State Legislators in CT get involved in trying to save local newspapers

26 11 2008

I have quietly joked to myself that newspapers should be getting some of this bailout money. But of course it would not be a great idea to get the government involved in the management of newspapers. Apparently not everyone thinks so.,0,5924974.story

In general I think it is healthier for newspapers to find a way to survive than to be under the thumb of government. But it is also critically important to a local community to have local news. It will be interesting to see how this develops and how the journalism industry responds to this.


Today is Vest-Day

24 11 2008

Just a reminder. Today is the day you need to start wearing your safety vests while shooting pictures on “federal-aid” roadways (basically any big road).

Read More Here

Multimedia in the Courtroom

13 11 2008

The news industry knows the impact of multimedia presentations. So do prosecutors and district attorneys.

One controversy brewing in the legal industry is the use of multimedia presentations during the penalty phase of a trial. Typically, in a murder case, those who knew the victim can talk about that person, so that the jury gets a sense of the loss to society before they decide the penalty. Often, they will also show pictures and in some cases, a slide show or multimedia presentation.

Such was the case in Kelly v. California. Douglas Kelly was convicted of killing a 19-year-old woman, Sara Weir. During the penalty phase, a 20-minute multimedia presentation was played, showing pictures and video of the victim throughout her life, set to music by Enya, with her mother’s voice narrating. The defendant got the death penalty. His attorneys appealed, claiming that the videotape was unduly emotional.

Sometimes such multimedia presentations as evidence is not permitted, and the California Supreme Court mentioned cases where they have excluded such presentations. Those exclusions were because the videotapes were irrelevant, and in one case involved a paid actor.

picture-2But the videotape in Kelly was ruled to be acceptable by the California Supreme Court. Even though the soft music was probably overboard, the California Supreme Court ruled that in light of the trial as a whole, it was not enough to have a significant impact on the jury as a whole.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case on further appeal. But two of the nine justices wrote strong statements urging that the high court should have granted review (it takes four justices to agree for the court to accept a petition).

Justice Stevens said, “when victim impact evidence is enhanced with music, photographs, or video footage, the risk of unfair prejudice quickly becomes overwhelming.”

He added that “their primary, if not sole, effect was to rouse jurors’ sympathy for the victims and increase jurors’ antipathy for the capital defendants”

Justice Breyer, who called the presentation tasteful and “above all, moving,” said, “any decision to impose the death sentence must be… based on reason rather than caprice or emotion,” thought that the court should have reviewed the case to help lower courts create better guidelines.

Want to decide for yourself? The U.S. Supreme Court has posted the video:

My opinion… The circumstances of the crime were such that this presentation could have been done in a far more “overdone” manner. The mother never seemed to choke up and there was not a big build up at the end that would really knock you out. Yeah, it’s emotional, but I can’t imagine how the story of a woman who was murdered, told by her mother, could be presented in a way that is not emotional.

I have covered many a murder trial, and they all make you want to go home and hug the people you love. They make you cry. Period.

I salute you Veterans

11 11 2008


I want to take this moment to say Thank You.

To all veterans and their families, and to those families who have made the ultimate sacrifice:

I salute you on this Veterans Day.


Videographer Detained by Police

9 11 2008

I thought this was worth watching. It is a terrible example of the abuse the media often faces simply while doing their jobs. In this instance, it was a school district chief. Thank goodness no charges were filed, but that doesn’t change the fact that another photographer has been hassled for doing something expressly protected by the Constitution.

(caution: expletives)

And now, the really good stuff

9 11 2008

In my Constitutional Law class, we have begun studying The First Amendment.

Ahhh. This is why I am here.071107-constitution-awc-075

The beginnings of U.S. First Amendment Law were not so pretty. Early U.S. law forbid several kinds of speech. Not so long ago, in the early 20th century, when the U.S. is at war, the following was illegal:

  • attempting to cause insubordination, disloyalty, refusal of duty
  • displaying the flag of a foreign enemy
  • publishing disloyal language about the form of government, the flag, or the Constitution

The laws evolved a bit over the years, even into the 1920’s there were many kinds of speech that were illegal, most of them relating to trying to squash the communist party movements in the U.S. There were convictions for holding meetings, advocating the illegality of the draft, and several other things. Justices in those decades often cited the fact that you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater (unless there is one), a proof that the First Amendment should have limitations.

Probably the most bothersome thing about what I read this week was the fact that the current standard for free speech is found in the 1969 case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, where the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protected inflammatory speech, in particular, a very nasty KKK rally. I wonder, if it had been a Black Panthers rally, if they would have reached the same result. But that is for the historians. Whatever the means that we got there is, the current judicial standard for free speech is this:

The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a state to forbid advocacy of

  • the use of force, or the violation of law
  • except where such advocacy is
  • directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action AND
  • is likely to incite or produce such action

Seems to me that a KKK rally in the late 60’s would in fact qualify under this standard.

But basically there is a fine line here, which is this: belief, and promoting a belief is protected. Promoting violent criminal action is not.

A couple of important notes from earlier cases:

  • Advocacy, means people are urged to do something, rather than believe something. (Yates v. United States)
  • To be prohibited, words must be used in a way that they create a “clear and present danger” that they will bring about substantive evils. (Schenck v. United States)
  • To put it another way, 1) there must be reasonable ground that the danger is imminent, and
    2) the evil advocated must be a serious one. (Whitney v. California, concurrence)

Ooooh. Fun!

Deconstructing a Bad Contract

7 11 2008

After taking two semester of Contract Law in law school, I feel much more confident negotiating contracts with publishers and other clients. But perhaps you don’t have that kind of time.

Luckily for you, ASMP has a great new feature it just added. It is basically a look at a really bad contract, an explanation of what the legalese really means, and suggestions for alternatives.


Be sure to wave your cursor over the highlighted areas, to take advantage of the pop-ups.

Some confusing terms that are explained: royalty-free, in perpetuity, sublicensable, pre-agreement, exclusivity, liability, indemnification, embargo.

This is a great educational tool for photographers. I highly recommend taking a look at it.

Learning what these clauses means helps you to recognize them and make good decisions about whether you can live with them. Furthermore, having alternative suggestions for your clients eases the negotiation process.

Just don’t get too depressed. ;o)