Citizen Journalism

A New Leistungsschutzrecht? Say It's Nicht So!

It's tough being a publisher these days.  Of course, no one is having much fun in the current economic downturn, but publishers were up against it even before the slowdown.  Circulations have been down across the board for years now, which in turn has slashed the advertising revenues that print publications have always relied upon to survive.  It's just a bad time to be publishing newspapers and magazines, at least while using the classical publishing business model.

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It's Election Time Again: CMLP Announces Updated Guide to Newsgathering at the Polls

Voters head to the polls again on November 3 to cast their ballots in mayoral, city council, and even a handful of gubernatorial elections.  In addition, there are some important ballot measures up for consideration, like the referendum in Maine seeking repeal of the state's newly enacted statute legal

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CMLP and Cyberlaw Clinic Endorse Anti-SLAPP Protection for Staff of Media and Advocacy Organizations

On Thursday, the Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLUM) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of the Boston Bar Association in submitting an amicus curiae brief urging the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to reverse a lower court’s decision in

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I Can Clearly See You’re Nuts: ACORN’s Insane Civil Suit

I'm pretty sure I can struggle my way out. First I'll just reach in and pull my legs out, now I'll pull my arms out with my face. – Homer J. Simpson, The Simpsons, Bart Gets An Elephant, 1F15

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ACORN v. O'Keefe

Date: 

09/17/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

James O'Keefe; Hannah Giles; Breitbart.com LLC

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court for Baltimore City

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) sued James O'Keefe, Hannah Giles, and Breitbart.com LLC for allegedly violating Maryland surveillance and wiretapping law by making and disseminating a hidden-camera video of ACORN employees Shera Williams and Tonja Thompson giving tax advice to O'Keefe and Giles, who were posing as a pimp and prostitute.  The video, which appeared on BigGovernment.com and YouTube, has led to considerable public controversy.

According to the Washington Post:

"The video and audio footage was taken without the knowledge of Williams and/or Thompson and in violation of Maryland's Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code §§ 10-402(a) and 10-410, which requires two party consent to all electronic surveillance. Violation of the law is a felony, and entitles parties whose rights were violated to sue," ACORN said in a statement announcing the suit.

ACORN filed suit in Circuit Court for Baltimore City.  It seeks damages and a preliminary and permanent injunction against further dissemination fo the video. 

Update:

03/11/10 - Ben Sheffner reports that the court has dismissed the case after ACORN failed to serve the complaint on the defendants within Maryland's 120-day limit.

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Mi Casa Es Su Casa — But I Set the Rules

Paul Klocko got a surprise in the mail in April: a letter on official stationary from Weston, Wisconsin administrator Dean Zuleger, demanding that Klocko stop posting comments on the web criticizing him.  The letter also asked that Klocko "come out from behind the cloak" and meet Zuleger in person.

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Weight Watchers from Hell – Iran’s New Method for Slimming Tortured Bloggers

A little while back, I wrote about the Iranian persecution of bloggers and opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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California Bar v. Wilson

Date: 

01/23/2009

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Frank Russell Wilson

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

The California Bar suspended Frank Russell Wilson for failing to disclose he that he was an attorney and blogging about a trial while serving as a juror.

Wilson served a juror during the trial of a man charged with five counts of felony burglary. He did not disclose that he was an attorney during jury selection. According to the California Bar Journal, even though the "judge cautioned jurors not to discuss the case both in writing and orally . . . Wilson posted an entry on his blog that identified the crimes, the first name of the defendant and the name of the judge, whom he described as 'a stern, attentive woman with thin red hair and long, spidery fingers that as a grandkid you probably wouldn’t want snapped at you.''' As a result of Wilson's blogging, the court of appeal vacated the judgment in the burglary case.

Wilson was given a 45 day suspension and two years probation.  

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2-Normal

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Southeastern Conference Sacks Social Media, Then Recovers

Responding to a storm of criticism, the 12-university Southeastern Conference was forced to back away from proposed rules which would have prohibited fans from blogging, Twittering, instant messaging, or otherwise disseminating "any material or information about [its sports competitions], including, but not limited to, any account, description,

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Cousins v. Orr

Date: 

04/07/2009

Threat Type: 

Criminal Investigation

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jeremy Orr; Orr's Brother

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Erie, Pennsylvania police officers allegedly threatened Jeremy Orr and/0r his brother with a federal wiretapping charge if he did not remove a video from YouTube.  The video, which was shot in a bar on Orr's cell phone, showed one of the officers, James Cousins, making fun of a recent homicide victim.

In April 2009, Erie Police Chief Steve Franklin  learned of the video. As a result, the department assigned James DeDionisio to determine if Cousins' behavior violated conduct standards. Franklin also asked YouTube to remove the video, because he worried that "[p]eople [would] look at this and say, 'Geez, is that what the Erie cops are like?'" YouTube refused to do so without a request from an original poster.

DeDionisio and Cousins allegedly questioned Orr's brother on April 6 and threatened him with a federal wiretapping violation if he or his brother did not remove the video.  (Orr's brother did not disclose his name to the press out of fear for police reprisals.) DeDionisio and Cousin deny that they issued that threat.

District Attorney Brad Foulk stated that he thought a wire tapping charge under the circumstances "is absolutely preposterous," adding that "I would never consider charging this person with a wiretap violation." The police allegely contacted Foulk's office to request a court order for the removal of the video. Foulk claims that his lead detective told the police "we could not do it and would not do it." 

It appears that to date, no charges have been filed against Orr or his brother.

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1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Carlos Miller (Photography is Not a Crime blog)

AVM 6/4 looks like there was no lawsuit, so im not sure what to do with this. 

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Employers Are Freaking Out About Twitter and Facebook, Study Shows

There has been no shortage of anecdotal evidence suggesting that using social media like Facebook or Twitter can sometimes jeopardize your job.  Back in March, a Philadelphia Eagles employee lost his job when he posted a Facebook status update lamenting free agent Brian Dawkins' signing with the Denver Broncos.  Around the same time, a Twitter user jeopardized a job offer at Cisco by tweeting "Now I have to weigh t

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New York Attorneys Want Devices in Federal Court, But Only for Themselves

Attorneys in New York are hot and heavy (or should that be a-Twitter?) over rules being drafted by the Southern District of New York's Ad Hoc Committee on Cell Phones that may place severe restrictions on bringing electronic devices into the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in lower Manhattan.

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Complaints at Teatime! The Shaw-Skinner Lawsuit and the Futility of Legal Duels

Pistols at Dawn!” has become “Subpoenas at Noon!” or “Complaints at Teatime!” Today’s legal duelists, armed with dubious lawsuits charging defamation, are B.F. Shaw Printing, the parent company of the Northwest Herald, and Cal Skinner, a blogger.

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B.F. Shaw Printing v. Skinner

Date: 

06/11/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Cal Skinner Jr.

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Illinois Circuit Court for McHenry County

Case Number: 

2009 LA 217

Legal Counsel: 

Patrick Ouimet

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

B.F. Shaw Printing, the Northwest Herald’s parent company, filed a lawsuit against Cal Skinner Jr.,  a local blogger, for alleged defamatory comments, regarding the Herald's past funding and supposed political bias, that he posted on his blog.

Shaw's three-count complaint claims defamation, false light, and commercial disparagement arising from a June 3 post "Borrowing on Borrowing " on Skinner's blog, mchenrycountyblog.com. The post, repeated in Shaw's complaint, read in part (Compl. Count I ¶ 4):

[W]ho could forget the multimillion loan to the Northwest Herald at sub-market rates. . . . the NW Herald was not an 'in extremis' condition then. The excuse for loaning the money was to keep the county newspaper from moving out of the county. The real reason was to put the paper in the back pocket of the Republican Party. (Anyone want to deny the strategy worked?)

Shaw's complaint states that it “has never been the recipient of any loan, from any public body, at market or sub-market rates “ (Compl. Count I ¶ 7), “is not, and never has been, ‘in the back pocket’ or under the control or influence of the McHenry County Republican Party” ( Compl. Count I ¶ 8) and “is not now, and has never been ‘in extremis’ condition.” (Compl. Count I ¶ 9). Shaw claims that Skinner's statements "impugn the financial and editorial integrity of [the Northwest Herald]" and they "constitute defamation per se." (Compl. Count I - ¶¶ 20, 22).

Skinner, in his answer to the complaint, admitted to writing the post and claimed that his statements were true. (Answer at p. 10). He attached a copy of Resolution R-8511-02-86 from the McHenry County Board, which he claims shows that “the plaintiff was a participant in and beneficiary of a $2.6 million dollar loan, with interest at 80% of prime, from the McHenry County Board.” (Answer describing Ex. 1).

Skinner also offered 14 additional affirmative defenses including: failure to mitigate, unclean hands, failure to state an actual injury, and fair reporting privilege for “statements relat[ing] to matters of governmental affairs.” (Answer at p. 12 – 13).

Skinner countersued Shaw for bringing a frivolous suit, defamation, and false light. Skinner claims he was defamed by an article published by the Northwest Herald concerning the original lawsuit,  "Northwest Herald's owner sues blogger, claims defamation." The article, according to Skinner, “essentially parroted the allegations set forth in the lawsuit, but also contained the following . . . statement: Northwest Herald Publisher John Rung said Skinner’s assertions were ‘reckless and completely fabricated.’”(Answer at p. 22-26). 

Update:

1/29/10 - press accounts report a settlement.

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AVM- State court has fee system for searches. Need to check WL. also took screen shot of post which I assume will be taken down

AVM-7/8/09 uploaded complaint

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1-High

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New Jersey Court Says Blogger Shellee Hale Not Protected By Shield Law

In a June 30 decision, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Louis Locascio ruled that Shellee Hale, a blogger, private investigator, and "life coach," could not invoke New Jersey's journalist shield law to protect the identity of her sources in connection with postings she

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Visit Our Discussion Forums to Get More Out of CMLP

If you haven't checked out CMLP's newly launched forums, you're missing out on one of our site's most interactive resources. In the forums, you can post your own legal questions and receive unofficial feedback from CMLP staff and others. (For an example, see our response to a recent question about videotaping in New Jersey). The forums are also a great place for you to spark discussion by posting articles you think others will find interesting.

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Michigan High Court Sends Message to Tweeters

I blogged several weeks ago about recent cases in which jurors have caused a stir by using social media such as Twitter to communicate about their jury service.  Taking the issue on proactively, the Michigan Supreme Court has adopted a new rule requiring judges to admonish jurors to not use electronic communication devices during trial, and not to use them during breaks to comment or conduct research on the c

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Crash Diet: Text-Only Browsers as Tonic for Iranian Internet Throttling

For years, the Iranian government has had to deal with the pesky problem of citizens trying to use the Internet to access information from the outside world. The powers that be usually go about solving this problem in a hamfisted way, banning huge swaths of the internet or shutting down access entirely.

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Dull: Ockham's Razor in the age of Twitter

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.

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Tourist Video Casts Complex Light on Florida Defamation Lawsuit

A story mixing the absurd and the tragic comes to us from Florida, where Christopher  Comins, an Orlando businessman, recently filed a defamation lawsuit against Matthew Frederick VanVoorhis, who publishes a wordpress blog called Public Intellectual.  Comins objects to two of VanVoorhis' blog posts from

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