Legal Guide

New Legal Guide Section on Foreign Risks

It's pretty obvious that material placed on the "word wide web" is, indeed, available around the world -- at least most of it.

While the ability to make content available worldwide is a great virtue of the Internet, it has the potential to create a legal minefield for citizen journalists, who could face a civil or criminal legal action over online content in any country where the content is available.

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CMLP Updates Legal Guide Pages on Protections for Anonymous Speech

Today, CMLP published extensive updates to its legal guide pages on the legal protections for anonymous and pseudonymous speech on the Internet. We overhauled the general page on First Amendment protections to reflect significant changes in the law over the past few years, and updated the state pages to include many new cases on the topic.

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CMLP Publishes New Guide to FTC Disclosure Requirements for Product Endorsements

As part of our legal guide series on Risks Associated with Publication, today CMLP published a guide to Publishing Product or Service Endorsements

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Publishing Personal and Private Information: Understanding Your Legal Risks

When you publish information about someone without permission, especially personal or private information, you potentially expose yourself to legal liability even if your portrayal is factually accurate. While you should keep this potential liability in mind, the law generally gives online publishers quite a bit of breathing space to report and comment on matters of legitimate public concern, even when the person being discussed objects to the coverage.

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Understanding Your Legal Risks When You Blog or Publish Online

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting about various topics we cover in the CMLP's Citizen Media Legal Guide.  If you would like to read any of the previous "highlights" from the guide, you can find them here

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Citizen Media Law Project Completes Launch of Online Guide to Media Law

Today, we are launching the final sections of the Citizen Media Law Project's online guide to media law covering the risks associated with publishing online, including defamation and privacy law.  (You can read the press release here.)  The free online guide, which is intended for use by bloggers, website operators, and other citizen media creators, focuses on the legal issues that non-traditional and traditional journalists are likely to encounter as they gather information and publish their work online.

The legal guide, which runs more than 575 pages, is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It covers the 15 most populous U.S. states and the District of Columbia and is broken into six major sections:

  • Forming a Business and Getting Online, which covers the practical issues online publishers should consider in deciding how to carry on their publishing activities, including forming a for-profit and nonprofit business entity, choosing an online platform, and dealing with critical legal issues relating to the mechanics of online publishing;

  • Dealing with Online Legal Risks, which covers managing a website and reducing legal risks through compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and other laws, finding insurance, finding legal help, and responding to legal threats;

  • Newsgathering and Privacy, which addresses the legal and practical issues citizen media creators may encounter as they gather documents, take photographs or video, and collect other information, including information on state shield laws and using confidential sources;

  • Access to Government Information, which provides information for citizens to proactively use the law in an affirmative manner to enhance their reporting and highlights the extensive amount of information available through government sources and explains how both traditional and non-traditional journalists can use various public access laws, including the Freedom of Information Act, state open records and open meetings laws to gather and make effective use of government information;

  • Intellectual Property, which explains various intellectual property concepts, including copyright, trademark, and trade secrets, and provides practical advice to online publishers about how to use the intellectual property of others and protect their own property from exploitation; and

  • Risks Associated with Publication, which covers defamation law, privacy law, rights of publicity, and other legal risks that can arise from public distribution of content. This section also explains the legal risks associated with the publication of reader comments and other user-submitted material.

Of course, law is never static, so we'll be updating the guide from time to time.  If you would like to stay abreast of these changes and any new material, please sign up for our weekly newsletter, the Citizen Media Law Brief.

The legal guide is the product of a tremendous amount of work by CMLP students and staff, especially Sam Bayard, CMLP's assistant director, and Tuna Chatterjee, CMLP's staff attorney. We also received help from Allan Ryan, the Director of Intellectual Property at Harvard Business School Publishing, and a team of top lawyers at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, including Richard Hindman, Jane Harper, Kai Kramer, David Pawlik, and Eric Sensenbrenner. 

In keeping with our previous series of "highlights from the legal guide," we'll be posting summaries of the newest sections addressing the Risks Associated with Publication on this blog over the next few weeks. 

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: An Overview of Trade Secrets

This is the tenth in a series of posts calling attention to topics we cover in the Citizen Media Legal Guide. In this post, we highlight the section on trade secrets, which describes the limitations imposed on publishers who rely on or publish certain confidential business information and offers practical advice to citizen media creators on how to avoid liability for publishing trade secrets.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: An Overview of Copyright

This is the ninth in a series of posts calling attention to topics we cover in the Citizen Media Legal Guide. In this post, we highlight the section on copyright, which provides an overview of this important area of law and offers practical advice to citizen media creators on how to use the copyrighted works of others and protect their own work from exploitation.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Access to Courts and Court Records

This is the eighth in a series of posts calling attention to topics we cover in the Citizen Media Legal Guide. In this post, we highlight the section on Access to Courts and Court Records, which provides an overview of federal and state laws that grant you the right to access federal and state court records and court proceedings.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Liability for the Use of Recording Devices

This is the seventh in a series of posts calling attention to topics we cover in the Citizen Media Legal Guide. In this post, we highlight the section on Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings and Hearings, which discusses federal and state laws relating to the use of recording equipment in specific private and semi-public settings.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Protecting Sources and Source Material

This is the sixth in a series of posts calling attention to some of the topics covered in the Citizen Media Legal Guide we began publishing in January. This past month, we rolled out the sections on Newsgathering and Privacy, which address the legal and practical issues you may encounter as you gather documents, take photographs or video, and collect other information.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Gathering Private Information

This is the fifth in a series of posts calling attention to some of the topics covered in the Citizen Media Legal Guide we began publishing in January. This past month we rolled out the sections on Newsgathering and Privacy, which address the legal and practical issues you may encounter as you gather documents, take photographs or video, and collect other information.

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Citizen Media Law Project Publishes Newsgathering Section of Legal Guide

Back in January, we announced the launch of the first two major sections of the Citizen Media Law Project's Legal Guide covering Forming a Business and Getting Online and Dealing with Online Legal Risks.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Are Your Online Activities Covered by Insurance?

This is the fourth in a series of posts calling attention to some of the topics covered in the Citizen Media Legal Guide we published in January. As we roll out new sections of the guide each month, we will highlight some of the more important topics in blog posts.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Deciding Whether and How to be Anonymous

This is the third in a series of posts calling attention to some of the topics covered in the Citizen Media Legal Guide we published in January. As we roll out new sections of the guide each month, we will highlight some of the more important topics in blog posts.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Getting Your Words and Other Content Out to the World

This is the second in a series of posts calling attention to some of the topics covered in the recently launched Citizen Media Law Project Legal Guide. The first topic we took up was choosing a business form for your online publishing activities. In this post we discuss the various issues, both legal and practical, that arise when you select a platform for your online speech.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Choosing a Business Form

This is the first in a series of posts calling attention to some of the topics covered in the recently launched Citizen Media Law Project Legal Guide. The first topic we'll take up is choosing a business form for online publishing activities. There is increasing awareness that, especially if you publish content in collaboration with others, it may not be smart to simply leave the relationship "natural" or informal.

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Citizen Media Law Project Launches Legal Guide

Today we are launching the first sections of the Citizen Media Law Project's Legal Guide. The guide is intended for use by citizen media creators with or without formal legal training, as well as others with an interest in these issues, and addresses the legal issues that you may encounter as you gather information and publish your work online.

The legal guide, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, covers the 15 most populous U.S. states and the District of Columbia and will focus on the wide range of legal issues online publishers are likely to face, including risks associated with publication, such as defamation and privacy torts; intellectual property; access to government information; newsgathering; and general legal issues involved in setting up a business.

For today's launch we are starting where we think you would likely start, with sections on

  • Forming a Business and Getting Online, which covers the practical issues to consider in deciding how to carry on your online publishing activities, including forming a for-profit and nonprofit business entity, choosing an online platform, and dealing with critical legal issues relating to the mechanics of online publishing.

  • Dealing with Online Legal Risks, which covers managing your site and reducing your legal risks, finding insurance, finding legal help, and responding to the different kinds of legal threats you may face as a result of your online publishing activities.

You can search the legal guide, browse by state, or simply navigate through it like a book. Because of its enormous scope, we can't create this legal guide alone. We need your help to keep the information accurate and up to date. If you see something we've missed or gotten wrong, please let us know by using our contact form.

Throughout the spring, we will roll out a new section (or two) each month. If you would like to stay abreast of new material in the legal guide, please sign up for our weekly newsletter, the Citizen Media Law Brief.

The legal guide is the product of a tremendous amount of work by CMLP staff and students, especially Sam Bayard and Tuna Chatterjee. We also received some great feedback -- and timely editing -- from a team of top lawyers at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, including Richard Hindman, Jane Harper, Kai Kramer, David Pawlik, and Eric Sensenbrenner. Our website designer, Chris Wells from Redfin Solutions, worked tirelessly on getting all of the functionality operating properly.  A big public thank you to everyone who helped!

Update: You can read the press release here

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