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57192 Defamation, Drones and Ethics: Media Accountability

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2018 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Communication: Journalism
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.
Anti-requisite(s): 57012 Regulation of the Media


This subject examines the core legal and regulatory frameworks and free speech issues under which journalists work – and citizens often seek redress – within a broader consideration of media accountability. Students are asked to consider and discuss recent attempts to impose stricter media curbs, in the wake of debate about media power and subsequent government inquiries in Australia and the United Kingdom. Issues relating to defamation, privacy and rights and privileges enjoyed by journalists, including practical examples and workshops, form the backbone of the subject and aim to equip students with ready-to-work knowledge. The subject explores emerging areas of legal concern, including libel arising from social media, and ongoing debates over privacy in a networked society. Self-regulation of the press informs debate and consideration on the broader subject of how the media is held to account for its actions. By reflecting on self-regulation, students are asked to consider key underlying questions relating to the role of journalists in society.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

a. Analyse the substantive content of basic media law and relevant ethical codes
b. Apply understanding of legal and ethical issues to journalism practice
c. Critically analyse the way notions of 'public right to know', 'freedom of expression' and 'access to information' are deployed in contemporary media practice and wider policy contexts.
d. Interpret a variety of legal and policy texts including judgements, legislation and explanatory memoranda and critically assess proposals for reform.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject engages with the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs), which are tailored to the Graduate Attributes set for all graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences:

  • Understand the complex capabilities of computer-assisted learning, data and other numeric-based techniques for advanced academic inquiry (2.1)
  • Develop and maintain collaborative networks, contacts and linkages within industry bodies and across disciplines, while ensuring ethical practice and social responsibility at all times (5.1)
  • Demonstrate advanced skills in engagement to enable effective communication with multiple stakeholders, using traditional and emerging techniques (6.1)
  • Harness multiple channels of communication, understanding the power and limitations of each as a tool to spread information and engage specific audiences and communities. (6.2)

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject integrates legal concepts, practical skills and scholarly literature. Teaching strategies will incorporate interactive, collaborative learning through the use of online platforms and active learning activities in class time. The program will differ according to each week but it will broadly involve lectures, collaborative problem solving, reading, independent research in online and face-to-face contexts, pre-class online discussions, online polls, formative quizzes and peer-learning activities. Through these learning strategies, students will develop an understanding of the basics of media law in both a theoretical and practical sense.

Content (topics)

This subject will introduce students to the basics of media law, paying specific attention to defamation law, copyright law, privacy law and the practicalities of court reporting. It will also address the broader ethical concerns around journalistic practice in a networked society and the role and function of free expression in a democratic society. In addition to the core elements of media law, the subject will also address whistleblowing, leaks, security issues, confidential sources and media regulation more generally.


Assessment task 1: Introduction to Media Regulation


a, b, c and d

Weight: 30%

7 minutes

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Evidence of understanding of principles and concepts involved in the topic. 40 a, b 5.1
Evidence of critical analysis of principles and concepts. 20 a, b 6.2
Evidence of competence in multimodal communication and appropriate verbal referencing of existing scholarship. 10 b 6.1
Evidence of a clear and concise explanation of principles and concepts 30 c, d 6.2
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Short Test


a, b, c and d

Weight: 20%

20 questions

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Evidence of understanding of principles and concepts involved in the topic. 35 a, b 5.1
Evidence of ability to apply understanding of concepts to a particular situation. 35 c 6.2
Evidence of competence in written expression. 30 c, d 6.2
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 3: Major Essay


a, b, c and d

Weight: 50%

3000 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Evidence of understanding of principles and concepts involved in the topic. 25 a, b 5.1
Evidence of original research extending knowledge and understanding of material introduced in lectures and tutorials 25 b, d 2.1
Evidence of a sustained analytical argument. 25 a, b 6.2
Evidence of competence in written expression and appropriate referencing. 25 c, d 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

Attendance at classes is essential in this subject because important information is only available through the essential workshopping and interchange of ideas with other students and the tutor. An attendance roll will be taken at each class. Students who have more than two absences from class will be refused the marking of their final assessment (see Rule 3.8).

Required texts

Pearson, M. & Polden, M. 2015, The Journalist's Guide to Media Law: A Handbook for Communicators in a Digital World. Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

Available at The Co-op.


Further Reading

General Resources

Bowrey, K. 2005, Law and Internet Cultures, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Butler, D. & Roderick, S. 2015, Australian Media Law, Fifth Edition. Thomson Reuters Australia, Sydney.

Chesterman M. 2000, Freedom of Speech in Australian law: a delicate plant, Ashgate, Aldershot.

Dwyer, T. 2012, Legal and Ethical Issues in the Media, Palgrave MacMillan, New York.

Rolph, D. et al. 2015, Media Law: Cases, Materials and Commentary 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Leiboff, M. 2007, Creative Practice and the Law, LBC, Sydney.

Turner, G. 2000, ‘Talkback, advertising and journalism: A cautionary tale of self-regulated commercial radio’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 3, no 1, 247 - 255.


Bosland, J. 2011, ‘Republication of Defamation under the Doctrine of Reportage—The Evolution of Common Law Qualified Privilege in England and Wales’. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 89-110.

George, P. 2012, Defamation Law in Australia, Butterworths, Sydney.

Kenyon, A. 2013, Defamation: Comparative law and practice. CRC Press.

Kenyon, A., & Walker, S. 2014, ‘Cost of Losing the Code: Historical Protection of Public Debate in Australian Defamation Law’, Melbourne University Law Review, no. 38, pp. 554.

Rolph, D. (2016). Defamation Law. Australia: Thomson Reuters.


Bosland, J., & Bagnall, A. 2013, ‘An empirical analysis of suppression orders in the Victorian Courts: 2008-12’. Sydney Law Review, no. 35, 671 - 827.

Hall, H. 2013, ‘Super-Injunction, What’s Your Function?’, Communication Law and Policy, vol. 18, no. 3, 309-347.

Miller C. 2000, Contempt of Court 3rd ed, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


De Zwart, M, Humphreys, S and van Dissel, B, 2014, ‘Surveillance, Big Data and Democracy: Lessons for Australia From the US and UK’, 37 University of New South Wales Law Journal 722 - 747.

Elwood, S and Leszczynski, A. 2010, ‘Privacy, Reconsidered: New Representations, Data Practices, and the Geoweb’, vol. 42, no. 1, 6 - 15.

Lindsay, D. '2002, Protection of privacy under the general law following ABC v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd: where to now', vol. 9, no. 6, Privacy Law and Policy Reporter. Available at

Lindsay, D, 2005, ‘An Exploration of the Conceptual Basis of Privacy and the Implications for the Future of Australian Privacy Law’ vol. 29, no. 1, Melbourne University Law Review, 131 - 178.

Richardson, M, 2002, ‘Whither Breach of Confidence: A Right of Privacy for Australia?’ vol. 26, no. 1, Melbourne University Law Review. Available via AustLii.

Solove, D, 2013, ‘Introduction: Privacy Self-Management and the Consent Dilemma’, vol. 126, no. 7 Harvard Law Review, 1880 - 1903.


Atkinson, B., 2007, The true history of copyright: the Australian experience 1905-2005, Sydney University Press, Sydney.

Bond, C, Paramaguru, A and Greenleaf, G., 2007, ‘Advance Australia fair? The copyright reform process’, The Journal of World Intellectual Property, Vol. 10, No. 3-4, pp. 284-313.

Christou, S and Marushat, A., 2009, ‘‘Waltzing Matilda’ or ‘Advance Australia Fair’? User-generated content and fair dealing in Australian copyright law’, Media and Arts Law Review, vol. 14, No. 1 pp. 46 - 81.

David, M., 2010 Peer to peer and the music industry: The criminalization of sharing, Sage Publications, London.

Drahos, P., 1996, A philosophy of intellectual property, Dartmouth, Aldershot.

Giblin R., 2011, Code Wars: 10 years of P2P file sharing litigation, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.

Golvan C., 2007, Copyright law and practice, Federation Press, Sydney

Hemmungs Wirtén, E., 2004, No trespassing: Authorship, intellectual property rights, and the boundaries of globalization, The University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

Hughes, J., 1988, ‘The philosophy of intellectual property’, Georgetown Law Journal, no. 77, pp. 287 - 366.

Johns, A., 2009, Piracy: The intellectual property wars from Gutenberg to Gates, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Lessig, L., 1999, Code: And other laws of cyberspace, Basic Books, New York. Litman, J., 2001, Digital copyright, Prometheus Books, New York.

McLeod, K and DiCola, P., 2011, Creative license: the law and culture of digital sampling, Duke University Press, Durham.

Rimmer, M., 2007, Digital copyright and the consumer revolution: hands off my iPod, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham.

Weatherall, K., 2007, ‘Of copyright bureaucracies and incoherence: Stepping back from Australia’s recent copyright reforms’, Melbourne University Law Review, Vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 967 - 1016.

Weatherall, K., 2011, ‘So call me a copyright radical’, Copyright Reporter, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 123-133.