What would the Man on the Clapham Omnibus make of digital media law?

The view of the “reasonable man” on the Clapham Omnibus has been considered since (at least) 1932, but what would he make of behaviour in the digital environment?

I’ve long been interested in the comprehension of media law by normal, non-media law trained people, who are potentially – as I’ve pointed out before – all publishers now. In fact, it’s one of the things that led me to take up legal research: my own fascination with legal adjustment to digital culture.

When I conducted a short research project in 2010 looking at bloggers’ experiences of media law, I realised there was a hole in the empirical research around the public’s knowledge of media law and regulation.

So I was interested to see YouGov had conducted a survey for Nominet’s ‘KnowtheNet’ project asking respondents what online behaviour they considered broke the law. Nominet’s release about the survey and its methodology can be found here. A version of the test – part of the survey – is available at www.knowthenet.org.uk/accidentaloutlaw.

Its results have been reported by Huffington Post, the Telegraph, ZDNet, Forbes and others.  I would be very interested to hear lawyers’ views on the methodology and legal structure of the questionnaire. It struck me (a non-lawyer) that the questions in the online version simplified the situation somewhat, although the answers did elaborate on some of the complexities (eg. every “super injunction” is different*). I asked people what they thought via Twitter.

Blogging barrister @eatplaylaw said: “I got the feeling it mixed up the law with things the companies have in their Ts & Cs”. Emily Goodhand (@copyrightgirl), said: “Overall it’s good, as an intro to privacy / defamation – with the copyright questions though, there are defences which would allow  you to do some of the things listed in the question, although someone with no knowledge of copyright law wouldn’t know that”.

My own feeling is that the online questionnaire is over simplified, but I’m glad to see attention on this astonishingly unexplored research area …

Please share your own observations in the comments below. In other media law news, you can find this week’s round up of law and regulation developments over at Inforrm.

*The survey’s explanation of a “super injunction” left me a bit dissatisfied. As Meeja Law’s Super Injunction page shows, definitions have varied between publications. A survey conducted by ComRes on behalf of the Independent earlier in the year also failed to clarify what it meant by “super injunction”.

Image: VictoriaPeckham on Flickr.

This entry was posted in blogging, defamation, digital open justice, hyperlocal publishing, journalism, media law, privacy, social media, super injunctions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What would the Man on the Clapham Omnibus make of digital media law?

  1. Pingback: Cross-post: Is unfamiliarity breeding contempt? | Media law and ethics

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