Skip to the main content
Past Project

Digital Media Law Project

Founded in 2007 as the "Citizen Media Law Project," the Digital Media Law Project (DMLP) works to ensure that individuals and organizations involved in online journalism and digital media have access to the legal resources, education, tools, and representation that they need to thrive.

The DMLP carries out its mission through five core initiatives: (1) its detailed Legal Guide on media and business law topics for non-lawyers; (2) its searchable Database of Legal Threats directed at online publishers; (3) its nationwide attorney referral service, the Online Media Legal Network; (4) its Research & Response initiative to address breaking issues and trends in digital media law; and (5) its regularly-updated Blog and Newsletter on current issues in media law, technology law and journalism

Legal Guide: The DMLP publishes a comprehensive legal guide for individuals and organizations involved in independent online publishing and journalism.  The guide covers topics ranging from how to form a business to how to use freedom of information and open meetings laws to get access to information, meetings, and governmental records, as well as other legal subjects such as risks associated with online publication, including discussion of defamation and privacy torts; legal issues related to newsgathering; use of copyrighted and trademarked materials; and special risks associated with covering elections.

The Legal Guide now runs to more than 600 pages and covers the fifteen most populous U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Users of the guide can search by keyword, browse by state, or simply browse by section. The guide is broken into six major sections:  

    Forming a Business and Getting Online;
    Dealing with Online Legal Risks;
    Newsgathering and Privacy;
    Access to Government Information;
    Intellectual Property; and
    Risks Associated with Publication.

The DMLP selects the topics covered by the Legal Guide to address the issues that content creators and publishers routinely encounter in the course of forming and running their ventures.  In addition to serving as a reference for individuals seeking help, the Legal Guide is often used by university journalism programs and other publishing organizations as a key resource.

Database of Legal Threats: The DMLP publishes a database of more than 900 entries covering lawsuits, subpoenas, and other legal actions involving digital media and online speech. Each entry consists of a plain-language description of the case or threat and links to blog or press coverage.  Most entries also contain the underlying documents, including copies of cease-and-desist letters, lawsuit complaints, legal briefs, and court orders.

The database is publicly searchable by keyword and by more than 25 distinct data fields, including by state, legal claim, type of publisher, subject area, and date of filing.  Users of the database can also do full-text searching of the pleadings and motions associated with each database entry. If you've been threatened with legal action or know of someone who has, please let us know by using our contact form or by entering the information directly into the database through our easy to use threat entry form.

Legal Assistance: The DMLP operates the Online Media Legal Network (OMLN), which is a network of more than 250 law firms, law school clinics, in-house counsel, and individual lawyers throughout the United States willing to provide free and reduced-fee legal assistance to qualifying online journalism ventures and other digital media creators.  Since its inception, the DMLP has assisted clients with hundreds of separate matters. Lawyers and clinical law students at Harvard Law School's Cyberlaw Clinic also provide legal advice to individuals and organizations that operate independent media sites.  

Research and Response: Our central vantage point on issues affecting the journalism industry enables us to detect urgent issues affecting digital journalism as they arise. Our attorney and client networks, together with our tracking of legal threats, serve as an "early warning system" for urgent legal needs affecting the digital journalism community. This permits us to respond with relevant information and legal resources in an informed and timely manner, collaborating with our wide array of partner organizations where appropriate.

The Research and Response initiative reflects the flexibility of the DMLP to address these important issues. Rather than responding in a uniform fashion to issues as they arise, we recognize that responses to breaking issues must be tailored to the particular issue at hand. To that end we have created a range of white papers and issue guides, participated in litigation as an amicus curiae, appeared at conferences and speaking events, acted in an advisory capacity to various groups, and addressed the media on issues of current interest.

DMLP Publishing: The DMLP blog includes content from DMLP staff as well as a diverse group of lawyers, law professors, law students, and others with an interest in new media.  Blog posts provide commentary and insight on current events in media law and digital publishing, promote resources and events of interest to digital publishers, and announce new initiatives by the DMLP and its partner organizations.  The DMLP blog is a popular destination for site visitors, with individual posts routinely obtaining hundreds or thousands of reads.

The Digital Media Law Brief, our monthly newsletter, keeps our followers up to date with our recent activities, our upcoming events, and news items of interest in the fields of media law, journalism, and technology. If you want to find out what the DMLP is doing and what it is going to do next, the newsletter is the best place to go.

The DMLP also maintains an active social media presence, with accounts on Twitter at @DMLPBerkman and @omln, and a page on Facebook.

This project is supported in part by the Open Society Institute, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Philip L. Graham Fund.

Our Work 10

Jun 4, 2014

Who Gets a Press Pass?

Media Credentialing Practices in the United States

This study, the first of its kind to perform a quantitative examination of media credentialing in the United States, surveys the experience of journalists throughout the country… More

May 4, 2013 @ 9:00 AM

Filling the News Gap in Cambridge and Beyond: Citizen Journalism and Grassroots Media

The event will explore the quickly expanding world of citizen journalism: how technology is fueling its growth; how that growth is changing the way we see our world, enact change,… More

Apr 2, 2012

Guide to the IRS Decision-Making Process under Section 501(c)(3) for Journalism and Publishing Non-Profit Organizations

Until and unless there is action in Congress to facilitate tax exemptions for journalism non-profits, news organizations seeking 501(c)(3) status must learn how to structure their… More

Oct 22, 2011 @ 9:00 AM

Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed -- Again

Co-produced by the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Kennesaw State's Center for Sustainable Journalism, Media Law in the Digital… More

Sep 22, 2011 @ 9:00 AM

Law School for Digital Journalists

A Pre-Conference of the Online News Association's 2011 Conference

The Online News Association, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy present Law School for Digital Journalists, part of the… More

Jul 1, 2011

Berkman Buzz: July 1, 2011

Measuring the impact of journalism, reviewing Google+, who to trust online, and this week's Buzz. More

Sep 25, 2010 @ 9:00 AM

Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?

We're pleased to announce that the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard's Berkman Center and the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University are co-hosting a… More

Aug 30, 2010

The Rise of the News Aggregator: Legal Implications and Best Practices

This white paper attempts to answer the question of whether news aggregators violate current law by examining the hot news misappropriation and copyright infringement claims that… More

Apr 9, 2010 @ 9:00 AM

Symposium: Journalism's Digital Transition: Unique Legal Challenges and Opportunities

The Berkman Center's Citizen Media Law Project and Cyberlaw Clinic are pleased to announce a one-day symposium and CLE program to celebrate the launch of the Online Media Legal… More

May 6, 2008 @ 1:30 PM

Citizen Media Law Project @ 1

David Ardia, Sam Bayard, Tuna Chatterjee

David Ardia, Sam Bayard, and Tuna Chatterjee of CMLP discussed trends in online publishing and previewed the CMLP database of subpeonas, cease-and-desist letters, and other… More

People 06