Blogs

Leveraging FOIA: Websites Shine a Bright Light on Government Records

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.

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Citizen Media Law Project Launches Legal Threats Database

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!

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Legal Threats Database Preview: Internet Solutions v. Marshall

Tomorrow we officially launch our Legal Threats Database, a catalog of the growing number of lawsuits, cease-and-desist letters, and other legal challenges faced by those engaging in online speech. As many of our readers are no doubt aware, the individual threat entries have been available for some time, but starting tomorrow users will be able to view the entire database and search the entries using a number of fields, including location, legal claim, publication medium, and content type.

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Musharraf Uses Press Licensing Laws to Clampdown on News Media in Pakistan

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.

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Fox News Upbraided for Anti Fair Use Stance in Political Video

Talking Points Memo: Right-Wing Bloggers Launch Campaign -- With MoveOn! -- Against Fox News Over Debate Footage. A coalition of right-wing bloggers and MoveOn that helped force several networks to allow public use of their political debate footage last spring has just launched a similar campaign against Fox News.

Good for all of them. Fox News' position is untenable from almost any point of reference.

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Jury Awards $10.9 Million Against "God Hates Fags" Church

On Wednesday, a federal jury in Maryland handed down a $10.9 million verdict against the Westboro Baptist Church, a fundamentalist Christian church in Kansas that publishes a website at www.godhatesfags.com, on which it disseminates its rabidly anti-homosexual views. Among other things, the church advocates the view that God kills U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality and for the presence of gays in the U.S. military.

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Citizen Media Law Podcast #2: Legal Threats Database; Orthomom Defamation Action; Iranian Blogger Sued in Canada

This week, David Ardia previews our legal threats database, Colin Rhinesmith talks about a recent decision on First Amendment protections for anonymous bloggers, and Sam Bayard spotlights a defamation suit involving an Iranian blogger in Canada.

Download the MP3 (time: 9:30)

Music used in this podcast was sampled and remixed from a track titled "Jazz House" by the Wicked Allstars, available on Magnatune.

To subscribe to the Citizen Media Law Podcast, visit our Subscriptions page or go directly to the podcast feed.

 

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Report Recommends Fair Use Principles for User Generated Video Content

Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a group of public interest groups dedicated to protecting free speech, including the Center for Social Media at American University and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, published a report entitled "Fair Use Principles for User Generated Video

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Opposition News Sites Blocked in Kazakhstan

The OpenNet Initiative is reporting that four opposition news sites in Kazakhstan have been recently blocked, including www.kub.kz, www.zonakz.net, www.geo.kz, and www.inkar.info.

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Summary Judgment Granted in BidZirk v. Smith

I blogged about Orthomom's victory on Friday. Here's another big win for a blogger recently. Last Monday, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina granted summary judgment to Philip Smith in the lawsuit brought against him by BidZirk, LLC, Daniel Schmidt, and Jill Patterson.

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New York Court Dismisses Orthomom Defamation Action

On Tuesday, October 23, Justice Marcy Friedman of the New York Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit seeking discovery from Google (dba Blogger) regarding the identities of the anonymous operator of the blog "Orthomom" and an anonymous commenter to the blog. The court's opinion is potentially important because it addresses the difficult question of what standard a court should apply when deciding whether to unmask an anonymous defendant in a defamation action.

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Update on Phoenix New Times Case

As mentioned in our previous post on the Phoenix New Times arrests, two Phoenix-area news organizations filed a motion on October 19 requesting the Arizona Superior Court to publicly release documents related to the New Times grand jury investigation, presumably including the subpoena that caused all the ruckus.

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Citizen Media Law Podcast #1: Federal Shield Bill; Co-Blogging and Legal Threats; Phoenix New Times Arrests

Welcome to the first episode of the Citizen Media Law Podcast, providing practical knowledge and tools for citizen journalists. This week, David Ardia responds to the federal shield bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, Colin Rhinesmith talks about legal threats to co-bloggers, and Sam Bayard reflects on the Phoenix New Times arrests.

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CMLP Launching Weekly Podcast Series

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.

Some Thoughts on the Phoenix New Times Arrests

There's been extensive coverage (here, here, here, and here, to start) of the arrest and subsequent dismissal of charges against Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, the founders of the Phoenix New Times, a print newspaper that also publishes on its website. I'll add my voice to the chorus in order to elaborate on some of the legal issues at stake.

The facts are as follows: Starting in July 2004, the Phoenix New Times published a number of articles critical of Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. In one article published on its website in 2004, the newspaper disclosed Arpaio's home address as part of a story raising questions about his real estate holdings. The address was available in public records on the County Recorder and State Corporation Commission websites.

Authorities in Maricopa County began a criminal investigation of the newspaper for violation of section 13-2401 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, which makes it a felony to

knowingly make available on the world wide web the personal information of a peace officer, justice, judge, commissioner, public defender or prosecutor if the dissemination of the personal information poses an imminent and serious threat to the peace officer's, justice's, judge's, commissioner's, public defender's or prosecutor's safety or the safety of that person's immediate family and the threat is reasonably apparent to the person making the information available on the world wide web to be serious and imminent.
Notice that the statute only applies to publication on the Internet, not to print publications. The New Times filed a lawsuit in federal court in Arizona seeking a declaration that section 13-2401 violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and an injunction barring Maricopa County law enforcement officials from investigating or prosecuting the newspaper for violation of the statute.

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Chilly Weekend: Black Friday Prequel and Public Domain Music Scores

If it's fall, these must be cease-and-desists for Black Friday ads. This year, they seem to be coming earlier than ever, as Wal-Mart sends pre-notifications against future posting. I put my analysis into a Chilling Effects Weather Report

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ONI Releases Bulletin on Internet Shutdown in Burma

Yesterday, the OpenNet Initiative released an excellent report on the recent Internet shutdown in Burma, entitled "Pulling the Plug: A Technical Review of the Internet Shutdown in Burma." Besides the eye-popping technical analysis ONI was able to carry out in a matter of weeks, the report contains a great overview of the dramatic events of late September and early October 2007, including the role that citizen journalists and

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