Research and Insights

CJC at AEJMC Southeast Colloquium

March 3 – 5, 2016
Baton Rouge, La.

Clay Calvert, professor, Department of Journalism

Copyright in Inanimate Characters: The Disturbing Proliferation of Microworks and Its Negative Effects on Copyright and Free Expression

Co-Author: Matthew Bunker, Reese Phifer Professor of Journalism, University of Alabama.

Award: Top Faculty Paper, Law and Policy Division

Abstract: Using the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s September 2015 decision in DC Comics v. Towle as an analytical springboard, this paper examines and critiques growing judicial recognition of copyright in inanimate characters.  In Towle, the Ninth Circuit held that the Batmobile – a fictional car driven by a fictional superhero – was copyrightable.  The paper explores the problems with the Ninth Circuit’s analysis and argues that increasing copyright protection for what the authors call “microworks” is misguided and harms First Amendment interests.

Fissures, Fractures & Doctrinal Drifts: Paying the Price in First Amendment Jurisprudence for a Half-Decade of Avoidance, Minimalism & Partisanship

Co-Author: Matthew Bunker, Reese Phifer Professor of Journalism, University of Alabama.

 Abstract: This paper examines how the U.S. Supreme Court’s adherence to principles of constitutional avoidance and judicial minimalism, along with partisan rifts among the justices, have detrimentally affected multiple First Amendment doctrines over the past five years.  The doctrines analyzed here include true threats, broadcast indecency, offensive expression, government speech and strict scrutiny, as well as the fundamental dichotomy between content-based and content-neutral regulations.  Cases addressed in this paper include, among others, a quartet of Supreme Court rulings from 2015: 1) Elonis v. United States; 2) Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans; 3) Reed v. Town of Gilbert; and 4) Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar.

Holly Cowart, doctoral student

Privileging Privacy: How Media Frames Big Data

Abstract: This content analysis identifies how online news media present the topic of big data. Stories from general-audience online news and tech-targeted online news publications are evaluated for their representation of big data as a potential benefit to society or as something that has more disadvantages. Using second-level agenda setting as the theoretical basis, this study analyzes 80 articles from eight online news publications. It finds privacy is a primary theme for both general-audience news sites and tech-targeted news sites. The general-audience news sites and tech-targeted news sites do not vary greatly in their emphasis on the disadvantages of big data. However, the tech-targeted news sites have a greater focus on the beneficial potential of big data.

Carrying Credibility: How News Distribution Affects Reader Judgment 

Abstract: This experiment examines the impact of online platforms on source credibility. Using a traditional news media with an online presence and an online-only news media it compares news content on three platforms (website, Facebook, Twitter). Results of the 146-person experiment indicate a difference in perceived credibility among platforms. The traditional news media sees a significant drop in credibility between the website and the two social media sites. The online-only news media does not. The implications of these finding are discussed in terms of the changing way that news is presented. News media distribute their content to apps and social media sites. Based on this study, that distribution may result in a loss in credibility for the news source.

Linwan Wu, doctoral candidate

Understanding the Impact of Media Engagement on the Perceived Value and Acceptance of Advertising within Mobile Social Networks

Abstract: Mobile social networks (MSNs) have been adopted as an innovative advertising channel. This study proposes a conceptual model to explore the antecedents of MSN engagement, and test the relationship between MSN engagement and advertising effectiveness. Results of an online survey discover that utilitarian motivation, mobile convenience, and contextual perceived value (CPV) significantly predict one’s engagement with MSN apps. Moreover, MSN engagement positively influences perceived advertising value, which in turn predicts consumers’ intention to accept advertisements in MSNs. As the first one to investigate media engagement in the context of mobile social media, this study provides significant implications for both advertising researchers and practitioners.