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Common Law: Review Essay

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Updated: Mar 31st, 2022

Introduction

While dealing with law there are countless provisions which are formulated to protect individuals as well as corporations from any form or manner of abuse. These same principals are employed in the media industry to safeguard the interests of the community, while in on the other hand they are exploited within the employment sector so as to shield the employer and the employee from any form of exploitation. Equally, diverse legal stipulations are formulated to safeguard the interests of the involved parties.

Copyright and intellectual property laws

For example, the Australian lawful structures do have intricate and all-inclusive law that cushions all features of copyright as well as intellectual properties. The purpose of copyright law is to regulate what one entity can take from the other and assume to be part of their work. Therefore, the infringement of these legal stipulations pertaining to copyright and intellectual property law amounts to either civil or criminal law. According to the given illustration Gideon Goal can successfully sue Jack Hack for unlawfully attempting to sabotage his original creative work. The available lines of sustaining his case could be established in accordance with the Australian copyright laws.

Therefore, under the available copyright stipulations Gideon Goal would be compelled to register his creative work. An almost similar example regards Charles vs Hong Kong diary case .This UK claims from 2006 was initiated by Prince Charles to put a stop to a British newspaper from violating his copyright on personal journals that he had compiled about his encounters at the relinquishing of Hong Kong in 1997. Therefore, to stop Jack Hack attempts he could sue for violation of his privacy as well as for an attempt to infringe on his copyright. However, the available remedies for copyright violation differ from state to state. Consequently, the copyright and property law avers that in view to copyright it is premeditated;

“…to offer to the creator of a artistic work his just incentive for the advantage he has given to the society in addition to advancing the making of additional inventive works. Also, as copyright in the environment of domination, the law ought to make sure, as far as is feasible, that the rights bestowed are not injured and that study, investigations as well as education are not excessively hampered.”

Breach of confidence

Breach of confidence is fundamentally viewed as an act of abusing a person or organizations classified information to its annoyance. Hence, any entity given permission to access the explicit information is under legal obligation not to abuse the information (Mitchie1997). Therefore, the law has the authority in protecting trade secrets, medical records, including official secrets among others. Thus, the law regarding the breach of confidence prohibits the use or publication of confidential information. Also this law is exploited to restrict a third party who may have attained this information. For instance, Gideon Goal can sue the hotel for using his private photo in face book. The picture can be classified as confidential in that it is in his personal page and perhaps only few people have access to it. More so, Goal could argue that the concerned hotel did not breach his privacy in the interest of the public interests; rather they did so for their own gain. It is therefore, against the law to do so. In such a situation the claimant can seek redress in the legal court. Thus, if the hotel had no agreement to use the picture for commercial purpose with the claimant, this could be considered as a breach of confidence and this could cause humiliation to Goal and equally tarnish his personality among his peers.

Therefore, the case in point can be judged against to the case relating supermodel Naomi Campbell who effectively sued a UK newspaper for making public pictures of her leaving a drug management facility in 2001. Therefore, the hotel breached Goal’s confidentiality as well as his privacy. Face book is often used for personal engagement and the owner has the right to limit who has the access to his information. Thus, the available remedy is to compel the hotel to pay damages to Goal and subsequently be restricted in using the picture in their advertisements.

Privacy, secret recording

The instance where Jack Hack employs the services of a private investigator to hack into Gideon Goals mobile is unethical and against the law. Gideon Goal can seek legal redress by suing Jack for violating his privacy. It should be noted that it is against the law to violate or tap into any ones life without due consent. In most countries telephone tapping is only permissible if the owner of the telephone is suspected to be participating in a criminal activity. Goal’s book might have contained insightful material that could have ruined the hotel’s repute. This does not qualify as a criminal activity but is more of a civil dispute in nature. Even in the case of suspected criminal activity the investigators must have a court warrant to enable him to tap someone’s telephone. In the US, for instance, the law calls for at least one of the involved parties to be conscious of the intended recording before it commences. In some states like Michigan however, details of the conversation can not be disclosed to a third party with the consent of both of the involved parties (Lunney 2003).

The private investigator did not seek Goal’s consent before tapping into his voice. He could argue that since he tapped into voicemail recordings he was not bound by the laws that specifically outlawed actual conversation. The voicemails were already pres-recorded before the actual tapping.

In a similar case during the Watergate scandal, President Nixon was impeached by the U.S Supreme Court for illegally recording telephone conversations which he claimed were for intelligence purposes. The Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton sex scandal also came to public awareness after Monica’s friend, Linda Trip released illegally recorded phone calls between the two. In mid 2010 in Malibu, Ms. Oksana Gregorieva unleashed a recorded phone call between her lovers, actor Mel Gibson in which he allegedly abused her verbally and threatened her life. The court ruled that such was inadmissible since the recording was done without Gibson’s consent.

Gideon Goal could also face breach of privacy accusations for exposing the details of his two homosexual team mates perhaps without their knowledge or consent.

Nuisance

A nuisance is any action that causes offence, irritation, danger or hurts in a way. It may involve the interference with people’s private life. The law is based on the common law that specifies that owners of private property or leaseholders thereof have a right to peaceful enjoyment of their properties.(Kenneth 2004) Gideon Goal could cite this law to seek legal redress from the hotel’s manager. The manager invited a television crew to conduct an interview in the room where Goals was staying. However it is also paramount to note that Goals had not paid for the room which meant that he could claim no right to peaceful enjoyment. The camera man hit a fish tank which resulted in a spill that led to Goal’s back injury. It was the hotels responsibility to ensure his safety as a guest.

In a famous nuisance case named Miller v Jackson (1977) Mr. and Mrs. Miller, a couple who lived near a cricket field sued the club’s chairman for negligence and nuisance. During the case the plaintiff argued that cricket balls kept falling into their garden and caused slight damages to their house. They also claimed that the balls posed actual physical danger on them. The final judgment in the court of appeal was in their favor and the court granted them $400 in damages. In another case Anns v Merton London Borough Council (1978) in which the plaintiff accused the council of negligence for not sufficiently inspecting the building in which she lived. She claimed that the building had developed cracks as a result of the council’s negligence thereby endangering her and her family. The House of Lords ruled in her favor and granted her damages (Deakins, et al 2007).

Trespass

By disguising himself Mr. Hacks invaded Goal’s home. Trespass is defined as any unjust interference with a person’s possessions regardless of whether such interference results in damage or not. Hacks deceived Mr. Goal and entered his property under false pretences. For example, English Law subdivides trespass into three categories i.e. trespass to the person, trespass to goods and trespass to land (Wilkinson 2005).

In the legal suit of Dougherty v. Stepp (1835) the petitioner charged the defendant, a surveyor, of intruding on his land. The initial court ruling was that the surveyor had trespassed on the plaintiff’s land by setting foot on it without his knowledge or permission. In another dissimilar case Bradley v. American Smelting and Refining Co the claimant sued the smelting firm of trespass due to the reason that smoke particles from its smelting chimneys were falling on his land. The case was concluded partially in the plaintiff’s favor. This indicates that by stepping into Goal’s compound Hacks had committed trespass.

Access to Public Spaces

A public place entails of any space that is designated for social functions and is accessible to all members of society without discrimination. Almost all countries have at least one law that ensures the freedom of the members of the public to gather in such places without interference (Leiboff 2007). In the United States for instance, the law bars the state from restricting gatherings in such places so long as the gatherings are conducted in a peaceful manner. However restrictions are provided for actions that may intrude into other people’s rights, create a disturbance of peace or be morally offensive. Such actions as nudity, the consumption of drugs or alcohol and urinating or defecating may be considered inappropriate or even forbidden in public spaces.

In some cases the benches and open spaces in public places are sponsored and maintained by public companies which in turn get advertising rights. Public places have been known to include forums such as newspapers or internet based forums such as websites.

It is from such an observation that the civil suit involving Access Now, Inc. v. Southwest Airlines, Co. (2002) the court ruled that the defendant’s website could not be considered as a public place. The plaintiff had argued that the website was not friendly to people with disabilities hence denying them access to a public place. In the court ruling it was defined that company websites could not be considered as public places since they were entirely run and funded by the companies.

Public Liability

The law of public liability guarantees public safety. It is based on the duty of care that specifies that everyone should do their best to ensure the safety of others. Gideon Goal could have sued the hotel’s management under this law. It was the hotel’s responsibility to ensure Goal’s safety in the course of his stay at the hotel. Failure to clean up the puddle in time led to the accident hence it was almost entirely the hotel’s responsibility. The fact that Goal did not pay for his accommodation at the hotel has little implication since he had been officially invited and therefore had as many rights as any other guest. All rational caution ought to be taken to make certain that visitors residing within business premises are secure. This covers all invited guests, customers or tenants where invitation can be informal such as by adverts or commercial offers.

Such responsibility also extends to licensees or people who enter the premises with the hope of doing business with the owner of the premises. To some extent the law also covers trespassers especially where danger is intentionally created as for the purposes of enhancing security.

Claims under this law are often made for incidences such as trips, falls, slips, and falling objects.In the case of Honeywill and Stein Ltd v Larkin Brothers Ltd (1934). The plaintiff accused the defendant of accidentally setting a cinema hall on fire. The defendants who were working under a contract with the plaintiffs had to accept liability for the fire and pay for the damages in full.

Gideon Goal had the choice to sue the hotel or the television company that conducted the news. The company held responsibility too since it was their camera man who caused the spill.

Negligence

According to Lord Blackburn, negligence involves personally placing objects in a manner that may cause obstruction or injury to other persons. If a person is injured in such a manner, then they can sue for damages to compensate them from the responsible party. In such cases the burden of prove lies with the plaintiff. Such cases are very complex in nature since they rely heavily on a fact by fact analysis of the details. These facts are analyzed in detailed stages (elements)

The law of negligence has its foundations on the case of Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932) where the pursuant sued the beer manufacturers after discovering a decomposed slug at the bottom of her beer. The court ruled in the plaintiff’s favor saying that the beer makers had a responsibility to ensure the fitness of their products for human consumption (Eliot et al 2007)

Contracts

These are legally binding agreements that may be either written or verbal. They protect both parties from fraud or exploitation. Gideon Goal’s stay at the hotel did not involve a mutual understanding between the two parties that it was meant to bring good publicity to the hotel. Due to lack of written document the hotel took liberty and went beyond what Mr. Goal may have expected by publishing his photographs in a marketing campaign. The hotel’s management may have assumed that it was a relatively mild measure considering that Goal had already consented to a television interview in the same room.

Conclusion

It is clear that common laws are meant to protect citizen’s rights, safety and liberty. These laws are however prone to mischievous application and malicious lawsuits hence creating a lot of controversy. All in all they do more good than harm and everything possible should be done to ensure their continued existence.

References

Deakin, S; Johnston, A, and Markesinis, B. (2007) Markesinis and Deakin’s Tort Law. Oxford, OUP.

Elliott, C, and Francis, Q. (2007) Tort Law. London, Pearson Longman.

Mitchie, J. (1997) Contracts, Co-operation, and Competition. New York, Macmillan.

Kenneth, D. (2004) English Law. London, Pearson.

Leiboff, M. (2007) Creative Practice.Pyrmont, Thompson.

Mark, L, and Ken, O. (2003) Tort Law – Texts, Cases. Oxford, OUP.

Smith, F. (2005) The Law of the Labor Market. Chicago, Chicago Printing Press

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