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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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« Is the FCC the Appropriate Agency to Regulate Speech? | Main | Virtual Drugs in Virtual Worlds »

May 24, 2004

Disney and the Pope in Agreement: Free Speech Too Dangerous

Posted by Ernest Miller

Jeff Jarvis reports two fairly depressing news items today about major cultural forces supporting increased regulation of free speech (The Daily Stern: 24 May 2004).

Multichannel News has truly disturbing information about Disney - they are supporting the application of indecency regulation to cable (Disney’s In Indecency Mix). Along with Jeff (and FCC Chairman Michael Powell before the pod people got him), I agree that it is a constitutional travesty that broadcast has fewer First Amendment protections than other media. Still, the loophole that allows regulation of broadcast wouldn't seem to apply to cable and satellite, but who knows?

As a copyfighter I sometimes joke about how Disney is evil. This time it isn't a joke. The Disney corporation is acting evilly in supporting further government regulation of media indecency.

The other cultural force supporting media regulation is the Pope, according to this report in the Scotsman (Pope Calls for Regulation of Media):

“It’s a task that likewise involves public institutions, called upon to enact regulatory procedures aimed at ensuring that the means of social communication are always respectful of the truth and of the common good,” the pontiff said.

Why am I not surprised? And who will decide what the common good is? The Church, which has such an unblemished record?

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Freedom of Expression


1. cypherpunk on May 24, 2004 11:10 PM writes...

The article makes it appear that Disney's position is merely a tactical ploy to fight off the unbundling legislation, which would hurt its position as one of the major cable conglomerates. Apparently they hope to muddy the waters suffiicently to prevent any of the reforms from passing.

But as far as cable legislation, what about the V chip? Isn't that already present in a substantial majority of homes? I've been seeing commercials in the past few months encouraging people to use the chip.

What would you think of legislation fining stations for going outside their V chip boundaries? I.e. if they label a show as safe for children, and then a wardrobe malfunction occurs, they could be held liable?

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2. Ernest Miller on May 24, 2004 11:42 PM writes...

Government enforcement of the voluntary television ratings would raise even more First Amendment issues than the indecency regulations do.

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3. cypherpunk on May 25, 2004 04:03 AM writes...

Nobody forces a TV station to plant a TV-G rating on a show. But if it does, how is holding it to its claim different from holding other commercial enterprises to their own claims?

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4. Ernest Miller on May 25, 2004 08:37 PM writes...

Television didn't have ratings for decades. They implemented the "voluntary" ratings under threat of regulation by Congress.

In any case, suing because you believe the ratings were inappropriate would also be problematic. True, you might win a case where harcore porn was rated as suitable for all children, but other cases would be much more difficult. Courts will not easily hold content producers liable for such violations. Most likely the ratings organization would sanction the poor rater or remove permission for them to use the rating scheme, which is a service mark.

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