MCOM 621, Mass Media Law & Regulation

Fall 2014
Mass Media Law & Regulation
Communication Management Master’s Program
6:30-9:10 p.m., Mondays
Instructor: Prof. Beth A. Haller, Ph.D.

Office phone: 410-704-2442
Office location: Van Bokkelen Hall, Room 205B

Get to know me online:

Course Materials:
Advertising & Public Relations Law by Moore, Maye, & Collins (2nd edition, Routledge, 2011). ISBN13: 978-0-415-96548
Social Media & the Law, Daxton R. Stewart (ed.) (Routledge, 2013) ISBN: 978-0-415-53514-4
• Selected readings that I will provide on Blackboard or send to you as links.

Course Description:
What communication managers and public relations specialists need to know about the First Amendment, commercial speech/FTC regulations, defamation, copyright and other aspects of communication law, especially regarding online and social media. Students will select a legal issue affecting public relations practitioners or communication managers and conduct their own research project.

Case presentations & class contributions: 15%
Research proposal (3-5 pages): 10%
Literature review (At least 15 sources) 15%
Legal issue research paper & its presentation (18-24 pp.) 60%

• Case presentations: You will select 3 cases from the list of cases to present to the class. All the cases are in the book and most of them are precedent-setting in the areas of advertising and PR law. Discuss the facts of the case, what the court said, and why this case is important and how it influenced that area of law. Your primary information can come from the textbook, but you should supplement that with library and Internet research. In addition to the presentation, email me a 300-500 word summary of the case presentation so I can post it on Blackboard for the class. NOTE: The cases will be assigned on a first come, first served basis so email me as soon as you can to tell me the cases you selected.

Cases for presentations:
VA Board of Pharmacy v. VA Citizens Consumer Council (1976)
Bates et al. v. State Bar of Arizona (1977)
Central Hudson v. Public Service Comm. (1980) (Josh Guttman)
Posados de Puerto Rico v. Tourism Co. of Puerto Rico (1986)
SUNY v. Fox(1989) (Kaitlin Newman)
U.S. v. Edge Broadcasting(1993) (Kaitlin Newman)
Kasky v. Nike (2002) (Carrie Wood)
Haelan Labs v. Topps Chewing Gum (1953) (Carrie Wood)
Cher v. Forum (1982) (Stephanie Travers)
Midler v. Ford Motor Co. (1988) (Stephanie Travers)
Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard (1977) (Kaitlin Newman)
FTC v. Colgate-Palmolive (1965) (Josh Guttman)
Warner-Lambert v. FTC (1977) (Josh Guttman)
SEC v. Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. (1968) (Carrie Wood)
Pizza Hut v. Papa John’s (2000) (Stephanie Travers)

• Legal issue research paper and presentation: Read chapters 1-5, 11 in the Social Media and the Law book and then select a topic. The final paper can explore a topic broadly or focus more specifically on a legal case or cases. Use information from these chapters as a jumping off point to explore the topic. The paper should include as much recent research as possible, as well as referencing social media policies from PRSA, business and industry. NOTE: The topics will be assigned on a first come, first served basis so email me as soon as you can to tell me which one you want to do.

Topics: Students will select one topic each.
• Social media, the First Amendment and PR (Josh Guttman)
• Commercial speech/advertising and social media
• Intellectual property, social media and PR (Kaitlin Newman)
• Defamatory content: managing client images in the age of social media (Stephanie Travers)
• Privacy torts and social media (Carrie Wood)
• FTC/FDA regulations and social media

• Research paper (18-24 pp.): This paper should contain:
(1) An introductory section (2-4 pages) that presents an overview of your topic and why it is important and explains how your topic will be explored through your analysis of the legal and regulatory issues. (Your proposal will be revised into this section.)
(2) A literature review section (5-10 pp.) will frame the scholarly discussion of your legal issue. This section should provide the reader with a context for the significance of the legal issue through the review of related literature, legal cases and government regulations. (You will drop a revised version of this into your final paper.)
(3) Legal issue analysis/findings section (6-8 pp.): In this section, you should discuss the internal and external factors for PR and/or advertising related to the legal issue. How are different PR practitioners and their publics affected by this area of law? What are the older and newer legal cases related to this issue? What are the FTC or FDA regulations related to the topics? What kind of social media policies relate to this issue?
(4) Conclusion (about 2-4 pp.): You should draw out the significance and implications of the legal issue and social media policy. Discuss what kind of social media policy might be effective in dealing with this legal issue.
(5) References: Your final paper should cite 20 or more sources. You should cite the two course textbooks as part of your 20 sources.
(6) You will make a presentation to the class about your topic, the legal cases related to it, and other information relevant to it. A Powerpoint presentation is the expected format.

You will be expected to turn in your legal issue research paper on the day it is due. Any delay will result in a 5% grade deduction per each day of delay (not per each class meeting). I do not allow make-ups for presentations if you are not present during the originally scheduled time for them. Exceptions are made only for the following situations: illness, jury duty, religious observances, family emergency, and participation in University activities at the request of an authority of the University. Each case must be documented accordingly. If you must miss class on a day when an assignment is due, please contact me in advance, if possible.

• Research Proposal (with beginning of references) (2-5 pp.): The proposal should explain specifics related to your topic and how your research contributes to existing literature. You will also detail some of the legal cases relevant to your topic.

• Literature Review (5-10 pp): You will prepare the lit review section of your paper in advance of your final paper. The lit review should have a minimum of 15 sources (all of which can be used in your final paper.) These should be primarily legal scholarly articles, as well as related articles/websites from industry or government publications. Your literature review should be concise but also comprehensive. Do not simply summarize each article but take an analytical approach to discuss how the literature relates to your paper topic. The lit review and the final paper should use APA in-text citation style, as well as have a full reference list in APA style. The Cook Library website has complete guidelines on APA style:

You will drop this literature review into your final paper, after you have revised it based on my feedback. This website has additional information on lit reviews, as well as some examples:


Final grades will be calculated on the basis of points scored in each evaluation activity. The following scale will be used:

A = 93% and above
A- = 90% – 92.9%
B+ = 87% – 89.9%
B = 80% – 86.9%
C = 73% – 79.9%
D = 63% – 72.9%
F = below 63%

NOTE: Compliance with the guidelines of the APA style manual (most recent edition) will be included in the grading of your assignments. This includes but is not limited to cover sheet, margins, formatting, in-text and reference list citations. If you are unfamiliar with these guidelines, please familiarize yourselves with them as soon as possible.

General Grading Criteria:

C = Your work is essentially accurate, follows most instructions, applies APA style correctly and provides relevant examples, but (1) lacks a clearly stated introduction to the topic, (2) lacks comprehensive literature review, (3) does not follow the methodological structure discussed in class, OR (4) is missing much related scholarship to the topic.

B = Your work is accurate, follows directions, is well-organized, applies APA style and has a clear introduction to the topic and appropriate analysis. However, your paper does not elaborate enough on why your analysis and conclusions are particularly relevant to the topic.

A = In addition to the virtues of a B assignment, your work uses multiple examples from legal cases and/or government regulations. Your project’s analysis and your paper’s conclusions are especially compelling, insightful, and creative.

D = Your work contains many APA style, grammatical, mechanical or spelling errors; it reflects minimal effort, but there is some evidence that you have attempted the assignments.

F = Your work contains numerous APA style, grammatical, mechanical and spelling errors; it reflects minimal effort; OR there is no evidence that you have read or understood the assigned readings.

The Structure of the Course:

I hope this course will be a participatory, collaborative learning experience. As it will be discussion-oriented, please come to each class with questions, comments or critiques of the assigned readings.

Some class discussions and activities will cover material not in the assigned readings, so you will need to attend all classes and be ready to discuss the readings with me and each other. Attending class and doing the readings are the BEST things you can do to master the course material. Just showing up does not count as active participation and is not enough to earn you points for class contribution. To earn points for class participation you will have to demonstrate that you have read the assigned texts by contributing to our class conversations and voicing your ideas and opinions. If you consistently arrive late or leave early, you will receive no class participation credit at the end of the course.

Attendance Policy: Attendance and active participation are expected. You are allowed a maximum of two undocumented absences. If you accumulate more than two undocumented absences, your final score will be decreased by 5% per each additional absence. If you leave early or arrive more than 15 minutes late you will receive an absence. As per Towson policies, I will accept documents for absences only in one of the following five situations: sickness, religious holidays, family emergency, jury duty, and traveling for university purposes. (Please bring supporting evidence).

Some General Course Policies:

Laptop Policy: You are welcome to take notes on your laptop while attending class. However, please use your laptop only for class purposes. Web browsing or other non-class related activities will result in a class participation deduction.

Cell Phone Policy: Please make sure to switch off your cell phone before coming to class. The vibrate mode is still too disruptive to be acceptable. If you have an emergency and must leave your cell phone on during class time, please let me know before the beginning of the course period and use vibrate mode.

Academic Dishonesty: Please familiarize yourself with the University policy on academic integrity by accessing the following link: Several types of behaviors constitute academic dishonesty and are not acceptable. Academic dishonesty includes plagiarism, which involves but is not limited to presenting other people’s words and ideas as your own, submitting essays or portions of essays written by other people as your own, improper source citation, no source citation, or using materials posted on websites without acknowledging the source. Additionally, using fictitious sources also counts as academic dishonesty. Should you behave dishonestly, you will fail the course. If you have any questions or doubts about this issue, feel free to consult with me.

Sexual Harassment: The University specifically prohibits sexual harassment in any form. Please consult the University’s policies on this issue.

Disability Statement: If you have a disability which will affect your performance in this class, please notify the Disability Support Services. Please give me the paperwork from the DSS office so that I can make appropriate accommodations. The website for Disability Support Services:

Course Schedule & Readings

Sept. 8: First Amendment/social media policies

Readings: Advertising & Public Relations Law by Moore, Maye & Collins book, Chapter 1

PRSA Social Media Policy: (You will need to sign up for a free MyPRSA account to access these materials.)

How to Write a Social Media Policy. (2010).

16 social media guidelines used by real companies. (2009).

5 Noteworthy Examples of Corporate Social Media Policies. (2011).

Online Database of Social Media Policies:

Do you need a social media policy? (2010).

Sept. 15: Commercial Speech

Readings: Advertising & Public Relations Law by Moore, Maye & Collins book, Chapter 2-3

Case presentations:
VA Board of Pharmacy v. VA Citizens Consumer Council (1976)
Bates et al. v. State Bar of Arizona (1977)
Central Hudson v. Public Service Comm. (1980)
Posados de Puerto Rico v. Tourism Co. of Puerto Rico (1986)

Sept. 22: Defamation

Readings: Advertising & Public Relations Law by Moore, Maye & Collins book, Chapter 4

Case presentations continued:
SUNY v. Fox (1989)
U.S. v. Edge Broadcasting (1993)
Kasky v. Nike (2002)

Sept. 29: Invasion of privacy

Readings: Advertising & Public Relations Law by Moore, Maye & Collins book, Chapter 5-6

Case presentations:
Haelan Labs v. Topps Chewing Gum (1953)
Cher v. Forum (1992)
Midler v. Ford Motor Co. (1988)
Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard (1977)

Oct. 6: Copyright

Readings: Advertising & Public Relations Law by Moore, Maye & Collins book, Chapter 7. Have the chapters from Social Media & the Law, Daxton R. Stewart (ed.), read by this date.

Oct. 13: Library research
Presentation by librarian Joyce Garczynski in Cook Library Room 317

Oct. 20: FTC regulations

Readings: Advertising & Public Relations Law by Moore, Maye & Collins book, Chapter 10-11

Case presentations:
FTC v. Colgate-Palmolive (1965)
Warner-Lambert v. FTC (1977)
SEC v. Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. (1968)
Pizza Hut v. Papa John’s (2000)

Oct. 27:
Assignments due: Research Proposal Due

Nov. 3:
Individual meetings with me (about 30 min. each)
Work on literature review/final research paper

Nov. 10:
Individual meetings with me (if more are necessary)
Work on literature review/final research paper

Nov. 17:
Assignment Due: Literature Review due

Nov. 24:
Thanksgiving week. No class, work on research paper.

Dec. 1:
Additional individual meetings at student’s request; otherwise use the class time to work on your research paper.

Dec. 8:
Assignment Due: Research paper presentations
~Students will present their final paper topics to the class in informal 20-minute oral presentations. The final paper need not be complete and won’t be turned in until Dec. 15. You should present your paper’s content verbally with a few Powerpoint slides to illustrate your topic.

Dec. 15:
Final research paper due


Liability Statement
“In all assignments, students must comply with all laws and legal rights of others (e.g., copyright, obscenity, privacy and defamation) and with all Towson policies (e.g. academic dishonesty). Towson University is not liable or responsible for the content of any student assignments, regardless of where they are posted.”

College of Fine Arts and Communication
Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies
Towson, MD 21252

TO: All Students in the Department Of Mass Communication and Communication Studies
FROM: Department Faculty

The Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies adheres to the following policy regarding plagiarism:
1. Any words or images taken directly from another source (including the Internet) must be footnoted or cited and in quotation marks. Similarly, in oral presentations, attributions must be clear.
2. Any ideas derived from a source not in the public domain or of general knowledge must be clearly attributed.
3. Any paraphrased material must be footnoted or cited. In oral presentations, attributions must be clear.
4. All papers and presentations must be the student’s own work. Submission of papers or presentations authored by others, even with their consent, constitutes plagiarism.

Any student found plagiarizing in any of the above ways will receive an automatic “F” for the assignment and may receive an “F” for the course. Documented evidence of the plagiarism will be kept in the department office, and will be reported to the Office of Judicial Affairs.

Any student discovered soliciting others to write a paper, speech, test, or other assignment for that student will receive an automatic “F” for the course.

There are ambiguities in concepts of plagiarism. Faculty will be available for consultation regarding any confusion a student may have.

Most students are careful to avoid blatant plagiarism, the unacknowledged copying of exact words of the source. However, students must also be aware that the concept of plagiarism extends not only to wording but to patterns or sequences of ideas. If you paraphrase without acknowledgement, using the same sequence or structure as the original author, then you are plagiarizing.

Students have the right to appeal a charge of plagiarism. An appeal starts with the chairperson of the department.

The Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies has adopted the following policy regarding cheating: ANY STUDENT CAUGHT CHEATING ON ANY QUIZ OR EXAM WILL RECEIVE A MINIMUM OF AN “F” ON THE QUIZ OR TEST AND A MAXIMUM OF AN “F” FOR THE COURSE.

Revised 1-11-05
Civility Code Introduction
Revised (approved by COFAC College Council 11/8/2011)
All College of Fine Arts & Communication Studies students, staff, and faculty are committed to collegial and academic citizenship demonstrating high standards of humane, ethical, professional, and civil behavior in all interactions.

We must take responsibility for the relationship between our personal conduct and the quality of campus life. What we do and say always has an effect on others, whether we see it or not. Civility means more than respecting campus facilities and grounds. Civility means consistently treating people with consideration and respect. It means being courteous, polite, and fair. It means recognizing diversity and honoring differing points of view. When our behavior is guided by concern for others in our community, we are being civil. Practicing civility requires thoughtful behavior and checking our assumptions and perceptions of others’ race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, abilities, culture, belief systems and economic status.

Civility Code
COFAC places a priority on learning. We value the inherent worth and dignity of every person, thereby fostering a community of mutual respect. Students have the right to a learning environment free of disruptive behaviors. Faculty have the right to define appropriate behavioral expectations in the classroom and expect students to abide by them. Faculty have the responsibility to manage and address classroom disruption. Staff have the right and responsibility to define appropriate behaviors necessary to conduct any university activity free of disruption or obstruction.

We believe that in order to achieve these ideals, all COFAC students, staff, and faculty are expected to exhibit and practice civil behaviors that exemplify: (1) respecting faculty, staff, fellow students, guests, and all university property, policies, rules and regulations; (2) taking responsibility for one’s choices, actions and comments; (3) delivering correspondence – whether verbal, nonverbal, written, or electronic – with respectful language using professional writing standards and etiquette; and (4) accepting consequences of one’s choices and actions.

The use of threatening or abusive language, writing, or behavior will not be tolerated and can lead to academic dismissal. Further information about civility can be found in Appendix F of the university catalog.

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