Welcome to the website of the Digital Media Law Project. The DMLP was a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society from 2007 to 2014. Due to popular demand the Berkman Klein Center is keeping the website online, but please note that the website and its contents are no longer being updated. Please check any information you find here for accuracy and completeness.
City officials in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri unanimously passed a measure on November 21 making online harassment a crime, punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. The city's six-member Board of Aldermen passed the ordinance in response to 13-year-old Megan Meier's suicide.
John Tehranian, a law professor at the University of Utah, has an article coming out in the Utah Law Review in which he concludes that the dichotomy between copyright law and social norms "is so profound that on any given day even the most law-abiding American engages in thousands of actions that likely constitute copyright infringement."
Public.Resource.Org and Fastcase, Inc. announced this week that they will make 1.8 million pages of federal case law, including all Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 to the present and all Supreme Court decisions since 1754, available in a free public archive. The entire archive will be in the public domain and usable by anyone for any purpose.
Last week, the California First Amendment Coalition published an assessment of several open government reform bills in California's 2007 legislative session. The report shows that while there were some victories, several important reform proposals failed in the legislature or died on the Governor's desk.
Yesterday, lawyers for two female Yale Law School students, captioned as Does I & II, filed an amended complaint dropping
Anthony Ciolli as a defendant from the lawsuit they filed against a host of pseudonymous users of the popular law school
admissions forum, AutoAdmit.
Two new websites recently launched that give the public unprecedented access to government documents acquired
through the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other public disclosure, or "sunshine,"
laws: GovernmentDocs.org and GovernmentAttic.org.
We've finally finished building the interface for our Legal Threats Database, and I am excited to announce its public launch. If you would like to read our news release, you can find it here.
The database, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, contains legal threats from 35 states and 9 countries, and it is growing daily. These threats range from copyright infringement lawsuits filed against bloggers to cease and desist letters claiming defamation sent to MySpace users.
Users of the interactive database can input new threat entries, comment on existing threats, and search the database in a number of ways, including by location, legal claim, publication medium, and content type. We've already been receiving a lot of interest in the database and expect that it will be useful to a wide range of people. As Sam Bayard noted yesterday, the database already contains a fascinating array of lawsuits, as well as more informal threats like cease-and-desist letters and emails.
We can't create this database alone, however, so we need your help to keep the information accurate and up to date. If you've been threatened with legal action as a result of your online activities or
know of someone who has, please let us know by using our contact form or by entering the information directly into the database through our easy to use threat entry form.
The database is the product of a tremendous amount of work by CMLP staff and students, especially Sam Bayard, Jillian Button, Daniel Ostrach, David Russcol, Matt Sanchez, Daniel Ungar, and Stefani Wittenauer. Our website designer, Chris Wells from Redfin Solutions, has worked tirelessly on getting all of the functionality operating properly. A big public thank you to everyone who helped!
Reports are emerging from Pakistan that President Pervez Musharraf has shutdown independent news media within Pakistan and limited access to the Internet. Musharraf appears to be using, at least in part, Pakistan's press licensing laws to effectuate this clampdown.
Tomorrow, we will be launching a new podcast series discussing a range of issues related to citizen media, journalism, and law. We'll continue the series on a weekly basis each Friday. The podcast series is being produced by Colin Rhinesmith, the CMLP's new digital media producer.
Tomorrow's podcast will cover the new federal shield bill, co-blogging and cease-and-desist letters, and the Phoenix New Times arrests.
The Center for Citizen Media is in the midst of a series of posts exploring possible business models for citizen journalism and the processes surrounding the creation of a website. The series is primarily the work of Ryan McGrady, a new media graduate student at Emerson College, who was an intern here at the CMLP this past summer.
Nevada has enacted a new public records law requiring government agencies to respond to written public records requests within five days. The law, which was signed by the Governor on June 13, went into effect on October 1, 2007.
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed -- for the first time ever -- a federal shield bill by a vote of 398 to 21. This follows on the heels of the Senate Judiciary Committee's passage of a similar bill on October 4. The House version, however, makes a critical change in the language regarding who is entitled to the bill's qualified protections by excluding those who do not receive "substantial financial gain" for their activities.
Under the House version, H.R. 2102, a "covered person" is defined as
a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.
I've highlighted the new language in the quote above, which came about as the result of a last minute amendment by Representatives Boucher and Pence, two cosponsors of the original bill that did not include this ill-conceived requirement. In contrast, the original version of the House bill extended its coverage to any person "engaged in journalism," including "a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person."
This change significantly narrows the bill's coverage and is plainly aimed to exclude non-traditional journalists. But it doesn't just exclude those whom some in Congress derisively call "bloggers." The new definition would likely exclude many freelance journalists who must rely on other work to supplement their incomes. Do we really want judges to be deciding whether a journalist is earning enough money to qualify for protection?
More to the point, is financial remuneration the criterion we want to be using when we draw the line between those who are entitled to engage in journalism under the protection of a federal shield law and those who must venture forth unprotected? It seems to me the answer is no. To limit the privilege only to journalists who receive "substantial financial gain" misses the point of how media and journalism are evolving. Most crucially, it misses the growing -- and essential -- role of citizen media creators. They are the closest analog since the nation's founding to the Tom Paine-style pamphleteers the First Amendment was designed, in part, to encourage.
We formally launched the Citizen Media Law Project's website back in April, so it's about time that I provided an update on what we have been up to and where we are headed in the next few weeks and months.
Timed to coincide with the release of Justice Clarence Thomas’s autobiography, the First Amendment Center today published an online symposium concerning Justice Thomas’s First Amendment jurisprudence. Erwin Chemerinsky of Duke Law School, Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago Law School, and Supreme Court practitioner Tom Goldstein are among the scholars and practitioners who scrutinized Justice Thomas’s thoughts on a variety of free speech issues, from commercial speech to campaign finance.
One scholar, Mary-Rose Papandrea, who teaches constitutional law at Boston College Law School and is an occasional contributor to this blog, examined Justice Thomas’s jurisprudence concerning the electronic media. Mary-Rose concludes that Thomas is rigidly committed to applying established First Amendment doctrine to electronic media regardless of the technological and economic complications. She points out that in Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union, 535 U.S. 564 (2002), Justice Thomas rejected arguments that the Child Online Protection Act was unconstitutionally overbroad because it applied community standards to determine what sexual expression was harmful to minors.
The challengers in that case had argued that applying such a standard would give the most puritanical community in the United States a heckler’s veto over sexual expression on the Internet nationally because the Internet did not permit geographic targeting. Remarkably, Justice Thomas responded that that those who were worried about this problem should simply stop using the Internet and instead use an expressive medium that permitted targeting.
The United States Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to endorse a bill that would give journalists a qualified privilege from having to testify in court about their confidential sources and to disclose their news gathering materials. In a 15-2 vote, the committee sent the legislation, S. 2035, to the full Senate, where it is expected to face stiff opposition from Republican senators and the Bush administration. Presiding over the committee session, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) remarked:
Contributors to this blog include a diverse group of lawyers, law professors, law students, and others with an interest in new media. The views expressed are solely those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DMLP or the institutions with which they are affiliated. To learn more about the DMLP, please click here.
We are looking for contributing authors with expertise in media law, intellectual property, First Amendment, and other related fields to join us as guest bloggers. If you are interested, please contact us for more details.