A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

I’m happy to announce the online release of my article ‘Principles for a second century of film legislation‘, as online “early view” in advance of later publication in print. It’s in the journal Legal Studies (website). Open access versions will appear in due course.

Following a century of legislation about film and the film industry in the UK, and the latest in a series of reports on ‘film policy’, this paper investigates the relationship between law, policy and film. Case studies on the definition of ‘film’ in a time of technological and cultural change consider the privileged position of the cinema in terms of censorship and tax, including the new phenomenon of ‘alternative content’; that is, live relays of theatrical performances. Institutional change is assessed and criticised, particularly the abolition of the UK Film Council and the steady move from statute to executive action. The paper sets out a case for the role of the state to be set out in legislation and the cultural consequences of legal definitions to be taken more seriously.

Normally I would just put up the link and a blurb. But given how this article developed, and how the publication process is something I’m asked about by students and colleagues a lot, I thought it was a good opportunity to say something more about how these things go. I’ve tried to be careful not to do anything that compromises the peer review process here, and to be honest about my experience of it.

I presented a first version of the paper at the Society of Legal Scholars (annual conference) in September 2010. I had been working on it during the summer, bringing together my interests in film history and in media regulation. It was fun to write, although much of that version didn’t end up in the article. Also, no-one came to hear me present it, other than a colleague from UEA. Oops. But the ‘second century’ idea came at that stage, provoked by the Cinematograph Act 1909 having had its birthday the previous year.

The next stage was a different paper at the MECCSA annual conference in Manchester, in January 2011. This also wasn’t a smooth road as I broke my arm a few weeks before the conference and ended up giving the paper from a handwritten text (and also navigating my way around the conference rather awkwardly). It was one of that I attended and I met some fantastic people who have kept in touch – but there was only so much I could do.

So in summer 2011 – having caught up on the various things that had been shifted around on account of the injury – I was able to return to the two source papers, merge them, and come up with a draft journal article. This was where the core arguments started to take shape. And I decided that I was going to aim to submit it to Legal Studies. This meant two things: writing for a ‘generalist’ audience, and adapting to the journal’s style guide. (The first was more difficult).

At this point I started to have people read it in full (at the end of the summer). Some of the comments were contradictory, but the crucial bit was having readers from different backgrounds – a terrific film historian who knows his way around technology (and who I went on to work with on other projects), a personal friend who is interested in both law and film and is a particularly good writer, and some colleagues in my then School – from different areas of law. And I rewrote the paper a few more times, start to finish, that autumn. And in November I took a section of it to a film studies workshop, where I talked about ‘alternative content’ or ‘livecasts’ alongside one of the giants of film studies, Martin Barker (this ended up as a key point in the article).

In November 2011, I submitted it to Legal Studies for the first time. The editors thought that the original arguments were stacked at the end of the paper and the earlier sections were quite textbook-like. A remark in the email telling me this (which was obviously a bit of a disappointment in some ways) turned out to be important in terms of restructuring. Anyway, I put this down for second semester (post-January) work.

Then in January 2012, the Government intervened by publishing the report of a new review of film policy. Oops. This, and the need to rethink the focus of the piece, meant a full rewrite, letting go of some whole sections in particular. This was painful as they had been sections that took a long time to assemble – but the new question was how each paragraph or section contributed to the overall arguments, which had crystallised as being about coherence. But as is often the way, I had already planned out what I was going to write and it took a while longer to get to something I was happy with. I framed it as a discussion of the relationship between law and policy using the film sector as an illustration. Most of this research and writing was done in April/May.

In August 2012, having finished working on it while also changing job and moving north of the border, I crossed my fingers and submitted the article to Legal Studies. On this occasion, the editors accepted it for review and sent it out to three (!) peer reviewers. Legal Studies operates a three-month review period and, as expected, I got the decision in December 2012…days before going on honeymoon. The reports were mixed. Two reviewers liked it, one giving minor comments and another giving positive comments which would mean a bit of new work. A third thought that the piece didn’t work as it was and that there was, in essence, too much going on (and various other criticisms). The editors decided to classify it as ‘revise and resubmit’.

So come January 2013, I picked it up again and tried to put some manners on it. I abandoned the law/policy point of entry and tried to find a way of justifying the focus on film in its own terms. I came up with a better way of thinking about ‘definitions’ and wrote a few new sections; as I was already at the limits of the word count, other things had to go. I wrote a whole new conclusion (I always struggle with conclusions) and I had another go at trying to explain the technological dimension (which was the most fun bit of the rewrite). At the start of March I crossed my fingers again and resubmitted. Back out it went to reviewers. Come June, the decision came, and this time it was positive, accepted without further changes required. A few rounds with a lovely copy-editor (who also explained the history of the distinction between first- and third-person writing in academic journals) and here we are.

My point in explaining all this is, in particular for those who have articles knocked back, is that it takes time. I certainly thought of abandoning it more than once. And the paper can end up as a different thing. And rewriting to address an audience is really tricky. And things happen, like broken arms and honeymoons. And the Legal Studies editors were very supportive – which made a big difference.

Anyway, between all of these steps it took me about three years to write (which is about as long as it took me to do my PhD, although obviously I have been doing other things in this period), so I hope you enjoy the result.

Postgraduate conference, Edinburgh 2013

This is a good opportunity for postgraduate students. A bright, crisp winter’s day(*) in beautiful Edinburgh, and a chance to talk about your work with fellow students in a supportive setting. Two great keynote speakers, too. But the deadline is very soon, so please tear yourself away from the long summer (*) nights and send your abstract to the organisers. Here’s the full CFP, with the submission details highlighted.

* May not reflect actual weather.

Call for Papers: Edinburgh Postgraduate Law Conference 2013

Abstracts are invited for the Edinburgh Postgraduate Law Conference, to be held December 2-3, 2013 at the University of Edinburgh, UK. The conference aims to provide a forum for postgraduate students to present and receive feedback on their work and to network with other researchers working in their area.

Conference theme

The theme of the conference is “Law, Individual, Community”. We invite papers from all areas of law and related fields, including but not limited to commercial law, constitutional law, criminal law, critical approaches to law, human rights, intellectual property law, international law, legal theory, and medical law. Possible topics of investigation include:

§ Liberalism versus communitarianism,

§ Problematizing the subject of law (the collective subject, sub-state subjects in international law etc.),

§ Rights and responsibilities, including group rights and indigenous peoples’ rights,

§ Law and the excluded,

§ Community and the welfare state,

§ The role and position of shareholders against the corporation,

§ Corporate social responsibility and corporate governance,

§ The principle of self-determination and sub-state territorial autonomy,

§ The rise of global governance,

§ Community interests and the protection of the environment,

§ Biobanking and participation in medical research,

§ Intellectual property rights and access to medicines.

Keynote speakers

The keynote speakers for this year’s conference will be Martin Loughlin, Professor of Public Law at LSE, and John Harris, Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester.

Training component

The conference will include three training sessions, seeking to offer participants advice on managing their PhDs, on publishing as early career researchers and on finding their niche in the academic job market.

Prizes

Prizes will be awarded for the best paper submitted and best presentation at the conference.

Abstract submissions

Abstracts of no more than 300 words and 3-5 keywords are to be submitted to EdLawPhDConference@gmail.com, together with a short biographical note (approx. 100 words) on the author. The deadline for submitting abstracts is August 15, 2013. Selected participants will be notified by early September.

More information

More information on the conference can be found on our website.

Un-conventional

Here’s a paper by me on the European Convention on Transfrontier Television. Not perhaps the most familiar of legal instruments, but I promise you that it is a story full of mystery and excitement. The background to the work is that the Council of Europe has (had?) a convention on broadcasting, which came out of a great deal of interest in the subject in the 1980s. (The Television Without Frontiers directive of what was then the EEC emerges from the same period). However, after the EU revised its law (the Audiovisual Media Services Directive), the Council tried to do the same.

What happened next took me a long time to unpick (unpack?) and involved a lengthy FOI process with the UK government, a (fortunately more straightforward) access to documents request to the EU, research on the EU’s external powers, and quality time with Council of Europe minutes. And then I presented it (to three different audiences), and had some wonderful colleagues volunteer to read it and give detailed comments.

This version (the ‘Accepted Version’, on SSRN) appears in the Edinburgh Law School Working Paper Series.

Death of a Convention: Competition between the Council of Europe and European Union in the Regulation of Broadcasting

If you have access via, for example, a university library, the published version is available here, in volume 5(1) of the Journal of Media Law.

This article considers a dispute between the European Union and Council of Europe regarding their respective roles in the broadcasting field, so as to explain and assess its relevance for the development at the international level of media law and policy. The dispute is a long-running one and dates back to the adoption of the first EEC Directive and Council Convention on this subject in 1989. It is argued that the expansion of the scope of EU broadcasting law and the consolidation of the European Commission’s role in external affairs left little room for the Council to continue to exercise influence over the regulation of the electronic media in the way it has done for some time. The exact nature of the dispute between the institutions, and the response of a vocal member state, is ascertained through consideration of published minutes and internal correspondence, set in the context of doctrinal and political developments. The article concludes with analysis of possible future actions for the Council.

Preview: media & communications at SLS 2013

The 2013 conference of the Society of Legal Scholars takes place here in Edinburgh this September. I continue as convenor of the Media & Communications section, and we have a particularly exciting (and packed) programme this year. An EU session, a set of responses to Leveson, and two general sessions (one with a social media flavour and one with a human rights theme).

Registration is now open; ‘early bird’ discount until the end of July.

Tuesday 3rd September

A1: 14.00-15.30 (Special session on conference theme)

Ewa Komorek (Trinity College Dublin):
The problem which will not go away. Recent developments in the EU approach to media pluralism issue

Dimitrios Doukas (Belfast):
The Sky is not the (Only) Limit – Sports Broadcasting without Frontiers and the European Court of Justice

A2: 16.00-17.30

Alan Durant (Middlesex):
The DPP’s Interim guidelines (December 2012) on prosecuting communications via social media

Damien McCallig (Galway):
Intrusion into private grief: regulating the reporting and presentation of deceased persons in the modern media

Paul Bernal (East Anglia):
Defamation on Twitter: a defence of ‘responsible tweeting’

Wednesday 4th September

A3: 9-10.30

Yik Chan Chin (Hong Kong Baptist) & Yanbin Lu (Nottingham):
Defenses of Freedom of Expression in Chinese Right to Reputation Lawsuits

Päivi Tiilikka (Helsinki):
Margin of appreciation and balancing-criteria in the practise of the ECtHR when balancing the freedom of expression and right to private life – is there any consistency?

Jason Bosland (Melbourne)
Defamation, Statutory Reform and the Protection of Opinion in Australia and the United Kingdom

A4: 14.00-15.30 (Leveson Inquiry session, chaired by Tom Gibbons, Manchester)

Paul Wragg (Leeds):
Freedom of the Press after Leveson

Judith Townend (City):
An uncertain climate: Defamation, privacy and the resolution of disputes outside the courtroom

Karen Mc Cullagh (East Anglia):
Regulation of Investigative Journalism post Leveson

Society of Legal Scholars, Media & Communications 2013 CFP

I am pleased to invite proposals to present papers in the Media and Communications subject section at the annual conference of the Society of Legal Scholars, which has the theme of “Britain & Ireland in Europe, Europe in Britain & Ireland” and takes place at the University of Edinburgh (3rd-6th September 2013).

If you would like to present a paper in this section, please send me your proposal (consisting of title, details of the author(s), and a provisional abstract or description) by 8th March 2013. Decisions will reach you by 22nd March 2013. My email address is here.

The media and communications section falls in the first half of the conference (Group A: 3rd & 4th). There are four 90-minute sessions available with two (perhaps three) speakers per slot.

Given the theme of the conference, I intend to facilitate one session on EU media and communications law. Please indicate if you would like your paper to be considered for this panel.  However, papers need not be on the conference theme at all.

Academic papers are invited on any area of media and communications law, including (but not limited to):

  • the regulation of broadcasting (in the UK, Ireland and/or elsewhere)
  • defamation and reputation, including proposed legislative changes
  • privacy / breach of confidence
  • freedom of expression and information in the context of media and
  • communications (for example, content regulation)
  • telecommunications law and policy
  • media ownership and pluralism
  • responses to the report of the Leveson Inquiry
  • competition and the media and communications industries
  • the laws, practices and codes affecting journalism (e.g. contempt of
  • court, subterfuge, court reporting, recognition/status of journalists)
  • the control of marketing, advertising, and sponsorship
  • contract and rights issues affecting the media and communications sectors
  • (for example, television coverage of sporting events)
  • universal design / access in relation to communications
  • language and minority rights and the media

Please note the following important information:

1. Speakers are permitted to present more than one paper. However, if you are offering more than one paper to this Conference, please say so when you submit your proposal. This is to enable better planning of the programme.
2. Those presenting papers will be expected to provide a final abstract of their paper for the paper bank (on the SLS website).  At the very latest, this will be required by the end of July.
3. There will be, as usual, a prize for Best Paper; a full paper must be uploaded by 5pm 26 August 2013 and not be published, accepted or under consideration elsewhere, in order to be eligible. Further information and full regulations can be obtained from the Society.
4. You are also reminded that all speakers and delegates will need to book and pay for the conference in due course.

I look forward to receiving proposals. Please feel free to forward this call to your colleagues and to appropriate mailing lists, and to contact me if you wish to discuss a proposal before you submit it.