Course Syllabus

Instructor: Jan Fernback, Ph.D.
Office: TT 226
Phone: 215-204-3041
Office Hours: Mondays 2:00-4:00, Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:30-11:30 AND 1:30-3:30, Wednesdays
12:30-1:30 and by appointment






There is no text for this class. Readings are on reserve in the Blitman library or online. We will be making heavy use of, Cyberspace Law for Non-Lawyers.


This course is intended to introduce students to American law and regulation as it pertains to the new media (Internet, multimedia, satellite, digital communication). Because legal issues permeate society, it is important for potential communication professionals to understand the principles of media law, both as observes of the judicial process and as potential participants in legal matters stemming from professional activities. As the new communication technologies become more integrated into our media landscape, new legal and ethical issues are being debated and new law is made every day. Historical perspectives will be discussed, but the primary focus of the class is on the current status of communicators' legal rights and the theoretical underpinnings on which they're based. This course will help you both as citizens and as prospective media professionals.

This course is designed to sharpen your ability to think critically in addition to learning the fundamentals of law in cyberspace. Class format will consist of lecture and class discussion. As much as possible, we'll use hypothetical scenarios to help apply the readings to practical situations.


Because the study of law will be foreign to most of you, we'll spend time discussing actual and hypothetical cases so that you will attain a deeper understanding of the law. Concentrated, thoughtful effort with this material will help you to succeed in this class.

We will develop:

  1. knowledge of the historical, legal, and ethical precedents which inform our notions of free expression in the United States
  2. an understanding of controversial legal issues that affect the new media
  3. comprehension of the regulatory issues and controversies associated with new communication technologies
  4. the ability to think more critically about the development and impact of new media technologies


Exams. People learn by different means and, consequently, need different tools of assessment. There will be two exams in this class consisting mostly of objective questions (fill in the blank, short answer, multiple guess). Short essay questions will also be included. The exams will cover material in discrete portions of the class ... in other words, they will not be cumulative. Each exam is worth 100 points.

Assignments/hypotheticals. You will asked to submit three responses to hypothetical cases during the semester. Papers should be around 5 pages in length (depending on the case law covered). You will be graded on several criteria: answering the question, clear articulation of legal or ethical principles, clarity of thought, organization, thoroughness of analysis, and general grammatical correctness. Details on these assignments will be forthcoming. Each one is worth 100 points.


Attendance. Because the format of this class depends on discussion and your participation, your success in this class, and indeed the success of the course as a whole, will depend on your being here. Part of your class participation grade, in addition to contributing meaningfully to class discussion, involves your regular attendance. Since this class meets only once a week, attendance is mandatory. One absence is permitted; more than one absence will detract severely from your final grade.

In addition, students are responsible for all information noted on the syllabus and for all information given in the classroom.

Deadlines and responsibilities. All assignments must be typed and double-spaced. Late work will be permitted ONLY in case of emergency or if circumstances are cleared with me prior to the due date. Late work submitted without prior approval will be penalized — one plus/minus letter grade for each weekday of lateness. Also, an environment of respect among students and the instructor is necessary to facilitate learning. We all have a responsibility to respect the rights and opinions of others in the classroom. Behavior that interferes with this climate of respect and courtesy will not be tolerated.

Academic Integrity. Cheating or plagiarizing the work of another will be penalized with an automatic F for that assignment. Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of another person's labor, ideas, words, or assistance. In other words, work done inthis class is to be YOUR work. Please refer to your student handbook for further information about academic honesty.

Special Needs. It is our desire that all students fully participate in our department's curriculum, but we need your assistance. If you have a disability or condition that compromises your ability to complete the requirements of this course, you must notify the instructor immediately. All reasonable efforts will be made to accommodate your needs. Further, if you do not understand or accept the contents or the terms of this syllabus, you must notify the instructor in writing within the first week of class.