Communications Law and Policy




Course Offerings


The University of Iowa College of Law offers a three-credit course in "Cyber and Electronic Law." This course addresses a wide range of legal and public policy issues created by electronic technologies: computers, the Internet and Web, and other electronic communications and new media - including privacy and surveillance; cyber-torts (defamation) and cyber-crime; cyber-terrorism and cyber-warfare; social networking in politics and revolution; cyber-property both real (copyright, Fair Use, and trademark) and virtual; First Amendment and restrictions on speech; geography and sovereignty (jurisdiction); regulation by means of technology as well as law; electronic commerce; broadband and other transmission technologies policies (net neutrality); intermediaries' liability for content, and yes, even cyber-sports.


Iowa Faculty in Communications Law and Policy


The Iowa Law faculty member who teaches and researches in communications law and policy is former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson.


Basic Resources


The telecommunications industry in the United States is primarily governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The most recent legislation that transformed the telecommunications industry was the Telecommunications Act of 1996, an amended version of the Communications Act of 1934 (full text as amended in 1996). The 1996 Act governs all communication media, including local and long-distance telephone service, cable programming and other video services, and broadcast services. Administration of the policies and licensing programs regarding these media is carried out by the Media Bureau of the FCC. Additionally, within the FCC is a separate department that oversees wireless communications in the United States, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.


Other recent legislation and issues involving communications law include recent awareness raised about distracted driving due to cell phones and PDAs, telemarketing policies the national do-not-call registry, and the recent transition from analog to strictly digital television.


In addition to the FCC, telecommunication and information policies are also influenced by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). NTIA is an executive-branch agency incorporated into the Department of Commerce that is responsible for advising the President on telecommunication and information policies. For example, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contains a series of Broadband Initiatives related to broadband mapping in an effort to ensure that all people in the United States have access to broadband capabilities.

Other important organizations related to communications include:

Electronic Frontier Foundation
Federal Communications Bar Association
National Cable and Telecommunications Association
Center for Digital Democracy
Electronic Privacy Information Center

For additional information and recent scholarship and news articles dealing with electronic media and cyberspace law, please visit Professor Nicholas Johnson's website, the latest Cyber and Electronics Law Resources page, as well as the Federal Communications Law Journal (Indiana University).




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