Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Henry Beck


Information stored in centralized data banks is now accessible by home computer over telephone and cable networks, and through over-the-air broadcasting. The proprietors of these data banks may be said to "publish" their information each time an end-user retrieves information from their data bases. If taken seriously, this concept of "electronic publication" raises important first amendment questions.

After a brief introduction to the nature of the new medium, this article discusses some of the first amendment issues involved in access to stored information bases and the "mirror image" problem of controlling such stored information. Because many of the potential first amendment issues involved are attributable to the nature of the medium itself, the development of distributed information networks is described. The article summarizes possible regulation of the new medium under the Communications Act of 1934 and concludes by suggesting a policy for electronic publication.