Legal Issues PP

Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
Taking Issue
legal considerations
for student publications
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
• Prior to 1988 was the “Tinker Decision” which defined student
press rights
– 1969: Supreme Court ruled that First Amendment Rights
didn’t stop at schoolhouse gate
– Administration can restrict freedom of expression if it
disrupts class work
– Gave administration rights to prior review
• Prior review vs. prior restraint
– Review = chance to examine & request changes
from editors/adviser
– Restraint = right to final control over content
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
• In January of 1988 the Hazelwood decision was passed: Administrators
gain “editorial control” & prior restraint over such things as school
publications & theater productions that are considered unsuitable
– Ungrammatical, poorly written, inadequately researched, prejudiced,
vulgar, profane, sexual activity, advocating drug or alcohol abuse
• Defines administrator as publisher over “school-sponsored” forums
since considered part of curriculum
• Limitations to “Hazelwood”
– Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, &
Oregon enacted laws counteracting decision
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
• Plan, prepare, & practice: the best advocates to protection
– Hazelwood does not require administrators to censor but
gives them the right to take action
– The Journalism Education Association (JEA) suggests
adherence to highest standard of journalism & ethics
– Create/understand written policy to avoid conflict &
confrontation including prior review & prior restraint
– Consider crafting a code of ethics with your staff
– Communicate with administrators to establish reputation of
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
Legal Terms
• Illegal Freedoms of Expression
– Libel = false printed statement attacking person’s
• 4 elements of libel
– publication (web site is/personal note is not)
– identification (easily recognized; not necessarily
– injury (damages reputation)
– fault (reckless disregard of the truth/not adequately
verifying story content)
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
Legal Terms
• Illegal Freedoms of Expression
– Invasion of Privacy = right to keep comments & activities private
• 5 elements of Invasion of Privacy
– intrusion (unwelcome entry into private area – halls, street =
public area; locker rooms, restrooms, private homes =
– right of publicity (unauthorized use of someone’s name)
– false light (true information but presented to imply something
– private, embarrassing info (school reports & medical records
are private & privileged)
– Obscenity = anything community standards deems sexually
arousing & offensive; lacks literary, artistic, political or scientific merit
• School-sponsored publications typically have higher/more
conservative standards
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
• Plan, prepare & practice
– Libel involves statement of fact not opinion
– Humor is no defense for libel
– Classrooms are deemed public if photographer given right to
photograph from school official
– Quoting without consent can be invasion of privacy
– Gain written permission to reprint material
– Quoting third party or minor can be invasion of privacy without proper
– Obtain model release forms for any advertising purposes to
avoid right of publicity violation
– Superlatives & gag captions can be libelous
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
• Controls use of intellectual property
• Covers: literature, music, lyrics, plays, choreography, pictures,
photos, art, graphics, movies, audio/visual works
• Does not cover: titles, phrases, procedures, processes, systems,
work of U.S. government
• Fair Use = portions of work not in Public Domain
• Public Domain = work whose copyright has expired
– author’s work: 70 years after death
– works for hire: 95 years after date of first publication
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
• Word, name, symbol, device or combination of used to
identify a product
• Cannot be used for any commercial purposes
• Any use of trademark that confuses original quality,
representation, affiliation or sponsorship & dilutes/tarnishes
image of mark considered in violation
• Cannot use “themes” or “phrases” from commercial products
to sell yearbook or as a theme without written permission
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
• Clearly define the roles of student editors, staff, adviser,
administration & student body
• Consider reviewing or creating:
– Editorial policy
– Code of Ethics
– Open forum format
– Obituary policy
– Advertising policy
– Student photo policy
– Book sales policy
– Correction policy
– Equipment use policy
Curriculum ~
Legal Issues
Resources for More Info
• Student Press Law Center –
• Journalism Education Association –
• National Scholastic Press Association –