LAWGENRL 711 - Special Topic: Media Law in the Digital World

Lecturer biography

Dr Rosemary Tobin and Dr David Harvey

Course outline

Media and entertainment law is a growing and rapidly changing area of law. Its challenge is the Digital Paradigm and the new media such as online news and publishing, blogs, Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook, and how media regulators are able to work within the online video-on-demand subscription services such as Netflix, Lightbox and Neon. In addition to a comprehensive analysis of traditional media law such as defamation and privacy, this course will explored harmful digital communications, the impact of online publication on defamation, the importance of responsible journalism, regulation of classic and modern media authorities and contempt in light of the Contempt of Court Report released by the Law Commission in June 2017.


The chief objective of the course is to provide students with an introduction to a range of contemporary issues that are relevant to Media Law in the digital age.


Media Law is examined in the context of the digital age.

Day 1: New Media, the Challenge of Convergence, Freedom of Expression and Reporting in a Democracy
Day 2: Contempt of Court and Non-Publication Orders
Day 3: Topical issues in the tort of Defamation and Privacy
Day 4: Impact of the Harmful Digital Communication legislation and Censorship
Day 5: Media Regulation and Student Presentation

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • Be aware of the importance of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 in the context of Media Law;
  • Explain the concept of freedom of speech and its importance in our society;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the significant laws that impact on the media in New Zealand;

and, at the same time, 

  • Better appreciate the benefits of research-based approaches to learning;
  • Execute a piece of written work coherently and in accordance with the relevant institutional expectations and standards; and
  • Think, write, and speak clearly and effectively, as well as direct your own learning and rational inquiry.

In order to achieve these learning proficiencies and outcomes you will need to:

  • Take responsibility for your own learning;
  • Commit to the ideals of a university (with special reference to achieving personal excellence in performance and respecting both difference and freedom of expression);
  • Read and critically reflect upon the course readings in advance of the class(es) to which they relate;
  • Attend and participate consistently in the course (It is of course expected that you will participate, ask questions, or make comments in an “appropriate” manner, and show respect to both your peers and your teacher).


  • 90% research essay of 12,500 words
  • 10% class participation and presentation


Each student is required to submit a research essay of no more than 12,500 words including an abstract/synopsis of 500 words. You must discuss and agree the topic with your lecturer. The essay is to be original work, relying on secondary and primary sources. It MUST be the work of the enrolled student. Another person, other than the enrolled student, MUST NOT write the essay nor do the research on behalf of the enrolled student. Plagiarism is not permitted and in that regard each student should read the University’s plagiarism policy and adhere to it. All students will be expected to sign a plagiarism declaration when submitting their essays. Students must also use proper legal citations and include a Bibliography at the end of their type-written essay.

Descriptive essays are not encouraged. Instead students are expected to engage with relevant legal issues by: critiquing the law; developing proposals for reform; examining the operation of law and policy in practice; and/or providing a conceptual analysis of the law, for example.

Essays must be submitted to the Faculty of Law, by 12 noon, Thursday 28th June 2018.

Extensions will not be granted lightly (only on sickness and compassionate grounds) and must be requested formally through the Postgraduate Manager.

Class participation/attendance

Each student will be asked to prepare a brief (15 minute) presentation on an aspect of their research essay. In addition, each student is expected to make individual contributions to discussions throughout the course. Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions.

Criteria and marking

Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions with reference to the following criteria:

  • The extent to which the student has identified the important and relevant issues
  • The clarity of argument
  • The depth and thoroughness of understanding of the seminar material
  • The strength of the arguments presented
  • The extent to which issues are placed in their wider context
  • The extent to which the student has displayed a grasp of the doctrinal and normative issues
  • The analysis and synthesis of material
  • The ability to draw worthwhile conclusions

Class participation will assessed over the whole five days of the course. Quality rather than quantity will be assessed but clearly if a student is not present for all the classes, it will be impossible to achieve the maximum marks possible even if a student’s contributions are excellent when he/she does speak. Students are reminded that the full range of marks is available to the lecturer in assessing class participation. If students knew all the law from the outset, there would be little point in them enrolling in the course. Rather, class participation is included to extend students and to assess students’ imaginative understanding of, and engagement with, the materials under discussion. It is not meant to be threatening.

Course details

Semester: One
Type: Intensive
Points: 30
Date: 11-17 April 2018
Time: 9am-5pm
Venue: Building 801, Room 3.40
1-11 Short Street
Essay due date: 12 noon, 28 June 2018

Contact details

Postgraduate Student Adviser
Law Student Centre
Level 2, 1-11 Short Street