What are the Pitfalls for a Producer who does not Consider the Legal Implications of the Narrative Content in their Film?

Media Law Essay Question

What are the booby traps for a manufacturer who does non see the legal deductions of the narrative content of his or her movie or telecasting programme ( i.e. the events it depicts, the mode of such word picture and any statements made within it ) ?


Media jurisprudence is in fact an application of diverse Torahs that have the ability to efficaciously modulate the media, every bit good as many other mediums of communicating such as conversation, public speech production, phase public presentation and other types of public show. The acknowledgment of booby traps that exist in the current jurisprudence of England and Wales is hence an scrutiny of all Torahs that regulate public communicating and find the extent to which these Torahs will impact the broadcast medium of a movie or telecasting programme.

Robertson and Nicol’s “Media Law” [ 1 ] specifies that there are four chief countries of jurisprudence and therefore, four indispensable caputs of claim that manufacturers must see in order to avoid any legal action as a consequence of the content of their movie or programme. These four chief countries are calumny, lewdness, blasphemy and race hatred, assurance and privateness and right of first publication. Each of these four headers will be described in brief. It would is besides prudent reference that extra regulations do be for the publication and coverage of courtrooms tests Whitehall and other governmental processs but as such broadcasts are specialised, and on history of the restraints of clip, they will non be commented upon as portion of this paper, which will cover with the types of booby traps that careless manufacturers of general movies and programmes can fall foul of.



Defamation is a common jurisprudence philosophy of civil wrong which stipulates that no untrue statement or accusal can be made about a peculiar famous person or any other single. Those ‘defamed’ have an immediate right of action for compensation to reflect the injury done to their names. One such successful instance, which is noted in Scott Bayfield, [ 2 ] was that of Sir Elton John against the day-to-day Mirror, where he successfully recovered a big amount as a consequence of an article claiming that he had an eating upset due to him being seen to regurgitate chip. The legal parametric quantities for such statements is as follows:

( a ) The trial for a calumniatory statement

( I ) Must damage the repute

The trial for a calumniatory statement is a inquiry that is determined by the justice in a given instance. The get downing point prevarications in the statement of Pare J in the instance of Parmiter v Coupland [ 3 ] who stated that a calumniatory statement is:

“A statement refering any individual which exposes him to hatred, ridicule or disdain or which causes him to be shunned or avoided or which has a inclination to wound him in his office, profession or trade…”

This therefore means that the calumniatory words must really damage the repute of the person about whom they are spoken with the consequence that any unsafe or contemptuous remark that has no such consequence can non be found to be calumniatory. As stated in the instance of Mawe v Pigott [ 4 ] :

“The really fortunes which will do a individual be regarded with disfavor by the condemnable categories will raise his character in the appraisal of right-thinking work forces. We can merely see the appraisal in which a adult male is held by society generally…[ 5 ]

( two ) Wordss are given mundane and ordinary significance

Wordss are held to be given the ordinary significance of the context of the ‘right believing members of society’ of the modern twenty-four hours and the impressions that can be inferred from these statements [ 6 ] . This has the consequence that the common jurisprudence philosophy of case in point in the country of calumny is qualified by alterations in society’s attitudes and perceptual experiences of the significances and impacts of words in the epoch in which the defamatory statement is made although this is entirely the discretion of the justice.

This is frequently referred to as the ‘ordinary reader test’ from instance jurisprudence and four trials can be deduced for the intent of excepting those statements whose significances are deemed to be ‘strained’ or ‘forced.’ [ 7 ]

First it is banal jurisprudence that the statement must be read as holding the ordinary significance that would be conveyed to any sensible individual. Second, it must be accepted that the populace are non naive and they have the ability to recognize a gag and an deduction without responding as if there were a dirt. [ 8 ] Third there should be no over analysis of the significance of the statement in a tribunal of jurisprudence and fourthly, the context of the statement should hence be seen as that which would be perceived by the those who would read or see the statement.

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In decision the manufacturer of a programme must guarantee that any derogative statements are in fact true as this the lone complete defense mechanism to a charge of calumny. [ 9 ] If this is non the instance the manufacturer must therefore guarantee that the statement, when interpreted in line with the above standard, does non take down the tone of public sentiment held for an person.

B.Obscenity, blasphemy and race hatred


( a ) Definition

Obscenity is defined in s 1 of the Obscene Publications Act as an article whose:

“effect or the consequence of any one of its points is, if taken as a whole, such as to be given to corrupt and pervert individuals who are likely, in all the fortunes, to read, see or hear the affair contained or embodied in it.”

As stated in the instance against the instead celebrated call against the publication of ‘Lady Chatterly’s Lover’ Deprave basically means to ‘make morally bad, to pervert…debase or pervert morally’ and to pervert agencies to:

“To render morally unsound or icky, or destruct the moral pureness or celibacy of, to corrupt or destroy a good quality, to corrupt, to sully.[ 10 ]

( B ) The Contemporary Standards Trial

In R v Calder & A ; Boyers [ 11 ] Salmon LJ stated we:

“Must set the criterions of what is acceptable, of what is for the public good in the age in which we live…[ 12 ]

Therefore in footings of modern twenty-four hours broadcasts there is truly really small that manufacturers can non movie for fright of corrupting or perverting and this nomenclature is fast fring favor in this forward believing society [ 13 ] .

Recent contention entailed the instance of the public necropsy that aired in 2003 via the influence of the saving expert, Professor Gunther von Hagans but the context of this broadcast was such that rendered it capable of falling under the public good defense mechanism under the 1959 Act, whereby under s 4 ( 1 ) , there is a defense mechanism to lewdness where the stuff is in the involvements of scientific discipline, literature, art or acquisition. Further to this, Schedule 15, paragraph 5 ( 2 ) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 has combined this public good land to use every bit to books and movies.

As a booby trap that a manufacturer could fall into, the inquiry of modern-day moral bounds could be breached if there is no attending paid to watershed and subjects that would transgress the grade in the society of today, including bestiality, pedophilia and, to this twenty-four hours, an vertical phallus.


( a ) Definition

The offense of blasphemy is the devising of an detestable remarks of a vilifying, roasting or indent sort about God, people of holy personage or Anglican religion Articles.

( B ) Application today

Recently there was tumult over the recent broadcast of “Jerry Springer, The Musical, ” which depicted a instead fleshy and Asiatic looking Jesus Christ and a book that was filled with strong and harsh linguistic communication. Christians and Christian groups complained in their 1000s with respect to this broadcast but no successful claims sing blasphemy were made.

As with lewdness, tolerance has a big portion to play in this and as a consequence, there has merely been one successful prosecution since 1922 in the instance of Whitehouse v Lemon [ 14 ] which was nicknamed the ‘Gay News Trial’ . Here the magazine Gay News published an article about the transition of a homosexual to Christianity and there were mentions made to homosexual Acts of the Apostless by Jesus Christ. This instance showed that the important point of blasphemy is that merely the most detestable statements or images will really represent blasphemy. It is for this ground that ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’ , ‘Monty Python’s the Life of Brian’ and Martin Scorsesee’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ, ’ all escaped prosecution but however, in the instance of the latter two, were to a great extent censored and even banned from airing for a brief period.

In any instance the current jurisprudence on blasphemy is flawed as it’s significance is excessively broad, the purposes of the publishing house are seen as irrelevant and the jurisprudence merely protects the Anglican church, which is entirely inappropriate to a society governed by secular Torahs [ 15 ] . Since this clip Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights has been implemented into UK jurisprudence in conformity with s 1 of the Human Rights Act. Here there can be no favoritism on spiritual evidences and for this ground, the jurisprudence of blasphemy will non be updated but has mostly been overshadowed by human rights statute law.

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3.Racial Hatred

( a ) Definition

S 18 of the Public Order Act 1986 states that it is an offense to utilize baleful, opprobrious or contemptuous words of behavior that carry with it the purpose to motivate racial hate or where such hatred is likely to be stirred up. S 19 makes it an offense to print such stuff. In footings of the groups that are affected, this would include groups that are defined by coloring material, race or cultural group, or national beginning. There is slightly of a all right line between those that are included in such a group definition and those that are non but this is beyond the range of this exercising [ 16 ] .

By virtuousness of s 164 the Broadcasting Act 1990 [ 17 ] , the offense may now be committed via the transmittal of the telecasting and the wireless and it is the manufacturer him or herself who is deemed to hold made the incitation. As with blasphemy, the purpose of the manufacturer is besides irrelevant and the consequence is that any broadcasts of racialist points of position have to be reported in a negative medium. If this is the instance there can be no prosecution and a defense mechanism under Article 10 of the ECHR would be upheld [ 18 ] .

The parametric quantities in which this booby trap could happen for the careless manufacturer are hence really narrow since there would hold to be an active onslaught on a specific race, cultural group or national beginning.

C.Confidence and Privacy

The jurisprudence of assurance is another common jurisprudence philosophy which requires that there must be an bing duty of confidentiality although it is non necessary for there to be an existent contract of confidentiality. Thomas J stated in Argyll V Argyll that: [ 19 ]

“…a contract or duty of assurance demand non be express, but could be implied[ 20 ]…”

Further to this, in conformity with the findings of Lord Goff of Chieveley in the instance of Attorney General V Guardian Newspapers Ltd [ 21 ] , the demand is that the party in breach requires to hold known or ought to hold moderately known that the information was confidential [ 22 ] and this is how 3rd parties, such as movie manufacturers, can go apt for breach of confidentiality.

Equally good as the demand that there is an bing duty of assurance that was non already in the public sphere, Lord Magarry VC stated in the instance of Coco v AN Clark ( Engineers ) Ltd [ 23 ] that the information must besides be of the necessary quality of assurance [ 24 ] and there must besides hold been unauthorized usage of the information that was to the hurt of the party pass oning it.

The passage of the Human Rights Act has nevertheless had an impact on the jurisprudence of confidentiality as respects happening a balance between Article 10 ( ECHR ) on freedom of look and Article 8 ( ECHR ) on the right to privateness. This was scrutinised in the instance of A V B and Another [ 25 ] in which Lord Woolf stated that a denial of freedom of the look under Article 10 ( ECHR ) has to be justified, irrespective of any bing justification on evidences of being in the involvements of the populace. The passage of the Human Rights Act and this subsequent opinion hence travel a long manner to guarantee protection of freedom of look in the media.


If a manufacturer of a movie were to immediately take a best seller from the shelf of a bookshop, accommodate it into script signifier and make a film without the consent or acknowledgment of the writer, they would be in breach of the two cardinal aspects of right of first publication protection, viz. , the right for the writer to pull on the fiscal and the moral benefit, such as acknowledgment for writing of their work.

However cognition of the unlawfulness of this behavior is non plenty for a manufacturer to immunize himself from the booby trap of right of first publication larceny. In existent fact, the demand that a work is ‘original’ is non entirely accurate for the ground that the quality of the work need non be of the type that is worthy of publication or broadcast. The threshold for originality under the s 1 ( 1 ) ( a ) of the Copyright, Patent and Design Act 1988 really low as a consequence of the fact that courts construe the term as a relationship between the work dramatic, artistic, musical or literary work and the writer.

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Peterson J stated in University of London Press v University Tutorial Press that: [ 26 ]

“…The word ‘original’ does non in this connexion mean that work must be the look of original or imaginative idea. Copyright Acts are non concerned with the originality of thoughts, but with the look of idea, and in the instance of ‘literary work’ , with the look of idea in print or writing…[ 27 ]

The manufacturer must hence be cognizant of the fact that imaginative plants are non the lone types of creative activities that are protected under the 1988 Act. Peterson J said in the instance prior to the passage of the 1998 Act that this was an indispensable component of right of first publication protection non place boundaries on protection such as the length of clip taken to make the work, creativity and the usage of manners that have preceded its creative activity. He states:

“…If clip expended is to be the trial, the celerity of an writer like Lord Byron in bring forthing a short verse form might be an hindrance in the manner of geting right of first publication, and, the completer his command of his topic, the smaller would be the chance of the author’s success in keeping his claim to copyright…[ 28 ]

As a consequence of this low threshold, tribunals have in the yesteryear recognised right of first publication protection over plants such as scrutiny documents [ 29 ] and even football fixture lists. [ 30 ]

This therefore means that the possible booby traps of right of first publication larceny are far greater than for any of the other types of legal booby trap so far mentioned.


There are many booby traps into which the careless manufacturer can fall but it is besides clear, that some, such as lewdness, racial hatred and blasphemy would necessitate something Very serious in order to fall foul of the common jurisprudence philosophies that govern these offenses. On the other manus, it has become clear that the broad range given to the quality and type of original work under the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988 means that manufacturers must invariably be on their guard to guarantee that they are non in breach of the Act. Finally, acknowledgment of a really cardinal right to freedom of look, although decided within the context of the jurisprudence of confidentiality, is a moving ridge of freedom that will exceed all countries of jurisprudence impacting media broadcast medium.



European Convention on Human Rights ( ECHR )

Human Rights Act 1998

Obscene Publications Act 1959

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Broadcasting Act 1990

Public Order Act 1986

Defamation Act 1952

Case Law

Parmiter V Coupland ( 1840 ) 6 M & A ; W 105

Scott V Sampson ( 1882 ) 8 QBD 491

Mawe V Pigott ( 1869 ) LR 4 CL 54

Lewis 5 Daily Telegraph Ltd [ 1964 ] AC 234

Mapp 5 News Group [ 1997 ] EMLR 397

Gillick V BBC [ 1996 ] EMLR 267

Skuse V Granada Television [ 1996 ] EMLR 278

Lewis 5 Daily Telegraph [ 1964 ] AC 234

Popow V Samuels [ 1973 ] 4 SASR 594

Whitehouse V Lemon ( 1978 ) 68 Cr App R 381

Mandla V Dowell Lee [ 1983 ] 1 All ER 1062

Crown Suppliers v Dawkins [ 1993 ] ICR 517

Jersild V Demark ( 1995 ) 19 EHRR 1

Argyll V Argyll [ 1967 ] Ch 302

Attorney General V Guardian Newspapers Ltd [ No. 2 ] [ 1990 ] 1 A C 109

Coco v AN Clark ( Engineers ) Ltd [ 1969 ] RPC 41

Saltman Engineering Co Ltd V Campbell Engineering Co Ltd [ 1963 ] 3 All ER 413

2002 EWCA Civ 337

University of London Press v University Tutorial Press [ 1916 ] 2 Ch 601

Ladbroke ( Football ) Ltd V William Hill ( Football ) Ltd [ 1964 ] 1 WLR 273

R V Calder & A ; Boyers [ 1969 ] 1 QB 151

Text Book Publications

G Robertson & A ; A Nicol, ‘Media Law, ’ ( Penguin Books, 4Thursdayedition, 2002 )

J A Scott-Bayfield, ‘Defamation Law and Practice’ ( Butterworths, 1stedition, 1996 )

Flint, Fitzpatrick, Thorne “A user’s usher to Copyright2 ( Butterworths, 6ThursdayEdition, 2004 )

D. Bainbridge “Intellectual Property” ( Longman, 5Thursdayedition, 2002 )

M Henry “Media Industry Transactions, ” ( Butterworths, 1stedition, 1998 )

Government Publication

Law Commission’s Working Paper No 79 “Offences Against Religion and Public Worship, 1986