Section 2 – Ethical and Legal Constraints

Introduction

In the creative media industry, producers of media are not as free to make what they like as it may seem. There are constraints on what is allowed to be produced, and laws put in place to ensure all content is politically correct. This can fall into two categories, legal and ethical.

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Ethics are the moral principles that we all have that govern us on how we behave or conduct an activity. For example, an ethic may be ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’. This ethic implies that when we communicate with others we give them the amount of respect we wish for in return. This is an ethic because it tells us how to behave morally.

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Legal constraints are where a company, group or person considers what laws could potentially affect them and whether or not they are breaking these laws. For example, a person may consider speeding on a road but then decide against it because it is illegal and it would be a breakage of the law.

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Ethical Considerations

When a company produces material, there are several ethical considerations they have to consider before deciding if they can include or produce it. If they don’t they can get into a huge amount of trouble with the government and also the public, which looks very bad on your company.

Plagiarism

One ethical consideration a media company has to consider is plagiarism. Plagiarism is when a person, group or company takes the work or ideas of somebody else knowingly, produces it and then makes the content out to be their own. One example of this is when a Russian screenwriter claimed that the award winning film The Martian was plagiarised from his original idea. He claimed 50 million in damages over the issue. This was bad because if the screenwriter didn’t call the company out, he would have lost his idea to them and no credibility would have gone to him, even though it was that writer who came up with the story. So if you’re a media company coming up with a story – make sure its all yours!

Plagiarism

Bias

Another ethical consideration that a media company must consider is bias. Bias is when a company is very one sided with a particular view or stance. They will be prejudiced and lack an open minded perspective and don’t show stories in all due light. This leads to an unfair story and famous figures being unhappy with their representation. By extension, this can lead to a famous person suing the company for unfair representation and the company loses value and profit, and also if the company is biased the public may deem them as unreliable leading to less value and audience figures. One example of bias is Fox News- this channel is particularly biased towards politics. They are very right wing and favour Donald Trump, but they were biased against the left wing when Barack Obama was in power. An example of when they have been biased was with a news web report that encouraged the idea that Obama was un-American and un-Christian because he didn’t release an Easter proclamation that year, despite having mentioned resurrection in a public speaking previously. This lead to this channel gaining a negative reputation and most people do not rely on this channel anymore for politically correct information, and in general the company is looked down upon. So, if you want your company to flourish and have good value, keep your stories fair and show all necessary sides!

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Guidelines (BBC)

In addition to this, another ethical consideration a company needs to take into account is company guidelines. In particular, the BBC have a strict set of guidelines of which they must follow. There are certain things they can and cannot broadcast, and they must not mislead their audience. The reason why this company in particular are so strict is because they are a public service broadcaster, meaning the public pays for the content and it must be up to a good, fair, and ethical standard. If they are caught misleading their audience however, they can get into serious trouble. One reason instance of this was in their widely appreciated show Planet Earth in which they show the wonders of nature. In one episode where an iguana is being chased by a snake, claims have been made to say that the BBC shot two different iguanas and showed it to look like the iguana got away from the snake, even though it apparently did not. This caused upset as it was deemed as unethical and it was also a breakage of their guideline to not mislead their audience. So, if you’re going to create a company – follow your guidelines!

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Legal Considerations

When a company produces material, they must take several legal considerations into account before producing and releasing it. If they do not, serious consequences could follow and a company could get in trouble with the law which is extremely bad on your company.

Defamation Act 2013

One legal consideration to make is the Defamation Act 2013. Defamation is when someone is accused falsely and this accusation causes that person harm. In the context of media, this is when the media slanders a person, usually a celebrity, and makes accusations or assumptions that harm that celebrity. If the defamation is spoken, it is slander defamation, and if it is a picture or words, it is libel defamation. The Defamation Act 2013 was a legal law put in place to reform media expression with the aim of protecting the rights of celebrities and making sure that content spread is fair and not derogatory. A case where this has gone wrong is with the Sun newspaper in 2013. The newspaper made libel accusations against Russell Brand and accused him of cheating on his girlfriend with a model, which he proved he did not. The comedian won the case and claimed a large sum of money in damages. The Sun suffered from this because this showed their company in a negative and unreliable light. So, when writing a story, keep all facts true!

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Copyright

Another legal consideration to consider is copyright. Copyright is similar to plagiarism, but falls into the legal side of regulations instead of ethical, and is also related to the ownership of a product rather than the ethical issue of stealing it. Copyright is a right that is exclusive to the original owner of a product that protects them from having their hard work stolen and claimed by someone else. It lasts for a fixed number of years which is dependent on what sort of media it is – the amount of years a movie gets is different to the amount of years a book gets under the protection of copyright. If a piece of work breaches copyright and is stolen from another, the person, group or company can face serious consequences in court. One issue in the past of copyright was with Vanilla Ice and David Bowie and Queen. The song Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice featured the exact same tune throughout as the tune from Under Pressure by David Bowie and Queen. The issue here was that Vanilla Ice used it in his own material and did not ask David Bowie and Queen for permission to use it, so the work was stolen and Vanilla Ice got into massive trouble with the original artists. He ended up making zero legal profit on the song as the main chunk of content was not his. So – if you want to produce something, firstly make sure the content is all yours and not stolen, secondly if you want to sample other work ask for permission, and lastly make sure your work is protected by copyright!

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Privacy Law

In addition to these, another legal consideration a company must consider before producing content is privacy law. Privacy law is a legal protection for individuals that protects their privacy and manages what and how a company, government or organisation collects information and what they use it for. This is so that individuals are safe from exposure and have the right to only say and share what they feel comfortable with. Otherwise without these laws, any company could ask any person what they like and use whatever information they find without the permission of the person which could lead to harm to that person. A case of where the privacy law came in was with a young singer named Charlotte Church. The newspaper company News of the World sought after her voice mails, private messages, and even medical history through hacking which was the cause of 33 articles in the newspaper. They also coerced her into giving an in depth interview regarding her mental health, which she felt forced to agree on and the company seemed to have no regard for her privacy. Because of this, the singer felt severely invaded and she and her family took the case to court. The company were made to apologise for the severe act of privacy invasion which was further published and £600, 000 was fined for the damage done by the company. So make sure to know your boundaries as a company!

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Obscene Publications Act 1959

The last legal consideration a company must consider is the Obscene Publications Act 1959. An obscene publication is a publication in the media that is deemed obscene and inappropriate. This refers to content that is graphic, such as violence, gore, sexualised content, or any other form of upsetting content. The Obscene Publications Act 1959 is a British law put in place to restrict obscenity and create a fish net for obscene publications, so that anything deemed outrageously offensive cannot be distributed in the UK. An example of a case where this law was breached was in the 80s, where there was an epidemic of what was known as ‘the video nasties’. The video nasties where a large assortment of video cassettes that were unregulated, uncertified and obscene that were released widely to the public without restriction. They were vastly distasteful and largely inappropriate for children, but they were uncertified or regulated so everyone had access to this distressful content. A campaign broke out led by Mary Whitehouse to identify and ban these films, and a total of 72 were brought to the attention of the British Board of Film Classification. These films were prosecuted and a new act came in to reinforce these rules which was the Video Recordings Act 1984. So when producing content, make sure to restrict it to where it fits – and don’t go too wild with the fake blood!

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Ethics and Legality in My Own Work

In my own work, if it were to be published it may possibly face some potential ethical and legal issues. Because my work is at student level and is not public, there are no real issues. However, if it were to be publicly published, I would have to consult some professionals for rights and permissions. One ethical issue in my work is plagiarism. For my advertisement unit, I used the theme of Red Riding Hood in my unit. Fortunately the character and story of Red Riding Hood is in public domain so it does no longer belong to a person or company, but if it were not I would need the rights and permissions from the owner to use it. A legal issue that could potentially affect my work is copyright. In my advert, I use the song  Half the World Away by Aurora. If I wanted to publicly use my advert (it is set to private mode on YouTube so copyright isn’t an issue), I would have to gain the rights and permissions from the artist in order to use it.

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