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demand the Berkman Klein Center is keeping the website online, but please note that the website and its contents are no longer being updated.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.
Yesterday, the OpenNet Initiative released an excellent report on the recent Internet shutdown in Burma, entitled "Pulling the Plug: A Technical Review of the Internet Shutdown in Burma." Besides the eye-popping technical analysis ONI was able to carry out in a matter of weeks, the report contains a great overview of the dramatic events of late September and early October 2007, including the role that citizen journalists and
Mike Madison published a thoughtful and thought-provoking post the other day on his madisonian.net blog about the effect that a cease-and-desist letter can have on a collaborative blogging (or "co-blogging") relationship. Madison publishes on a number of blogs, one of which is Blog-Lebo, which covers matters of local interest in Mt.
The San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting article today about Egyptian bloggers posting cell phone videos to document endemic police torture in their country (thanks to 3arabawy for the tip). The most recent iteration of this phenomenon is a clip of a thirteen-year-old boy from Mansoura who died from injuries inflicted in police custody after he was arrested for stealing a few bags of tea a week earlier:
The explicit 13-minute clip is the latest of some dozen amateur videos - mostly from cell phone cameras - that have surfaced on blogs within the past year, showing systematic torture in
Egyptian police stations. The videos have thrust a once rarely mentioned subject onto the front pages of Cairo newspapers.
Some activists hope the incriminating videos will spur a wave of reforms within the justice system.
"Activists that have worked to end torture have told me: 'You've done more in a few days what we were not able to do in 10 years,'" said Wael Abbas, a 32-year-old Egyptian blogger, who recently received the 2007 Knight International Journalism Award by the International Center for Journalists in Washington for posting police torture videos on his Web site.
It's encouraging to see the continued influence of bloggers on the mainstream press in Egypt, but it's been rough couple of month for journalists and activists of every stripe. If you're interested, the Christian Science Monitor has some informative reports on the recent crackdown (here and here).
Reprinting content from other information sources is one of the trickiest areas of communications law -- especially for bloggers and other publishers on the Internet, where the legal framework has yet to be established. InfoMean blog has a useful set of pointers to help publishers avoid infringement lawsuits when reprinting information.
(Matt C. Sanchez is a second-year law student at Harvard Law School and the CMLP's Legal Threats Editor.)
This interview of Wael Abbas sheds some light on the legal and political climate for bloggers in Egypt. While Wael has not been detained by the Egyptian security forces for his blogging, the government has put him under surveillance and harassed him and his family, both electronically and otherwise. He says that one of his biggest fears is "somebody filing a lawsuit against [him], accusing [him] of defaming Egypt or spreading false rumors -- the usual stuff that is used against journalists in Egypt."
Following up on our previous posting about blog campaign advocacy, the Federal Election Commission announced yesterday that it has rejected conservative blogger John Bambenek's complaint alleging that the liberal website Daily Kos operates as a "political committee." The Commission's news release suggests that it will not treat online media sources differently from traditional media sources, and that it will not lightly find that a blog's "major purpose" is to influence elections:
In Matter Under Review (MUR) 5928, the Commission determined that Kos Media, L.L.C., which operates the website DailyKos, did not violate the Federal Election Campaign Act. The Commission rejected allegations that the site should be regulated as a political committee because it charges a fee to place advertising on its website and it provides “a gift of free advertising and candidate media services” by posting blog entries that support candidates. The Commission determined that the website falls squarely within the media exemption and is therefore not subject to federal regulation under the Act. . . . Since 1974, media activity has been explicitly exempted from federal campaign finance regulation. In March 2006, the Commission made clear that this exemption extends to online media publications and that "costs incurred in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial by any broadcasting station . . . , Web site, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, including any Internet or electronic publication,” are not a contribution or expenditure unless the facility is owned by a political party, committee, or candidate. With respect to MUR 5928, the FEC found that Kos Media meets the definition of a media entity and that the activity described in the complaint falls within the media exemption. Thus, activity on the DailyKos website does not constitute a contribution or expenditure that would trigger political committee status. The Commission therefore found no reason to believe Kos Media, DailyKos.com, or Markos Moulitsas Zuniga violated federal campaign finance law.
This decision provides some reassurance that bloggers do not run afoul of federal election laws simply by strongly and consistently advocating a particular political viewpoint.
Two brothers from New Jersey, Mark and Matthew D'Avella, spent the summer working for the A&P supermarket in Califon, New Jersey. They made the best of what could have been a boring situation by creating parodic rap songs with supermarket themes under the name "Fresh Beets" (here's their myspace page). Their songs including gems like "Always Low Prices" and (their masterpiece) "Produce Paradise," which is a nod to Coolio's 1995 "Gangsta's Paradise," which in turn drew on Stevie Wonder's venerable "Pastime Paradise." Mark and Matthew made a video of "Produce Paradise" in the A&P store (after hours) and posted it to YouTube and their website, fakelaugh.com, along with some blog commentary. You've got to hear and see this one to believe it:
A&P's parent company, The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, Inc., filed a lawsuit against the brothers in New Jersey Superior Court seeking $1 million in damages. The complaint, filed Friday, August 24, includes counts for defamation, business and product disparagement, and federal trademark infringement and dilution. It alleges that "Produce Paradise" depicts the brothers "performing their rap song in various recognizable areas of the Califon A&P, including the fresh produce department, the corner bakery, the stock room and the employee bathroom," and that "at least one defendant is wearing a hat with a recognizable A&P logo [during the video]."
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.