Media Law News
Geanne Rosenberg, writing for the Nieman Lab, jumps into the Federal Shield conversation, asserting that student journalists should also get the protections of their professional counterparts. If you read this blog, you know I’m a big proponent for citizen journalists, bloggers and other “non-professionals” to get this protection, so kudos to her for recognizing the rights of students as well.
The Nieman Lab has an overview of a longer paper from Marion Fremont-Smith at Harvard law about the non-profit model for funding news. There are a lot of questions out there as to whether or not tax law might need to be changed to allow for a current for-profit news org to become non-profit. Fremont-Smith’s paper argues there should be no new guidelines or legislation needed to make this happen.
A very interesting case is going on right now where TV personality Glenn Beck is essentially trying to use domain name laws to out an online critic (and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere). While it goes against the reason behind the law, it certainly is a creative way to circumvent other media law to take down those who oppose your point of view.
Who’s charging for content – or not
For those keeping score….
- Talking Points Memo: Exploring a membership model, but not an all-encompassing pay wall.
- Newsday – Creating a subscribers-only pay wall – and Steve Outing thinks they’re nuts & suggests a micropayment model.
- Dallas Morning News – DMN is betting on readers being willing to pay more to have a better newspaper – not online yet, but in print.
- Speaking of “premium content” that is “worth paying for”, Outing started a great discussion about what content readers might be willing to buy.
- And now for something completely different. Check out the new site for the non-profit Texas Tribune if you haven’t already. It’s lovely – simple, clean, easy-to-read. And everyone’s really hopeful this is a news experiment that will succeed.
Crazy ideas worth hearing
Robert Niles has a provocative idea – evaluate whether or not your site really needs to be in Google News, Crazy? Maybe, but check it out. There’s some potentially mind-blowing food for thought about why news sites and blogs may not want to be involved with Google News – and it isn’t about that silly “freeloading” nonsense. He argues that search engine page views aren’t “quality” views and they might be leading to more spam.
Or, if you really hate Google and you’re Rupert Murdoch, you’ll insist the search engine is stealing your stuff against your will. Google finally had enough of the News Corp. owner, saying that if he really doesn’t want Google indexing his sites, he can be removed. Of course, this blogger thinks Murdoch knew that already.
Newspaper-sponsored blog networks! Catch the wave! While it certainly isn’t the first such blog network (ahem), the Guardian is hiring bloggers to cover local news.
And seriously, it’s been said before and said again, this time by Paid Content: When is someone going to buy Breaking News Online ? They’re the best there is at breaking news online – and yet, they are still independent.
And a word or two about the Twitter
Social Media Today has a great bit of coverage about Twitter lately i just had to share.
For one, there’s a much-needed reality check on Twitter’s trending topics from the folks at Social Media Today, more importantly, do those topics really reflect what people are actually talking about or what is really going on in the world?
They also take a refreshing look at Twitter lists from the “quality over quantity” perspective. In other words, it isn’t a popularity contest to get listed a lot, especially wen there are a lot of lists.
And get ready to take down your “English only” Twitter search filter. Soon enough, we’ll be able to translate tweets with no problem.
Don’t make promises about UGC you can’t keep
On November 18, 2009
In Industry News & Notes
It may be old news to media law nerds like me, but the ongoing case of Barnes v. Yahoo has revealed a potential minefield of legal trouble for media websites of all sizes in something as simple as a broken promise.
Don't make promises!
As most every media person knows, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 grants immunity from liability to service providers (including media sites) for user-generated content, even if it is defamatory. The Barnes case re-asserted that protection, but it also revealed a possible loophole in that immunity that can occur if you promise to remove content – and don’t follow through.
The case, in short:
It started with a bad breakup. Cecilia Barnes’ ex-boyfriend put personal info and lewd photos of her in a Yahoo profile soliciting for sex. She tried to contact Yahoo to get the defamatory profile removed and eventually got through to a person who said they’d take care of it. They didn’t.
And it was there that the loophole appeared. Aside from the issue of defamation in relation to the content of the profile, Barnes’ suit has a claim for breach of contract from Yahoo for not taking down the profile as promised.
While U.S. contract law typically requires evidence of a contract, there’s a judicial doctrine known as “promissory estoppel” that makes a promise like that at Yahoo a contract.
So, that broken promise, essentially, is the contract that was broken – and thus, a whole other Pandora’s box is opened.
The lesson for you? If you have comments or other kinds of user-submitted content on your website or blog and someone calls to complain about something in that content, whatever you do – don’t make any promises to remove it if you don’t want legal responsibility for it.
I know from experience on these kind of calls that you want to say you’ll take care of it right away, but don’t. Say you’ll look into it. Tell everyone in your newsroom to say the same.
And finally, for the love of God, don’t put up profiles of your ex-girlfriends on Yahoo – prank calls are far less problematic.