently offensive," the statute "cover[ed] large amounts of nonpornographic material with serious educational value. " Regulated subject matter under the CDA extended to "discussions about prison rape or safe sexual practices, artistic images that include nude subjects, and arguably the card catalog of the Carnegie Library.#3" The court found that the law was not narrowly tailored.
Roth v. US, 1957
The test of obscenity is whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest. "
Loraine Journal Co. v. US 1951
An Ohio newspaper refused to accept advertising from anyone who bought ads on a new radio station. This is a classic "refusal to deal" case, and is illegal. Note that this is one of the primary issues in the US v. Microsoft case of 1998 - present.
Mutual Film v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, 1915
The First Amendment doesnt apply to cinema
44 Liquormart v. Rhode Island
Truthful advertising of alcohol prices cant be prohibited
Friends of the Earth v. FCC 1971
This is a broadcast media case. When the FCC first moved against tobacco advertising, in 1967, it did so under the "Fairness Doctrine" which said that viewpoints must be allowed to compete on television. The tobacco industry's ads were countered under the Fairness Doctrine by ads urging people to quit smoking starting. The Friends of the Earth, an environmental public intertest group, sued the FCC under the Fairness Doctrine saying it should be able to counter gasoline a nd automotive advertising for high octane gas guzzling cars. In 1974 the FCC reinterpreted the Fairness Doctrine as not giving a right of reply in cases involving commercial advertising. Later the entire Fairness Doctrine was scrapped.
Fox v. FCC, 2007
New York second district federal court struck down fine by FCC against Fox network for off the cuff indecent remarks during the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards. The court was concerned that this was a change from previous policy and that it was inconsistent with permission for indecency in news coverage where indecent remarks were made. The end result is that casual indecency will not be punished by the FCC in the future.
NBC v. US, 1943
the Supreme Court said the First Amendment doesn't exempt broadcasters from FCC regulation, even in anti trust cases. This led NBC to sell its "Blue Network" which became ABC.
Nike v. Kasky, 2003
There is broad protection for misstatements about public issues
U.S. v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.1948
The Supreme Court decision to force movie studies like Warner Bros., United Artists, and Paramount Pictures. to divest vertically integrated holdings in theater chanis is sometimes seen as the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood, but it led to an increase in independent movie producers and more competition in the film industry.
FCC v. League of Women Voters, 1984
Fairness doctrine did not apply to political debates, court said, effectively ending FD regulation
Miami Herald v. Tornillo, 1974
This case involves the print media. Here the Supreme Court said that a Florida law imposing a "right of reply" on the print media was not constitutional. A candidate for public office insisted that the Herald print his advertisement responding to a Herald editorial, and the Herald refused. The court said that the print media had a right to control its contents without government interference. While the press should be responsible, Chief Justice Warren Burger said, "like many other virtues it cannot be legislated."
Associated Press v. U.S. 1945
When the Chicago Sun newspaper applied for AP membership, the Chicago Tribune newspaper, already an AP member, objected. According to the AP rules at the time, new members had to pay exhorbitant dues to join. The Justice Dept. challenged the Associated Press, and the Supreme Court said that the fact that AP handles news while other companies handle goods "does not afford the publisher a peculiar Constitutional sanctuary... Freedom to publish means freedom for all and not for some ... Freedom of the press from government interfence doesnt sanction repression of freedom by private interests."
Bigelow v. Virginia, 1975
Ad for abortion services at UVA was political and therefore protected
Smith v. California, 1959
The case expanded the test of "scienteur" (guilty knowledge) and averted a chilling effect on distributors who might not know about the contents of materials they handled. It would become an importanta case as the responsibilities of Internet Service Providers were examined in the 1990s.
Regina v. Hicklin, 1868
The test of obscenity is whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.
One Book Entitled Ulysses v. US, 1934
Federal case that allowed James Joyce's book to be imported into the US.
Pope v. Illinois, 1989
Said that the 3rd prong of Miller test (whether the work taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value) must be determined on an objective basis and not by reference to community standards.
Branzburg v. Hayes, 1972
Marijuana and black panther cases where reporters refused to reveal sources. Court was evenly split 4-4 with one vote saying reporter privilege was appropriate in some circumstances.
Miller v. California 1973
Obscenity meets the Roth test, describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 1978
Created "safe harbor" for non-indecent programming during early evening
Trinity Methodist Church v. FRC, 1933
Supreme Court upheld power of FRC to take away radio license
Central Hudson Gas & Electric v. PSC of NY, 1980
Set standand for testing government restrictions on commercial speech.
Valentine v. Christensen, 1942
First Amendment does not apply to advertising (since overturned)
Farmers Educational Cooperative Union v. WDAY, 1959
Under Section 315, broadcasters have to air a candidates remarks even if they are libellous, but the broadcaster is granted absolute immunity from a libel suit under these circumstances.
US v. Microsoft Corp.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that Microsoft had an illegal monopoly on operating systems and among other things had destroyed Netscape and had refused to deal with other companies when they worked with other systems. Despite the ruling, the US Dept. of Justice (under the Bush administration) opted for a settlement which consumer advocates said was a setback to competition. Meanwhile, the EEC in March, 2004 ordered Microsoft to share technical information with rivals, offer a version of the Windows operating system without its Media Player and pay a fine of $612 million.
Sheppard v. Maxwell, 1966
Sam Sheppard was convicted of murder in 1954 after his wife was found stabbed to death in their home. He claimed a third person committed the crime, that he had fought with the person and had been knocked out, but no one believed him. Before the trial, newspaper headlines screamed: "Why isn't Sam Sheppard in Jail?" During a coroner's five day inquest, a magistrate dismissed Sheppard's defense attorney and grilled him in front of a live audience. During the trial, the media took over the courtroom. Sheppard could not whisper in his defense counsel's ear without being overheard. The courtroom had become a media circus.
Lehman v. Shaker Heights, 1974
This is a public media case and it resulted in the Lehman rule. Here a candidate for office wanted to advertise on a city-run bus line. The Supreme Court said that the city was free to limit its advertising to commercial products only so long as it did so consistently. If all political ads are rejected there is no discrimination.

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