Week of December 5, 2008

Welcome to the Citizen Media Law Brief, a weekly newsletter highlighting recent blog posts, media law news, legal threat entries, and other new content on the Citizen Media Law Project's website. You are receiving this email because you have expressed interest in the CMLP or registered on our site, www.citmedialaw.org. If you do not wish to receive this newsletter, you can unsubscribe by following the link at the bottom of this email or by going to http://www.citmedialaw.org/newsletter/subscriptions.

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The latest from the Citizen Media Law Project blog...

Matt Sanchez remarks on the growing number of online journalists facing incarceration.
More Online Journalists Jailed Than Any Other Media Group

Sam Bayard looks at a local case involving a suspect prior restraint on speech.
Mystery Blogger Caught Up in First Amendment Flap

David Ardia reports on another case involving Colorado's criminal libel law.
Colorado Man Charged With Criminal Libel For Comments on Craigslist

Dan Gillmor notes his support for greater openness in government.
Opening the Government, Starting with the Transition

Sam Bayard discusses Rebecca MacKinnon's research on blog censorship in China and Jeffrey Rosen's article on Google's gatekeeping function.
The Role of Internet Intermediaries in Censoring Online Speech

Sam Bayard reports on the jury verdict in the controversial Lori Drew cyberbullying case.
Jury Finds Lori Drew Not Guilty on Felony Charges 

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Recent threats added to the CMLP database...

MCW, Inc. v. Badbusinessbureau.com
Posted Dec. 3, 2008

Byrge v. Campfield
Posted Dec. 3, 2008

Biegel v. Norberg
Posted Dec. 2, 2008

Manchanda Law Offices v. Xcentric Ventures
Posted Nov. 26, 2008

Matrixx Initiatives v. Mulligan
Posted Nov. 26, 2008

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Other citizen media law news...

When Complaining About Your Job Becomes a Privacy Violation
Wired/Threat Level - Thurs. 12/04/08

Government as cyber-bully
Los Angeles Times - Wed. 12/03/08

Croat police apologize for Facebook arrest
Washington Post - Wed. 12/03/08

Charlie Nesson takes on the RIAA:  The podcast
Joho the Blog - Tues. 12/02/08

Singapore Strikes Again
Wall Street Journal - Sat. 11/29/08

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The full(er) Brief...

"Online speakers are attracting more attention than ever from governments across the world, for good or for ill. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), more online journalists are currently imprisoned for their speech than journalists in print, broadcast, or other media.  The CPJ identified 125 journalists currently serving prison sentences, 45 percent of whom are bloggers, Web-based reporters, or online editors. This tells us that people recognize more and more that online speakers are a powerful part of the public dialogue -- that what they say can have significant effect on society.  It also tells us that some state actors are afraid of what will happen if free and open online speech continues to grow.  Let's hope this is one category in which online journalists won't continue to lead in the future. . . ."
Matt Sanchez, More Online Journalists Jailed Than Any Other Media Group

"On Monday, the blog-hosting service Blogger took down a blog called 'Jeffrey Denner's ineffective assistance of counsel' after Jeffrey Denner notified Blogger that a Massachusetts court had issued a restraining order prohibiting one Derrick Gillenwater from using the words 'Jeffrey' or 'Denner' or 'Jeffrey Denner' in any blog postings.  Blogger notified the anonymous operator of the blog, who goes by the moniker 'Boston Bob.'  Yesterday, Boston Bob replied as follows: 'The problem is, I'm not Derrick Gillenwater, nor do I operate under his authority. I am an independent anonymous person. Please repost my blog immediately. Thank you.' Blogger promptly restored the blog and indicated that it would notify Mr. Denner. . . .  Under the circumstances, it's hard to see how Denner and Barron could have been complaining about anything more serious than allegedly false and defamatory statements. This comes nowhere near what is necessary to satisfying the exacting standard the Supreme Court applied in the famous Pentagon Papers case. . . .  Even putting aside the serious constitutional question, courts routinely refuse to enjoin defamatory speech because money damages are an adequate remedy.  It looks like the court failed to brush up on some basics of defamation and First Amendment law before issuing its order. . . ."
Sam Bayard, Mystery Blogger Caught Up in First Amendment Flap 

"The Loveland Connection is reporting that a Colorado man has been charged with two counts of criminal libel after allegedly posting comments about a former girlfriend and her lawyer on Craigslist.com's 'Rants and Raves' section. . . .  Unfortunately, Colorado isn't the only state with a criminal libel provision on its books.  Nor is this the first criminal libel case we've seen in Colorado arising from online speech.  See State of Colorado v. Mink, where a college student was investigated for posting a satirical online journal that was critical of professors at the University of Northern Colorado (note that prosecutors eventually decided not to file charges).  At least 16 U.S. states have such laws which trace their roots back to at least the 15th century. . . ."
David Ardia, Colorado Man Charged With Criminal Libel For Comments on Craigslist

"I’m a signer of a letter on a new site called 'An Open Transition,' where a group of folks led by Larry Lessig: celebrates the incoming administration’s decision to put a Creative Commons license on its Change.Gov transition website, thereby allowing anyone to share, remix and otherwise reuse and copy the material there; and asks that this philosophy be extended widely in the new administration, and around the government in general. Politico has a short story on this here."
Dan Gillmor, Opening the Government, Starting with the Transition

"Today I came across two excellent pieces touching on the role of intermediaries in censorship/regulation of online speech internationally:  The first is Rebecca MacKinnon's detailed blog post on her research on censorship of Chinese blogs.  She looked at Chinese blog-hosting services, including foreign brands offering services inside China, and tried to determine how much variation exists in terms of 'what gets censored and how it gets censored.'  She found remarkable variation between the 15 blog hosts examined. . . .  The second is a New York Times Magazine article by Jeffrey Rosen called 'Google's Gatekeepers.'  It looks at three lawyers in Google's highest echelon, who ultimately decide what to do in response to demands by foreign governments (and Sen. Lieberman) to remove objectionable content.  As you might imagine, this gives them incredible responsibility (and discretion) for determining what speech stays online.  The article is generally optimistic about how Google has handled that responsibility so far, but expresses some understandable anxiety about the future. . . ."
Sam Bayard, The Role of Internet Intermediaries in Censoring Online Speech

"Wired/Threat Level reports:  'Lori Drew, the 49-year-old woman charged in the first federal cyberbullying case, was cleared of felony computer-hacking charges by a jury Wednesday morning, but convicted of three misdemeanors. The jury deadlocked on a remaining felony charge of conspiracy.'  It's not entirely clear how the jury could have found Drew guilty on the misdemeanor charges and not the felony charges.  The felony counts required the government to show that Drew gained unauthorized access to MySpace's servers to obtain information 'to further tortious acts,' namely inflicting emotional distress on Megan Meier. . . .  In any event, Judge Wu has not yet ruled on Drew's motions to dismiss the indictment for failure to state an offense and for judgment of acquittal based on lack of evidence of intent, either of which could result in the complete dismissal of all charges against Drew.  This is where the important legal precedent will be set, because the court will finally have to decide whether or not violating a website's terms of use is a federal criminal offense and, if so, whether someone can commit that crime without even reading the relevant terms of use."
Sam Bayard, Jury Finds Lori Drew Not Guilty on Felony Charges 

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