Week of January 16, 2009

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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News from the Citizen Media Law Project...

Earlier this week, the CMLP published a legal primer on attending and documenting the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. During the Inauguration, which starts next week, strict security measures will be in place across the Washington area, particularly where official events are taking place.  These security measures, as well as tickets, permits, and credentialing requirements, will impact what non-traditional journalists and other attendees can do to document the events.  Here's a link to our blog post announcing the guide --  CMLP Publishes Guide to Covering the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.

The CMLP blog was a finalist for Best Law Blog in the 2008 Weblog Awards.  Unfortunately, we didn't find out that we had been nominated until after the voting ended.  Just wait until next year!

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

David Ardia reports on an effort to legislate good public behavior.
South Carolina Legislator Seeks to Criminalize Profanity in Public

CMLP Staff discuss two consumer review lawsuits in California.
One Yelp Review Case Settles as a Second Gets Underway in California 

David Ardia updates us on a lawsuit involving anonymous criticism.
Anonymous Gripe Site Wins Legal Battle With Ohio Homebuilder Powermark Homes

David Ardia applauds a judge who understands how technology has changed the way we receive information.
Federal Judge in Boston Orders Groundbreaking Webcast of Hearing

Dan Gillmor brings some perspective to a tricky tax question.
The Unspoken Peril for "Citizen Journalists" Surprise! You Owe the IRS Some Gift Tax!

Sam Bayard reports on Larry Lessig's appearance on the Colbert Report.
Lessig and Colbert Mix It Up Over Remix Culture 

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Recent threats added to the CMLP database...

Johnson v. ComplaintsBoard.com
Posted Jan. 15, 2009

Nam Tai v. AOL
Posted Jan. 14, 2009

La Societe Metro Cash & Carry France v. Time Warner Cable
Posted Jan. 13, 2009

Enterline v. The Pocono Record
Posted Jan. 13, 2009

Wong v. Tai Jing
Posted Jan. 13, 2009

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Other citizen media law news...

Not Your Father's Censorship
The Chronicle Review - Fri. 01/16/09

Lawyer Who Sues Yelp Admits That He Had No Idea About Section 230 Safe Harbors
Techdirt - Thurs. 01/15/09

Mere Violation of Privacy Policy Promise Didn't Amount to Contract Breach, Fraud
Electronic Commerce & Law Report - Wed. 01/14/09

No Easy Answer For Protecting Kids Online
Wall Street Journal - Tues. 01/13/09

On YouTube, Lawmakers Have Sites to Behold
Washington Post - Tues. 01/13/09

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The full(er) Brief...

"South Carolina state senator Robert Ford has proposed a bill that would make it a felony 'for a person in a public forum or place of public accommodation wilfully and knowingly to publish orally or in writing, exhibit, or otherwise make available material containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.' The bill would also make it a felony 'for a person to disseminate profanity to a minor if he wilfully and knowingly publishes orally or in writing, exhibits, or otherwise makes available material containing words, language, or actions of profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.'  Presumably, 'public forum' in this context includes the Internet. Has Senator Ford ever heard of the First Amendment? . . ."
David Ardia, South Carolina Legislator Seeks to Criminalize Profanity in Public

"We may be seeing the start of a trend in California, as one lawsuit regarding a review posted on the website Yelp.com settled last week just as a second case got underway. San Francisco-based chiropractor Steven Biegel and his former patient, Christopher Norberg, have reportedly settled a lawsuit relating to a critical review that Norberg posted on Yelp.  Biegel commenced the lawsuit in February 2008, alleging that Norberg’s post wrongly accused Biegel of being dishonest and engaging in fraudulent billing practices.  The case – which has received considerable attention in recent weeks (including here and here) – involved claims of defamation and false light.  The parties were preparing for a trial in the coming months. Published reports indicate that the parties reached a resolution last week, following a court-ordered mediation. . . .  Just as Biegel and Norberg resolved their differences, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on a case brought by Foster City, CA pediatric dentist Yvonne Wong against the parents of a boy she treated.  The parents posted a negative review of Dr. Wong, and Dr. Wong commenced a lawsuit. . . ."
CMLP Staff, One Yelp Review Case Settles as a Second Gets Underway in California   

"Last month, an anonymous website dedicated to criticizing Ohio homebuilder Powermark Homes succeeded in maintaining its anonymity in the face of a lawsuit brought by the company and two of its principals, Mark and Lisa Powers, who had sued the anonymous operator of Powermark Homes Alert.  At the time of the suit, the homepage for the site included a picture of Mark and Lisa and the statements 'The Truth Exposed' and 'Do you really want to do business with this Ohio Home Builder?' On May 25, 2007, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the site's operator identified only as 'John Doe' and against Domains By Proxy Inc., the site's domain name registrar, asserting claims of defamation, misappropriation, false-light publicity, and disparagement. . . .  After more than a year of litigation, the anonymous operator of the gripe site was eventually able to get the site back up and succeeded in the getting the lawsuit dismissed.  On December 15, 2008, the Court granted Doe and Domains by Proxy's motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment respectively, ending the case. . . ."
David Ardia, Anonymous Gripe Site Wins Legal Battle With Ohio Homebuilder Powermark Homes

"United States District Court Judge Nancy Gertner agreed today to allow video cameras into her Boston courtroom to provide live Internet coverage of a hearing next Thursday in the lawsuit against Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum, who allegedly downloaded seven songs illegally over a peer-to-peer network. . . .  Lawyers for the record companies opposed Tenenbaum's request to 'admit the Internet into the courtroom,' arguing that Judge Gertner lacked the authority to allow cameras in the courtroom and asserting that Tenenbaum's ulterior motive was 'to influence the proceedings themselves and to increase the Defendant's and his counsel's notoriety.' Judge Gertner disagreed with the record companies, noting that 'their objections are curious.' . . .   Judge Gertner said she will allow Courtroom View Network, a New York-based company that webcasts trials in state courts, to 'narrowcast' the hearing in its entirety to the website of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which will make the feed available to the public. . . ."
David Ardia, Federal Judge in Boston Orders Groundbreaking Webcast of Hearing

"StinkyJournalism.org: . . . 'Is the 'donation' of a citizen’s content (video, articles, commentaries, images) to for-profit media outlets that exceeds a fair market value of $12,000 in any single year subject to gift tax? Judging from the IRS guidelines, the answer is 'yes.''  This is a surprise, and an unwelcome one. Before people panic, however, we should keep in mind that — given the typical freelance rates paid by media outlets these days — you’d have to spend a lot of time sending stories to large media organizations before you’d be even potentially liable for gift taxes. The good news is that it won’t affect in any way the occasional contributor, or even a frequent contributor to nonprofit or low-traffic sites, and it has no bearing whatever on your own work on your own blog, period. . . ."
Dan Gillmor, The Unspoken Peril for "Citizen Journalists" Surprise! You Owe the IRS Some Gift Tax!

"Last Thursday, cyberlaw luminary and Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig appeared on the Colbert Report to discuss his new book Remix. There are some great exchanges as Colbert baits Lessig with exaggerated pro-copyright views and Lessig holds his own with varying degrees of success.  Maybe it's just me, but Colbert seemed a bit feistier than usual . . . .  In any event, towards the end of the interview, the following dialogue ensued: 'Colbert: Nobody should take my work and do anything with it that is not approved!  Never . . .  ever . . .  ever take anything of mine and remix it! For instance, I will be very angry and possibly litigious if anyone out there takes this interview right here and remixes it with some great dance beat. And it starts showing up in clubs across America. Lessig: Actually, we're joint copyright owners. I'm ok with that. You can totally remix this. I'm fine with that.'  Lessig reports on his blog (here, here) that viewers have already created lots of remixes of the interview.  The indabamusic site is hosting a Colbert Report Remix Session, which already has 20 or so submissions. . . ."
Sam Bayard, Lessig and Colbert Mix It Up Over Remix Culture

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