Welcome to the website of the Digital Media Law Project. The DMLP was a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society from 2007 to 2014. Due to popular demand the Berkman Klein Center is keeping the website online, but please note that the website and its contents are no longer being updated. Please check any information you find here for accuracy and completeness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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;
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
We are looking for contributing authors with expertise in media law, intellectual property, First Amendment, and other related fields to join us as guest bloggers. If you are interested, please contact us for more details.