LLAW3264 & LALS3011

General Course Information

1.1 Course details

Course code: LLAW3264 / LALS3011
Course name: The Law of Signs: Interpretative Controversies in Legal Semiotics
Programme offered under: LLB Programme / BA&LLB Programme
Semester: First
Designated research course: No
Specialization: Not applicable
Prerequisites / Co-requisites: No
Course offered to non-law students: Yes
Credit point value: 6 credits
Cap on student numbers: 5

1.2 Course description

This course investigates the way that law treats verbal and visual signs. The study of signs is termed semiotics. By sign is meant here the visual and verbal bearer of contentious meanings and/or of disputed cultural significance. Through the study of decided cases, the courses analyzes how verbal and visual signs encounter law’s definitions, registration regimes, prohibition, censorship, or protection. Among the legal domains involved are: trademark and copyright law; employment and discrimination law; censorship, free speech and obscenity law; blasphemy; public order law; human rights law. The course will be divided into sections by topic (not all of which will be taught for each iteration): (i) names and marks (legal limits on the right to choose, registration regimes in relation to personal and corporate names, marks, titles, licence plates, domain names); (ii) art (art works and customs regulations, legal definitions of art; art works and forgery, e.g. artistic images of currency; art works and parody; art and taboo; song lyrics and taboo meanings); (iii) flags, insignia and symbols (laws against flag desecration; banned political symbols; triad society symbols; gang insignia); (iv) speech versus conduct (gestures; public order offences involving swearing, insulting language or behaviour; contempt of court; the definition of speech under the First Amendment); (v) clothing and hair-styles (e.g. employment law; sumptuary laws; contempt of court); (vi) cultural appropriation and identity (the commercial use of indigenous linguistic materials and cultural symbols); (vii) language in public spaces (regulations on signage; noise and nuisance; the definition of public). The course focuses on the underlying legal, socio-political, and semiotic doctrines that are at play, but also the implicit or explicit theory of the sign, the understanding of how signs communicate, how the ownership of signs and images is understood, and how law assigns authorial and interpretative responsibility for meanings.

1.3 Course teachers

Name E-mail address Office Consultation
Course convenor Chris Hutton chutton@hku.hk TBA By email

Learning Outcomes

2.1 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for this course

CLO 1 Describe what a sign is and identify the kind of signs that attract legal controversy.

CLO 2 Critically analyze a particular topic or decided case in terms of the underlying legal and semiotic issues.

CLO 3 Demonstrate analytical knowledge of legal regimes that control or protect signs.

CLO 4 Apply knowledge of individual cases to demonstrate an overarching awareness of the interconnections between sociocultural issues, semiotics and law.

CLO 5 Engage at a jurisprudential level with underlying issues of the ownership, responsibility, interpretation and control of signs.

2.2 LLB Programme Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Please refer to the following link: https://course.law.hku.hk/llb-plo/

2.3 Programme Learning Outcomes to be achieved in this course



3.1 Assessment Summary

Assessment task Due date Weighting Feedback method* Course learning outcomes
Mid-term essay 1 Nov 2021 40%  1, 2, 3, 4, 5 1, 2, 3
Final essay / project 20 Dec 2021 60%  1, 2, 3, 4, 5 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  *Feedback method (to be determined by course teacher)
1 A general course report to be disseminated through Moodle
2 Individual feedback to be disseminated by email / through Moodle
3 Individual review meeting upon appointment
4 Group review meeting
5 In-class verbal feedback

3.2 Assessment Detail

To be advised by the course convenor(s).

3.3 Grading Criteria

Please refer to the following link: https://www.law.hku.hk/_files/law_programme_grade_descriptors.pdf

Learning Activities

4.1 Learning Activity Plan

Seminar: 3 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks
Private study time: 9.5 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks

Remarks: the normative student study load per credit unit is 25 ± 5 hours (ie. 150 ± 30 hours for a 6-credit course), which includes all learning activities and experiences within and outside of classroom, and any assessment task and examinations and associated preparations.

4.2 Details of Learning Activities

To be advised by course convenor(s).

Learning Resources

5.1 Resources

Reading materials: Reading materials are posted on Moodle
Core reading list: TBA
Recommended reading list: TBA

5.2 Links

Please refer to the following link: http://www.law.hku.hk/course/learning-resources/