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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Linking Law: Decision Favors Online Innovation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation thinks the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals handed Internet innovators and users of all stripes a huge victory in a case involving a company called Perfect 10 versus Google:

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Interesting article in today's New York Times about, which says it has identified 4,300 informers and 400 undercover agents, many of them from electronic court records.  According to a Justice Department official quoted in the piece:

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Federal Shield Bill: Don't Go Dancing in the Streets Just Yet

In announcing the introduction of shield legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 2, 2007, Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.) commented:


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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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