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A review of Ursula Smartt's Media & Entertainment Law, 3rd Edition


An appreciation by Elizabeth Robson Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers and Phillip Taylor MBE, Head of Chambers and Reviews Editor, “The Barrister”

It is not surprising that this thorough and thoroughly informative and entertaining legal text has now gone through three editions since the first one came out in 2011. In this relatively short space of time, the Internet has become the major media influence; ubiquitous, influential, international, almost universally accessible and unlike other media, almost completely unregulated.

‘Internet law,’ says author Ursula Smart, ‘is covered to a much greater extent in this (new third) edition with a stronger focus on “regulators” of the media, communications and advertising industries.’ And – as Sir Keir Starmer QC, MP comments in the foreword --- ‘the way we communicate has changed profoundly in the last decade… social media provides a new worldwide platform for everyone.’

Referring further to that massive sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut called the Leveson Inquiry, Starmer declares that it ‘shone a bright torch on murky practices,’ specifically in the British press. Not as ‘murky’, one might add, as the lamentably irresponsible attitude on the part of what the same press has called the ‘Internet giants’ (we know who they are) ‘with blood on their hands’. Following a spate of terrorist atrocities in London, this is fair comment when – in the name of free speech -- said internet giants consistently dream up inventive excuses for not taking down user-generated content which variously features hate campaigns, bomb-making instructions, death threats, graphic images of child abuse and a long list of other horrors.

As the author puts it, ‘online communication is no longer constrained by legal boundaries.’ The book’s second and third chapters, for example, provide learned and informed comment on, respectively, media freedom and freedom of expression followed by an examination of technology and the media. The key questions cited are: ‘how if at all, can social media be regulated in cyber space… and how far can freedom of expression be permitted on the internet?’

An interesting irony emerges here. From print to film and broadcast, the older media, including advertising, must necessarily abide by various forms and degrees of regulation, employing legal advisers – night lawyers and so forth – to help them do it. The internet, comparatively speaking, isn’t regulated at all.

The book addresses these and a host of other issues pertaining to media law, from regulatory authorities, to confidentiality and privacy, to defamation, intellectual property, entertainment law and much, much more.

Published by Routledge, the book is aimed primarily at students, although its erudition and clarity of presentation, should attract a much wider readership. Each chapter contains key points, an overview and a section on recommended further reading. Key principles throughout are amply supported by reference to legislation and relevant cases, including a lot of famous ones involving celebrities.

Also note the tables of cases, legislation, international instruments and treaties -- and thank goodness, there’s detailed glossary of acronyms and legal terms.

A dynamic and fast-moving area of law this, which means that this important and certainly readable book should inevitably attract the interest of media lawyers, not to mention dare we say, a motley throng of advertising folk and journalists.

The publication date is cited as at 2017.

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Media & Entertainment Law: 3rd Edition (Paperback) book cover