The Value of Studying Law Abroad
Over this year’s winter break, I went to study Global Media and Communications Law at theUniversity of East Anglia International Summer School in Norwich, England. I was keen to start breaking into my electives after two and a half years of dictated law courses and also wanted to diversify my learning experience with some international exposure. I went overseas with high expectations, and somehow they were not just met but even exceeded.
Global Media and Communications Law covered topics such as Internet privacy, music
sampling, the role and responsibility of the press, smartphone wars and social activism. It was a really refreshing change to be able to take a course in such a specialised area of interest, especially since this topic is not currently offered at the ANU. The course was taught by eight different academics, so each of my teachers was lecturing on their expert area which I thought was a great strength of the course. It meant that every one of my academics was passionate about the area they were teaching and extremely qualified, as most of them held a PhD or were working towards a PhD on their expert topic.
As a photographer and a law student, it’s probably very unsurprising that my favourite topic was the legal implications of photography. I am always trying to find ways in which my Arts and Law degrees intersect, so this class was definitely a highlight. We discussed how recent developments in photography have created the need for privacy laws to adapt to new situations which may fall into legal grey areas. For example, an actor who walks to the supermarket to do their local grocery shop is definitely not in their private home, but they are also not at their place of public work. A rock star who takes their children to the park wishes to tell a photographer to stop taking photographs of their family outing, but the photographer believes they have freedom of expression.
The course also had more practical components than any of the ANU law courses that I have taken so far. It included two academic field trips to London to visit the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court and the Science Museum. It was exciting to be able to see where some of the cases that we were studying had actually been decided and helped teach us the hierarchy of different courts in the UK.
Additionally, a lot of the classwork was very practical. We often had debates in smaller
groups about contentious issues and workshopped particular definitions which ensured that we were all actively thinking about the course instead of half-heartedly listening to the lecturer. A great favourite of mine was our music sampling class, where the teacher brought in his drum kit and announced that we all had to have a go at playing or he would fail us (he was joking). He then also played us several music clips from the cases we were discussing to see if we could spot where they had sampled previously existing songs and decide whether or not we thought it constituted a substantial part of the original song.
It was also really fascinating to learn about a different jurisdiction. Given the global nature of not just the course, but the Internet as well, it did have an international dimension but it was mainly focused on the UK. I enjoyed learning about the different levels of the UK appeal system and the immense influence that EU law has on the UK system. It also opened my eyes to the changes that are most likely comparing as part of Brexit, and how the legal system might be in for a lot of work in order to fully separate the two.
Funnily enough, completing this elective also taught me that my compulsory courses are
actually necessary and valuable. This is due to the fact that the law overlaps in so many
different ways, including surfacing in a course about media law. Taking Torts allowed me to better engage in discussions about Internet privacy and taking Administrative Law meant that I could recite Australia’s position on freedom of information.
Overall, I very much enjoyed my time at UEA and would thoroughly recommend the course to anyone else interested in media or communications law. Studying abroad definitely opened up my perspective in so many different ways and taught me to better appreciate my own degree. Go forth and study widely, without fear.
Julia Faragher is a third year Arts/Law student and Publicity Director for the LSS. Photo is Julia’s own.