JOU 6708 / Fall

Think digitally about communications law in a changing online environment and conduct a systematic ethical exploration of major issues.

This course will help students “think digitally” about communications law in a constantly changing online environment. It will help them to create new knowledge in the field.

The course also leads students through a systematic ethical exploration of major issues in online mass communication in the following areas: investigation, including privacy; data collection, including copyright and copyleft; presentation, including identity, accuracy, and sponsorship. Philosophical topics covered include application of ethical theory, sytematic moral analysis, blameworthy and praiseworthiness, deception, and role-related responsibilities. Students will also articulate standards and conventions to use in the development of Codes of Ethics.


  • Learn and appreciate of the history and evolution of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, with focus on digital era
  • Navigate the statutes, regulations and court precedent pertaining to: access to public records and meetings; defamation; invasion of privacy; copyright infringement; contempt; and other challenges to newsgathering and publication, including as related to digital and online issues
  • Interpret and integrate various components of the law through online assignments and legal research
  • Understand rights and responsibilities of communicators under the First Amendment both traditionally and in light of digital and online technologies
  • Develop the ability to engage in critical thinking through (1) reading, understanding and analyzing law-related real-life problems and case studies and (2) conducting original legal research
  • Articulate the need for ethical process
  • Notice ethical issues in situations
  • Use a decision-making process that addresses ethically-relevant aspects of online communication
  • Develop a code of ethics that addresses the unique venue in which each student operates


  • General principles of free expression in the digital era
  • Landmark decisions shaping communications law in the digital era
  • Defamation in the digital era
  • Invasion of privacy in the digital era
  • Emotional, physical or financial injury in the digital era
  • Federal, state and local law and regulations in the digital era
  • Copyright, trademark in the digital era
  • Advertising in the digital era
  • Media business law in the digital era
  • Ethical theory as applicable to online mass communication
  • Role-related responsibilities for communicators and recipients
  • Codes of ethics
  • Privacy
  • Systematic moral analysis
  • Copyright and intellectual property
  • Sourcing
  • Pornography
  • Violence
  • Deception
  • Justice
  • Multi-culturalism and diversity