In Zoom, we all look like idiots: The law of live streaming

Posted by Texas A&M School of Law on Oct 21, 2020 10:13:08 AM

Texas A&M Law Professor Brian Larson and University of Kansas colleague Genelle Belmas published a chapter together in a timely collection on live streaming. 

brian-larson3bdcd0a8f6bd683ab184ff0c0040cfad-1-1As the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered large sections of society, people have turned to live streaming for everything from performing music to education and Supreme Court hearings. The prominence of this technology invokes persistent questions about the ethics of content online and how the law handles it. In this context, two scholars have published an essay analyzing the law of live streaming and how it could possibly be adjusted as the nature of web streaming evolves.

Brian Larson, Texas A&M University School of Law, and Genelle Belmas, William Allen White School of Journalism—University of Kansas, have written “Fixed? The Law of Live-Streaming,” part of the book Legal and Ethical Issues of Live Streaming, published this month. Most chapters in the book address ethical concerns with live streaming. Larson and Belmas’s chapter reviews the law of liability and legal protections for live streaming, including Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides near-blanket protections for social-media and internet platforms.

Live streaming through means such as Facebook Live is legally very similar to uploading content that is streamed later through means such as YouTube. In cases of live streaming, content appears to be broadcast on the internet as something is happening, but technology of various platforms ensures recordings are being made during the whole process, triggering traditional legal mechanisms. There are a few areas in which live streaming has been singled out, such as court proceedings and public meetings held via Zoom.

Larson and Belmas point out that in the COVID era government institutions are holding public meetings via means such as Zoom and are having to find ways to allow public comment, make meetings and records accessible, and post notice of meetings. Courts are holding session remotely, and even institutions as storied as the United States Supreme Court have made changes to allow streaming of their proceedings, at least the audio of them. That can have a democratizing effect but could also make less government function publicly open, depending on how entities handle it.

“In one sense,” Larson said, “streaming court proceedings is very democratizing. Courtrooms are designed to emphasize the distance and authority of the judge. But in Zoom, we all look like idiots. A judge’s kid or cat can walk into the shot just like yours or mine can.”

Topics: Brian N. Larson, faculty and staff, Texas A&M Law

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Texas A&M School of Law is an American Bar Association-accredited institution located in downtown Fort Worth. In 2013, Texas A&M acquired Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. Since integrating with Texas A&M seven years ago, the law school has sustained a remarkable upward trajectory by dramatically increasing entering class credentials, improving U.S. News and World Report rankings, hiring 30 new faculty members, adding 10 clinics and six global field study destinations and expanding the depth and breadth of its career services, student services, academic support and admissions functions.

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As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $905.4 million in fiscal year 2017. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development survey (2016), based on expenditures of more than $892.7 million in fiscal year 2016. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu.