Cambridge, MA – The Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP)
launched the first sections of its Citizen Media Legal Guide
last week. The guide,
intended for use by citizen media creators with or without formal legal
training, addresses the legal issues that traditional and
non-traditional journalists are likely to encounter as they gather
information and publish their work online.
“There is a tremendous need for a comprehensive – yet approachable –
guide to the legal issues faced by online publishers. As more
journalists, whether professional or non-professional, begin to
practice their craft online we hope that they can turn to this guide to
help them understand the legal environment they are operating in,” said
David Ardia, director and co-founder of the CMLP, an initiative to
provide practical knowledge and tools for citizen media and to study
the impact of law on online journalism.
The sections of the legal guide released so far include “Forming a
Business and Getting Online,” which covers forming a for-profit or
nonprofit business entity, choosing an online platform, and dealing
with critical legal issues relating to the mechanics of online
publishing, and “Dealing with Online Legal Risks,” which covers the
legal issues involved in operating a blog or website, finding
insurance, finding legal help, and responding to the different kinds of
legal threats publishers may face as a result of their online
The legal guide follows the successful launch in November of the CMLP’s
Legal Threats Database, an interactive compendium of legal threats
directed at online speech. The database contains lawsuits, subpoenas,
and other types of legal threats from 37 states and 11 countries.
These threats range from copyright infringement lawsuits filed against
bloggers to cease and desist letters claiming defamation sent to
MySpace users. Visitors to the CMLP’s website can input new threat
entries, comment on existing threats, and search the database in a
number of ways, including by location, legal claim, publication medium,
and content type.
“We are especially excited about integrating the information in our
legal guide with the legal threats database we created. Visitors to
the site can read about actual cases addressing the issues they are
learning about in the legal guide. We’ve collected court decisions,
legal briefs, and other relevant documents to bring these cases to life
and help visitors understand how judges and lawyers actually apply the
law,” David Ardia commented.
The legal guide is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight
Foundation. It will initially cover the 15 most populous U.S. states
and the District of Columbia. Once complete, it will focus on the wide
range of legal issues online publishers face, including risks
associated with publication, such as defamation and privacy law;
newsgathering; access to government information; intellectual property;
and corporate/nonprofit formation and governance. The CMLP will
continue to roll out new sections of the legal guide through the spring.
About the Citizen Media Law Project The Citizen Media Law Project, which is jointly affiliated with the
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and the
Center for Citizen Media, has five primary objectives: legal education
and training; collection and analysis of legal threats; litigation
referral, consultation, and representation; community building; and
advocacy on behalf of citizen media. It was the recipient of a 2007
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation News Challenge grant. For more
information, visit http://www.citmedialaw.org.
About the Berkman Center for Internet & Society The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School is
proud to celebrate its tenth year as a research program founded to
explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its
development. Founded in 1997, through a generous gift from Jack N. and
Lillian R. Berkman, the Center is now home to an ever-growing community
of faculty, fellows, staff, and affiliates working on projects that
span the broad range of intersections between cyberspace, technology,
and society. More information can be found athttp://cyber.harvard.eduand http://www.berkmanat10.org.
About the Center for Citizen Media The Center for Citizen Media, which is co-sponsored by Arizona State
University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass
Communication and the Berkman Center, aims to understand, enhance, and
expand grassroots journalism and its reach. Since its 2005 launch, the
CCM has initiated a number of projects including a survey of how
traditional media organizations are bringing their audiences into the
journalism process and a directory of citizen media projects and
tools. More information can be found at http://www.citmedia.org.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism
excellence worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S.
communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950 the
foundation has granted more than $300 million to advance journalism
quality and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation supports ideas and
projects that create transformational change. For more information,