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   Instructor: Margaret Diamond                 

  College of Communications                                724-942-2324   

  Carnegie Building                    


COMM 403 Communications Law


Spring 2012


Course Objectives:

At the end of this course students will have an understanding of:

·        The basic structure of the U.S. Legal system

·        Legal Analysis and Judicial Decision-making

·        The First Amendment Constitutional protections afforded to every citizen

·        How First Amendment applies to the press and other forms of media

·        Understand the inherent tensions between Defamation, Libel and Privacy and Copyright law and First Amendment protections.



·        Don R. Pember and Clay Calvert, Mass Media Law McGraw Hill 17th edition

·        Other readings to be assigned by the instructor will be handed out in class, posted in Angel, or available on the internet.




There will be four (4) scheduled exams in this course worth 15% each. Exams may be in multiple choice, short answer, short essay and true and false formats. The exams will include questions on all lectures and all reading assignments for that exam, with the exception of the final examination which will be a cumulative exam of all the course material for the semester. The last exam will occur in the final exam week. Absolutely NO make-up exams will be given without prior approval AND documentation of a medical excuse or other personal emergency.  Make-up exams must be taken within 72 hours.  


There will be four (4) assignments (three individual and one group assignments). These assignments may consist of briefing and presenting important legal cases, legal research and/or written analysis of legal issues in the area of communications law. Each assignment is worth 10% of your grade. All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date which they are due. See class schedule below.


Attendance: Attendance is not mandatory, however, you are responsible for obtaining class notes for any class you miss. Additionally, if an assignment is due on a day which you are absent, that assignment will not be accepted late and will result in an F for the assignment.


Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly and creative activity in an open, honest and responsible manner, free from fraud and deception, and is an educational objective of the College of Communications and the university. Cheating, including plagiarism, falsification of research data, using the same assignment for more than one class, turning in someone else's work, or passively allowing others to copy your work, will result in academic penalties at the discretion of

the instructor, and may result in the grade of "XF' (failed for academic dishonesty) being

put on your permanent transcript. In serious cases it could also result in suspension or

dismissal from the university. As students studying communication, you should

understand and avoid plagiarism (presenting the work of others as your own). A

discussion of plagiarism, with examples, can be found at: The rules and policies regarding academic

integrity should be reviewed by every student, and can be found online at: , and in the College of Communications

document, "Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures." Any student with a question

about academic integrity or plagiarism is strongly encouraged to discuss it with his or

her instructor.


Note to Students with Disabilities: Penn State welcomes students with

disabilities into the University's educational programs. If you have a disability-related

need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, contact the Office for

Disability Services, ODS located in room 116 Boucke Building at 814-863-1807(V/TTY).

For further information regarding ODS, please visit its website at Instructors should be notified as early in the semester as

possible regarding the need for reasonable academic adjustments.


Comm 403 Class Schedule (subject to change!!)

Date                     Topic                                                          Reading for Class

Jan 10                  Introduction                                    

Jan 12                  Theories of Free Speech                           Handouts

Jan 17                  U.S. Legal System                            Chapter 1

Jan 19                  U.S. Legal System

Jan 24                  Reading and Briefing Cases           Handouts

Jan 26                   First Amendment Analysis              Chapter 2

Jan 31                  Schools and Prior Restraints           Chapter 3

Feb 2                    Explanation 1st Assignment Brief NY Times v. Sullivan


Feb 7                    IN CLASS REVIEW FOR EXAM ONE

Assignment # 1 Due                                         (10 pts)

Feb 9                             EXAM ONE – CHAPTERS 1, 2 AND 3    (15 pts)

Feb 14                  Libel                                                 Chapter 4  

Feb 16                  Libel                                                 Chapter 5

Feb 21                  Libel

Feb 23                  Libel                                                 Chapter 6        

Feb 28                  IN CLASS REVIEW FOR EXAM TWO

                             Assignment # 2 Due                                            (10 pts)       

Mar 2                            EXAM TWO –CHAPTERS 4, 5 AND 6   (15 pts)


Mar 7                   SPRING  BREAK

Mar 9                   HAVE FUN! BE CAREFUL!            


Mar 14                 Theories of Privacy                          Chapter 8  

Mar 16                 Intrusion, Trespass, Appropriation Chapter 7           

Mar 21                 Information Gathering                     Chapter 9,10

Mar 23                 Free Press and Fair Trial                Chapter 11


Mar 28                 Free Press and Fair Trial                Chapter 12

Assignment # 3 (Group Presentations) Due            (10 pts) 

Mar 30                 IN CLASS REVIEW FOR EXAM THREE 

Apr 4                             EXAM THREE- CHAPTERS 7, 8, 9,10,11,12 (15 pts)

Apr 6                    Communications Law and Changing Technology

Apr 11                  Copyright                                           Chapter 14

Apr 13                  Assignment # 4  Due                                              (10 pts)   

Apr 18                  Special Guest Speaker

Apr 20                  IN CLASS REVIEW FOR EXAM FOUR     

Apr 25

Apr 27

May 2                      EXAM FOUR -CUMULATIVE EXAM    (15 pts)



During the semester you may find yourself in need of assistance with this or your other classes, personal issues, or even to get class notes from a classmate in the event you are absent.   Keep the name and numbers of a classmate or two here:

________________________                             ___________________________

________________________                             ___________________________

Other numbers that may be useful to you are listed below. One of the advantages of attending a large university like Penn State is the vast array of resources available at no cost (FREE!) to students. Take advantage of them!  For a complete list of services, go to:



If you are having issues such as stress, depression, Personal /Family issues, Writing difficulties,  Academic difficulties and disabilities, such as learning disabilities, you may want to call:




CAPS-Center for Counseling & Psychological Services


863-0395     221 Ritenour




The Writing Center 865-1841    219 Boucke




Learning Skills Consultants  865-1841    220 Boucke


Office for Disability Services           863-1807    105 Boucke