Last week, Global Voices held a summit in Budapest, Hungary for its members and the wider community of bloggers, activists, technologists, journalists and others from around the world. Called the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2008, the two day event focused on the topic of "Citizen Media & Citizenhood."
Posted June 30th, 2008 by Sam Bayard
LoHud.com, an online news site operated by The Journal News that focuses on New York's Lower Hudson Valley, reported on Friday that a Westchester County judge has ruled that it must turn over the names of three pseudonymous posters to former House Representative Richard Ottinger and his wife, June Ottinger. According to the report, Ottinger and his wife subpoenaed The Journal News asking for identifying information for posters to the site's Mamaroneck community forum going by the psuedonyms "SAVE10543," "hadenough," and "aoxomoxoa." The posters allegedly made statements accusing the Ottingers of unsavory conduct in the course of a neighborhood dispute over their construction of a house in the Village of Mamaroneck, NY.
The Journal News moved to quash the subpoena, but the court ruled that the newspaper had to turn over the requested information. Although the details are still sketchy, the court appears to have applied the standard for protecting the First Amendment right to anonymous speech set forth in Dendrite v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001). We are trying to get the underlying court documents, and we'll update this post and our database entry, Ottinger v. The Journal News, when we have more information. read more »
Posted June 27th, 2008 by David Ardia
Following on the heels of a Virginia lawyer being sanctioned for improperly using a subpoena to silence a critic, we hear about a lawyer in California who is threatening to use a meritless lawsuit to force Julia Forte, who runs a forum for consumer complaints about telemarketers, to remove user-submitted comments that are critical of his client.
Paul Alan Levy at the Public Citizen Litigation Group, which represents Forte, has the story:
Posted June 26th, 2008 by Jason Crow
“Laws are like sausages. You should never watch them being made.” This adage, generally attributed to Otto von Bismarck, rings true to anyone who has had the opportunity to watch Congress make public policy. Just tune into C-SPAN sometime for a taste.
Across the pond in England, a website, TheyWorkForYou.com (TWFY), aims to change this by offering a new service that allows users to watch archived BBC coverage of parliamentary debates and tag the video.
The tagging solves a big problem: there is currently no way to search the video to find the speaker or topic you are interested in. TWFY is crowdsourcing the work, allowing visitors to mark the moment in the video when a speaker begins by pressing a big red button. They call this activity "time-stamping" and provide incentives to compete with others by displaying the names of the top time-stampers and giving away promotional hoodies to the top time-stampers. The time-stamping synchronizes the video with the transcript and makes the video much more useful by allowing users to search the video according to their interests. read more »
Posted June 25th, 2008 by Matthew C. Sanchez
After passing state bill H7422 last week, Rhode Island is set to join the growing list of states – including Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Oregon – that have strengthened their freedom of information laws in the past year. The bill, which contains several reforms of the state's open records practices, awaits only Governor Don Carcieri's signature before it will come into law.
From a citizen media perspective, the bill's most useful upgrade of Rhode Island's existing FOI law is that it will bar agencies from requiring that requestors provide personally identifiable information or specific reasons for their request. If passed, these provisions will help prevent agencies from denying open records requests based upon the characteristics of the individual requestor. For instance, it would be more difficult for an agency to refuse an open records request from a citizen speaker who has been known to criticize the state government.
The bill offers several other reforms, including: read more »
Posted June 24th, 2008 by Arthur Bright
According to a new report by the World Information Access (“WIA”) Project, 64 independent bloggers have been arrested since 2003, suggesting governments around the world are growing more aware of blogs and more likely to act to silence bloggers.
In the report, WIA researchers write that they used Google and LexisNexis to find arrests of bloggers who were unaffiliated with news organizations. The researchers found that the number of reported arrests appeared to increase over the years, with just five arrests during 2003, but totaling 36 in 2007. Arrests were most frequent in China (11), Egypt (13), and Iran (8), and overall Asia and the Middle East accounted for the lion’s share of WIA’s data. But western nations were not blameless – researchers recorded a blogger arrest in each of Britain, Canada, and France, and three arrests in the U.S. as well (Josh Wolf, Jack McClellan, and Daniel Aljughaifi). On the whole, WIA reports that the arrested bloggers tended to be males between the ages of 21 and 45, and the durations of their arrests ranged from a few hours to eight years.
The researchers observe that blogger arrests seem to increase during “times of political uncertainty,” noting for example that most of Egypt’s arrests took place during its 2007 elections. The researchers predict that 2008 will likely see a further increase in the arrests of bloggers, as China, Iran, and Pakistan all have elections this year. read more »
Posted June 23rd, 2008 by David Ardia
A federal magistrate judge in New Hampshire has sanctioned Clifford Shoemaker, a Virginia attorney, for abusing the legal process by issuing a subpoena to Kathleen Seidel. Seidel publishes the blog Neurodiversity, where she writes about autism issues. In February 2008, she wrote about a lawsuit against various vaccine manufacturers, Sykes v. Bayer, in which the plaintiffs Lisa and Seth Sykes sought to link exposure to mercury to their son's autism. (For more on her statements about the lawsuit, see my previous post: Blogger Kathleen Seidel Fights Subpoena Seeking Information About Vaccine Litigation.) read more »
Posted June 20th, 2008 by David Ardia
I am at the Carnegie-Knight Conference on the Future of Journalism hosted by the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, & Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. This is my third conference in three weeks, and I think I have reached my limit on conferences. These three very different conferences, however, are excellent examples of the various approaches being studied (and in some instances, implemented) to ensure that good journalism survives the transition to new media.
The first was the Journalism that Matters (New Pamphleteers/New Reporters: Convening Entrepreneurs Who Combine Journalism, Democracy, Place and Blogs) conference at the University of Minnesota. This was a participatory affair full of independent journalists, placebloggers, and other citizen media types who are leading the charge of bringing quality journalism and conversation to their communities. The energy and enthusiasm at this "unconference" was palpable, and I came away quite invigorated -- and optimistic -- that journalism would thrive (and is thriving in some places) on the Internet. read more »
Posted June 19th, 2008 by Matthew C. Sanchez
In a rare Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) decision, the Supreme Court recently held in Taylor v. Sturgell that an individual's failed FOIA request does not preclude similar requests from related individuals. In doing so, the court rejected the legal doctrine of "virtual representation," which would have prevented a FOIA requestor from seeking judicial relief if he had a "close relationship" with a party who had previously litigated the same FOIA request. read more »
Posted June 18th, 2008 by Arthur Bright
Singapore officials Monday amended the charge against blogger Gopalan Nair, a U.S. citizen who blogs from Fremont, California, accusing him of insulting a public official for his criticism of Singaporean Judge Belinda Ang that he published in his blog, Singapore Dissident, last month. The original charge had asserted that Nair insulted Ang in an email.
In late May 2008, Nair, a former Singaporean lawyer before he emigrated to the U.S., attended a sentencing hearing in the defamation trial of two members of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party. The defendants had been found guilty of libeling former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew’s son. Lee Kuan Yew, whom Nair frequently criticized in his blog, testified at the hearing.
In his May 29, 2008 blog entry, Nair wrote that Ang, who presided over the hearing, "prostitut[ed] herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders." In another blog entry, Nair challenged Lee Kuan Yew to charge him with defamation, writing "I am now within your jurisdiction.... What are you going to do about it?" On the evening of May 31, Singaporean police arrested Nair in his hotel and put him in solitary confinement until he was released on bail on June 5. read more »
Posted June 17th, 2008 by Jason Crow
Last week some reporters, politicos, and bloggers may have mourned the end of the endless presidential primary season. But it's not like political mudslinging is now going to end. Indeed, in ancticipation of the focus on the general election battle, in the muddy backwaters of the Internet – in forums, blog comments, email chain letters and listservs – defamatory statements are being bandied about in hopes that some of the reputation damaging misinformation will enter the zeitgeist of the electorate to sway public opinion about the candidates one way or another.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the trend, noting that Snopes.com and PolitiFact.com have not only been tracking the smear campaigns against the presumptive nominees but also determining the veracity of the claims. Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, similarly analyzes the veracity of statements made by parties or campaigns themselves. So as to not add to the clutter of misinformation on the web, I’ll let you find some of the best calumny that have been floated around the web yourself.
Associated Press Sends DMCA Takedown to Drudge Retort, Backpedals, and Now Seeks to Define Fair Use for BloggersPosted June 16th, 2008 by David Ardia
Last week, the Associated Press ("AP") sent a takedown request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to Rogers Cadenhead, the founder of Drudge Retort, a liberal alternative to (and parody of) the well-known Drudge Report, demanding that he remove six user-submitted blog entries and one user comment on the site that contained quotations from AP articles. Today, the New York Times reported that AP was reconsidering its request while it creates a set of guidelines for bloggers and websites that excerpt AP material.
The Drudge Retort is a community site similar to Digg and Reddit, allowing its users to contribute blog entries, comments, and links to interesting news articles. According to Cadenhead, none of the six posts republished the full text of an AP story; instead, each contained quotes ranging in length from 33 to 79 words (although the posts have been removed, Cadenhead has provided a summary of them here). read more »
Posted June 13th, 2008 by Matthew C. Sanchez
In an interesting counterpoint to Prince’s latest takedown exploits – see Sam’s recent posts – rock band Metallica recently “ear spanked” its management for demanding that websites take down reviews of unreleased Metallica songs. While the reviews are back online after the short downtime, the dispute raises copyright issues worth further discussion.
Last Wednesday, June 4, Metallica representatives hosted an invitation-only listening party in London for U.K. music writers, previewing six of the band’s new songs. Several attendees promptly posted their impressions about the new songs online. QPrime, Metallica’s management company, just as promptly told at least four sites – Metal Hammer, Rock Sound, Classic Rock, and The Quietus – to remove the reviews. The sites complied. read more »
Posted June 12th, 2008 by David Ardia
I'll be at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the next two days at a conference for the winners of the Knight News Challenge. CMLP was a lucky recipient of a Knight News Challenge award in 2007. The conference, which Knight plans to make an annual event, is being hosted by MIT's Center for Future Civic Media (which, incidentally, also won a News Challenge award last year).
It has been a fascinating day and a half so far, with presentations by both MIT researchers and Knight award winners, such as Adrian Holovaty, who showed off EveryBlock, an impressive aggregator and filter of local news by location, and Lisa Williams, founder of Placeblogger.
I won't even pretend to provide comprehensive coverage of this conference, especially when some of the best conference bloggers on the planet are here. For "live" coverage, you can't do better than Ethan Zuckerman and Amy Gahran. Ethan has several insightful posts up already (see here and here) and Amy is putting her fingers to the test by "live tweeting" at amylive. read more »
Posted June 11th, 2008 by Sam Bayard
All right copyright geeks, it's time to do some more hypothesizing on the Prince/Radiohead/YouTube flap I blogged about in my previous post, Prince, Radiohead, and the Bootlegging Provision of the Copyright Act. Readers posted great comments that merit some elaboration in this post. The idea here is not to provide any sure answers (because I don't have them), but to raise some questions for further discussion. If you are not a copyright lawyer, you'll have to excuse the technical bent; there's just no way to deal with these questions without getting a little esoteric.
To recap, previously I discussed whether the mystery bootlegger who recorded and posted Prince's cover of Radiohead's "Creep" at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival might have violated the anti-bootlegging provision of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 1101 and whether sending a DMCA takedown notice was an appropriate legal response. The next day, Eric Goldman of the Technology & Marketing Law Blog, posted the following intriguing comment: read more »
Posted June 10th, 2008 by Tuna Chatterjee
Last Wednesday, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gave the keynote speech at the annual Games for Change convention at the Parsons The New School For Design in New York City. In her speech, O'Connor announced her project Our Courts, which she is developing with Arizona State University (ASU) and Georgetown University Law Center. For the project, O'Connor is collaborating with James Gee, a professor at ASU, to design an online game that teaches students civic lessons about the American judiciary.
Posted June 9th, 2008 by Sam Bayard
In late May, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion in Utah Lighthouse Ministry v. Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2008 WL 22043807 (10th Cir. May 29, 2008). With this decision, the Tenth Circuit joins an expanding group of federal appeals courts holding that federal trademark law does not prohibit a noncommercial website's use of a trademark for purposes of commenting on or criticising the trademark owner. See, e.g., Bosley Medical Institute, Inc. v. Kremer, 403 F.3d 672 (9th Cir. 2005); Taubman v. Webfeats, 319 F.3d 770 (6th Cir. 2003); Falwell v. Lamparello, 420 F.3d 309 (4th Cir. 2005). The case is not your usual "gripe site" case, but instead involves a more subtle parody of an ideological opponent's website. read more »
Posted June 6th, 2008 by Wendy Seltzer
The Scientology critic known as “Wise Beard Man” returned to YouTube this week after successfully filing counter-notifications to copyright claims that had earlier been made against his account. The takedown and delayed return illuminate another of the lesser-known shoals of the DMCA safe harbor, the 512(i)(1)(A) “repeat infringers” consideration.
As Mark Bunker, the critic, describes it, he had initially set up a YouTube account under the name XenuTV, where he posted clips including commentary on Scientology. Some of these clips came from other sources, and two of them attracted DMCA takedown requests from Viacom, for “Colbert Report” clips in which Stephen talked about Scientology. These might well have been fair use, or he might have chosen to remove them, but as Bunker says, “Before I could act on the takedown notices and remove the offending clips, the accounts were canceled.”
Bunker began using a second YouTube account, XenuTV1, posting only clips of entirely his own material. His advice to the “Anonymous” critics made him a sort of elder statesman to the movement, and his account attracted over 10,000 subscribed viewers.
In April, however, this second account was abruptly canceled. Apparently, YouTube had discovered that it was Mr. Bunker’s second, after a canceled first, and interpreted the DMCA to compel termination of this second account.
The provision they were invoking was 512(i)(1)(A), which sets some conditions for service provider eligibility for shelter in the DMCA safe harbor: read more »
Posted June 6th, 2008 by Sam Bayard
In a twist on the old adage "hard cases make bad law," Representatives Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) introduced a bill (H.R. 6123) in the House on May 22 which, if passed, would be known as the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act. If anyone is not already familiar with the Megan Meier tragedy, you can consult our previous posts (here, here, here). The bill would make it a federal crime to
transmit in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
Posted June 5th, 2008 by Sam Bayard
Larry Dominick, the Town President of Cicero, Illinois, is seeking information from MySpace about an anonymous user who set up fake profiles for him on the social networking site. He filed a petition in Illinois state court, seeking permission to issue interrogatories and document requests to MySpace about the user's identity. Dominick, who filed the petition in his capacity as Town President, contends that he has potential legal claims for defamation and invasion of privacy, but his petition does not identify any specific defamatory statements or describe the content of the profiles in detail. MySpace has taken down the offending pages, but has otherwise stayed out of the fray. Luckily, EFF has stepped in as amicus curiae and filed an excellent brief arguing that Dominick has not met the heightened requirements demanded of plaintiffs seeking the identity of anonymous Internet speakers. read more »
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