Week of June 12, 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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The latest from the Citizen Media Law Project blog...

Lee Baker takes the Tenth Circuit to task for its latest student speech ruling.
Tenth Circuit Upholds Restrictions on Student Speech

Courtney French issues an online publishing commandment.
Thou Shalt Not Use Multimedia in Vain

Andrew Moshirnia urges everyone to stop and think before hauling out the pitchforks.
Dull: Ockham's Razor in the age of Twitter

Wendy Seltzer takes a contrarian view of the HBS Twitter study.
Don't Believe the Twitter Anti-Hype: Innovative Platforms Allow for Failure

Kimberley Isbell performs an Internet archaeological investigation on news of Tony La Russa's suit against Twitter.
On the Web, Everyone Can Hear You Sue...

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Recent threats added to the CMLP database...

Bihari v. Gross
Posted June 12th, 2009

Abourezk v. ProBush.com
Posted June 12th, 2009

Spelios and Associates v. Dewalle
Posted June 11th, 2009

Alvi Armani Medical, Inc. v. Hennessey
Posted June 10th, 2009

Boston College Campus Police v. Calixte
Posted June 5th, 2009

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Other citizen media law news...

Northwest Herald's owner sues blogger, claims defamation
Northwest Herald - Thur. 6/11/09

New Jersey blogger jailed in incitement case
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press - Wed. 6/10/09

U.S. attorney seeks identities of anonymous commenters
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press - Wed. 6/10/09

AP Reporter Reprimanded for Facebook Post; Union Protests
Wired Threat Level - Tue. 6/9/09

Texas Lawmakers Crack Down on Fake Profiles
MediaPost - Mon. 6/8/09

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The full(er) Brief...

"In a recent decision, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Colorado District Court's rejection of a student's First Amendment and Equal Protection claims over a forced apology resulting from her valedictory address. The case. . . results from an unwritten School District rule requiring students to submit their valedictory addresses for content review prior to giving the speech. Erica Corder, one of fifteen valedictorians selected based on their 4.0 GPA, submitted a thirty-second speech, which contained no religious content, to the principal of Lewis Palmer High School for content approval. However, during the graduation ceremony she presented a different speech, telling the students about Jesus Christ and encouraging them to 'find out more about the sacrifice He made for you.' As a result of the speech, she was denied her diploma until she issued an apology email, including the statement: 'I realize that, had I asked ahead of time, I would not have been allowed to say what I did.' Corder issued the apology email, including the preceding statement, and was awarded her diploma. Corder then filed suit, asserting claims that the school violated her rights to freedom of speech and religion under the First Amendment, compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment, and violated her right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment based upon the fact that the School District 'allowed similarly situated speakers to give inspiring speeches without facing disciplinary action, but disciplined [Corder] because her inspiring speech contained religious elements.' The District Court granted judgment for the School District on the pleadings, and the 10th Circuit affirmed. There are two aspects of the courts' reasoning that are particularly troubling for those concerned with restriction of student speech: the holding that Corder's claims for declaratory relief are moot, and the overly-broad interpretation of 'legitimate pedagogical concerns' from Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. . . ."
Lee Baker, Tenth Circuit Upholds Restrictions on Student Speech  

"This week, PBS MediaShift's Mark Glaser laid out his ten commandments for local newspapers that want to survive in the digital age. Sixth on his list of ten tweets was 'smart multimedia.' 'Don't do it just to do it,' Glaser says. 'Use the right medium to tell the right story.' But what does 'smart multimedia' look like, exactly? (If I had to guess, probably a lot like this.) Most reporters today have been told in newsrooms and in journalism schools that they need to incorporate audio and video into their storytelling. And with the help of graphic and web designers they can put together some really amazing stuff. But reaching the 'smart multimedia' point can be tough, especially since the line between too little multimedia and multimedia overkill is so subjective. Craig Stoltz, of Web 2.0h . . . Really?, called out The Washington Post this week for the weak presentation of its two-part, online-only story on the unsolved killing of a D.C.-area lawyer. Stoltz calls the package 'an amateurish stumble, an obvious mismatch of medium and message, a squandering of scarce newsroom resources that delivers very little benefit to the community and creates zero business value.' Zing! The problem with the Post story is simple -- it leads with too much text and buries some really great multimedia features (the 911 call and a graphic detailing the scene of the crime are hiding out in a generic sidebar). As Stoltz points out, the story is more than 8,000 words of uninterrupted text. And even though it's a fascinating read, I can't help but think that rearranging the presentation of the story could have drawn in many more readers who were too overwhelmed to read the whole thing. . . ."
Courtney French, Thou Shalt Not Use Multimedia in Vain

"The raging villagers of the twitterverse were busy in April. The cruelest month gave witness to #savejon and #amazonfail, campaigns against corporate bullying and intolerance, respectively. However, both movements likely put the black hat on the wrong party. These cybermaulings should frighten us all and spur us to let a little Ockham into our hearts. The #savejon folks were trying to raise awareness about the legal difficulties of Jon Engle, a graphic designer. Jon claimed that plagiarists had snatched his work from his Logopond showcase and uploaded them to StockArt.com. The evil company then billed Jon for $18k for the use of his own images. The story flashed across Twitter and in mere moments the champions of the oppressed were lending moral and financial support, organizing boycotts and sending the occasional death-threat. Jon's story had all the favorites: an innocent artist, marauding thieves, and a brutish corporate entity. Problem is that Jon's story didn't make much sense. The copyright dates of several pieces didn't match Jon's version of events. It didn't help matters that Jon effectively disappeared once individuals began asking harder questions. It now seems clear that Jon stole the logos from StockArt. . . ."
Andrew Moshirnia, Dull: Ockham's Razor in the age of Twitter

"Don't believe the anti-hype around Twitter. . . 'Twitter hype punctured by study,' reports the BBC on a recent Harvard B school finding: The median user has written only one tweet, and 'the top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets.' As though it sealed Twitter's fate, the BBC adds: 'Research by Nielsen also suggests that many people give the service a try, but rarely or never return. Earlier this year, the firm found that more than 60% of US Twitter users failed to return the following month. . . .' Rather than taking the study as a condemnation, though, I'd suggest that the fact Twitter works despite the large number of 'unproductive' users is a sign of success. More power to the Twitter team for creating a tool that allows so many people to try it so easily that the seemingly small percentage who get value out of it can find and continue using it. We should be celebrating what happens when infrastructure is cheap enough that we can accept that 60% just throw it away (even assuming all those non-tweeters aren't using the service to listen). . . ."
Wendy Seltzer, Don't Believe the Twitter Anti-Hype: Innovative Platforms Allow for Failure

"Tony La Russa's lawsuit against Twitter, which we first published in the Legal Threats Database back on May 29, seems to have hit the mainstream over the past week. Following the path of the case through the Internet and into the mainstream media provides a fascinating case study in the the possibilities of Twitter and other social media platforms for disseminating and amplifying a message. (And indicates that I should revise my previous Cluetrain addendums to include sports managers.) It all started back on May 21st, when this client alert from law firm Howard Rice caught the attention of those of us in the CMLP offices. (The alert may, in fact, have been sparked by this post over at SFGate, which seems to have flown under the radar when first posted.) By the end of the following week, the Legal Threats entry on La Russa v. Twitter, Inc. was live on the CMLP website. That same day, Twitter user @socialmediainfo sent out a tweet about the case, with a link back to our entry. This was soon followed by tweets from @Jenn822 and @FO_Brooks relaying information about the case. By the evening of June 1, @KrisKetz, news anchor for KMBC-TV / KCWE-TV in St. Louis, had retweeted the information, and La Russa had received his first negative publicity about the case, with Twitter user @SheepODoom inquiring '[a]nyone tell LaRussa the world does not revolve around him.' . . . . While LaRussa has some defenders on Twitter, the majority of responses agree with those that find humor (or ridicule?) in La Russa's actions. Take Twitter user @rklau, for example, who tweeted upon learning of the case that 'I was 5 feet from LaRussa on the field before the game on Sunday. Should have told him I loved him on Twitter.' . . . ."
Kimberley Isbell,  On the Web, Everyone Can Hear You Sue... 

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