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Citizen Journalism, Day 1: Law

 Phil Malone, cyberlaw clinic at Harvard Law, berkman fellow. 

 Dan: phil will ease us into ... if we're going to do CJ, we should do it in a way that keeps us from losing our house. We need to know the difference between fair use, copyright infringement and other issues. Phil is looking at these...  

 Phil: 

 fairly rare treat to be one of a small handful of law people in the minority in a HLS class.

 this is the boring lawyering stuff that isn't boring if you're on the receiving end of a headline like the one in the NYT where a delaware guy tried to find the names of anonymous bloggers. or...

 writing a headine about yourself saying you're a subjuect of a federal lawsuit about copyright infringement and other awfulalities.

 YOu create the risk that you will say or reveal things that others don't want you to say or reveal.

 Good thing: lawsuits against CJs are very rare.

 Lots of cases that don't turn into headlines. More likely are cease & desist notice, or a nasty letter. So the blogger takes down the information, and the whole thing goes away.

 Ron Coleman Quote: most cases intend to intimidate, knowing that bloggers don't have the pockets. that's the real danger, the chilling effect.

 Want to focus on the "at least not yet" part of this. The maine case illustrates this.

 We have a new collaboration designed to do what Bob and the media and others are doing... try to provide comprehensive info, do a better job of answering questions, tracking threats that never make it to cases, providing resources, legal guides, references to lawyers and so on. In order to do that, want to know what you're up against.

 Do you hold back? How?

 We want to work with people like Bob Cox, and others who want to avoid getting sued in the first place, yet remain as fearless as possible.

 Broad brush description of the legal background here...

 First, sometimese the law is good for you.

 Your writing, your original work... is increasingly being hijacked by blog spammers using it to make money without giving you credit. The law is on your side here. Creative Commons has lots of licenses. but affirmative licensing can actually help you. Law can also help facilityate opening up information. Freedom of information law for example.

 Treats..

 Defamation is the first. People get unhappy about something you, or a guest, wrote.

 Invasion of privacy.

 Anonymity. Could be that a CJ wants or needs to be anonymous. Somebody may want to use you to get to those people.

 Sources. these often need to be anonymous too.

 IP -- copyright. any time you quote from or use somebody else's words, there are issues about what circumstances are in play. Fair use, etc.

 Trademark.

 Fighting back, pushing back on bad-faith threats

 Anti-SLAPP suits. (stragegic lawsuits against public participation) Shooting back at frivolous lawsuits.

 DMCA 512 (f) improper takedown suits. We saw that where the law student sued Diebold after the company used the DMCA improperly.

 Resources

 Media bloggers association

 EFF Bloggers Legal guide

 Brennan Center at NYU

 Creative Commons/Berkman Center podcasters legal guide

 How many sued? 2?

 Cease and desist? 8?

 takedown? 3,4.

 

 Dan: might be fun to ask lance if he had any hint that this would ever happen. 

 Lance: the whole lawsuit was a learning experience. I blog comfortably and steadfastly and don't worry too much about being sued; but prior to this I'd hardly imagined. Take-aways... Just as blogging is a resource, the legal system is too. I was involved in a political policy battle with a state agency that spilled over to the legal arena. But bloggers turned the lights on and the cockroaches scattered. Used to think you had to do something wrong to get sued,. Now I understand that it's just a tool. I realize that there was no intention to actually go to court. the end result ... It would be nice if there were a more fair tort system in this country.  

 Got a cease and desist letter, then a federal case. Mine was a tech blog. then came into an internet advertising issue with the state of maine. strange thing to be in . a whirlwind. still pretty surreal. The most important thing was that the light of day was shined on the issue. helping each other out makes the difference. that's what scales. 

 Phil: you usually have someone with a lot of money going after somebody without it. Your weapon back is attention.What sort of education ois required, so the blogger knows what kind of help; is available. 

 Bob Cox: the motivation for me, in organizing the media bloggers association was being on the receiving end of litigation from the NYTimes. Felt very alone. Never went to one of these, didn't know anybody here. The blogosphere became a tool. Soon they realized that everything they sent or said would go online. Because of what I do with the association, some of these assaults get media attention. Lance's case went out on the AP. this in turn makes me a focal point for other people's issues. I get an email every day from somebody being threatened. I've had two more in the last 3 hours.  

 If we raisee the flag we'll find out. my concern is for the hundred other bloggers who got a letter and immediately shut down. many letters are from people who immediately complied with threats. 

 Dan Kennedy. How muchis unique to bloggers? And how much is jpart of the generalized crackdown on all media. Does being in the media have less protection than it did a week ago? 

 Phil: there is a widespread perception that you can chill people.  

 Dan Gillmor: what is the potential equalizing power? having the first page of google results, saying what a creep you are.  

 Jason Calacanis (gives a story, very funny.) Piont: take the strong approach. Are we going to discuss this legally, or as human beings? Be aggressive. turn it back on them. Offer to help. Don't encourage people to break the law. Use your advantage. You're writers. Not lawyers. 

 Lisa williams: I have smalltime politicians start blogging on my blog. What kind of wierdness has this gotten me into?  

 Robert: I started by realizing I;m a mathematician, not a journalist. Very much the amateur hour. Would have loved a pocket card of do's and don'ts for citizen journalism. Wallet card. 

 Micah: I think the FEC advisory regarding blogs impose few if any burdens on blogs.  

 Phil: yes. 

 ___: FEC deals with money. If you're selling the right to a comment, that would be something the candidate would have to report. They only have obligations so far as to say they're spending money on you.  

 Elise: Have you seen anything around a photo release regarding people you're shooting? One CJ... (story of a case) making people feel extremely uncomfortable about boundary issues.  

 Phil: this usually comes up in a commercial context. Using a photo in a news reporting context... different states have different laws.  

  


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Last update: Monday, August 07, 2006 at 3:17:48 PM Eastern. Number of updates: 8.