The Past, Present and Future of Media Laws Across the World: A Comparative Study of the Evolution of Media Laws in North America, Western Europe and East Asia Since WWII
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This dissertation examines and compares the laws regarding freedom of the press, libel, copyright, and cyber-piracy of 11 countries across three continents-Americas, Europe, and Asia, and attempts to find out whether the three continents approach these areas of laws in a similar way or completely differently, and whether political, cultural, and economic factors affected how the concepts of freedom of the press and other areas of media laws were and are shaped. The findings show that there is a great divide between East and West in terms of how the press is perceived. In the West, where the original concept of a free press came from, the models of press freedom were based on the natural law tradition within liberalism. From that natural law tradition, Western culture developed the belief in the importance of individual self-expression, and in the importance of criticizing the authorities to keep them in check. Furthermore, modern democracy is based on the idea that all men are created equal, hence capable of participating in the political decision making process. These cultural influences and political motivations shaped how the United States and the rest of the West structured their constitutions to protect freedom of the press and how they developed media-related laws later. In the East, for both strong cultural, political, and economic reasons, the concept of freedom of the press took on a completely different meaning. Culturally, a lot of these countries in East Asia examined in this dissertation were heavily influenced by the teachings of Confucianism, which espoused the ideas of keeping a sense of peacefulness within the society and the deep respect for the authorities. Politically, a lot of these countries went through long periods of colonial rule and tried to establish themselves as legitimate authorities. Economically, in relation to the political factor, these countries were also trying to build their nations and transform into strong economic powers. All of these factors combined led to a completely different concept of press freedom than the West. For the Asians, it was believed that the press should be respectful of the authorities because of the Confucianism teachings, but they should also assist and support the governments to build their nations politically and economically instead of playing the role of a "watchdog" and undermining the authorities by criticizing them. The findings showed that there is ample evidence that cultural, political, and economic factors helped prominently shape the media laws, including libel laws and copyright laws, across all three continents. The authors would argue that in the past, cultural and political factors were especially instrumental in the media law development. However, evidence gathered by the authors has led them to predict that political, and especially economic factors, will play much bigger roles in how media laws will advance in the future.