Posts Tagged ‘cmlp’

The Citizen Media Law Project Has Changed its Name to the Digital Media Law Project

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Harvard Law School’s Citizen Media Law Project

CMLP logo

has changed it’s name. It’s now the Digital Media Law Project.

Digital Media Law Project logo

The change was effective March 1, 2013.

I know this change has been in the works for quite sometime. I remember talking to David Ardia, the program’s founder, about this in March of 2011.

I was a fan of “Citizen Media Law Project” as a name, but I like the new name too. Whether you use the word “citizen” or “digital,” the point is that this goes beyond a “media law project” in that it’s focused on the new reporting opportunities and legal threats that have been created and revealed by the democratization of the news media as fueled by computers and the internet.

I guess you could call it the “Non-Traditional Media Law Project,” but that’s pretty awkward. Even worse, it makes it sound like it’s the project that’s non-traditional, rather than the media. Any good copyeditor – even a non-traditional one – would see the problem with that.

So Digital Media Law Project it is. And the change is more than a change in name. There’s also a change in mission.

As project of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the Citizen Media Law Project was launched in 2007 “to support the vibrant online culture of citizen media and independent journalism by providing free legal advice and information on a wide range of media law, intellectual property and business law issues,” as is explained on the project’s homepage.

With the change to “digital,” the project is acknowledging that reporters with their bona fides – that is, people who can be called “professional journalists” – are now increasingly working online and outside of a traditional media entity. They too face a uniquely challenging legal environment.

“Citizen journalists continue to do excellent work,” wrote Jeffrey P. Hermes, the project’s director, in a blog post about the change, “but professional journalists who believe in the potential of online speech have launched numerous independent ventures as well.”

So DMLP is broadening its focus. Hermes wrote, “Our project is no longer limited to addressing the narrow challenges faced by new and inexperienced entrants into the journalism market, but innovating to provide a comprehensive and mutually supporting set of resources to assist digital journalism as a whole.”

Best wishes to DMLP on their rechristening!

Practical Advice for Protest Reporting from Web Chat with Law and Journalism Experts

Friday, August 17th, 2012

I attended yesterday’s web chat about reporting at political convention protests. The chat,
sponsored by Harvard’s Citizen Media Law Project, the International News Safety Institute, and the Free Press organization, was chock full of practical advice served up with a generous helping of what-it’s-like personal accounts.

Natasha Lennard, who has worked for the New York Times and now writes for Salon.com, described how she was among 700 people kettled and arrested in the Occupy Wall Street protests. She said that for the NYPD, if you are in the wrong place, it doesn’t matter if you are press.

“If you stick with the crowd which is what you feel you should do to get the story, you end up in a very precarious situation yourself,” Lennard said.

Andy Sellars, an attorney with Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center, made the point that when the police are ordering people to move, it helps in many cases to self-identify as a member of the press, but it might make reporting more difficult as you may wind up getting moved far away from the action.

For unaffiliated citizen journalists, Sellars said that it may be a good idea to use a homemade credential. But he warned not to copy anyone else’s credentials. Using credentials intended to look like they were issued by the police, for instance, may be unlawful in itself and, at any rate, is likely to make you a special target of for officers.

John Knefel, an independent journalist who has a radio show with his sister on Radio Dispatch, described his arrest at Occupy Wall Street. After being thrown to the ground, he was arrested and held for about 37 hours.

It was an ordeal, and Knefel singled out New York’s jail food for special scorn. While the arrest didn’t deter Knefel from attending and reporting from events, he said, it make him less likely to rush to a specific location where arrests were happening.

“Clearly it’s meant to have a chilling effect,” Knefel said. “That’s the goal here. It’s to make activists want to stay home. It’s to make journalists want to not cover things or to not cover them as directly or as intimately as they may want to.”

With a view toward the upcoming major-party political conventions in Charlotte, N.C. and Tampa, Fla., Sellars noted that local laws prohibit certain items. In Florida, prohibited items include tripods and bipods. There are also prohibitions on glass, ropes, and masks.

Natasha Lennard’s practical advice included going the site early to give yourself an internalized map of the relevant portions of the city. Knowing what side street you can duck into could help you avoid getting stuck, she said. She also rattled off a list of items to bring with you. She recommended packing milk of magnesia for cleaning away pepper spray, a bike helmet to wear if the batons come out, a bandana to pull out in the case of tear gas, and a lawyer’s phone number – inked on your forearm.

Lennard noted that you should not expect your cell phone to work if things get heated. Cell sites could get overloaded precisely when you most want to make a call or get information out.

Another web chat on the same topic is scheduled for Thursday, August 23 at 8 p.m. Eastern. To attend, go to the Free Press website. You don’t need to sign up in advance.

CMLP Hosting Talk on Reporting at the Political Conventions

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

CMLP logoThe Citizen Media Law Project has announced that its Digital Media Law Project, along with the International News Safety Institute and an organization called “Free Press,” will be hosting live web chats about legal issues involved in doing reporting/blogging at protests of the Republican and Democratic national conventions. The talks will be tomorrow, August 16 at 7 p.m. (I’m guessing that means Eastern Time), and then again next Thursday, August 23 at 8 p.m.

CMLP notes that almost 90 people have been arrested in the United State while doing reporting at protests. The webcasts will include journalists relaying their personal experiences, presented along with legal analysis.

It’s free and there’s no advance signup necessary. Go to the Free Press website to participate.

Volokh Steps In to Help Blogger Crystal Cox Challenge $2.5 Million Defamation Judgment

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012


Eugene Volokh (Photo: Jeff Barnett-Winsby / UCLA)

Arthur Bright at Citizen Media Law Project blog has the latest on Obsidian Finance v. Cox in Oregon: Professor Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law has stepped in to work on an appeal of the $2.5 million libel judgment against blogger Crystal Cox, which was rendered by a federal court last month.

Critical is whether First Amendment protections established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323 (1974) will apply to Cox, or whether, as a blogger, she’s not a member of the “media.”

A post last month by Eric P. Robinson explores both the Gertz issue and the court’s ruling on the application of the Oregon shield law.

Mobile App Legal Guide for Occupy

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Apple iPhone with stick figure elements, shown running awayThe good folks at the Citizen Media Law Project have introduced a mobile app for their legal guide to citizen reporting on Occupy. I wanted to make sure to make a note of that on Blog Law Blog because (1) it may be of help to on-the-go bloggers at Occupy, and (2) it gives me another chance to use the graphic I worked up for when Apple lost another iPhone prototype.

Hey: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Legal Guide to Blogging Occupy

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011


Photo: David Shankbone, CC BY 2.0.

The wonderful folks at the Citizen Media Law Project of Berkman Center at Harvard Law School have put together a guide for citizen journalists covering Occupy Wall Street. They have done a tremendous job of going through the relevant law in a very comprehensive, yet very concise way. And it makes for interesting reading even for those who are not planning to go to Zuccotti Park and blog, tweet, or snap pictures for Flickr.

Among the questions they tackle:

  • Do I have the right to record police action at the protest?
  • Do I have a right to record the protesters?
  • May the police search me?
  • May the police seize my camera and view its contents?

Here are just a few interesting tidbits from the guide:

  • “There is no law in New York that prohibits the publication of private facts about individuals, and so you cannot be sued in civil court for publishing such facts” [Other states are contrary –EEJ]
  • “You might also have a specific First Amendment right to record the activities of the police in public. This right has been recognized in jurisdictions outside of New York, and would trump any state law that would otherwise prohibit such recording. However, no New York court has ruled on the existence of this right.” [Wouldn't it be interesting if Occupy Wall Street forced the issue in this jurisdiction? –EEJ]

Upcoming Media Law in the Digital Age Conference in Atlanta

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Logo for Media Law in the Digital AgeKennesaw State University’s Center for Sustainable Journalism and the Citizen Media Law Project of Harvard University’s Berkman Center are putting on a one-day conference in Atlanta on October 22, 2011 called Media Law in the Digital Age.

It looks like an excellent conference. They’ve got some great panelists that I’d love to see, including:

  • Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Eric P. Robinson, blogger-proprietor of our cross-continent rival blog, Blog Law Online, and deputy director of the Reynolds Center at my hometown college, the University of Nevada, Reno
  • Carlos Miller, blogger-proprietor of the Photography is Not a Crime blog, and double-arrestee for taking pictures of police officers
  • Victor Hernandez, director of domestic newsgathering for CNN’s U.S. operations
  • David McCraw, in-house counsel for the New York Times in charge of newsroom legal affairs and FOIA litigation

I wish I could go myself. Leonard Witt, j-school prof at Kennesaw State and exec director of the Center for Sustainable Journalism, passed along to me a promo code you can use to get a 15% discount if you register for the conference: MLDA11

I feel very special handing out discount codes. Huh? What’s that? No, I don’t have any discount codes for Christian Louboutin shoes. Gosh, my blog’s not that exciting.

Big Federal Appeals Court Victory for Filming Police in Public

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Seal of the First Circuit Court of AppealsThe Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center reports that the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals has “issued a resounding and unanimous opinion” in support of the constitutional right to record police actions in public places. As I noted in March, this case has big implications for bloggers.

With his cellphone, attorney Simon Glik videoed Boston Police officers arresting a homeless man in Boston Common, a public park downtown. The charge? Criminal violation of Massachusetts Wiretap Statute (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 99), which was total nonsense in this situation. The law prohibits “secretly” recording wire or oral communications. The police sought to contort it beyond recognition as a pretext for arresting someone documenting possible police abuse. Cooler heads prevailed when the charges were quickly dismissed. But happily, Glik worked to vindicate the rights of citizen reporters everywhere by filing a federal lawsuit after the fact. And now, he’s won big, establishing that he had both a First Amendment right and a Fourth Amendment right to record.

The opinion is available as a pdf. If you don’t have time to plow through it all, Jeffrey P. Hermes on CMLP’s blog offers these delightful pullquotes:

  • “Glik was exercising clearly-established First Amendment rights in filiming the officers in a public space, and … his clearly-established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause.”
  • “[I]s there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.”
  • “Glik filmed the defendant police officers in the Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States and the apotheosis of a public forum. In such traditional public spaces, the rights of the state to limit the exercise of First Amendment activity are ‘sharply circumscribed.’”
  • “[A] citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”
  • “Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting ‘the free discussion of governmental affairs.’”

Good stuff. Maybe I’ll be assigning this later in the semester in my Media & Entertainment Law class.

CMLP Legal Guide on DC’s New Anti-SLAPP Law

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

CMLP logoThe Citizen Media Law Project has updated their online legal guide with information about Washington, D.C.’s brand new anti-SLAPP law.

An anti-SLAPP law is a tweak to court procedure that empowers defendants, who have been sued because of something they said about a matter of public interest, to quickly get rid of frivolous lawsuits filed against them. Anti-SLAPP short circuits the usual lengthy and expensive litigation process required to beat back an unmeritorious complaint.

The idea is to prevent the courts from being used as a way to gag critics of the well-lawyered. Thus, anti-SLAPP laws are potentially very important for bloggers.

The CMLP’s legal guide also runs down the anti-SLAPP laws in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington state.

First Circuit Case on Right to Video Police in Public Places

Friday, March 18th, 2011
Boston skyline over the Charles River (Photo: EEJ)

Boston skyline over the Charles River (Photo: EEJ)

The First Circuit Court of Appeals is considering Glik v. Cunniffe, et al (10-1764), a case that has big-time implications for American bloggers and other members of the citizen media with a bent toward gathering news where it happens.

As the Citizen Media Law Project reports on its blog, Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, the CMLP, and a coalition of other organizations, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and several big media companies, filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief recently in the case. The amici urged the court to uphold a First Amendment right to gather news in public places.

Here’s the brief: [pdf]

An attorney, Simon Glik, used his cellphone to make a video recording of Boston Police officers arresting a homeless man in downtown’s Boston Common, a big public park. Obviously, the police were annoyed. Glik was then arrested. The charge was an interesting one – criminal wiretaping.

Yes, really.

Glik was charged with a violation of the Massachusetts Wiretap Statute (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 99). Here’s the most relevant bits of the law:

B. Definitions. As used in this section—

2. The term “oral communication” means speech, except such speech as is transmitted over the public air waves by radio or other similar device.

3. The term “intercepting device” means any device or apparatus which is capable of transmitting, receiving, amplifying, or recording a wire or oral communication other than a hearing aid or similar device which is being used to correct subnormal hearing to normal and other than any telephone or telegraph instrument, equipment, facility, or a component thereof, (a) furnished to a subscriber or user by a communications common carrier in the ordinary course of its business under its tariff and being used by the subscriber or user in the ordinary course of its business; or (b) being used by a communications common carrier in the ordinary course of its business.

4. The term “interception” means to secretly hear, secretly record, or aid another to secretly hear or secretly record the contents of any wire or oral communication through the use of any intercepting device by any person other than a person given prior authority by all parties to such communication; provided that it shall not constitute an interception for an investigative or law enforcement officer, as defined in this section, to record or transmit a wire or oral communication if the officer is a party to such communication or has been given prior authorization to record or transmit the communication by such a party and if recorded or transmitted in the course of an investigation of a designated offense as defined herein.

C. Offenses.

1. Interception, oral communications prohibited.

Except as otherwise specifically provided in this section any person who—

willfully commits an interception, attempts to commit an interception, or procures any other person to commit an interception or to attempt to commit an interception of any wire or oral communication shall be fined not more than ten thousand dollars, or imprisoned in the state prison for not more than five years, or imprisoned in a jail or house of correction for not more than two and one half years, or both so fined and given one such imprisonment.

Do you think what Glik was doing was really “secret”. I kind of doubt it, since he was arrested on the scene.

Specifically, the police noticed what Glik was doing and then asked him whether the phone had audio recording capability. After Glik confirmed that it did, they arrested him.

Why was Glik recording the arrest of the homeless man, by the way? He thought the police were using excessive force. Now you begin to get a picture of just how annoyed these police officers must have been.

Well, the charges were, as you might imagine, quickly dismissed. After that, Gilk filed suit in federal court to vindicate his rights. The district court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and now we are in the Court of Appeals.

Good luck to Glik and the amici!

More:

Resources on §230

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

§230

One of the most important laws affecting blogging, at least in the United States, is 47 U.S.C. §230.

Section 230 is a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields online content providers from liability for defamation, invasion of privacy, and other state tort law actions based on the actions of users. So, for instance, §230 can provide immunity for bloggers from lawsuits based on defamatory comments that have been posted by third parties.

To learn more about §230, here are two resources:

CMLP is Hiring

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Citizen Media Law Project, a program of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, is hiring an assistant project director / program fellow. The position is for lawyers with at least three years experience in IP, media, or the like. The job is in Cambridge, Mass., just outside of Boston.

Trademarking Your Blog

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I talk a lot about copyright on Blog Law Blog. But another – completely different – form of intellectual property that bloggers ought to be aware of is trademark.

You can use trademark, potentially, to protect the name and brand-identity of your blog. Trademark is about reliable indications of the source of goods or services, enabling people and companies to develop and profit from their reputation. Trademark doesn’t protect content, it protects names, symbols, logos, slogans, and other forms of commercial identity that a business uses. (Non-profit enterprises can assert trademarks as well.)

The Citizen Media Law Project has published a new section of their legal guide that provides a lot of information on getting and maintaining trademark rights: Securing Trademark Rights: Ownership and Federal Registration.

A backgrounder on trademark law is available in a “nanotreatise” [pdf] I wrote, which is in my Compendium of Materials for Intellectual Property Law.

“Media Law in the Digital Age” Conference in Atlanta

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

“Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?” will be held September 25, 2010 in Atlanta. The event is co-hosted by the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University.

The conference is aimed at “journalists, bloggers, and lawyers who work with media clients.” More on the Citizen Media Law Project blog.

Pulse RSS Reader and the New York Times

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Kimberley Isbell at the Citizen Media Law Project blog tackles claims by the New York Times regarding pay-for-access RSS readers that provide viewing of NYT web content without the Gray Lady’s permission. (RSS readers allow access to blogs and similar online media through a dedicated application that is not a general web browser.) Isbell asks, Is the New York Times Really Claiming That All Paid RSS Readers Infringe its Copyright?

The particular flap here involves the Pulse RSS reader, available from the Apple Apps Store.

9th Circuit Allows Amway to Unmask Kvetching Bloggers

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The Ninth Circuit has upheld a trial court’s order compelling the disclosure of the identity of anonymous bloggers.

Citizen Media Law Project has analysis here: Ninth Circuit Weighs In On Internet Anonymity, Consumer Griping At Risk.

This bruhaha stems from a lawsuit involving Amway (a/k/a Quixtar). The anonymous bloggers targeted took various potshots at the company famous for its multi-level, pyramidal marketing system.

My opinion: You don’t need to hear allegedly defamatory statements about Amway to know it’s bad news. All you need to know is that John Tesh does commercials for them. I worked in radio, and as a former disc jockey, I’ve got to say that John Tesh and his radio show are utterly offensive. He defiles the medium.

But back to the law …

The Ninth Circuit, in the course of its opinion, characterized the statements criticizing Amway as commercial in nature, and therefore entitled to less First Amendment protection. That’s worrying. CMLP said:

While the Ninth Circuit is correct that the First Amendment generally extends less protection to commercial speech, its decision is troubling for a couple of reasons. First, the court’s sense of what qualifies as commercial speech seems unduly broad. It is hard to draw a principled distinction between the derogatory statements here (e.g., “Quixtar currently suffers from systemic dishonesty”) from some of the more extreme statements that might appear on a consumer review site or gripe site.

Anonymous Blog Commenter IDs Ordered Revealed in North Carolina

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

The banner for Home in Henderson, the blog ordered to reveal commenter identities.

A state trial court in North Carolina recently ordered the proprietor of the blog Home in Henderson to release the identities of anonymous commenters who posted allegedly defamatory remarks about a former county commissioner.

Citizen Media Law Project has this post:

Ninth Circuit Weighs In On Internet Anonymity, Consumer Griping At Risk

And the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has this: