Ch. 4 – Defamation and Invasion of Privacy
P. 86: “For the same kind of state law that makes Beauharnais a criminal for advocating segregation in Illinois can be utilized to send people to jail in other states for advocating equality and non-segregation [...] ‘Another such victory and I am undone.’”
I strongly agree with Justice Black in his firm opposition to the majority opinion of this court case, as evidenced by his preceding statement. It is vitally important to consider the ruling as applied to inverse situations. Morally, a case that might seem obviously in the wrong but in a court of law—where ethics exist in the form of previous decisions written as guideline and non-dependent on what ‘seems’ right to the judges—would pass as legitimate. ‘Another such victory and I am undone.’ Another such case brought before trial—slight variation regarding group involved—and one may find themselves undone by the case rather than victorious. Is this a legitimate response on my part? Or is there always room in the court to so modify a law [or general guideline] that would undo the previous victor? Is that scenario even plausible? It would seem, then, that the law would override human decision; that the law would become an entity unto itself, completely detached and untouchable to those who created it.
P. 349: Nimmer’s questioning of copyrights constitutionality
Does part of having freedom of expression mean also the freedom to be individually recognized for the results of this original freedom? Does ‘freedom’ intrinsically imply a level of restriction? What would the significance or meaning of freedom of expression—to write and publish and create individual effusions to be judged by and to move an audience—be if one’s ideas, published, were essentially up for grabs? Would that de-legitimize the statement, the idea? Would it foster or decrease discussion of the art piece?
P. 94: “The state of mind of the message source is a key factor in a libel action, for no person can be guilty of actual malice who sincerely believes that the message delivered was true.”
[The second observation regarding truth of actual-malice rule]
This statement calls to mind one of the points made in the previous class discussion. The context of any statement must be taken into account. Words on the page are not enough to find a party guilty. There must be some other presence; the human intent must come through—the personality in a sense—to understand the statement. Similarly, it is difficult to judge whether or not an individual is dangerous from simply reading the briefing or court cases, as with examining potentially harmful students. Can you expel a student based solely on their poetry, without taking into account the whole person? And can you define harmful statements without tracing the words back to the one who initially wrote them? Obviously not, since this the second observation regarding truth of actual-malice, though it seems at the very base of defamation itself: how does one defend or prove intent?