Ethical and Legal Constraints
In the UK there are ethical and legal constraints within the media sector. The ethical constraints are moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conduction of an activity, and the legal constraints are where people or companies consider the potential laws which affect their industries and whether or not they’re breaking the law.
These constrains mean that producers of media texts do not have free reign over what they can create.
Ethical constrains are moral principles that govern the behaviour and conduction of the media texts.
The producers of media texts also have certain ethical considerations when creating their texts; plagiarism, bias and company guidelines.
Plagiarism is the act of taking the ideas or work of someone else to pass them off as one’s own. An example of plagiarism is “Martian” directed by Ridley Scott. Mikhail Raskhodnikov, a Russian screenwriter, filed a claim in a Moscow court, claiming the idea for the film was stolen from him. The screenwriter alleged that his story was written long before the US author’s version and demanded the copyrights for the 2015 film.
Similarly, another example of plagiarism in the media industry is the book and film The Da Vinci Code. In 1982, authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln published “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail”, a book that maintained the hypothesis that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdelene and had children and are the root of a sacred bloodline that is told to have emigrated through generations to what is now known as Southern France.
The Da Vinci Code is a conspiracy fiction novel written by Dan Brown which follows the same plotline as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and thus Baigent and Leigh attempted to sue Random House, Brown’s publisher, for plagarism in 2005. Unfortunately the case was lost and was ruled as a “wasted case” due to Baigent and Leigh’s loose and vague evidence.
Bias is a term that refers to prejudice against an individual or group in an unfair way.
The Sun, a UK newspaper, is notorious for right-wing political bias in their newspapers. One example of their bias is in the front covers pictured below.
On the left is a front cover featuring Liberal Democrat Party leader Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich. The Sun chose this embarrassing photo to damage the reputation of Miliband and the slanderous line “This is the pig ear Ed made of his helpless sarnie, in 48 hours he could be doing the same to Britain” depicts Miliband as useless and unfit to have power over Britain in the same way he is seemingly incapable of eating his sandwich.
On the right is an image of David Cameron’s face edited in the style of a war poster beneath the captions “In Cameron we trust” and “Our only hope”. This cover paints Cameron as a heavenly and heroic leader that Britain needs to defeat the metaphorical wars (challenges) Britain could potentially face.
These two covers demonstrate The Sun’s methods of promoting their conservative ideologies onto the public and show no evidence of balanced or fair information in their papers.
Company guidelines refer to strict rules for companies that state what they are and aren’t allowed to do.
The BBC’s Principles part 3.2.3 states that they “must not knowingly mislead its audiences”, however in 2011 it was found that their documentary series “Frozen Planet” featured polar bears filmed in a Dutch zoo, despite the audience being led to believe that the show was filmed in the Arctic.
BBC said “we never claim that such sequences were shot in the actual location depicted in the film” and “it can be editorially and ethically justified to use captive animals” to justify themselves against their negative responses. It could also be argued that the BBC would not be enriching the public with the educational and entertaining scenes included and promised in their mission statement.
Legal constraints mean that the law must be considered to ensure no laws are broken whilst creating the texts.
Legal considerations such as Defamation Act 2003, Privacy Law, Obscene Publications Act 1959 and Copyright much be followed by producers when making their media texts.
The Defamation Act of 2003 provides the ability to protect one’s reputation. In 2012, Frankie Boyle successfully won a legal case under this act against the Daily Mirror for a printed form of defamation known as “libel”. The Daily Mirror libelled Boyle as “racist” after he made a joke referring to immigration containing a racial slur on Mock The Week.
Boyle, however, is known for his controversial but weighted humour, and thus The Daily Mirror perhaps should have considered there was no offence intended with his joke that was directly quoted from the context in which Mock The Week was discussing.
Other successful libel cases against newspapers include Russel Brand V Sun on Sunday in 2013, in which Sun on Sunday falsely accused Brand of cheating on his girlfriend in a 3-page spread in their newspaper. Brand received a substantial amount in damages along with a formal apology and withdrawal of the article from Sun on Sunday’s website.
Copyright refers to the exclusive rights the creator of an original work has for its use and distribution.
“Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice (1989) is an example of copyright as it copies Queen and David Bowie’s song “Under Pressure” 8 years previous.
Vanilla Ice used Under Pressure’s bass line and hook and Queen and Bowie’s representative’s threatened a copyright infringement law suit against him, however the case was settled outside of court and Queen and Bowie were awarded the songwriting credits for Ice Ice Baby.
In 2013, a similar case occurred in which Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were taken to court for copying Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got To Give It Up” with their own song “Blurred Lines”.
The jury concluded that there were 8 distinct elements that were similar in each piece and thus deceased Gaye’s family were awarded $7.4M on copyright infringement grounds.
Privacy laws regulate the use of personal information about individuals. The UK maintains a data protection legislation which protects the rights of individuals and ensures that their personal information remains private and secure.
In 2012, Charlotte Church was awarded £600,000 in damages from News of the World newspaper after she and her family’s voicemails were hacked. This had been occurring since Charlotte was merely 16 years old and involved the publishing information about Charlotte’s teenage lovelife and her self-harm and suicide attempts. Metropolitan Police found that there were at least 829 victims of the same illegal acts by News of The World and thus the newspaper closed down in 2011 after 168 years of print.
The Obscene Publications Act of 1959 defines obscenity as something that “if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely to have regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it”. Things regarded as obscene or in “bad taste” are offensive or go against the accepted standards of morality and decency.
By the late 1970s, VHS tapes and players became available to most households and they were mostly always unregulated. This sparked the rise in “80s Video Nasties” which were unregulated, horrific films such as “I Spit On Your Grave” and “Driller Killer”.
However, under the enforcement of the Obscene Publications Act in more recent years, 39 films have been successfully prosecuted and others, such as “The Human Centipede 2” have had obscene scenes cut in order to be approved by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification).
My Own Ethical and Legal Constraints
In the creation of my own media texts, I have encountered ethical and legal constraints. I created a TV advert for a perfume called “The Story of Lily” which was heavily inspired by “Nina Ricci’s L’Elixir” perfume adverts. I used themes featured in the Nina Ricci advert such as the whimsical setting and female actress, however I remained aware of the complications of potential plagiarism and only allowed the Nina Ricci advert to inspire my work and not influence it.
However, I did use Anastasia’s “Once Upon A December” song in my advert, of which I did not gain permission from the owners. This was an act of copyright infringement, however I ensured that my use of the song was for personal and private use which abides by YouTube’s Fair Use Policy that the owner consented to upon uploading the song.