Free Speech and Media Induced Social Pathology
Historical technological advancement has been characterized by the introduction of new environmental toxins. From earliest recorded history until the present day, the widespread adoption of new technologies (and cultural practices) have periodically exposed segments of the population to debilitating pathogens. Subsequent scientific discovery identifies dangers that were previously unknown. This cycle has encompassed heavy metal exposure, improper sanitation, radiation sickness, and most recently a host of carcinogens. This trend continues unabated into the Information Age. As media induced social pathologies are becoming more widespread, new research is uncovering the link between media exposure and neurological development. Following the pattern of history, it seems likely that future research will firmly establish a causal relationship between media and social pathology. The elucidation of this relationship will have profound implications for traditional interpretations of the First Amendment. How will society reconcile the speech rights of the individual, with consumer protections? The author suggests that a solution may be found by extending product liability law to encompass copyrighted media. By treating media products in the same manner as physical products, those that have been injured by them would have civil recourse. This will encourage commercial distributors of media to exercise caution while maintaining unfettered speech under the creative commons.
Keywords: Free Speech, Media, Creative Commons, Copyright, First Amendment, Social Pathology, Product Liability
Graduate Student, Institute for Simulation and Training, University of Central Florida