To: Communications Laws & Ethics Students
From: Isaiah Bradford
Subject: Chapter 13, Intellectual Property

 

This chapter covers the laws surrounding intellectual property. The law protects you is someone steals your property, and rightfully so if someone steals your intellectual property, which is the legal category that includes copyrights, trademarks, and patient law.

Copyrights are an exclusive legal right used to protect intellectual creations from unauthorized use. We commonly hear the term ‘plagiarism’ on university campuses. Copyrights are essentially legally binding documents that is sent in place to prevent plagiarism of all kinds from rhetoric, to technology patents, to concepts for television shows and movies. An original work is automatically copyrighted the moment is created and fixed in a tangible medium. For even more legal protection one can get their products, ideas, or work register copyrighted. One major concept that is plagued by copyright rules are that of music and sound recordings.

Trademarks are used to protect a word, name, symbol or design that is used to identify a company’s goods and distinguish them from similar products other companies. In order for a company to trade mark an entity it must possess distinctive requirement. Another popular item that is trademark in this post-digital age is domain names, such as facebook.com or google.com.

The laws discussed in this chapter of the upmost importance to journalist because their printed and online work essentially is copyrighted. If a news media outlet prints the exact story another printed first, the first company has the right to file a suit. It is imperative that those in the journalism field are aware of these laws and their rights to keep their work protected. 

Memo

 

To: Communications Laws & Ethics Students
From: Isaiah Bradford
Subject: Chapter 12, Obscenity

Indecency, the sexual expression inappropriate for children on broadcast radio and television, is at the center of this chapter. The US Supreme Court officially defined the term “obscenity” in the 1973 court case of Miller v. California. According to the Supreme Court, obscenity has two meanings:

a)    Disgusting to the senses

b)    Offensive or revolting as countering or violating some ideal or principle

The term in this book refers to obscenity in its context as offensive sexual behavior purported in media. Pruient interest and local standards must be considered in these cases as what one person may consider indecent or inappropriate, another may not. Therefore judges and jury’s must closely asses the facts in cases dealing with obscenity laws.

Law’s meant to prevent the dispersing of this content include child pornography laws, possession of obscene material, indecency and broadcast indecency.

To monitor this material the FCC (federal communications commission) keeps a watchful eye on broadcast television, radio, webpages, and other major media outlets. The commission has the power to incite hefty fines to any company that disobeys their code of standards.

Other methods to restrict obscene material include warning labels on albums, using zoning to restrict adult stores, restriction of public funds for pornographic materials, and dial porn.

Another topic discussed is violence in video games and media, which is also heavily impacted by laws created to prevent indecent exposure.

Memo

 

To: Communications Laws & Ethics Students
From: Isaiah Bradford
Subject: Chapter 9, Reporter’s Privilege

 

Often time’s reporter’s come across sensitive information that could be deemed as valuable to criminal cases. Sometimes these reporters agree to keep a source confidential in exchange for information that will enhance their story.

Reporter’s privilege is the concept that reporters can keep information such as source identity confidential. The idea is that the reporter-source relationship is similar to doctor-patient and lawyer-client relationships.

Unfortunately however, if reporters find themselves in the midst of court cases they can be charged with 1) contempt of court, 2) charged in civil court, or even held on 3) criminal contempt for failing to reveal their sources in the court of law. ,

Judith Miller, a former New York Times reporter, is all too familiar with the pitfalls associated with reporter’s privilege. She was jailed for refusing to reveal the identity of a source in a famous U.S. District Court case.

Journalist are often the subject of subpoenas because of the information they possess in regards to criminal conduct. However such as in the case of Cohen v. Cowels Media CO., a judge ruled that promises of confidentiality must be kept, which has resulted in news companies drawing clear policies that address whether and how source anonymity is granted.

 

 

Memo

 

To: Communications Laws & Ethics Students
From: Isaiah Bradford
Subject: Chapter 8, Newsgathering

 

This chapter discusses how journalist go about collecting information. The majority of this section reveals how journalist gain access to information that is vital to the accuracy of their stories, including but not limited to, documents, records, people, and places where newsworthy information is found.

One important segment mentioned is the rights afforded to journalist by the first amendment. “Shield” and “Sword,” is often referenced as defense used by journalist in the court of law to protect their stories. “Shield” refers to a defense when press is attacked for what it has done. “Sword” refers to a defense journalist sometimes use to protect how this information was obtained.

Negative connotations brought on by the media’s aggressive tactics to gather information was also discussed including legal liabilities such as trespassing, harassment, fraud and misrepresentation,.

Covert recording is also mentioned, or when a conversation is recorded for news media purposes. “Wire” conversations are discussed and the importance of the Wiretap Act, an act meant to help preserve privacy via communication technologies.

Taboo information gathering such as that dealing with the military, student records, medical records, and driver’s information are also discussed. Each of these types of records holds their own significant importance and has certain rights to privacy under US federal law.

 

OWI’s and the Iowa Public Office

 

            On April 15, 2014 the Supreme Court of Iowa received a case regarding the eligibility of an affidavit filed by Anthony Bisignano for the candidacy for Iowa Senate in District 17 with the Iowa Sectary of State. On March 11, Ned Chiodo filed an objection to Bisignano’s affidavit claiming Bisignano was disqualified from holding public office because of an OWI second offense conviction from December of 2013. Choidos objection was denied in March of 2014, leading him to appeal the ruling which finally landed in the Supreme Court of Iowa.
            Chiodo felt her had two strong arguments on his behalf: 1) Attorney General Thomas Miller was required to recuse himself from considering the objection as a part of the three-person panel due to a conflict of interest, and 2) a criminal conviction for an aggravated misdemeanor constitutes an infamous crime, which disqualifies a person with such a conviction from holding office under article II, section 5 of the Iowa Constitution.

            In the motion filed to the Supreme Court of Iowa it states: “We decline to consider Chiodo’s challenge to the Attorney General’s participation on the Panel. In oral argument, Chiodo acknowledged he does not assert this claim to seek a remedy in this case. We thus proceed only to consider Chiodo’s main contention that the Panel’s ruling that OWI, second offense, was not an infamous crime was contrary to the Iowa Constitution.” In laymen’s terms the Supreme Court of Iowa will rule whether or not an OWI is considered an “infamous crime” which by law prohibits a person from being an “eligible elector.”

            By definition of law an “eligible elector” is a person who possesses the qualifications to be a registered voter, which in Iowa is considered a fundamental right because of its “irreducibly vital role in our system of government.” The law also states that while voting is a right, it is not absolute. Both the mentally incompetent and a person convicted of any infamous crime shall not be entitled to the privilege of an elector, according to article II, section 5 of the Iowa Constitution. Unfortunately the founders of the Iowa constitution did not define the phrase “infamous crime” which is why this case has made its way as far as it has in the judicial system.

            The problem is the crime of OWI, second offense, has been classified by Iowa legislature as an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment. However the term “infamous crime” has arisen in several previous Iowa rulings, but holds vast implications and is not easy to articulate an indefinite definition for. The ruling of this case would undoubtedly impact thousands of Iowans right to vote. It is also state within the documentation “This context helps frame both the governmental interest at stake in protecting the integrity of the electoral process and the individual’s vital interest in participating meaningfully in their government.” Therefore not only would Bisignano be unable to run for public office, but Iowans convicted of OWI, second offense, would no longer hold the right to vote.

            It was also noted that some courts have defined “infamous crime” as “affront to democratic governance or the public administration of justice such that there is a reasonable probability that a person convicted of such a crime poses a threat to the integrity of elections,” which make the ruling all the more difficult.

            The Iowa Supreme Court decided that an “infamous crime” must be a crome that is “particularly serious.” It is pointed out that throughout history the courts have separated the seriousness of crimes by felony’s and misdemeanor’s, with felony’s being designated as the more serious of the two.

            It was ultimately ruled that “[an] infamous crime first must be a crime classified as a felony. As a misdemeanor crime, OWI, second offense, is not an “infamous crime” under article II, section 5.” OWI, second offense, in fact has never been considered an infamous crime by the Iowa Legislature. Only crimes deemed as a felony were intended to be considered an “infamous crime” by our founding fathers. All of Chiodo’s claims and arguments were rejected by the courts, which affirmed that Bisignano was is in fact eligible to run for public office.

Snyder V. Phelps Opinion Announcement

 

 

            Justice John G Roberts, Jr. opened the Snyder v. Phelps Opinion Announcement by reviewing the facts of the case. Justice Roberts Jr.  discussed how Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, which Phelps founded, felt that the United States was “over tolerant” of sin and that God killed soldiers as punishment.  And delved into the details surrounding the churches picketing of the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder.

            After Phelps became aware of Synder’s funeral, who died during combat in the Iraq War, the Phelps family decided to head to Maryland and protest down the road from the memorial service. The Westboro Church members followed suit behind their lead, and carried signs with statements like: “God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” “America is Doomed,” “Don’t Pray for the USA,” “Thank God for IEDs,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Pope in Hell,” “Priests Rape Boys,” “God Hates Fags,” “You’re Going to Hell,” and “God Hates You.” The clan began their protest approximately 30 minutes before the funeral procession began, and none of the members entered the church property. No violence was reported although the church members did sing hyms and recite bible verses.

            Although the Phelps family informed Maryland authorities of their plans to picket the Snyder family still filed a suit against them claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and publicity given to private life. The intense circumstances caused the case to go all the way to the US Supreme Court.

            The Snyder family claimed in court they were unable to separate the thought of their dead son from the thoughts of the picketing which eventually caused the father of the deceased severe depression and lead to intensify pre-existing health conditions. Eventually the Snyder family was awarded a 2.1 million judgment, which the Westbrook Church later appealed. The church later claimed in the court of appeals that their “peaceful” protest was protected under the First Amendment. The court of appeals eventually agreed with the Westboro Church, leading the case to the Supreme Court.

            In the Opinion Announcement, Justice Roberts Jr. quoted a ruling from an earlier case involving the First Amendment.

            “There is no threat to the free and robust debate of political issues and there is no potential interference with the meaningful dialogue of these ideas.”

            The Supreme Justices had to decide whether in fact Snyder’s funeral was a private or public concern, which they inevitably decided was public.

            “Well the church’s messages may fall short of refined social or political commentary the issues they highlight, the political and moral conduct of the United States and its citizens,  the faith of our nation, homosexuality in the military and scandals involving the catholic clergy are matters of import. Even if a few of Westboros signs were viewed as containing messages related to Matthew Snyder or the Snyder’s specifically, that wouldn’t not change the fact that the overall thrust and dominant theme of the church’s demonstration spoke to broader public issue,” Justice Robert Jr. ruled.

            The context of the Westboro picketing could not be directly linked to Matthew Snyder, but rather the larger political themes that could be associated with his public standing. The picketers displayed their signs on public land, next to a public street. Mr. Snyder contested that the First Amendment rights of the church should not stand in this case “not only because of the words” but additionally because of their intent to exploit a soldiers funereal and use it as a “platform to bring their message to a broader audience.”

            However the courts had previously concurred in the case of Frisby v. Schultz “we have repeatedly referred to public streets as the archetype of a traditional public forum.” Additionally the courts noted that Mr. Snyder’s emotional distress caused by the picketing could not be totally separated from the sorrow he had already felt in conjunction with the death of his son.

            Even though many found the picketing to be distasteful and claimed it disturbed the peace the courts could not rule in favor of the Snyder family.

            “[But] that does not change the fact that the church was engaged in peaceful picketing addressing matters of public concern on a public street,” Justice Roberts Jr. said in reference to the social disturbance caused by the picketing.

            The case of Snyder v. Phelps demonstrates the power held in the First Amendment. Although the majority of Americans would likely find the views spewed by the Wesboro Baptist Church appalling, and their decision to protest at a fallen soldier’s funeral even more disturbing, the circumstances clearly show that the church had operated well within their First Amendment rights. The ruling can be viewed a loss for those who live by a “politically correct” way of thinking and a win for those who like to push the envelope when it comes to First Amendment rights. Either way the case perfectly represents the thin line between highs and lows associated with the United States justice system. 

Police Ride Along

 

 

                During my ride along with a Cedar Rapids Police Department officer named Ashley on a sunny Thursday afternoon not much occurred. This came as a surprise to me. Seeing as I was born and raised in this city I’ve seen it turn from a family friendly retirement community to a somewhat unsafe place plagued by street violence. However for this one peaceful afternoon, it seemed as if my city once again felt like home for me.
                After sitting in the Cedar Rapids Police Department Police Station for approximately twenty-five minutes waiting to be introduced to the officer I’d be accompanying I began to become impatient. Over the years I’ve grown a distaste for the CRPD as I’ve watched them lock away good people for menial things such as marijuana possession and driving while barred, yet they never seem to solve murders, capture drug kingpins, or stop unfortunate situations involving women and children.
                Finally after waiting sometime I was introduced to Officer Ashley. To my surprise and pleasure this was not our first meeting. I’d come in contact with her several times over the years as she use to “bust” parties I would frequently attend during my high school years.
                We said our hellos, and she gave me some instructions on what would happen in the event a major event went down. We then exited the building and headed toward her police cruiser. It was strange to be in the front seat of a police vehicle. I found the computer, radio, and dozens of little nobs fascinating and immediately asked her what each one was.
                “As long as you know how to search a person on the computer, and work the radio to call back-up you will be fine,” she told me.
                Initially I had been worried about doing the police ride along in my hometown out of fear that my peers would see me and draw incorrect conclusions as to why I was riding in the front seat. Thankfully however she was scheduled to patrol the northwest side of town which has practically been abandoned since the flood of 2008.
                We discussed our past history, and laughed about the troubles high school kids would get into. She told me that we were actually a highlight of her early days on the police force because although we were disobeying the law by drinking underage she knew we were good kids, just letting loose like so many our age do.
                We drove up and down the streets of the NW side until about 30 minutes in she received a radio message informing her of a collision on Ellis Boulevard. She turned on the police lights, but left the sirens off.
                “We use the sirens for more serious situations, since this is a minor traffic accident there is no need for us to slow down traffic by turning on the sirens,” Ashley informed me.
                When we arrived at the scene we found a 17 year old girl had crashed her 2001 Cavalier into the back of a mid-40’s man’s 2011 Chevy Impala. The girl was in tears, and profusely apologizing to both Ashley and the man whose car she had rear-ended. Ashley was comforting to her and told her that this was a common occurrence among young drivers. The man seemed irritated that his car had been damaged (his back bumper had been hanging and one of his tail lights had been busted,) but he too was consoling to the girl.
                “It’s not a big deal. The insurance will pay for it and everything will be fine,” he told the teenager in an effort to calm her down.
                Finally after about 10 minutes the young girl’s father had arrived on the scene. He was initially furious upon exiting his own vehicle but after assessing the damage calmed down. I over heaerd him somewhat chastising his daughter saying things like “you’re really going to have to get a job now,” and “you’re lucky his (the man who had been rear-ended) car isn’t as bad as I thought or I really would have been pissed.”
                Eventually a tow truck came to take the Cavalier away. The man in the Impala removed his bumper and went one his way after insurance information had been exchanged and all was made right.
                Ashley and I went back to the car, where we both felt sorry for the girl. We took turns discussing our early driving years and the mistakes and minor accidents we ourselves had gotten into, which we shared a laugh over.
                “Kids don’t pay as much attention to the road as they should. Their always texting, changing the music, or doing god knows what else and don’t realize how important it is to fully concentrate on the road until it’s too late,” the officer said.
                We rode around for about another 20 minutes when Ashley was instructed by the radio that there was some suspicious activity reported at an abandoned house not too far away. She turned on the police lights and sirens this time and we arrived at the residence approximately 6 minutes later.
                Ashley instructed me to stay in the vehicle as the unknown circumstances could be something dangerous. She met with two other officers from another vehicle and they approached the house. Eventually it was determined that some teens had been spray painting the inside of the home, but they were nowhere to be found. Ashley came back to the car and informed me of what they thought had happened. I was somewhat let down as my racing mind had lead me to think a possible  meth bust was going to happen as this area was notorious for drug activity.
                I rode with the female officer for another 20 minutes and discussed how the city of Cedar Rapids was quickly becoming a second Chicago, fueled by guns, murder, and drugs. I pressed her for information regarding a close friend of mine who was murdered in March but received no information about the “on-going” investigation.
 She then drove me back to the police station as I had family obligations to take care of.
                All in all I found the experience eye opening. The CRPD work each day to keep the streets as safe as they can, however their efforts fall short. Although Ashley in particular is one of the, in my opinion, few friendly officers on the squad, none of them as far as I am aware have the experience to deal with a city deteriorating as fast as Cedar Rapids. I believe that the city needs to recruit veterans from larger, more established squads from around the United States to really make a dent in the rising crime rates of my hometown. I do however sympathize with the squad because they are trying their best, however sometimes giving your best isn’t always good enough.