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demand the Berkman Klein Center is keeping the website online, but please note that the website and its contents are no longer being updated.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.
A federal judge yesterday tentatively acquitted
Lori Drew, the Missouri woman convicted for her involvement in a
MySpace “cyberbullying” hoax that allegedly resulted in a young girl’s
suicide. If it sticks, the acquittal will help reverse the momentous
change in online liability that Drew’s earlier guilty verdict
threatened to set in motion.
My colleague Ethan Zuckerman just put up a disturbing post about Kubatana, a prominent Zimbabwean NGO, which saw its site taken down because its hosting provider, Bluehost, got cold feet after it discovered the site contained content from (gasp!) Zimbabwe.
Kubatana, among other things, hosts websites for prominent activist organizations like Women of Zimbabwe Arise. For the past two years, Kubatana has hosted a joint blog
for a wide range of Zimbabwean citizens that has, according to Ethan, "been one of the key
sources of information and perspective for people around the world who
follow Zimbabwe, and a critical outlet for Zimbabweans who have few
other ways to communicate."
Lori Drew, the 49-year-old woman charged in the first federal
cyberbullying case, was cleared of felony computer-hacking charges by a
jury Wednesday morning, but convicted of three misdemeanors. The jury
deadlocked on a remaining felony charge of conspiracy.
Believe it or not, the criminal case against Lori Drew heads to trial next Tuesday. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles indicted Drew last May for her alleged role in a hoax on MySpace
directed at Megan Meier, a 13-year-old neighbor of Drew's who committed suicide in October 2006. Prosecutors claim that Drew violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA),
There are a lot of things to consider when making the decision to launch a blog or website, including questions of cost, ease of use, and ownership of
how these considerations impact your legal rights and potential liability can help you
make an intelligent choice as to what platform to use and what
precautions to take when you speak online (we've got a whole section on these concerns, and others, in our legal guide).
But one area most people tend to overlook is whether their
We've posted before (here and here) on the tragic Megan Meier suicide case, in which a 13-year-old neighbor of Lori Drew committed suicide
in October 2006 after a "boy" she met on MySpace abruptly turned on her
and ended their "relationship." In
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.
Insist that readers be who they are, and not attempt to pass themselves off as someone else. If you[r] site allows pseudonymous posting, insist that readers use a consistent handle or account name, and take whatever technical steps you can to keep people from posting under others' names.
Don't allow readers to mislead others about their identity, either. Warn readers against omitting information from their profiles or posts that would lead other readers to believe that they are someone other than who they are. Elected officials shouldn't be allowed to pretend that they are not when posting to a discussion about local politics, to use the Telegraph's example.
These recommendations are important from a practical, ethical perspective more so than from a legal perspective because CDA 230 (47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1)) gives website operators immunity for publishing content submitted by others under most circumstances. From this practical, ethical perspective, however, I agree wholeheartedly with Niles. There is a difference between respecting and promoting a user's ability to engage in anonymous speech and allowing a user to mislead others and manipulate the tools put at his/her disposal. Perhaps a Term prohibiting impersonation would be hard to enforce (maybe not?) -- at the very least, a Term of this kind puts users on notice about what kind of community you want to create and makes a statement about engaging in speech and debate responsibly.
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.