Communication Law

If you’ll forgive me, I’ve been continuing to do writing exercises. However, in this instance, I was looking up more information about my current degree and aspects I might not have studied that well while in school. This led me to asking questions about communication law and how it plays into understanding communication from a legal standpoint. Here are the answers I was able to research based on a set of questions.

Question 1:

Communication law is primarily about the First Amendment. What different types of speech can you identify that may have different protection under the First Amendment?

The First Amendment covers core, basic speech freedoms, but there are underlying facets to what describes and defines speech. The First Amendment strictly states that the government will make no law that deters or prohibits free speech. It doesn’t necessarily state the intricacies that constitutes free speech. Speech, in the basic sense, is defined so that there is a speaker that understands the message he or she is conveying, and there is an audience that understands the message they are receiving.

Certain types of speech are wholly protected by the First Amendment: political, expressive, and commercial speech. However, other types of speech exist that have been marked by the Supreme Court with restrictions. For instance, speech that has yet to be spoken can be punished before the actual speech as long as it goes through a series of requirements such as the court being backed up, preparation for lawsuit, and proof that the unspoken speech is illegal.

Some scholars speak in depth regarding the burning of the American flag and how it might constitute free speech. It was set as a precedent twice that the government cannot prohibit people from burning the American flag, but they can restrict when, where, and how the action takes place. This also applies to the ideas of verbalizing a crime, such as yelling “fire” or “there’s a gun” in a situation where it does not apply. Even though the speaker is exercising free speech, it is being used to potentially cause harm to others, and this is where scrutiny plays a large part.

Question 2:

Name and discuss two of the First Amendment theories found through your research.

The first and most prevalent theory I discovered through my research is the absolutist theory. The exact words of the First Amendment says that “no law” shall be created. This theory discusses the idea that because the First Amendment says those exact words, this means that the government can never make any kind of law to prohibit speech, press, or otherwise. Regardless of what kind of speech it is, even if it could cause harm to others, is not to be prohibited by the government in any way.

The one that made the most sense, and yet somehow also remained a bit of mystery in terms of its legitimacy, was the access theory. Given the mindsets of the men that wrote the Bill of Rights, it could be construed that if someone did not have access to the press for which they were guaranteed freedom, then the press or speech did not apply to that person. The founding fathers wrote that all men are created equal, but history shows us they meant white men that could vote. Women and men of color did not apply, thus this theory could have possible weight in that regard.

Question 3:

What does prior restraint mean? Why is it important?

Prior restraint is something that is judicially suppressed by the government before publication or spoken word. This is done if the publication or spoken word could be harmful or libelous to others. The most prominent example of this is a publication being put on hold or withheld before or during a trial. Another example provided in the text is when the publication could possible invade the privacy of another person.

The reason this is such an important aspect is because it helps protect the citizens. Granted, there are situations and circumstances where the government might try to abuse prior restraint, but it is generally used for a positive reinforcement of citizen rights and protections.

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