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.