Media and entertainment law

THE CONCEPT OF MEDIA LAW

Media law is a legal domain that governs broadcasting, advertising, telecommunications, the media aspect of information technologies, entertainment, gaming, the film industry, print and online media services, as well as issues of censorship, freedom of speech, press freedom, media ethics, compensation for damages caused by media, regulation of vertical and horizontal ownership concentration in media, and more.

Originally, this branch of law was confined to print media and later expanded to radio and television. As the concept of media has evolved and new platforms and services for content distribution have emerged, media law has also expanded to regulate the digital industry.

The legal framework that dictates how media content is produced and broadcast, and the rights and obligations arising from the activities of media industry players, has a singular goal—to protect the public interest. The public has the right (and civic duty) to be timely and truthfully informed about the political, cultural, and social situations in a specific territory.

In the Republic of Serbia, there are several so-called media laws that cover this legal area. Looking specifically at media law, the general law is undoubtedly the Law on Public Information and Media. However, laws that more detailedly and completely regulate certain media spheres include the Law on Electronic Communications, the Law on Electronic Media, the Law on Advertising, etc. Media law also overlaps with the Law on Copyright and Related Rights.

PROTECTION OF PRIVACY RIGHTS AND MEDIA

One of the most relative issues in the context of media and human rights is where the right to freedom of media reporting and freedom of speech ends and the protection of an individual’s privacy begins. Specifically, at what point does the interest of the individual outweigh the public interest.

Although the Law on Public Information and Media has quite precisely defined in which cases it is permissible to exploit someone’s privacy, many legal situations that occur daily in practice are still open to interpretation. This is particularly true when it involves public figures or government and political officials. Therefore, it is necessary in each specific case to draw a line between an individual’s private and professional life, which is more or less relative depending on the personality and public interest.

MEDIA FREEDOMS

Today, media balance between various interests and freedoms.

On one hand, they must find a way to ensure freedom of expression and publishing within the law without violating legal regulations, and on the other hand, they must enable timely and truthful information.

Media actually operate between three zones of interest: the state and political interest structures, ownership capital interests, and the public. Between commerce and democracy.

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY

Until the advent of the moving assembly lines in the early twentieth century, the creation and display of entertainment content was not an industry but merely a way to entertain a small number of people locally and temporarily. Film introduced the possibility of visually recording and broadcasting any form of entertainment an unlimited number of times, making it accessible to a large number of people, regardless of their location in the world. The entertainment industry expanded, attracting more labor and money. With the mass production of content, there arose a need for regulatory frameworks for conducting these businesses, and practice required the engagement of legal experts who specialized in this specific legal area over time. Although formally a part of media law, entertainment law deserves to be listed among separate legal areas due to the entertainment industry’s share in the global GDP and its significance and level of development, practically and theoretically, in certain countries, such as the USA.

MEDIA LAW AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Media law also intertwines with the branch of law that regulates copyright and intellectual property concerning the infringements and protection of original intellectual creations by the media. With the advent of the internet, especially social networks, we have come to a situation where copyright rights are massively violated, and internet content consumers are often unaware of it. High technology that allows easy exchange and sharing of electronic files with copyrighted content in a fraction of a second causes enormous damage daily to the media, music, TV, and film industries. Therefore, the violation of these rights extends to the media domain, not just copyright in the narrow sense.

MEDIA, COMPETITION PROTECTION, AND BROADCASTING

In many countries, the issue of media independence and ownership is part of the laws regulating competition protection, so we often have cases where issues of media monopolies and competition laws are regulated concurrently. As is the case in the Republic of Serbia.

The issue of broadcasting, also part of this branch of law, is very important for ensuring free public information and preventing interference by political and interest structures in shaping public opinion.

Therefore, it is necessary to ensure not only the prohibition of monopolies in the horizontal sense when it comes to media ownership but also to prevent the merging of interests between media owners and content distribution companies.

ADVERTISING LAW

The Law on Advertising is also part of the set of media laws, which aim to facilitate the unhindered implementation of the public interest. Banning the promotion of proven harmful products and limiting the age groups that can be targeted as clients is one way to prevent adverse effects of advertisements on individuals, i.e., misleading the audience regarding the properties and prices of products or services.

RESPONSIBILITY FOR DAMAGES CAUSED BY MEDIA OWNERS AND EDITORS

The Law on Public Information and Media, along with certain provisions of the Law on Obligations, prescribes the conditions for compensation for damages caused by media activities. As media in the Republic of Serbia do not have the status of a legal entity, the publisher is objectively responsible for all damage caused by unlawful publishing of information. Unlike the publisher, the responsible editor and content author are liable based on the principle of subjective responsibility, i.e., only in cases of proven fault on their part.

The law precisely regulates the framework within which an editor must operate to avoid violating someone’s subjective rights, including the duty to verify information with due journalistic diligence and to contact the person who is the subject of the information.

The same law also regulates the right to respond – to deny and correct information.

TRUE vs. FAKE NEWS

The emergence of platforms that offer every natural and legal person the opportunity to broadcast content and perform the function of media in an informal sense, as well as the ease of transferring and exchanging such content, has led to the massive occurrence of so-called fake news, which have flooded social networks in recent years.

At the same time, the public is divided on the issue of fake news. Some advocate banning them due to the risk of misleading the public and the danger of making wrong decisions that can manifest in acts or omissions of acts, which may endanger valuable property or even human life or health.

On the other hand, are champions of internet freedom who oppose any kind of restrictions online, even the suspension of such news, which for them is precisely a form of freedom of speech and opinion.

If fake news is disseminated with the intent of entertainment, comedy, and satire and is clearly such, this content is not controversial. Neither from the angle of legal regulation nor the public. However, when based on reading fake news, you cannot confidently assess whether the described event is real or fictional, that can be a problem or a topic for further discussion and opinion exchange within the internet community.

COMPARATIVE MEDIA LAW

Among the first legal systems to implement media freedoms into their legislation were the United States and the developed Western European nation-states of the nineteenth century.

The famous American First Amendment is synonymous with media and speech freedom, from which all precedent cases in the Common Law system of media and communication laws in the United States have originated. The regulatory body for media in the USA was first established with the passing of the Communications Act in 1934, when the Federal Communications Commission was formed. Telecommunications were regulated by a separate act only in 1996.

In Europe, starting with the French Revolution, many countries implemented freedom of speech as an integral part of their constitutional acts, and by the end of the century, they began enacting specific laws that regulated and guaranteed freedom of the press. Today, the European Audiovisual Observatory, established in 1992, ensures the implementation of the Council of Europe’s regulations.

In both the EU and the USA, capital plays a significant role, and almost all major media, excluding public services where they exist, are privately owned without direct state interference. However, in some parts of the EU, such as the Scandinavian countries, there is a strong state influence on media services through regulatory institutions and ownership, but due to a highly developed level of democratic awareness, media freedoms, according to competent research, are not at all endangered.

From international institutions in this field, there is also the Committee on Media Law and the Association of Media Lawyers, the Center for Communication and Media Studies, the Institute for Freedom of Speech and Mass Media, and many others.

MEDIA LAWYER AND MEDIA LEGAL REPRESENTATION

There are two types of media legal representation, just as there are in many other areas of law.

Representation in legal disputes, which involves offensive and defensive legal actions (responses to lawsuits from others, filing claims, initiating proceedings in case a client’s rights are suspected to be violated, cooperation with the state and procedures in case of law violations, etc.), and transactional or business representation with an emphasis on facilitating business agreements, negotiating, strategizing, and concluding contracts (production deals, dealing with talents and finances, protection of trademarks, copyrights, etc.), aimed at laying good foundations for future business and avoiding future problems. Given the delicacy of the subject matter of disputes or business, media legal representation requires strict adherence to laws, good business practices, and the confidentiality of clients’ business secrets.

Media law is a diverse area that covers everything from television, music, theater, radio, print media, multimedia, advertising and more, and stretches over various legal fields, including but not limited to corporate, finance, intellectual propertypublicity and privacy.

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