Notions of the Public in Information Law

Notions of the Public in Information Law

Whether it is the “making available to the public” in copyright law, the “publishing” of a personal right’s image, or degrading someone or something in the area of “public opinion” within the means of criminal law: the term “public“ is quite regularly used in law. The Hans-Bredow-Insitut is dedicated to finding out just how these standards are understood in the face of increasingly different “publics”.

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Project Description

Internet-based communication has structurally changed how we understand public spheres. Where we once separated the private sphere and the public sphere, as constructed by the mass media, analytically, many new areas of “private public spheres” have emerged today somewhere between these poles. The use of social networks, in particular, exemplifies this.
The project investigates these new public spheres and, in particular, the factors characterizing them. In the process, various legal questions are prompted – such as, for example, those on the effects of such developments on society’s idea of itself and on the processes of establishing the will of the people through democracy. Similar questions do, however, also arise in the everyday praxis of courts of law. The new demands share a conspicuous feature in the way the existing norms of the law on personal rights have been developed within the normative and legal structure of the traditional media. Accordingly, it seems, for instance, a moot point whether traditional rules for considering freedom of expression and the law on personal rights can also be applied adequately to utterances conveyed on Internet platforms. The research group proceeds with these questions in order to analyse the existing legal differentiations between the private sphere and variously defined forms of (partial) public sphere, so that it can draw conclusions on how to appropriately handle the new forms of the public sphere.
The Institute seeks to shed light on these questions in the context of a collaborative project with the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG). In the first instance, the investigation should result in the publication of an article in a journal for jurisprudence.

Project Information


Duration: 2013-2015

Research programme:
RP1 - Transformation of Public Communication

Third party

Cooperation Partner

Contact person

Dr. Stephan Dreyer
Senior Researcher Media Law & Media Governance

Dr. Stephan Dreyer

Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung │ Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
Rothenbaumchaussee 36
20148 Hamburg

Tel. +49 (0)40 45 02 17 - 33
Fax +49 (0)40 45 02 17 - 77




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