Jacob Rowbottom is a Fellow of University College, Oxford, and an Associate Professor of Law in the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford.  He holds a BA in Jurisprudence from Oxford and an LLM from New York University School of Law.  He was previously a University Lecturer in Law and Fellow of King's College at the University of Cambridge. He is a qualified barrister and previously worked on the staff of an election campaign for the US Senate. His research interests include media law, freedom of expression and the legal regulation of the democratic process. He is the author of Democracy Distorted (2010) and writes on a range of topics including the funding of political parties, media regulation, speech on the internet, election campaigns and obscenity laws.  


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Chapter (13)

J Rowbottom, 'Careful what you wish for: press criticism of the legal protection of human rights' in M. Farrell E. Hughes and E. Drywood (eds), Human Rights in the Media: Fear and Fetish (Routledge 2019)
J Rowbottom, 'Crime and communication: do legal controls leave enough space for freedom of expression' in L. Gillies and D. Mangan (eds), The Legal Challenges of Social Media (Edward Elgar 2017)
J Rowbottom, 'The protection of expression in the UK: old principles in a digital world' in G. Romeo and O. Pollicino (eds), The Internet and Constitutional Law (Routledge 2016)
J Rowbottom, 'A Trump Card Which Sometimes Wins' in P. Davies and J. Pila (eds), The Jurisprudence of Lord Hoffmann (Hart 2015)
J Rowbottom, 'Entick and Carrington, the Propaganda Wars and Liberty of the Press' in A. Tomkins and P. Scott (eds), Entick v Carrington: 250 Years of the Rule of Law (Hart 2015)
J Rowbottom, 'To Punish, Inform, and Criticise: The Goals of Naming and Shaming' in J. Petley (ed), Media and Public Shaming (2013)
ISBN: 978-1-78076-587-7
J Rowbottom, 'An Ocean Apart: Money, Free Speech and Politics in Britain and the USA (in Spanish)' in (ed), Colección de Sentencias Extranjeras (Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación 2012) (forthcoming)
J Rowbottom, 'Cash for Amendments, Homes and Moats: Standards of Conduct in Westminster' in Joo-Cheong Tham, Brian Costar and Graeme Orr (eds), Electoral Regulation and Prospects for Australian Democracy (Melbourne University Press 2011)
ISBN: 9780522860207
J Rowbottom, 'Institutional Donations to Political Parties' in Keith Ewing, Jacob Rowbottom, Joo-Cheong Tham (ed), The Funding of Political Parties: Where Now? (Routledge 2011)
ISBN: 9780415580014
K. D. Ewing and J Rowbottom, 'Spending Controls: New Campaign Actors and New Regulatory Techniques' in Keith Ewing, Jacob Rowbottom, Joo-Cheong Tham (ed), The Funding of Political Parties: Where Now? (Routledge 2011)
J Rowbottom, 'Access to the Airwaves and Equality: The Case Against Political Advertising on the Broadcast Media' in Keith Ewing and Samuel Issacharoff (eds), Party Funding and Campaign Financing in International Perspective (Hart 2006)
J Rowbottom, 'Campaign Finance Law in the UK' in T. Grant (ed), Lobbying, Government Relations, and Campaign Finance Worldwide (Oceana/OUP 2005)

Other (7)

J Rowbottom, 'Written evidence on media ownership (House of Lords Communications Committee, Jun 2008), The ownership of the news, HL Paper 122–I' (2008)
J Rowbottom, 'Written evidence on the funding of political parties\" (House of Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee, Party Funding, Aug 2006) HC 163-II, Ev.69-73.' (2006)

Book (2)

J Rowbottom, Media Law (Hart 2018)
ISBN: 9781782256663
J Rowbottom, Democracy Distorted (Cambridge University Press 2010)
High-profile controversies surrounding the funding of political parties have shown how inequalities in wealth can enter the political process. The growth of the professional lobbying of MPs and the executive raises similar questions about money in politics. More broadly, inequalities emerge in terms of the opportunities the public have to participate in political debate. This analysis of the ways wealth can be used to influence politics in Britain explores the threat posed to the principle of political equality. As well as examining lobbying and party funding, the discussion also focuses on the ownership and control of the media, the chance to be heard on the internet and the impact of the privatisation of public spaces on rights to assemble and protest. Looking at this range of political activities, the author proposes various strategies designed to protect the integrity of British democracy and stop inequalities in wealth becoming inequalities in politics.
ISBN: 9780521700177

Case Note (8)

J Rowbottom, 'Reporting police investigations, privacy rights and social stigma: Richard v BBC' (2018) 10 Journal of Media Law [Case Note]
J Rowbottom, 'Political advertising and the broadcast media' (2008) 67 Cambridge Law Journal 450 [Case Note]
J Rowbottom, 'Libel and the Public Interest' (2007) 66 Cambridge Law Journal 8 [Case Note]
J Rowbottom, 'The Ban on Political Advertising and Article 10' (2007) 18 Entertainment Law Review 91 [Case Note]
J Rowbottom, 'Article 10 and Election Broadcasts' (2003) 119 Law Quarterly Review 553 [Case Note]
J Rowbottom, 'Freedom of Speech in Election Broadcasts' (2002) 152 New Law Journal 679 [Case Note]
J Rowbottom, 'Homes for Votes, Bias and Political Purposes' (2002) 118 Law Quarterly Review 364 [Case Note]

Journal Article (17)

J Rowbottom, 'The transformation of obscenity law' (2018) 27 Information & Communications Technology Law 4
DOI: 10.1080/13600834.2017.1393929
This article looks at the number of convictions for a group of offences categorised as obscenity-related in the official statistics. While the aggregate numbers show a dramatic rise, this article examines the trends in relation to the individual offences. The article shows that the law of obscenity has undergone a significant transformation. A central change has been the shift from the publisher as the target for criminal liability to the viewer of the content (for example, through the introduction of possession offences). A further change is the move away from the reliance on broadly worded offences to provisions that target a narrower range of content. Those two changes explain why the number of convictions has sharply increased while the law has become more permissive as to the types of content that can be published. The discussion places these changes into context, looking at the original rationale for the offences and how the interpretation and usage of the legislative provisions has evolved with the system of communication and distribution.
ISBN: 1360-0834
J Rowbottom, 'Government Speech and Public Opinion: Democracy by the Bootstraps' (2017) 25 The Journal of Political Philosophy 22
DOI: 10.1111/jopp.12101
This article considers the relationship between government speech and the idea that a democratic government should be responsive to public opinion. In particular, it considers the problems that can arise when state resources are used to influence public opinion. Such attempts to influence can potentially reverse the relationship between government and the people, which is central to democratic legitimacy. At the same time, government communications are an important tool in implementing policies. There is also a role for government officials to lead public opinion. The discussion provides a framework to analyze these issues and identify the types of communication that can challenge the democratic ideal of responsive government.
ISBN: 0963-8016
J Rowbottom, 'Corruption, Transparency and Reputation: The Role of Publicity in Regulating Political Donations' (2016) 75 Cambridge Law Journal
J Rowbottom, 'Politicians, the Press and Lobbying' (2013) 5 Journal of Media Law
J Rowbottom, 'To Rant, Vent and Converse: Protecting Low Level Digital Speech ' (2012) 71 Cambridge Law Journal 355
DOI: 10.1017/S0008197312000529
Several recent cases have highlighted the range of legal controls that can be applied to expression on social networks and other amateur digital content. This article identifies three trends in the regulation of digital communications. First, such communications are subject to a wide range of laws, including those primarily regulating the mass media, public order and targeted communications. Second, the persistence and searchability of digital messages make such communications more likely to come to the attention of litigators and prosecutors. Thirdly, that the established approach to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the ECHR tends to protect speech that is deemed to be of “high value”, and therefore does little to protect much internet content. This article calls for some greater protection to be afforded to communications that are casual and amateur. The freedom to converse outlined in this article does not call for absolute protection, but seeks to ensure that any controls on expression are proportionate. In particular, alternatives to the criminal law are considered.
ISBN: 0008-1973
J Rowbottom, 'Lies, Manipulation and Elections: Controlling False Campaign Statements' (2012) 32 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 507
DOI: 10.1093/ojls/gqs016
Complaints about lies are nothing new to elections. Legislation attempts to prohibit certain types of false statement during campaigns. This article examines the rationales for specific controls on false campaign speech and argues that the primary harms are the manipulation of voters and the distortion of the electoral process. The article also considers the consistency of such laws with rights to freedom of expression. While knowingly false statements attract little protection under Article 10 of the ECHR, there are still free speech concerns about regulating election speech. In particular, there are dangers of chilling speech and the perception of politically motivated adjudications. The article will consider the regulatory alternatives to the current law. None of the options are attractive, especially given the difficult tension between the desire to curtail falsities and the inability of the law to do so – a tension that is strongly felt in the context of an election.
ISBN: 0143-6503
J Rowbottom, 'Financing Political Parties in the United Kingdom' (2010) 6 Policy Quarterly (New Zealand)
J Rowbottom, 'Media Freedom and Political Debate in the Digital Era' (2006) Modern Law Review 489
J Rowbottom, 'Obscenity Laws and the Internet: Targeting the Supply and Demand' [2006] Criminal Law Review 97
J Rowbottom, 'Property and Participation: A Right of Access for Expressive Activities' (2005) European Human Rights Law Review
J Rowbottom, 'The Electoral Commission's proposals on the funding of political parties' [2005] Public Law 468
J Rowbottom, 'Shielding Children: The European Way' (2003) 79 Chicago-Kent L. Rev. 175
J Rowbottom, 'Political Donations and the Democratic Process: Rationales for Reform' [2002] Public Law 758

Edited Book (1)

J Rowbottom (ed), The Funding of Political Parties: Where Now? (Routledge 2011)
This book explores the problems associated with regulating the funding of political parties and election campaigns in a timely assessment of a topic of great political controversy. From interest in Obama's capacity to raise vast sums of money, to scandals that have rocked UK and Australian governments, party funding is a global issue, reflected in this text with case studies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States. Taking an interdisciplinary approach with leading scholars from politics, geography and law, this text addresses key themes: contributions, spending controls, the role of broadcasters and special interests, and the role of the state in funding political parties. With regulatory measures apparently unable to change the behaviour of parties, why have existing laws failed to satisfy the demands for reform, and what kind of laws are necessary to change the way political parties behave? The Funding of Political Parties: Where Now? brings fresh comparative material to inform this topical and intractable debate, and assesses the wider implications of continuing problems in political funding.
ISBN: 9780415580014

Review (3)

J Rowbottom, 'Review of K. Ewing, The Cost of Democracy' [2008] Public Law 617 [Review]
J Rowbottom, 'Review of Building the UK's New Supreme Court ' (2005) 64 Cambridge Law Journal 253 [Review]
J Rowbottom, 'Review of Parker, Scott, Lacey and Braithewaite, Regulating Law' [2005] Public Law [Review]

Research programmes

Research Interests

Media law, freedom of expression, and the legal regulation of the democratic process.

Options taught

Media Law

Research projects