Media, Law & Technology

Media, Law & Technology

Media, Law & Technology (MLAT) is a program of study centered on First Amendment protection for the freedom to speak and publish. Through teaching, research and service activities by faculty, MLAT aims to illuminate laws, government regulations and technological developments that affect the mass communications media. The operating premise is that a free flow of information and ideas throughout society sustains and invigorates democracy.



Through courses like the following, students gain insight into how media affect the legal system, relate to government and business, and influence legislation and public policy. They also advance their knowledge and skills in the diverse legal subjects that are of concern to media lawyers.

  • Media and the First Amendment
  • Intellectual Property
  • Copyright Law and Digital Works
  • Digital Privacy Rights in an Open Society
  • Law and the Arts
  • The State and Religion
  • Introduction to Copyright Law in Literary and Artistic Works
  • Insurance
  • Sports Law
  • Product Liability
  • Patent Law
  • Torts II
  • State Constitutional Law
  • Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
  • Elections and Campaign Finance
  • Civil Rights Actions
  • Federal Courts and the Federal System
  • Local Government Law
  • Administrative Law
  • Legislative Field Placement Program
  • Public Policy Practicum
  • Judicial Field Placement Program

Course descriptions

Media Law Certificate

Private enterprise and governmental institutions increasingly depend on, and are affected by, communications media. As a result, legal representation in both the private and public sectors is enhanced by an understanding of media influence on the development and administration of law and public policy. The Media, Law and Technology Certificate focuses on legislative challenges, judicial decision-making, and administrative policy in an era increasingly shaped by information technologies, global networks, and the media.

JD/MS in Journalism

The JD/MS in Journalism program combines into approximately three and one-half years of full-time study the Master of Science (MS) in Journalism and the Juris Doctor (JD) programs offered by the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the KU School of Law. The program offers students academic grounding in both disciplines to prepare them for the professional practice of journalism, law or a combination of media law.

First Amendment Advocacy

In First Amendment Advocacy, students develop and apply the kinds of skills and knowledge possessed by First Amendment advocates, particularly media lawyers. Students plan and practice how to advise and represent hypothetical clients who are concerned with expressive freedom and the free flow of news and information. In class, students perform as advocates, negotiators, and evaluators of liability risks. Students also perform in the role of lawyer as citizen by planning and practicing how to advance general understanding of the First Amendment. Assignments include research and analysis of media-related law, regulation and public policy. Written work is completed in the form of documents commonly used in practice.

Program Goals & Activities

The Media, Law & Technology program (MLAT) began in 1998 to give students an opportunity to engage in-depth study of law and public policy related to mass communications media. The program, originally called Media, Law and Policy, also was intended to help journalists inform the public about law and the legal system. In 2011, in recognition of digital technology's profound impact on the media, the program’s name was changed to Media, Law & Technology. MLAT’s goals were expanded to include examination of privacy rights in an open society, intellectual property rights and digital media, and the role that liability insurance plays in the media business. In addition to teaching and research, MLAT helps plan and present continuing legal education programs, particularly for media lawyers and judges, as well as professional development programs for public information specialists and educational programs for the general public on open government and freedom of information laws.

MLAT supports the annual Media & the Law Seminar in Kansas City, attended by lawyers from across the United States, as well as judges, journalists, students and members of the public. Seminar topics have included First Amendment implications of high-profile criminal cases, the relationship between popular culture and media law, journalistic fraud, embedded journalists in war zones, pre-publication review, criminal libel, and reporter shield laws (which codify a privilege for journalists not to testify in court under certain circumstances).

MLAT also supports student participation in the National First Amendment Moot Court Competition, sponsored by the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Issues of Interest
Media influence on society is evident in the 21st century. A leading public official can be driven from office if he or she makes a misstatement in a speech that is widely reported and criticized by the news media. A revelation of a government classified secret through the media can change the course of foreign policy. A newspaper that exposes police brutality may prompt a reform of law enforcement. A television station that engages in extensive pre-trial publicity about a criminal case may jeopardize a defendant's right to a fair trial. A legislative initiative can succeed or fail depending on how it is portrayed in the media.

Both government and business have much at stake in the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and press. Federal, state and local government agencies rely on the media to disseminate information about their services and programs. Businesses invest heavily in media advertising and mass marketing of their goods and services. At the same time, government and businesses may suffer damaging criticism from journalists, bloggers and others who seek to hold executives and officials accountable to the public. Controversies erupt as consumer advocates, whistle blowers, political candidates and others with a cause vie for attention on the Internet, on the airwaves and in printed publications across the nation.

Signs of the media's impact include libel and privacy litigation both by private individuals and public figures, digital copyright law enforcement actions, and government regulation of such activities as telemarketing, spam and election campaign financing. In addition, controversy often erupts as government receives complaints from citizens about Internet pornography, indecent broadcast programming and radio shock jocks. At the same time, court dockets include a wide range of media-related cases, such as right-of-publicity claims by sports figures and movie actors, complaints about monopolistic media ownership, and disputes over press and public access to government data banks on private citizens.

In the Media, Law & Technology program, priorities for teaching, research and service include consideration of:

  • Trends in First Amendment protection for freedom of speech and press when government attempts to impose restraints on media and when claims are brought against media alleging damage to reputation, invasion of privacy, incitement of violence, infliction of emotional distress, violation of advertising regulations, disparagement of commercial products, and infringement of intellectual property rights.
  • Freedom of information laws and rights of citizen access generally to government information, including public meetings, public records, and court proceedings.
  • How media affect the practice of law and the courts, such as during highly publicized criminal and civil cases.
  • Media performance as a watchdog of government, including liability risks of such investigative news gathering methods as eavesdropping, using hidden cameras, engaging in deception, and relying on confidential sources.
  • Government regulation of media enterprises, ranging from print publications and radio, and television operations to advertising agencies, investment newsletters, telemarketers, Internet service providers, Web publishers, movie studios, and video game producers.
  • Legal and technological developments that may affect the fairness and accuracy of news coverage in such areas as politics, sports and entertainment, crime and terrorism, business and economics, poverty, the environment, education, charitable and religious causes, medical and other professional practices, and international affairs.



Media & the Law Seminar
Media & the Law Conference

Each year, the University of Kansas School of Law and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association Media Law Committee join together to host the Media and the Law Seminar in Kansas City, along with other local events, to facilitate and encourage dialogue about the latest legal issues and developments in media, law and technology.


Mike Kautsch
Professor of Law

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