Looking For An Assistant Project Director

Are you a lawyer interested in dealing with emerging legal issues relating to the intersection of law, journalism, and new media on the Internet?  

The Citizen Media Law Project is looking to hire an Assistant Project Director commencing in the summer or fall of 2007 to assist with the work of the CMLP.  The position requires a Juris Doctor degree with admission to at least one state bar; 1-5 years legal-practice experience with media, First Amendment, Internet, or intellectual property law; and litigation or transactional/licensing experience.  Previous experience in a clinical legal setting or the direct supervision and mentoring of young attorneys or students is advantageous. Superior writing and verbal skills, sound judgment, exceptional ethical standards, and interpersonal communication skills are essential.

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China Will Not Require that All Bloggers Register

According to a recent article in Ars Technica, the Chinese government withdrew a proposal to require all bloggers in China to register their real identities.

The government-regulated Internet Society of China (ISC) said that real-name registration would now only be "encouraged" but not required, according to the Xinhua news agency. . . . The ISC's new code is still in draft, so changes might still be made before it is finalized.

While China has been the subject of some excellent studies concerning the government's use of technical measures to control access to information, including a recent report by the Open Net Initiative, there hasn't been a great deal of focus on the use of law to limit and censor citizen media within China and other countries that actively filter information.  If you are aware of countries that have, or are considering, registration requirements for bloggers or other citizen media, please let us know.

In addition, I've been receiving a lot of interest from people within and outside China to include Chinese law in our legal guide and other resources.  We will be adding that material to the site as soon as we can.

(Disclosure: The Open Net Initiative, like the CMLP, is a joint project of the Berkman Center.)

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Shield Bill Moving Forward in Texas

It must be Texas day, with two posts relating to the Lone Star State. 

The Texas Senate approved the "Free Flow of Information Act" on May 1 in a 27-4 vote and sent the bill to the Texas House of Representatives.  The bill would give "journalists" a qualified privilege to protect both their sources and their newsgathering materials.  Under the current language of the bill, a journalists is defined as follows:

"Journalist" means a person who for financial gain, for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood, or for subscription purposes gathers, compiles, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, investigates, processes, or publishes news or information that is disseminated by a news medium or communication service provider and includes:

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Texas Erecting Barriers to Citizen Journalists

Pegasus News: Anti-sunshine bill HB 2564 on Governor Perry's desk Saturday. Under this law, local and state government agencies could track individuals who seek public records and bill them for employee time spent to dig them up. Elected officials, nonprofit corporations, FCC-licensed TV and radio stations and "Newspapers of General Circulation" would be exempt.

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Yale Law School to Host New Law & Media Program

Yale Law School announced on May 14 that with the help of the Knight Foundation, it will launch the Knight Law and Media Scholars Program.  The program will include law and media courses, scholars, research fellowships, summer internships, career counseling, and an annual training program for "midcareer journalists."  It also will feature a speaker series and a student organization focused on law and media.

In announcing the initiative, YLS's Dean Koh said: 

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Court Refuses to Enjoin School From Suspending Student Over YouTube Video

A federal district court judge in Seattle recently denied a student's motion for a preliminary injunction challenging his high school's decision to suspend him for posting on YouTube a video presenting his teacher in an unflattering light. This case raises a whole host of fascinating First Amendment issues concerning student free speech rights in the electronic age.

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Knight Foundation Grant

I am in Miami today at the Editor & Publisher/Mediaweek Interactive Media Conference to receive a Knight Foundation News Challenge Grant on behalf of the Citizen Media Law Project.  The one-year grant will fund the development of a national database of legal threats against citizen journalists and a set of state-specific legal guides that will cover the 15 most populous states and the District of Columbia. We are excited and honored to work with the Knight Foundation on this project.

The Knight Foundation awarded a total of 24 grants, covering a broad range of initiatives from the development of a Center for Future Civic Media at MIT to supporting bloggers who will write about topics such as GPS tracking devices and out-of-the-box community publishing solutions.  It's a fascinating list of projects and people.

I may be the one basking in the Florida sun today, but this day would not have been possible without the vision and hard work of the other CMLP founders: Dan Gillmor, Phil Malone, and Matt Lovell.   

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Good News on Freedom of Information Front

The California First Amendment Coalition has won a crucial lower-court ruling that Santa Clara County must provide -- at cost -- its geographic "base map" of real estate boundaries in the county. The county had been saying it would charge tens of thousands of dollars for information collected on behalf of residents, using taxpayer money.

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What is on Tap For the CMLP: The Legal Guide

In this and the next few posts I'll talk in some depth about the various projects we are working on.

One of the first things we'll be doing is putting together a legal guide that will focus on the specific needs of citizen media creators and will address, among other things, business formation and governance; access to government information, records, and meetings; risks associated with publication; newsgathering; intellectual property; and how to respond to legal threats.  You can see a tentative list of the subject areas we are working on here.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, I am sure we haven't thought of everything, so I'd love to hear your suggestions and comments.

Presentation of the information in the legal guide will be critical to its usefulness so we want to make the material is accessible in as many ways as possible.  We will be starting with a hierarchical outline of subject areas that will look like a linked table of contents with the various categories and subcategories listed in outline form.  Under this approach, if someone wants to read about fair use, they would need to find it under Intellectual Property: Copyright

Obviously, this presupposes that people who come to the site will already know enough about the law to have an idea of where to look.  This isn't going to be the case all the time (or even most of the time) so we think it's essential to provide an alternative way to access the information.  For those who may not know where to look, we are building an interactive set of questions/steps that will lead them to the right part of the legal guide.  We are still working out the questions/steps in this interactive process, but the flow will look something like this: 

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Time to Launch

Don't let anyone tell you that launching a website is easy.  It isn't.  After several false starts and a lot of time spent trolling the Drupal community site (I'll talk more about Drupal in a later post), we are ready to put this out to the world, in beta form at least.  Let's just say it has been a learning experience, which I guess is apropos because that is what this site, and the Citizen Media Law Project, are about: learning.

First off, we want to learn from you.  We want to know what questions you want to have answered.  Are you interested in knowing how to respond to a threatening letter from a lawyer who claims your site contains copyrighted material?  Do you want to know how to minimize the risks of defamation?  Or perhaps how to use the Freedom of Information Act to get documents from a federal agency? 

Well, we are working on putting together a detailed legal guide that will cover these questions and more.  But I am sure we haven't thought of everything, so I'd love to hear your suggestions and comments.  You can put them in your comments to this post or use our contact form.

Hopefully the learning will flow both ways.  Over the next month or so we'll be putting up portions of our legal guide, which covers everything from how to form a business to how to deal with election laws.  We are also working on building a database of legal threats, including relevant lawsuits, subpoenas, and other legal threats directed at citizen media creators.  If you have been on the receiving end of a legal threat or know someone who has, please let us know so we can include it in the database. 

And, in case you were wondering, the database and legal guide (just like everything else we are doing), will be publicly accessible, searchable, and open for commenting.  We want to build a community of people who are interested in facilitating citizen participation in online media and in protecting the legal rights of those engaged in speech on the Internet.  The only way to do this is to make this a conversation.......which can start right now.

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