Communication Law is a notoriously difficult course. Many students wonder, “When will I use this information,” but understanding freedom of expression is vital in any sector of the JMC field.
I talked to ACU’s Communication Law professor, Dr. Kenneth Pybus, about the lessons from Communication Law JMC students can use—even after graduation.
- Common law is not common sense.
Common law is a term used in Communication Law to describe laws accepted as truth over many years of study. However, many people tend to confuse common law with common sense.
“People think they can just gut-feel their way through the law, as though Judges 21:25 is still the law.” —Dr. Kenneth Pybus
Common law is not a system in which “everyone does as he sees fit” nor is it a loose moral structure—it’s the real law.
- Understanding the law is important.
Anyone in communication can libel someone or violate copyright, even accidentally. Reporters, photographers, advertisers, and public relations coordinators must understand the laws and safeguards applied to them as public communicators.
- People are inherently free.
They don’t get those freedoms from government or a constitution. People are born with inalienable rights that the U.S. government (and many other governments) work to protect, not to grant.
“Freedom and free speech is the default state of mankind.” —Dr. Kenneth Pybus
As people who knew true oppression, our founding fathers intentionally wrote protections into the U.S. Constitution so future generations would not experience the same censorship and tyranny.
- Government cannot arbitrarily restrict freedom.
Governments cannot extinguish a message because it’s contrary or even offensive; it takes much more than that. American media disseminates contradictory ideas on a daily basis. Media professionals need to understand the restrictions of government regulation, and institute more creative ways of combating contrary ideas.
- Restrictions have standards.
Whenever there is a restriction on freedom, there has to be some sort of standard. Restrictions must accompany an existing statutory or common law. That means government can’t just say “you can’t say that because we said so.” Authority does not extend that far.