Blogger ruled ineligible to use shield law

Bloggers may find themself with no protection when they are asked to name anonymous sources, if a recent case becomes precedent. Techdirt reports that blogger Shellee Hale “tried to claim that she was protected under New Jersey’s shield law, which allows a journalist to protect sources.”However, the judge in Hale’s case “ruled that Hale is not protected by shield laws because she has ‘no connection to any legitimate news publication.'”

The Techdirt posts notes that

This is troubling for a variety of reasons. First, it leaves open entirely to interpretation what exactly is a “legitimate news publication.” The judge seems to think it only applies to old school media, saying: “Even though our courts have liberally construed the shield law, it clearly was not intended to apply to any person communicating to another person.” Sure, but that doesn’t mean that an individual who posts something in the pursuit of reporting isn’t media as well. It looks like Hale will appeal this decision, and hopefully other courts will recognize that you don’t have to work for a big media organization to be a reporter any more.

Associated Press crackdown could spell end of blogs as we know them

In A.P. Cracks Down on Unpaid Use of Articles on Web,” The New York Times reports that The Associated Press was planning to “add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it, and that notifies The A.P. about how the article is used.” According to the Times, AP President Tom Curley “said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it.” Given that much of the content on many blogs — including this one — summarizes current news stories, such licensing restrictions could make for a vastly different blogosphere in the near future. “

Law proposed to prevent ‘libel tourism’

In “Attack of the Libel Tourists,” The Washington Post warns of an increasingly common practice of offended parties outside the United States looking for hospitable venues for suing U.S. media sources for libel. The primary culprit is Britain, where “judges more often than not allow [libel suits] to proceed on flimsy jurisdictional grounds.” Proposed U.S. legislation “would empower U.S. judges to block enforcement of a foreign libel judgment if it does not comport with U.S. standards. It also would allow an author or publisher whose work has been vindicated in a U.S. court to sue a libel tourist for damages.”

Journalistic recording rules

Geanne Rosenberg explains the basic rules and ethical values of citizen journalism in regards to recording audio and video. Issues discussed include private property, privacy, public forums (places where journalist are free to record), government rules in dealing with the media, personal intrusion, and how to deal with children. Important facts about recording of phone conversations are included in the article. Rosenberg notes:

In terms of recording of conversations, some states within the U.S. are one-party states that allow a person who is a party to a conversation to record that conversation without the knowledge of other participants. Other states are all-party states that require that all parties to a conversation know about or consent to any taping. Eavesdropping and surveillance can also lead to criminal and civil sanctions.

Overview of changing legal outlook on online journalism

In “Web v. Journalism: Court Cases Challenge Long-Held Principles,” Jane Kirtley looks at how courts are rethinking freedom of the press in the age of the Internet. After a nice review of a range of recent cases, Kirtley notes:

Rights of access, or freedom of expression, are not, and should not be, conditioned on some government official’s idea of what constitutes ‘responsible’ journalism. Judges and legislators should continue to follow the principles that have protected the press, and the public’s right to know, for more than 200 years. But at the same time, those who publish in the new media and are always quick to invoke the First Amendment are challenging so many things held sacred.