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demand the Berkman Klein Center is keeping the website online, but please note that the website and its contents are no longer being updated.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.
Not unlike John Perry Barlow's 1996 Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, David Weinberger has penned a new declaration of independence. This time from the telecommunication cartels. In Delamination Now!, Weinberger eloquently explains the need for "network neutrality" and proposes a long-term solution to make that neutrality stick:
The way the old phone system was is the way the current suppliers of Internet connectivity are. That's not too surprising since the old phone companies are Internet carriers. The problem is the same and so is the solution. We should do to the carriers of Internet signals what we did to the carriers of telephone signals. Bust 'em up so that the companies that connect us to the Internet don't also sell us services over the Internet. Providing connection and providing content and services can and should be profitable businesses. They just shouldn't be the same business...just as you wouldn't want your local school owned by The Acme Textbook Company, or your safety inspectors supplied by The Acme Burglar Alarm Company. It's just too hard to resist your own brand. No, we have to bust up the carrier cartel. Structural separation. Divestiture. It's the only way to get the Internet that our economy, culture and democracy need.
If you have been wondering what the hubbub about network neutrality is all about, you won't want to miss Delamination Now!
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reports that Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski recently signed two bills that increase public access to government records.
The first of the two bills now requires that "the public body receiving the request shall respond as soon as practicable and without unreasonable delay." While this is an improvement over the prior law, which merely required that the requester be given a "reasonable opportunity to inspect or copy the public record," see ORS 192.440, Oregon still provides no set time period by which a governmental body must respond to a request for public records.
The New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting is considering new rules that would require any group of 2 or more people who want to use a camera on city property -- including sidewalks -- for more than a half hour to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance, the New York Timesreports today:
[T]he authors did nearly a complete re-write of the guide because copyright, trademark and publicity rights receive different treatment in Canada. One example, is that Canada has many collecting societies that need to be understood if licensing music from Canadian artists (see page 15). This adapted guide for Canada also includes a "copyright matrix" (page 16) and a "rights clearance flow chart" (page 19), both of which will help explain the various rights and who get's paid for what in the world of music licensing.
The Canadian version, with the intriguing subtitle "Northern Rules For The Revolution," is available in both html format and pdf format.
That is the question that Jason Fry raises in a provocative column in the Wall Street Journal Online. Fry writes that:
Property deeds, marriage and divorce records, court files, motor-vehicle information and tax documents are increasingly being digitized, and contain a wealth of information that few of us would want online: Social Security numbers, birth dates, maiden names and images of our signatures. Local governments have rushed to put those documents online for a decade or so, often without scrubbing them of such information. And that's made them potentially fertile ground for busybodies, stalkers and identity thieves.
I have no doubt that this comes as a shock to many people. But it shouldn't. The records being put online are public. They are available to anyone willing to schlep to the courthouse or county clerk. As Fry notes, "[o]pen records are a longstanding American tradition."
CNN is reporting (via the Associated Press) that Internet gossip columnist Perez Hilton's site was shut down for several hours after his hosting company received complaints that the site contained copyrighted photos of celebrities. According to CNN:
Let's hope the Massachusetts legislature follows through on this. While state open meetings laws can provide useful leverage in the battle to get access to the workings of government, they typically lack any real enforcement mechanisms. Oftentimes the only recourse available when a meeting has been improperly closed is to get a "ruling" by a state official -- long after the fact -- that the meeting should have been open. Allowing fines and the recovery of attorneys' fees will add some real teeth to the Massachusetts act.
You can track the status of the Massachusetts bill at OpenMass.org.
Not citizen media law related per se, but with Google's reach, it's recently opened Public Policy Blog, which offers "Google's views on government, policy and politics," is going to be must reading. As Cory Doctorow reports:
Yesterday our very own Mary-Rose Papandrea, a professor at Boston College Law School, testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary at the Massachusetts State House regarding a proposed shield law. For most of the hearing, the questions focused on the scope of the privilege (the bill proposes an absolute privilege for the identity of sources and a qualified privilege for newsgathering materials) and not on who would be covered under the privilege.
However, near the end of the hearing, Senator Robert Creedon expressed concern about extending the privilege to bloggers, describing them as "loose cannons." Papandrea, together with Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, responded that the term "bloggers" is ill-defined and includes many journalists from the mainstream media. Given that it would be unwise to place internet communications outside the scope of any shield law, Papandrea and Dalglish argued that the better answer would be to define those covered under the law by their function - i.e., whether they are disseminating information to the general public. Papandrea also pointed out that the proposed shield law would not immunize bloggers - or anyone else - from libel suits, which appeared to be Senator Creedon's primary concern.
You can track the status of the Massachusetts "Free Flow of Information Act" at OpenMass.gov.
UPDATE: Robert Ambrogi has posted a detailed report on what happened at the hearing.
Campaign contribution information for every Member of Congress from the website of the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org.
Congress Gossip Blog: a blog written by the site editors of OpenCongress that highlights useful news and blog reporting from around the web. The blog also solicits tips, either anonymous or attributed, from political insiders, citizen journalists, and the public in order to build public knowledge about Congress.
Tom Boney, publisher of the Alamance News, a weekly newspaper in Graham, N.C., was arrested and charged with trespass after refusing to leave the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport Authority's monthly meeting. According to the Burlington Times-News, Boney refused to leave the meeting after the airport authority voted to hold a private meeting to discuss a possible economic development project at the airport.
Under North Carolina's Meetings of Public Bodies Act, all official meetings of public bodies are presumed to be open to the public. The law permits closure only under nine enumerated circumstances. It is unclear whether the airport authority met any of these conditions when it closed the meeting. Even the sheriff who arrested Boney commented that he respects him for sticking to his convictions. "He's got a valid point about having access to public meetings," the sheriff told the Burlington Times-News.
Boney, who has long campaigned for open government meetings, is scheduled to appear in court on June 25 to address the misdemeanor trespassing charge.
UPDATE: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported that the district attorney's office dismissed the charge on July 20, 2007, saying the incident between Boney and the authority was a "civil matter."
in dozens of African nations, political transformation has been deeply flawed, if not stillborn, because of the failure to secure one of the absolutely fundamental conditions for full, living democracy and pluralism I'm talking, of course, about freedom of the press, which continues to be violated on a daily basis across the length and breadth of this continent.
Poynter Online has a useful article up on assessing the legal risks faced by sites that publish user comments. The piece, while focused on traditional media organizations, provides some useful guidelines for anyone who runs a site that includes user submitted material.
According to attorney Robb Harvey, who is interviewed for the article,
Shield legislation pending in Massachusetts would likely provide a qualified privilege to citizen journalists. Subject to certain exceptions, the bill provides a qualified privilege to "any covered person, who is providing or has provided services for the news media."
It appears that the bill's protections would extend to citizen journalists. According to the bill, a "covered person" is defined as
a person who engages in the gathering of news information and has the intent, at the beginning of the process of gathering news or information, to disseminate such news or information to the public.
Last week I noted that the Texas Senate had approved the "Free Flow of Information Act" and sent the bill to the Texas House of Representatives. Well, that was short lived, as the bill has now died in the Texas House.
Are you a lawyer interested in dealing with emerging legal issues relating to the intersection of law, journalism, and new media on the Internet?
The Citizen Media Law Project is looking to hire an Assistant Project Director commencing in the summer or fall of 2007 to assist with the work of the CMLP. The position requires a Juris Doctor degree with admission to at least one state bar; 1-5 years legal-practice experience with media, First Amendment, Internet, or intellectual property law; and litigation or transactional/licensing experience. Previous experience in a clinical legal setting or the direct supervision and mentoring of young attorneys or students is advantageous. Superior writing and verbal skills, sound judgment, exceptional ethical standards, and interpersonal communication skills are essential.
According to a recent article in Ars Technica, the Chinese government withdrew a proposal to require all bloggers in China to register their real identities.
The government-regulated Internet Society of China (ISC) said that real-name registration would now only be "encouraged" but not required, according to the Xinhua news agency. . . . The ISC's new code is still in draft, so changes might still be made before it is finalized.
While China has been the subject of some excellent studies concerning the government's use of technical measures to control access to information, including a recent report by the Open Net Initiative, there hasn't been a great deal of focus on the use of law to limit and censor citizen media within China and other countries that actively filter information. If you are aware of countries that have, or are considering, registration requirements for bloggers or other citizen media, please let us know.
In addition, I've been receiving a lot of interest from people within and outside China to include Chinese law in our legal guide and other resources. We will be adding that material to the site as soon as we can.
(Disclosure: The Open Net Initiative, like the CMLP, is a joint project of the Berkman Center.)
It must be Texas day, with two posts relating to the Lone Star State.
The Texas Senate approved the "Free Flow of Information Act" on May 1 in a 27-4 vote and sent the bill to the Texas House of Representatives. The bill would give "journalists" a qualified privilege to protect both their sources and their newsgathering materials. Under the current language of the bill, a journalists is defined as follows:
"Journalist" means a person who for financial gain, for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood, or for subscription purposes gathers, compiles, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, investigates, processes, or publishes news or information that is disseminated by a news medium or communication service provider and includes:
Contributors to this blog include a diverse group of lawyers, law professors, law students, and others with an interest in new media. The views expressed are solely those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DMLP or the institutions with which they are affiliated. To learn more about the DMLP, please click here.
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