mediaLaw in

the

Digital Age

September 25,2010

CLE MATERIALS
Produced by Kennesaw State University’s Center for Sustainable Journalism and Harvard Law’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

This Conference is made possible in part by the generous support of the Harnisch Foundation.

(www.thehf.org)

MEDIA LAW IN THE DIGITAL AGE: THE RULES HAVE CHANGED, HAVE YOU?  SEPTEMBER 25, 2010  CLE Handouts    TABLE OF CONTENTS 
 

Copyright: Using the Work of Others and Licensing Your Own Work  1. 2. 3. 4. Copyright Law and the Internet: Challenges of Today and Tomorrow  Unbundling Copyright Owner’s Rights in the Licensing of “Atomized” Content  The Rise of the News Aggregator: Legal Implications and Best Practices  All the News That’s Fit to Own: Hot News on the Internet & the Commodification of  News in Digital Culture  5. Hot News Misappropriation: Barclays v. TheFlyontheWall.com  Exercising Your Right to Know: Getting Access to Government Information  1. Federal Open Records Law: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)  2. Georgia Open Records Laws  3. Comparison Between Florida and Georgia Public Records and Open Meetings Laws  Libel and Privacy: Minimizing the Risks of Publishing Online  1. Libel & Privacy: Minimizing the Risks of Publishing Online  2. Recent Developments: Defamation and Invasion of Privacy  Advertising Law for Online Publishers  1. Legal Topics in Advertising Law for Online Publishers  2. FTC Issues Final Guides on the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising  3. Some Online Advertising Law Lingo        Newsgathering Law: How to Stay Out of Trouble When You’re Gathering Information   for a Story  1. Newsgathering Law: How to Stay Out of Trouble When You’re Gathering Information  for a Story  2. Topics in Newsgathering Law  3. Update on the Free Flow of Information Act  4. State Shield Laws: An Overview  5. The Georgia Open Records Act – Caselaw Summary   

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

Safe Harbors: Building and Managing Online Communities  1. Recent Developments: Section 230, Communications Decency Act  2. Recent Developments: Online Anonymity  3. Recent Developments: Section 512, Digital Millennium Copyright Act  Starting an Independent News Organization: Business Law and Other Considerations  1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Starting an Independent News Organization: Business Law and Other Considerations  Legal Entity/Liability Considerations for a New Media Company  A Start‐up Independent News Organization’s Guide to Contributor Agreements  Other Considerations When Launching an Online Publishing Venture  The Newspaper Revitalization Act  Protecting Your Intellectual Property: Trademark and Copyright Basics   

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COPYRIGHT LAW AND THE INTERNET:  CHALLENGES OF TODAY AND TOMORROW  CHRISTOPHER A. WIECH  Troutman Sanders LLP  600 Peachtree Street, NE Suite 5200  Atlanta, GA 30308‐2216   T:  404.885.3691  F: 404.962.6703  E: chris.wiech@troutmansanders.com   

I. Introduction      How we use and disseminate information, thoughts, and ideas has changed dramatically over  the past 5‐10 years.  Traditional mediums – newspapers, books, magazines, encyclopedias, the  nightly news – have, to some extent, given way to the Internet – blogs, YouTube, Facebook,  Twitter, news websites – as society’s source for information and its preferred medium for the  expression of thoughts and ideas.  Indeed, the Internet is becoming ubiquitous – anyone can  access it from anywhere in the world with a mobile device or computer and a network  connection.  Compared with traditional mediums, information on the Internet is also more  easily published, distributed, updated, modified, and shared.  Content on one webpage can be  cut and copied to another webpage, and then another, in an instant, which makes it difficult to  keep track of who actually owns the content we view and use.        Given these realities of the Internet, most people naively assume that just about everything on  the web is free, unprotected, and theirs to use without limitation.  Is this good or bad?  Does  the Internet encourage innovation and sharing, or does it stifle creativity?  On one hand, the  Internet encourages the free flow of thoughts and ideas.  Take Wikipedia, for example, which  aggregates the collective knowledge of anonymous users from around the world, without  regard to who owns what.  But, on the other hand, the Internet is an emerging commercial  marketplace, where ownership and revenues really do matter; and the stakes are high because  of the potential revenue associated with the relative ease of distributing content to millions of  users.  So, how do we balance free use with protection of ownership?  It’s not easy.   Particularly, in the world of copyrights, the Internet poses many challenges.              Despite Congress’ attempt to keep pace with the Internet by enacting the Digital Millennium  Copyright Act (“DMCA”),  which sought to extend federal copyright protection to Internet  content, there is still much confusion over how to treat content on the Internet.  Traditional  copyright laws are not well tailored to Internet content, leaving the courts to interpret and  apply the law as best they can, which isn’t always consistent.  For now, in light of such  uncertainty over how copyright law will evolve with the Internet, the best practice – whether  you’re using someone else’s content on the Internet or you’re the owner of content – is to stay  aware.  Stay aware of the content you use; stay aware of your content and how it’s being used;  and stay aware of the law as it evolves.  For all you know, you may be pirating someone else’s 
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copyright‐protected work or your copyright‐protected work may be being pirated right under  your nose.      The purpose of this article is to promote a basic awareness of the legal issues pertaining to how  we use and disseminate copyright‐protected information on the Internet, beginning with what  constitutes copyright infringement (Section II), monetary relief for acts of infringement (Section  III), and ways to avoid liability (Sections IV, V, and VI).       II. Breaking the law:  what you need to know about copyright infringement      A copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce his or her copyrighted work;  to prepare  derivate works based on the copyrighted work;  distribute copies of the work to the public (sell  rights, lease, etc.);  and publicly perform or display the work, including posting photographs or  streaming music or video on the Internet.         These exclusive rights can be infringed directly or indirectly.  Direct infringement can by shown  (1) with direct evidence of copying – or, at least, by showing that the infringer had access to the  copyrighted work – and (2) substantial similarity between the copyrighted work and the  infringing work.  In the context of the Internet, courts have required some kind of direct  volitional act in order to find direct infringement.  Direct infringement can be pretty black‐and‐ white, but indirect infringement has many shades of gray.  As a result, it’s much easier to fall  victim to, or be a victim of, indirect infringement.        Indirect infringement, at the outset, requires an underlying act of direct infringement.  And  indirect infringement can be contributory or vicarious.  Contributory infringement is shown  where the user (1) has actual or constructive knowledge – meaning they knew or should have  known – of the direct infringement, and (2) the user contributed to or inducted the direct  infringement by, for example, advertising or promoting the infringing work.  The standards for  contributory infringement have evolved with two U.S. Supreme Court cases:  Sony Corp. v.  Universal City Studios, Inc., in which the Supreme Court established that selling a product with  substantially non‐infringing use is not contributory infringement;  and MGM Studios, Inc. v.  Grokster, Ltd.,  in which the Supreme Court held that distributing a product with infringing and  non‐infringing uses may nevertheless still constitute infringement if the promotion of the  product and its ultimate use is infringing.  Ask yourself, is the primary objective of your website  to encourage others to infringe copyright‐protected work?  If so, you could be liable for  contributory infringement.          Finally, vicarious infringement occurs when the vicarious infringer has (1) a financial interest in  the infringing activity, which can be shown by examining its business model, and (2) the right or  ability to control the direct infringer.  Consider, for example, YouTube.  Thousands of users post  video content on YouTube each day.  YouTube has a financial interest in its users doing so – it’s  what attracts users to its site and thus attracts advertising revenue.  Moreover, YouTube has  the ability to control what content is posted on its site.  So, when a user knowingly and without  authorization posts a copyrighted video on YouTube, YouTube can be vicariously liable for that 
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act.  Fortunate for YouTube and other websites like it, Congress has made life easier with safe  harbors under the DMCA, which are discussed below in Section IV.    III. Paying the piper for breaking the law      Copyright owners whose works have been infringed are entitled to recover actual damages or  statutory damages and/or injunctive relief from infringers.  Actual damages are your actual  losses resulting from infringement (e.g., lost profits), which can be difficult to prove, and the  reason why most copyright owners seek statutory damages, which are an amount of damages  prescribed by the federal Copyright Act.  The Act allows for statutory damages of $750‐30,000  for each instance of infringement, and the court has discretion to reduce (down to $200) or  raise (up to $150,000) that amount depending on whether the infringement was innocent or  willful.         Moreover, because digital media on the Internet is so easily uploaded and frequently shared,  the potential for a massive statutory damages award exists.  To put this in perspective, Viacom  International, the multimedia conglomerate, which owns countless copyrights, has sued  YouTube, alleging infringement of at least 150,000 video clips.   Statutory damages in that case,  at a minimum, would be $112.5 million (i.e., $750 x 150,000), and that doesn’t account for  multiple instances of infringement.  That’s why Viacom is seeking over $1 billion in damages.   On a lesser scale – one you and I might better appreciate – a jury in Massachusetts awarded  Sony statutory damages of $675,000 against a graduate student for willful infringement of  songs – at $22,500 per song.   Depending on where you stand – content user or content owner  – this may seem harsh or not harsh enough.        IV. Congress tries to strike a balance:  the DMCA      Undoubtedly, the Internet is the unknown frontier when it comes to copyrights.  What makes  the Internet superior over traditional mediums (e.g., books, movies) – the relative ease with  which copyrighted content can be inexpensively distributed to millions – also makes it riskier –  acts of infringement are much grayer and, if found liable, staggering damages awards are  possible because of the relative ease of distribution.  To balance these benefits and risks,  Congress enacted the DMCA in 1998 to give “greater certainty to [Internet] service providers  concerning their legal exposure for infringements that may occur in the course of their  activities.”   A “service provider” is “an entity offering the transmission, routing, or providing of  connections for digital online communications, between or among points specified by a user, of  material of the user’s choosing, without modification to the content of the material as sent or  received,” including “a provider of online services or network access, or the operator of  facilities therefor.”   For example, Comcast, Google, and even some blogs qualify as “service  providers” under the DMCA.           In particular, the DMCA provides safe harbor from liability resulting from various activity on the  Internet:    •  acting as a conduit for transmission of infringing content;    
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•  temporary storage of infringing content for purposes of improving network efficiencies;   •  providing server space for an infringer’s content, such as a website or blog;  or   •  referring or linking users to an online location containing infringing material or infringing  activity (e.g., search engines).       To be eligible for safe harbor protection under the DMCA, the service provider must   adopt and reasonably implement, and inform users of, a policy that provides for termination in  appropriate circumstances of users who are repeat infringers.        In adopting a policy, the most common way to protect yourself as a service provider is to  require your users to accept your terms and conditions as a prerequisite to using your website.   The terms and conditions should, among other things, set out the website’s right and discretion  to remove content or use content added to it by users.  For example, we all had to agree to  Facebook’s terms and conditions before we could create our profiles, and in doing so, we all  granted Facebook “a non‐exclusive, transferable, sub‐licensable, royalty‐free, worldwide  license” to use anything we post on Facebook, regardless of any intellectual property  ownership rights we may have in what we post.  Notably, terms and conditions that require  affirmative acceptance by the user – e.g., clicking “I accept these terms and conditions” – are  more easily enforced than terms and conditions that are simply posted somewhere on the site.       Reasonably implementing a policy typically requires some form of monitoring your website site  to ensure infringing activity is not taking place, nor is infringing content being added to the site.   Commercially available filtering software can be used to identify infringing material as well as  repeat infringing users.        In addition, service providers must accommodate, and not interfere with, standard technical  measures used by copyright owners to identify or protect their copyrighted works.   This is  known as copyright management information (“CMI”).  All copyright‐protected works should  contain some type of identifier that alerts the user as to the author or owner of the work.  If  you remove or alter the CMI on a work, the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions won’t apply to you.         For user‐generated content, in addition to the requirements above, the service provider must  not have actual knowledge that its systems or networks contain infringing material or infringing  activity is occurring, nor can it turn a blind eye to red flags indicating possible infringement.   Once the service provider is aware of the infringing activity – typically, upon receiving notice  from the copyright owner – the service provider must act expeditiously to remove the infringing  content or disable access to it.  However, if the service provider does actually remove content  based on notice, knowledge, or even suspicion that the content is infringing, the service  provider must notify the user whose content has been removed or disabled.   The user then  may counter‐notify the service provider that its content has been removed or disabled by  mistake, in which case, the service provider must put the content back up within 10‐14 days  unless the copyright owner initiates legal action against the user.        
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Last, the service provider cannot receive a direct financial benefit from infringing activity that it  has the right or ability to control.       Why be bothered with all of this?  By following these procedures under the DMCA, the  service provider can immunize itself from liability for posting or removing content, regardless of  whether the content infringed.   In a fight between the copyright owner and alleged infringer,  the service provider is usually stuck in the middle.  Before the DMCA, the service provider could  remain stuck in the middle based on potentially liability as an indirect infringer.  Now, by  following the simple procedures set forth above, the service provider can extricate itself from  the fight, and won’t be on the hook for damages.   Moreover, the copyright owner and user can  both be liable to the service provider for misrepresenting whether content is protected.        V. What’s fair is fair – the fair use defense to copyright infringement.      Maybe you’re not a “service provider” and therefore not entitled to the safe harbor provisions  under the DMCA, or the DMCA doesn’t apply to your circumstances?  In that case, traditional  copyright law principles will apply.  Obviously, the best way to avoid liability for copyright  infringement is to obtain permission from the copyright owner to use its copyrighted work.   That’s not always possible, and sometimes, it’s too late because the work has already been  used without permission.          Permission aside, the most widely used and most widely litigated defense to copyright  infringement is fair use.  A colleague once said, “Everything is fair use, and nothing is fair use.”    That statement, perhaps, best sums up the law on fair use.  You can read countless court  opinions, as well as treatises, about what is and is not fair use, and still not have a clear  understanding.  That’s because the fair use defense is fact‐specific, and can vary greatly  depending on the circumstances.  The Copyright Act, though, sets out factors to aid in  determining whether use of a copyrighted work is fair.   This is important because if use is fair,  there is no infringement – direct or indirect.                Nature of the use.  This first factor considers how the copyrighted work is being used.  Socially  desirable uses, such as for education or journalism, are more likely to qualify as fair use than  are commercial uses.  In addition, transformative use – use that adds something new to the  original content or alters the character or use of the work – is more likely to be considered fair  use, whereas redistributive use – essentially repeating all or portions of the original work for  the same intended purpose or use – is not as likely to be considered fair use.  For example,  copying portions of a copyrighted material for purposes of providing commentary or criticism  on it – a lot of what bloggers do – is generally transformative use because the copyrighted  material is being used for a different purpose than its original purpose.  Moreover, the  commentary or criticism is, itself, a new expression of thought.  But, simply verbatim copying of  all or a portion of copyrighted work, without adding to or altering its original purpose, is not fair  use.      Parodies are a much discussed example of fair use.  A parody is a work that pokes fun at or  criticizes another work.  Without reference to the original work, the parody wouldn’t be 
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understandable.  But the incorporation of the original work into the parody is permissible – it is  fair use – because the parody transforms the original work.        Nature of copyrighted work.  This second factor looks at the degree of creativity in the  copyrighted material.  Is it fact or fiction?  Is the work published or unpublished?  Taking from  factual works and published works is more likely to qualify as fair use.          Amount of work copied.  This factor considers the quantity and quality of the work used.   Wholesale verbatim copying is typically considered not fair use.  But, even copying a small  portion of a work, if that small portion captures essentially the heart of the work, may not be  fair use either.        Market effect.  This last factor gives great weight to how the use affects the market for the  copyrighted work.  Courts consider not only the market effect of the particular user’s use of the  material, but also whether similar use (by others) would substantially and adversely impact the  potential market for the copyrighted work or derivative works.        A good example of these factors at work is United States v. American Society of Composers,  Authors, and Publishers.   In that case, musicians and composers sued AT&T for copyright  infringement for AT&T’s use of ringtone previews on its website.  AT&T defended on the  grounds of fair use, but the court ruled against it.  The court found that AT&T’s use of the  ringtone previews was not transformative, but rather for a commercial purpose, because AT&T  used the previews to attract visitors to its site to facilitate ringtone sales and to attract third‐ party advertising.  Moreover, it did not matter that each ringtone preview was only 10‐30  seconds long because these short snippets captured the heart of each song.  Finally, AT&T’s use  impeded the market for licensing ringtone previews because AT&T used the ringtones for more  than promotional purposes.        VI. A factual wrinkle:  “hot news” misappropriation      Fair use comes into play when the subject work being used is copyrighted.  Facts, however,  cannot be copyrighted.  Indeed, a long‐standing principle of copyright law is that facts are in the  public domain.  Websites, like Google News and the Drudge Report, that aggregate news  headlines and excerpts from, as well as link to, other websites rely on this principle that facts  are free.  However, while facts may be free, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re free from  liability for using them.        “Hot news” misappropriation is a tort claim, which was first recognized by the U.S. Supreme  Court in 1918 and is recently gaining popularity among news‐reporting organizations, that  protects information conveyed as “breaking news.”  Just last March, Flyonethewall.com, an  Internet‐based financial news website which aggregates and publishes stock recommendations  taken from various Wall Street firms, was found liable for misappropriation by a federal court in  New York, in Barclays Capital Inc. v. Flyonthewall.com.   The court found that this particular  news aggregator was engaging in “free‐riding activity that is directly competitive with the [Wall 
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Street] Firms’ production of time‐sensitive information, thereby threatening their incentive to  continue in the business.”          However, in that case, Agora Financial, LLC v. Samler, the court found that the financial  investment recommendations at issue were not “hot news,” but more likely subject to  copyright protections.  The court noted, “[A] recommendation to invest in a company is not a  fact, but instead an ‘original’ work, which . . . entails ‘judgment’ and ‘creativity.’ . . . While  plaintiffs may be able to protect their ‘original’ investment recommendations under federal  copyright law, they cannot protect these recommendations under the ‘hot news’  misappropriation theory.”       The distinction, therefore, between the rights protected under a copyright infringement claim  and a "hot news" misappropriation claim is that copyright law protects a copyright holder's  exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, or display "original" material while the "hot  news" misappropriation theory protects an individual's exclusive right to profit or otherwise  benefit from the labor expended in discovering, gathering, and generating certain "non‐ original" material, such as factual information.     On their surface, Barclays and Agora both involved use of another’s financial investment advice,  but each had a different outcome on whether the content at issue was subject to copyright law  or the tort claim of hot news misappropriation.  What is for sure, like infringement and fair use,  hot news misappropriation is also a highly factually dependent; there is no bright‐line rule.        With the advent of news aggregator websites and original source news‐reporting websites  starting to charge subscriber fees for full access, more lawsuits, whether grounded on copyright  infringement or hot news misappropriation (in those states that recognize the claim), are sure  to follow.  Perhaps, even facts aren’t safe anymore.  Just be aware of what’s being used and  how it’s used.        VII. Parting Suggestions      When dealing with the Internet, simply being able to spot potential pitfalls with using and  distributing content, puts you ahead of the curve.  Awareness is the key.        For content users:   • Consider the content itself – does it contain any CMI (copyright management  information) signaling that it is copyright protected; is it the type of content that  could be subject to copyright protects, like creative work as opposed to facts (if  facts, though, are they time‐sensitive?)  • Pay attention to the source of the content you’re using – are you taking content  that’s already been infringed?  • Consider your use of the content – is it infringing or fair use?  Should you obtain  permission to use from the copyright owner?    
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Consider whether the DMCA applies to you, if you’ve met its requirements, and are  thus entitled to its safe harbors from monetary liability.    For content owners:  • Identify your ownership of your content – make sure it contains CMI.  • Monitor, to the extent possible, use of your content by others on the Internet.  • Rely on notice‐and‐take down provisions of DMCA.  • Enforce your rights – send cease and desist letters to infringers, require licenses to  use your content, and resort to litigation or alternative forms of dispute resolution, if  necessary.    •

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UNBUNDLING COPYRIGHT OWNERS’ RIGHTS IN THE LICENSING OF “ATOMIZED” CONTENT  ERIC J. HANSON  Hunton & Williams LLP  Bank of America Plaza, Suite 4100  600 Peachtree Street, NE  Atlanta, Georgia 30308  T: (404) 888‐4040  F: (404) 602‐8850  E: ehanson@hunton.com 

     Opportunities for creating and consuming licensed digital content are virtually limitless  in today’s “app economy.”   As demand grows for quickly digestible digital content “nuggets,”  digital works are increasingly “atomized” into extracted works for license and distribution to a  variety of uses.   Original “parent” works, such as books, articles, content libraries, software  programs, multimedia works, and audiovisual compositions, give rise to atomized content such  as excerpts, images, audiovisual clips, feeds, and samplings.  Because copyright protection  extends to such atomized content, a digital content owners’ copyright licensing options multiply  beyond a basic license of an owner’s bundle of rights in an original work to a licensee.           Often the licensors’ and licensees’ needs for use and copying of atomized works is  different from the licensing considerations for the use of the original digital parent works.   Depending on, for example, what atomized content is to be used, the various distribution  interfaces and scope of permitted redistribution, the copyright owner’s bundle of rights may be  unbundled and licensed under content and distribution specific terms to meet the copyright  owners’ and licensees’ needs.  Further, license fees for use of the original work may be very  different than for use and distribution of the atomized content.         Under Section 106 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. §106) a copyright owner’s  primary bundle of rights  includes the exclusive right to do and to authorize any of the  following:      (1)   to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;     (2)   to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;     (3)   to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public       by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;     (4)   in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works,       pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform       the copyrighted work publicly;     (5)   in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works,       pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the       individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display       the copyrighted work publicly; and     (6)   in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly 
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    by means of a digital audio transmission.     From computer, television, mobile device and social network “apps” to embedded web page  media and text feeds, given the increasing number of possible interfaces from which atomized  content is served and re‐served to both end users and by third party digital content  distributors, copyright licensors must consider how this bundle of rights might be licensed for  their atomized content works in comparison to the original works.         For example, a web‐based magazine “WebZine” might provide a collection of reviews  for various home theater products on its website.   Each product review includes, for example,  a digital article with text expressing the author’s evaluation and opinion of a device together  with review photographs and videos.   A typical article might therefore be a joint work of  authorship of a technical review writer and the photographer/videographer.  If the parties only  consider the basic end‐use of the entire review article on WebZine’s website through the  interface of an Internet browser, the parties might contemplate only a simple transfer of the  authors’ entire bundle of rights by assignment or license to WebZine.  Such basic “bundled”  transfers might occur as “work for hire” employment or the authors’ individual license  contracts with WebZine.       However, each WebZine review has the potential to be atomized and licensed for  distribution of the atomized content by the authors, WebZine and/or third parties to many  other digital content interfaces beyond WebZine’s web pages including only the full review.   The valuable copyrighted atomized content may include product images, product video and  text excerpts from the review.  Individually or in selectable combinations such atomized  content may be specifically licensed for digital consumption to a variety of third party uses,  such as other review and retail web sites, device apps, feeds, dashboard widgets, comparison  interfaces, video platforms, image platforms and other distribution interfaces.        If the authors have already transferred all of their copyright interests to WebZine,  WebZine is the owner and licensor to structure potential licensing relationships of both the full  work and these potential atomized works.  WebZine would consider the unbundling of its  copyright rights with respect to atomized content and what uses will be licensed to potential  licensees.  WebZine might establish different content license fees for particular uses, particular  distribution channels and for third party downstream sublicense rights. WebZine might also  syndicate atomized content, require tracking of content use, require attribution and establish  limits on how content may be repurposed.      If the authors have not transferred their copyright ownership interests by assignment or  exclusive license to WebZine, such as under an existing employment relationship or contract,  the authors remain individual owners and licensors for determining the licensing of their bundle  of rights as to both the entire work and to atomized content.  In an author ownership scenario,  the author‐licensors might grant certain rights to WebZine regarding use of the full review on  the WebZine site while reserving rights to atomize and license content themselves.  The author‐ licensors might also grant exclusive rights to WebZine in both the full work and atomized 
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content, but establish different license fees applicable to different uses by WebZine in  downstream licensing of the atomized content.  Such monetization strategies might include the  authors attempting to establish an appropriate schedule of fees applicable to atomized content  based on WebZine’s potential sublicensed distribution channels.  In addition, or alternatively,  the authors might provide WebZine with general sublicense rights subject to a requirement of  establishing license rates as WebZine’s sublicense opportunities arise.         Further, depending on the specific atomized content, such as atomized text, atomized  images and atomized video, a particular author or authors of certain atomized content may  have specific owner and licensor rights apart from the author(s) of other atomized content in  the original work.  Different copyright owners of different atomized content might therefore  have different license considerations and establish different agreements for their individual  rights applicable to particular licensed content.      Whether WebZine or an author is a copyright owner and licensor of atomized content,  some of the many considerations relating to licensing and unbundling of Section 106 rights  under the hypothetical example may include:    Right to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords  • What portions may or may not be copied as atomized content?  • In what forms and to what distribution interfaces can the content be reproduced?  • Are there limits on the number of copies or how much copying is permitted?  • What license fees are applicable to particular content, copiers  (commercial/personal) and form and use of copied content?  • Are there limitations on copying with respect to certain distribution channels,  commercial uses, non‐commercial uses or those permitted to copy?  • Are licensed reproduction rights exclusive or non‐exclusive as to particular content,  copiers and distribution channels?  • How long is a copier granted the reproduction right as to particular content?  • Is attribution of copyright ownership, owner branding, website link or required  notices required in connection with copied uses?  • Is sublicensing of reproduction rights from licensee to other licensees permitted?  • If sublicensing is permitted, is content and license tracking required to monitor  locations and uses of copied atomized content?  • Are there restrictions on the digital environment and context in which copied  content will be used?  • In what digital and non‐digital media is reproduction of the content permitted?  • Will the copyright owner have audit rights to confirm the licensee’s copying and the  copying by sublicensees to determine applicable license fees and compliance with  license terms?  • Are there restrictions on where licensed content resides and where it is reproduced  for display and other licensed uses?  o Copyright owner’s servers?  o Licensee’s servers? 
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  Right to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work   • Any restrictions on how atomized content may be incorporated to create new  content?  • Does the incorporation of licensed atomized content create any license‐back rights  to the licensor in the licensee’s derivative work including the atomized content?  • Does the incorporation of licensed atomized content create any licenses right to  third parties (including other third party licensees of the atomized content) in a  licensee’s derivative work including the atomized content?  • Does the right to create different types of derivative works with the licensed content  represent different license fees?  • In what digital and non‐digital media may derivative works be created?  • Who is granted the right to create derivative works and may the right be  sublicensed?    Right to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or  other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending  • What licensees and sublicensees are granted distribution rights to the atomized  content?  • What monetization rights (such as digital sales, rentals, subscriptions, syndication,  etc.) are granted to licensees?  • Is particular atomized content subject to different distribution rights than other  atomized content?  • Are different license fees applicable to obtaining a license of distribution rights  compared to copying rights for a licensee’s end use?    Right to perform the copyrighted work publicly ‐‐ literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic  works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works  • Apart from terms governing making copies of content, are further license terms to  be applicable to publicly performing authorized copy of atomized content?  o Content, such as audiovisual clips, to be publicly performed in transmission to an  audience (e.g. trade show, instructional)?  o Content to be publicly performed in commercial environment (e.g. retail home  theater store publicly performing an authorized copy of an audiovisual clip from  a review for customers)  • Are specific license fees applicable to licensing a public performance right?    Right to display the copyrighted work publicly ‐‐ literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic  works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images  of a motion picture or other audiovisual work  • Apart from terms governing making copies of content, are further license terms to  be applicable to publicly displaying an authorized copy of atomized content? 
4   

o Downloadable? 

 

•   Right to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission ‐‐  sound recordings  • Apart from terms governing making copies of content, are further license terms to  be applicable to public performance of audio atomized content that is digitally  transmitted?  o Sound recording audio to be played publicly by digital transmission transmitted  to an audience (e.g. Internet broadcast)?  o Sound recording audio to be publicly played in commercial environment (e.g.  retail home theater store publicly playing an authorized copy of an audio clip  from a review to customers)    Are specific license fees applicable to licensing a public performance of audio content digitally  transmitted?   

o Content, such as digital image or text, to be publicly displayed in transmission to  an audience (e.g. trade show, instructional)?  o Content to be publicly displayed in commercial environment (e.g. retail home  theater store publicly displaying an authorized copy of text or image content  from a review to customers)  Are specific license fees applicable to licensing a public display right? 

5   

THE RISE OF THE NEWS AGGREGATOR:
Legal Implications and Best Practices

By Kimberley Isbell and the Citizen Media Law Project

During the past decade, the Internet has become an important news source for most Americans. According to a study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, as of January 2010, of their news online in a typical day.1 This increased reliance on the Internet as a source of news has coincided with declining profits in the traditional media and the shuttering of newsrooms in communities across the country.2 Some commentators look at this confluence of events and assert that, in this case, correlation equals causation – the Internet is harming the news business. One explanation for the decline of the traditional media that some, including News Corporation owner Rupert Murdoch and Associated Press Chairman Dean Singleton, have seized upon is the rise of the news aggregator. According to this theory, news aggregators from Google News to The Huffington Post are freeriding, reselling and profiting from the factual information gathered by traditional media organizations at great cost. Rupert Murdoch has gone so far as to call

Google’s aggregation and display of newspaper headlines and ledes “theft.”3 As the traditional media are quick to point out, the legality of a business model built around the monetization of third-party – it’s big business. Revenues generated from online advertising totaled $23.4 billion in 2008 alone.4
Producing journalism is expensive. We   invest tremendous resources in our project  from technology to our salaries. To   aggregate stories is not fair use. To be   impolite, it is theft.     —   Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and     Chief Executive of News Corporation     December 1, 2009 

nearly 61% of Americans got at least some content isn’t merely an academic question

Building a business model around monetizing another website’s content isn’t novel, and methods for doing so have been around for almost as long as the Internet has been a commercial platform. Consider the practice of framing, or superimposing ads onto embeded websites.5 There’s also in-line linking, or incorporating content from multiple websites into one single third-party site.6 These days, it’s news aggregators that are generating a lot of

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scrutiny. But are they legal?

news aggregators take many forms. For this reason, any attempt to talk about the legal issues surrounding “news aggregation” is bound to fail, unless we take into consideration the relevant For the purposes of our discussion, we will group news aggregators into four categories: Feed Aggregators, Specialty Aggregators, User-Curated Aggregators, and Blog Aggregators.8

WHAT IS A NEWS AGGREGATOR?
Before tackling the legal questions first define the term. At its most basic, a news aggregator is a website that takes information from multiple sources and displays it in a single place.7 While the concept is simple in theory, in practice
FEED AGGREGATORS 

implicated by news aggregators, we should differences among the various models.

As used in this discussion, a “Feed Aggregator” is closest to the traditional conception of a news   aggregator, namely, a website that contains material from a number of websites organized into various  “feeds,” typically arranged by source, topic, or story.  Feed Aggregators often draw their material from a  particular type of source, such as news websites or blogs, although some Feed Aggregators will contain   content from more than one  type of source.  Some well  known examples are Yahoo!  News (and its sister site, My  Yahoo!) and Google News.   Feed Aggregators generally   display the headline of a  story, and sometimes the  first few lines of the story’s  lede, with a link to where the  rest of the story appears on  the original website.  The  name of the originating   website is often listed, as  well. 

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CAN THEY DO THAT?
For all of the attention that news aggregators have received, no case in the United States has yet definitively
SPECIALTY AGGREGATORS  For the purposes of this white paper, a  “Specialty Aggregator” is a website that   collects information from a number of sources  on a particular topic or location.  Examples of   Specialty Aggregators are hyper‐local websites  like Everyblock and Outside.In and websites  that aggregate information about a particular  topic like Techmeme and Taegan Goddard’s  Political Wire.    Like Feed Aggregators,   Specialty Aggregators   typically display the   headline of a story, and   occasionally the first few  lines of the lede with a link  to the rest of the story,  along with the name of the  website on which the story  originally appeared.  Unlike  Feed Aggregators, which  cover many topics, Specialty   Aggregators are more   limited in focus and typically  cover just a few topics or  sources. 

addressed the question of whether their activities are legal. Only a small number of lawsuits have been brought against news aggregators, and all of them have settled before a final decision on the merits.

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Before trying to answer the question of the search prowess to crawl through legality of news aggregators under U.S. law, thousands of online media sources, Google let’s take a closer look at the cases that have been brought to see what arguments both sides of the debate are making. AFP V. GOOGLE NEWS While still a young company relying on private capital, Google launched a news companion to its increasingly popular search engine.9 Using Google’s Internet
USER‐CURATED AGGREGATORS  A “User‐Curated Aggregator” is a website that features user‐submitted links and portions of text taken  from a variety of web‐ sites.  Often, the links on  a User‐Curated Aggrega‐ tor will be culled from a  wider   variety of sources than  most news   aggregators, and will   often include links to  blog posts and   multimedia content like  YouTube videos, as well  as links to more   traditional media  sources.    Page 4

News, as the service would be called, featured various news stories published over the past 30 days. At the time AFP filed suit, Google News displayed the headline, lede, and accompanying photo of articles published by the different news providers accessed by Google’s news crawler.10 Google also provided a link to website from which the story was accessed.

aggregator in 2002 that was intended as a the original story as it appeared on the

BLOG AGGREGATORS  Of the four types of news aggregators discussed in this  paper, the final category, what we’re calling “Blog   Aggregators,” looks the least like a traditional news  aggregator.  Blog Aggregators are websites that use  third‐party content to create a blog about a given  topic.  The Gawker media sites are perhaps one of the  best known examples of Blog Aggregators, and also   illustrate the different forms that the use of third‐party  content can take on these sites.  One method of using  third‐party content on Blog Aggregators is as raw   material for blogger‐written content, synthesizing   information from a number of sources into a single  story (occasionally, but not always, incorporating quotes from the original articles) and linking to the   original content in the article, at the end, or both.  Elsewhere, a post  may consist of a two to three sentence summary of an article from a  third‐party source, with a link to the original article.  Yet other posts  are composed of short excerpts or summaries from a number of   articles strung together, all with links back to the original articles.   Another popular Blog Aggregator is the Huffington  Post, which likewise uses third‐party content in a   number of different ways.  The Huffington Post   website is organized into several sections, the front  pages of which typically feature links to a mixture of  different types of content, including original articles   authored by Huffington Post writers, AP articles  hosted on the Huffington Post website, and articles  hosted on third‐party websites.  In linking to content  on third party websites, the Huffington Post some‐ times uses the original headline, and other times will  use a headline written by Huffington Post editors.

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Many of the articles that appeared in Google News were written by wire services The Associated Press, but displayed on third-party websites.11 Wire services like the AFP generally do not distribute news freely on their own websites as do many newspapers; instead, they license their content to other news providers, such as local newspapers. According to AFP, then, the headline, lede and photo displayed by Google News was licensed content, and the only parties that were authorized to publish them were those that paid licensing fees. By providing this content, even in an abbreviated form, AFP claimed, Google News was infringing their copyrights and stealing their product. AFP filed a lawsuit against Google in federal district court in Washington, DC in 2005. The Amended Complaint asserted claims against Google for copyright infringement in AFP’s photos, headlines, of AFP’s copyright management information; and a claim for “hot news” misappropriation.12 Google responded to

to dismiss: the first, based on AFP’s failure to identify with particularity all of those and the second, a partial motion to dismiss AFP’s claim for copyright infringement of AFP’s headlines, on the grounds that the headlines constituted uncopyrightable subject matter.14 After nearly two years of litigation and extensive discovery, AFP and Google settled the case, entering into a licensing deal granting Google the right to post AFP content, including news stories and photographs, on Google News and on other Google services.15 ASSOCIATED PRESS V. ALL HEADLINE NEWS Almost three years later, the Associated Press (“AP”) filed a lawsuit against another news aggregator, All Headline News. On its website, All Headline News described itself as a “global news agency and content complaint, however, All Headline News “ha [d] no reporters,” and instead prepared its content by having employees “copy[] news

such as Agence France Presse (“AFP”) and works it alleged Google to have infringed,13

and ledes; a claim for removal or alteration service.”16 According to the AP’s

AFP’s claims by filing two separate motions stories found on the internet or rewrite[e]

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such stories.” All Headline News then repackaged and sold this content to clients that included newspapers, Internet web portals, websites, and other redistributors against All Headline News for “hot news” misappropriation, copyright infringement, removal or alteration of copyright management information, trademark infringement, unfair competition, and breach of contract.18 All Headline News filed a partial motion to claim for copyright infringement.19 Nearly a year later, the Southern District of New York issued an order granting in part and denying in part All Headline News’ motion.20 The court dismissed the AP’s trademark infringement claims, but retained the remaining claims against All Headline News, including hot news

GATEHOUSE MEDIA V. NEW YORK TIMES CO. One of the more recent news aggregation cases pitted two traditional media Media, which at the time operated more than 375 local newspapers and their respective websites, claimed that The New York Times Co. copied the headlines and ledes from GateHouse’s Wicked Local websites as part of its own local news aggregation effort on the Boston.com website.23 GateHouse’s Complaint Times Co. for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, false advertising, trademark dilution, unfair competition, and breach of contract (for failure to comply with the provisions of the Creative Commons license under which the Wicked Local content was distributed).24

of news content.17 The AP asserted claims companies against each other. GateHouse

dismiss most of the AP’s claims, except the asserted claims against The New York

misappropriation.21 Four months later, the Concurrently with filing the Complaint, parties settled. Under the settlement agreement, All Headline News agreed to cease using AP content and paid an unspecified sum “to settle the AP’s claim and news content.”22 GateHouse filed a motion requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting The New York Times Co. from using content from the GateHouse’s motion for a restraining order

for past unauthorized use of AP expression Wicked Local websites.25 The court denied

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and consolidated the motion for a preliminary injunction with an expedited trial on the merits.26 The parties settled on the eve of trial, with both sides agreeing, among other things, to remove the others’ RSS feeds from their websites.27

distributing copies of, or publicly performing or displaying the work.29 While most news articles meet the second prong of the copyrightability test, this does not end the inquiry. To be protected by copyright, the material copied by the news aggregator also needs to be original (i.e., both independently created by the author and minimally creative).30 Under U.S. copyright law, ideas and facts cannot be copyrighted, but the way a person expresses those ideas or facts can be.31 It is also a generally accepted proposition of U.S. copyright law that titles and short phrases are not protected under copyright law.32 These last two propositions are cited by many news aggregators to claim that the headlines of news stories (and, less frequently, the ledes) do not qualify for copyright protection, and thus the reproduction of this material on a news aggregator’s website does not constitute copyright infringement. According to this argument, a headline is an uncopyrightable title or short phrase. Moreover, the argument goes, headlines are highly

SO IS IT LEGAL?
As the foregoing discussion illustrates, there are two doctrines that need to be considered when attempting to determine whether news aggregation is legal: copyright and hot news misappropriation. We turn to each of these below. COPYRIGHT Under U.S. copyright law, a work is protected if it (1) is an original work of authorship, and (2) is fixed in a tangible medium of expression that can be read directly or with the aid of a machine or device (i.e., is recorded or embodied in some manner for more than a transitory duration).28 With certain exceptions, the owner of a copyrighted work has the right to prohibit others from reproducing, preparing derivative works from,

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factual and thus the merger doctrine would be “original” and thus protectable is prohibit copyright protection. The merger doctrine denies protection to certain expressions of an idea (or set of facts) where the idea and its expression are so inseparable that prohibiting third parties from copying the expression would effectively grant the author protection of the underlying idea.33 In its litigation against AFP, Google that AFP’s headlines “often consist of though they may be “painstakingly created,” they were nonetheless not entitled to copyright protection because they “generally seek to encapsulate the factual content of the story,” and did not Assuming that headlines and ledes are copyrightable subject matter, a news aggregator’s reproduction of them is not qualifies as a fair use. The Copyright Act courts to consider when determining whether a use qualifies as a fair use. These factors include: (1) The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for asserted a variant of this argument. Noting actionable if its use of the material fewer than 10 words,” Google argued that, sets forth four nonexclusive factors for FAIR USE extremely low — a work satisfies this requirement as long as it possesses some creative spark, “no matter how crude, humble or obvious it might be.”35

contain protectable original expression that nonprofit educational purposes; (2) The was separable from their factual content.34 nature of the copyrighted work; (3) The While this argument has some appeal when directed at short, highly factual headlines, it becomes a harder argument to make when directed at text from the article, such as the lede. For, as the Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc., amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.36 This section will take them to the four categories of news

Supreme Court noted in Feist Publications, each of these factors in turn, and apply the level of creativity required for a work to aggregators previously discussed.

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THE PURPOSE AND CHARACTER OF THE USE. The Aggregators. The Ninth Circuit has first thing courts will consider when evaluating this factor whether the use is commercial in nature. Because most (but not all) news aggregators contain advertisements, it is likely that a court would find the use to be commercial, cutting against a finding of fair use.37 The not end the inquiry into the first fair use whether the use is commercial in nature, courts also look at whether the use is “transformative” — namely, does the new original work, or does it instead add something new, either by repurposing the expression, meaning, or message.39 repeatedly found that certain reproductions of copyrighted works by a search engine are a “transformative” use. In Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp., the Ninth Circuit found that the reproduction of thumbnails of plaintiff’s photographs in defendant’s search engine results was engine’s] use of the images serves a improving access to information on the internet versus artistic expression.”40 Likewise, in Perfect 10, Inc v. significant public benefit provided by Google’s image search “by incorporating an electronic reference tool,” and observed that “a search engine may be more Applying the transformative test to the four transformative than a parody because a categories of news aggregators yields slightly different results. Applied to Feed Aggregators, the first fair use factor cuts slightly in favor of a finding of fair use because of the transformative nature of the categorization and indexing functions performed by the Feed But, it is worth noting, the case for transformative use isn’t as strong for a news aggregation site as it was for a pure search engine provides an entirely new use of the original work, while a parody typically has the same entertainment purpose as the original work.”41

fact that the websites are commercial does transformative, noting that “[the search factor, however.38 In addition to looking at different function than [plaintiff’s] use —

work merely serve as a replacement for the Amazon.com, Inc., the court noted the

content, or infusing the content with a new original work into a new work, namely, an

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search engine. While the uses were clearly comparisons between sources covering a of a different nature in Kelly and Perfect 10 story that would not otherwise be possible. (artistic/entertainment purposes for the original photographs versus an informational searching and indexing function for the search engine’s reproduction of the images), a Feed Aggregator serves a similar function to a newspaper’s website — to collect and organize news stories so that they can be read by the public.42 Nonetheless, the the convenience of accessing stories from a large number of sources on one web page, categorizing those feeds and permitting searching of the feeds, which is at least minimally transformative. In many cases, Specialty Aggregators will have an even stronger argument that their use is transformative. Specialty Aggregators have a narrower focus than material, providing readers with the benefit of collecting all (or most) of the reporting on a particular topic in one place.43 Specialty Aggregators thus contribute something new and socially useful by providing context and enabling THE NATURE OF THE COPYRIGHTED WORK. In deciding whether the nature of the copyrighted work favors a finding of fair use, courts look to a number of factors, including, “(1) whether the work is In many cases, Blog Aggregators will have the strongest claim of a transformative use of the material because they often provide additional context or commentary alongside the material they use.45 Blog Aggregators also often bring to the material a unique editorial voice or topic of focus, further distinguishing the resulting use Similarly, User-Curated Aggregators can be viewed as somewhat more transformative than Feed Aggregators because users collect the stories. This feature enables the additional function of determining what stories are popular among a certain group of Internet users. User-Curated Aggregators often further the additional commentary on the posted stories.44

Feed Aggregator does provide its user with purpose of promoting community

many of the websites from which they draw from the purpose of the original article.

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expressive or creative, such as a work of fiction, or more factual, with a greater leeway being allowed to a claim of fair use where the work is factual or informational, and (2) whether the work is published or unpublished, with the scope for fair use involving unpublished works being nature of the news articles primarily used by all of types of news aggregators weighs Supreme Court has recognized that “[t]he law generally recognizes a greater need to disseminate factual works than works of news aggregators are making use of finding of fair use. THE AMOUNT AND SUBSTANTIALITY OF THE
PORTION USED IN RELATION TO THE COPYRIGHTED WORK AS A WHOLE.

lede. This would weigh in favor of finding fair use. Many content originators argue, however, that the portion of a story reproduced by news aggregators is much more significant when looked at from a qualitative perspective. This is because, they argue, the headline and lede often story — in other words, they constitute the “heart” of the article. The Supreme Court, found that the reproduction of even a short excerpt can weigh against a finding of fair use if the excerpt reproduces the “heart” of inquiry, it is not possible to say definitively aggregators. In some instances, the first few sentences may contain the heart of the work. In other instances this will not be the case. THE EFFECT OF THE USE ON THE POTENTIAL
MARKET FOR THE COPYRIGHTED WORK.

considerably narrower.”46 Here, the factual contain the most important parts of the

slightly in favor of a finding of fair use. The as well as a number of lower courts, has

fiction or fantasy.”47 Likewise, the fact that the work.48 Given the factual nature of this published stories would weigh in favor of a how courts would view all news

In evaluating this factor, This is

courts look at the amount of the copyrighted work that is reproduced both quantitatively and qualitatively. Looked at

perhaps the most hotly debated of the four

from a quantitative perspective, most news fair use factors when it comes to the aggregators use only a small portion of the practice of news aggregation. Content original work — usually just the headline, and sometimes a few sentences from the originators like AFP, the AP, and others would argue that a well-defined market

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currently exists for the reproduction and aggregators’ use of the content without paying a licensing fee directly threatens that market.49 Likewise, content consumers, the use of their content by the original articles. In support of this recently released by the research firm Outsell, which found that 44% of Google News users scan the headlines without on the newspapers’ websites.50 In response, news aggregators like Google News are likely to argue that, despite studies like this, their services are still a to their websites from consumers that would be unlikely to otherwise encounter

source of traffic for the newspapers’ exist. As the foregoing analysis shows, the question of whether news aggregators are complicated inquiry, the outcome of which each case. Even within the four categories considerable variation in how the fair use factors would likely play out. Websites that reproduce only headlines, and not ledes, case for fair use. HOT NEWS MISAPPROPRIATION Another theory of liability that has been news misappropriation. The hot news misappropriation doctrine has its origins in

syndication of news articles, and that news websites if the news aggregators did not

originators are likely to argue that for many making fair use of copyrighted content is a news aggregators replaces the need for the heavily depends on the specific facts of contention, they can cite to studies like one of aggregators discussed here, there is

ever clicking through to the original articles are likely to have an easier time making a

net benefit to newspapers by driving traffic asserted against news aggregators is hot

their content.51 Further, news aggregators a 1918 Supreme Court decision, could argue that the type of consumer that International News Service v. Associated would only skim the headlines and ledes type of consumer that is likely to visit individual news websites and read full Press.52 The case arose from a unique set newsgathering organizations: the International News Service (“INS”) and the on the news aggregators’ website is not the of circumstances involving two competing

articles, and thus would be unlikely to be a Associated Press (“AP”). Both the INS and

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AP provided stories on national and international events to local newspapers throughout the country, which subscribed In this way, papers with subscriptions to either the INS or AP were able to provide their readers with news about far-flung setting up their own foreign bureaus.54 During World War I, however, the two services were not equally well positioned to

before the Supreme Court, however, was INS’s practice of purchasing copies of East Coast newspapers running AP stories the facts gleaned from the AP’s reporting, and sending the stories to INS’s subscribers throughout the United States. subscribers on the West Coast “scooping” the local competitor carrying the original AP story.57

to their wire services and bulletin boards.53 about the war, rewriting the stories using

events without undertaking the expense of In some cases, this practice led to INS

report on events occurring in the European In order to prevent this activity, the theater. William Randolph Hearst, the owner of the INS, had been an outspoken critic of Great Britain and the United States’ entry into the war and openly sympathized with the Germans. In retaliation, Great Britain prohibited reporters for the INS from sending cables about the war to the United States, thus hampering INS’s ability to report on war developments.55 To ensure that its subscribers were still able to carry news questionable practices, including bribing employees of newspapers that were members of the AP for pre-publication access to the AP’s reporting.56 At issue Supreme Court crafted a new variant of the common law tort of misappropriation, referred to by commentators as the “hot news” doctrine. As set forth in the Court’s opinion, the essence of the tort is that one competitor free rides on another competitor’s work at the precise moment when the party whose work is being misappropriated was expecting to reap rewards for that work. The Court drew upon a view of property and human in establishing the common law doctrine of hot news misappropriation: it wanted to reward the AP for the time and expense involved in gathering and disseminating

about the war, INS engaged in a number of enterprise theories inspired by John Locke

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the news. The Court viewed INS’s the competitive benefit of the AP’s reporting without expending the time and money to collect the information, as an interference with the normal operation of the AP’s business “precisely at the point divert a material portion of the profit from those who have earned it to those who have not.”58 The Court reasoned that “he who has fairly paid the price should have the beneficial use of the property,” sidestepping arguments that there is no true “property” to be had in the news by relying upon the court’s equitable powers affirmed the circuit court’s decision, leaving in place an injunction against INS facts’] commercial value as news to the complainant and all of its members has passed away.”60 The INS case was decided in a unique from the contemporary competitive landscape. At the time, there were relatively few news services able to

undertake the costs and logistical hurdles theater for newspaper readers in the United States. Thus, as a result of the British government’s sanctions against INS, the resulting costs of reporting on the war in Europe fell almost entirely on the AP. number of U.S. daily newspapers peaked.61 Every major city had multiple daily newspapers, and thirty minutes of lead time for a paper could mean thousands of extra readers that day. In addition, INS was decided before the advent of modern First Amendment to two cases decided by the Supreme Court the following year: Abrams v. United States, United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).62 Accordingly, the majority opinion in INS did not address the First Amendment at all, and Justice Brandeis’s famous dissent,63 while hinting at the tension between hot news misappropriation, likewise failed to consider the First Amendment as an independent limitation on the brand new

activities, through which it was able to reap of reporting on events in the European

where the profit is to be reaped, in order to This was also the decade where the

to address unfair competition.59 The Court jurisprudence, which can largely be traced

taking facts from the AP’s stories “until [the 290 U.S. 616 (1919), and Schenck v.

historical context that in some ways differs freedom of expression and the theory of

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doctrine.

people to watch or listen to the games and upload game statistics into a data feed,

While the current competitive landscape is which Motorola sent to its pager different than in the time of INS, the modern doctrine of hot news misappropriation relies on the same essential theoretical underpinnings as those outlined by the Supreme Court in that case. There is one key difference, however. While the Supreme Court in INS adopted the hot news misappropriation recognition of the misappropriation only five states have adopted the INS hot news tort as part of state unfair competition law.65 THE MODERN HOT NEWS DOCTRINE The Second Circuit’s decision in NBA v. the hot news misappropriation doctrine and stands as its leading case.66 In NBA, the National Basketball Association sued Motorola over a pager service by which Motorola provided its customers with scores and other statistics about ongoing NBA basketball games. Motorola paid At the start of its analysis, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals addressed whether or not the 1976 Copyright Act, which original expression, preempted the stateat the legislative history behind the Act and using the “extra-element” test for preemption,67 the Second Circuit ruled that a narrow version of the hot news misappropriation tort survived the enactment of the 1976 Copyright Act.68 The NBA court formulated the elements of (i) a plaintiff generates or gathers information at a cost; (ii) the information is timesensitive; (iii) a defendant’s use of the information constitutes free riding on the plaintiff’s efforts; (iv) the defendant is in direct competition with a product or service offered by the plaintiffs; and (v) the ability of other parties to free-ride on Motorola typifies the modern application of the surviving hot news tort as follows: customers. The NBA claimed that Motorola’s operation of the pager service constituted a form of misappropriation and sought to enjoin the service.

doctrine as federal common law, since INS, provides copyright protection only for doctrine has shifted to the states.64 Today, law misappropriation claim. After looking

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the efforts of the plaintiff or others would so reduce the incentive to produce the product or service that its existence or quality would be substantially threatened.69 As articulated by the Second Circuit, the modern form of the misappropriation doctrine thus affords plaintiffs some limited copyright-like protection for facts under narrowly defined circumstances. Applying its test to the facts of the case, the Second Circuit found that the NBA failed to make out a hot news claim because operation of Motorola’s pager service did not undermine the NBA’s financial incentive to continue promoting, marketing, and selling professional basketball games. In other words, this was not a situation in which “unlimited free copying would eliminate the incentive to create the facts in the first place.”70 The plaintiffs were more successful in a recent case out of the Southern District of New York. In Barclays Capital Inc. v. TheFlyOnTheWall.com,71 the district court issued a permanent injunction requiring the financial news website FlyOnTheWall.com (“Fly”) to delay its

reporting of the stock recommendations of research analysts from three prominent Wall Street firms, Barclays Capital Inc., Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley. The injunction, which issued after a finding by the district court that Fly had engaged in hot news misappropriation, requires Fly to wait until 10 a.m. E.S.T. before publishing the facts associated with analyst research released before the market opens, and to postpone publication for at least two hours for research issued after the opening bell. Notably, the injunction prohibits Fly from reporting on stock recommendations issued by the three firms even if such recommendations have already been reported in the mainstream press.72 The decision is currently on appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Like the Supreme Court in INS, however, both the Second Circuit in NBA and the district court in Barclays failed to undertake any analysis of whether the hot news misappropriation doctrine comports with the requirements of the First Amendment. Specifically, as the Supreme Court has recognized on many subsequent occasions, one of the principal aims of the

Page 17

First Amendment is to “secure the ‘widest diverse and antagonistic sources.’”73 To that end, the Supreme Court has recognized — in cases decided subsequent truthful reporting on matters of public concern.74 Since the hot news misappropriation doctrine contemplates

of the tort to news aggregators. the elements. PLAINTIFF GENERATES OR GATHERS INFORMATION
AT A COST.

possible dissemination of information from Nonetheless, it is worth briefly reviewing

As to this factor, a plaintiff that

to INS — that the First Amendment protects undertook original reporting and had some (or all) of the contents of that reporting repurposed by news aggregators would likely be able to satisfy this prong. Unlike

restrictions on or liability for the publication the fair use situation, however, Blog of truthful information on matters of public Aggregators may be more vulnerable to a concern, even when lawfully obtained, the Amendment concerns. It is unclear at this point how a court would ultimately weigh the state interest in assisting news against the First Amendment interest in widely disseminating truthful information about matters of public import. APPLICATION OF THE HOT NEWS MISAPPROPRIATION DOCTRINE TO NEWS AGGREGATORS Because of the lack of decisions on the merits in recent hot news misappropriation THE INFORMATION IS TIME-SENSITIVE. This cases, it is difficult to determine how a court would ultimately apply the elements factor, rather than looking at the defendant’s use of the information, looks hot news claim than Feed Aggregators or usually incorporate more of the facts from a story in their work. In contrast, Feed Aggregators and Specialty Aggregators headline and some portion of the lede of the source article, which may or may not contain information that was costly to gather. (User-Curated Aggregators are likely to fall somewhere in the middle, since additional information about the contents of the article will often appear in the comments below the article.75) doctrine as currently articulated raises First Specialty Aggregators, since the former

gatherers to reap the benefits of their work usually limit themselves to reproducing the

Page 18

exclusively to the nature of the plaintiff’s information. Accordingly, application of this factor is unlikely to vary among our four types of news aggregators, and would be determined on a case-by-case basis. DEFENDANT’S USE OF THE INFORMATION
CONSTITUTES FREE RIDING ON THE PLAINTIFF’S EFFORTS.

THE DEFENDANT IS IN DIRECT COMPETITION WITH A
PRODUCT OR SERVICE OFFERED BY THE PLAINTIFFS.

In most of the hot news

misappropriation cases decided to date, this has been one of the two most difficult prongs for plaintiffs to successfully establish. It is perhaps more likely that a Feed Aggregator like Google News or Yahoo! News would be found to be a direct competitor of a newspaper website, than a Specialty Aggregator, User-Curated Aggregator or Blog Aggregator.76 This is because Feed Aggregators can in some cases serve as a replacement for visiting the website of a newspaper like The New the same stories, and the majority of the stories found on the newspapers’ websites are likely to be reproduced on the Feed Aggregator’s website. In contrast, a Specialty Aggregator like TechMeme would contain only a small subset of the articles one would find on the Times’ website, and thus would be likely to serve a different audience. (Of course, TechMeme would likely be considered a direct competitor of a highly-specialized publication like Macworld.)

Here, courts would likely look to

the nature of the defendant’s use of the information. While plaintiffs are likely to characterize any use of their material without a license as “free riding,” Blog Aggregators that add additional information or context to a story are less likely to be considered free riders than a that merely rewrites and repurposes the plaintiff’s content. Likewise, Feed Aggregators, Specialty Aggregators and User-Curated Aggregators arguably add their own effort by collecting in one location information from many places on the web, making it more accessible to the public, although the Barclays court found that such aggregation activities were insufficient to overcome a finding that defendant’s activities constituted “free riding.”

spam blog or service like All Headline News York Times, since they often cover many of

Page 19

DEFENDANT’S ACTIONS WOULD REDUCE THE
INCENTIVE TO PRODUCE THE INFORMATION TO

BEST PRACTICES 
A If you are the creator of a news   aggregation website, what should you do  to protect yourself against lawsuits?   Short of licensing all of the content you  use, there are certain best practices that  you can adopt that are likely to reduce  your legal risk. 

POINT WHERE ITS EXISTENCE OR QUALITY WOULD BE SUBSTANTIALLY THREATENED.

This has

likewise been a difficult prong for plaintiffs to establish in hot news misappropriation cases, and, in fact, formed the basis for the Second Circuit holding in favor of the defendant in NBA. Here, the analysis turns less on the type of aggregator, than the use   the aggregator makes of the information. Two factors courts would likely consider important in determining whether a news aggregator engages in hot news misappropriation are (1) the extent to which viewing the information on the news aggregator’s website would replace reading the original content, and (2) the size and nature of the news aggregator’s readership. Thus, a Blog Aggregator that summarizes all of the relevant information from a news article or a Feed Aggregator that reproduces the entire lede of the story are likely to have a greater deleterious effect on the plaintiff’s incentive to invest in news gathering than a Feed Aggregator or Specialty Aggregator that displays only a headline or a few words from the lede. Likewise, a news aggregator with a small

 Reproduce only those portions of the  

headline or article that are necessary  to make your point or to identify the  story.  Do not reproduce the story in its  entirety. 
 Try not to use all, or even the majority, 

of articles available from a single  source.  Limit yourself to those articles  that are directly relevant to your   audience. 
 Prominently identify the source of the 

article. 
 Whenever possible, link to the original 

source of the article. 
 When possible, provide context or 

commentary for the material you use. 
Page 20

readership or a readership that did not readership would be unlikely to threaten the continued existence of a newspaper, while Google News or a website that be more damaging.77

While the authors anticipate that the continue to be fought in the courts and in public policy circles, we would like to sound a note of caution for those seeking to of news aggregation. We are in the midst of a sea change in the way in which journalism is practiced in the United States. The past few years have seen an explosion of innovative approaches to both the practice and business of journalism. At a time of great flux in the media ecosystem, it would be premature, and likely counterproductive, to create rules which would have the effect, if not the business model over others. In order for experimental business models to flourish, we need legal rules that promote flexibility and free access to information, not closed systems that tilt the playing field in favor of incumbents.

significantly overlap with the plaintiff’s core debate regarding news aggregators will

targets the same consumers could perhaps “save” journalism by addressing the issue

CONCLUSION
As the foregoing discussion illustrates, there is a good bit of legal uncertainty surrounding news aggregation activities, and it is difficult to provide a definitive answer in a paper like this. Both fair use and hot news misappropriation claims are in the legal analysis between different categories of news aggregators, as well as within the categories. Further, it remains to be seen whether the hot news misappropriation doctrine as currently formulated will remain viable in light of First Amendment concerns. Nonetheless, there are certain steps that news aggregators can take to mitigate their legal risks, as outlined in the “Best Practices” section.

highly fact specific. There is great variation purpose, of privileging one journalistic

ENDNOTES
1

Pew Internet & American Life Project,

Understanding the Participatory News Consumer, at 5, March 2010, available at http://

Page 21

www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/OnlineNews.aspx (last visited Apr. 10, 2010).
2

IAB_PwC_2008_full_year.pdf, (last visited Feb. 26, 2010).
5

The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism

See Digital Equip. Corp. v. AltaVista Tech., Inc.,

estimates that advertising revenue for American newspapers dropped nearly 43% between the end of 2006 and the end of 2009. Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, The State of the News Media 2010, Chapter 4: Newspapers, March 15, 2010, available at http:// www.stateofthemedia.org/2010/ newspapers_summary_essay.php (last visited Apr. 10, 2010).
3

960 F. Supp. 456, 461 (D. Mass. 1997).
6

See Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp., 336 F.3d 811,

816 (9th Cir. 2003).
7

Many definitions of “news aggregator” use the

term interchangeably with the terms “news reader” and “RSS aggregator.” See, e.g., BusinessBlogSchool, Blog Tips: A Glossary of Blog Terms, available at http://businessblogschool.com/ business-blogging/blog-tips-a-glossary-of-blogterms/ (last visited Apr. 10, 2010) (“News aggregator: A website or application that collates feeds into a customised [sic] newspaper/home RSS aggregator.”). Popular usage appears to have expanded beyond this definition, however, as websites like The Huffington Post are often described as “aggregators.” See, e.g., Andrew L. Deutsch, Protecting News in the Digital Era: The Tort, 1003 PLI/Pat 511, 596 n.8 (Apr. 2010).
8

David Sarno, Murdoch accuses Google of news

‘theft’, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 2, 2009, available at http://articles.latimes.com/2009/dec/02/ business/la-fi-news-google2-2009dec02 (last riding by news aggregators as a hurdle to the creation of quality news: “Without us, the aggregators would have blank slides. Right now content producers have all the costs, and the aggregators enjoy [the benefits]. But the principle no such thing as a free news story.” Mercedes Bunz, Rupert Murdoch: ‘There’s no such thing as a free news story’, guardian.co.uk, December 1, 2009, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (last visited Apr. 10, 2010).
4

visited Apr. 10, 2010). Murdoch has pointed to free page. Also called a news readers, feed reader or

is clear. To paraphrase a great economist, [there is] Case for a Federalized Hot News Misappropriation

These are by no means the only ways to

categorize news aggregators. ReadWriteWeb, a and analysis,” categorizes news aggregators into five categories based on their aggregation techniques: single stream aggregation, single page aggregation, meme aggregation, people powered aggregation, and edited aggregation. Josh Catone,

media/2009/dec/01/rupert-murdoch-no-free-news weblog devoted to “Web Technology news, reviews

PricewaterhouseCoopers Industry Survey, IAB

Internet Advertising Revenue Report, March 2009, http://www.iab.net/media/file/

Page 22

5 News Aggregation Methods Compared, ReadWriteWeb, July 10, 2007, available at http:// www.readwriteweb.com/archives/ 2010).
9

(D.D.C. Apr. 29, 2005).
13

Google’s Motion And Memorandum For

news_aggregation_methods.php (last visited Apr. 8, Judgment Dismissing The Complaint For Failure To State A Claim, Agence France Presse v. Google, Inc., No. 1:05CV00546 (GK) (D.D.C. Oct. 12, 2005). The Official Google Blog, And Now, News, Jan.
14

23, 2006, http:// googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/and-nownews.html (last visited Feb. 21, 2010).
10

Google’s Motion and Memorandum for Partial

Summary Judgment Dismissing Count II for Lack of Protectable Subject Matter, Agence France Presse v. Google, Inc., No. 1:05CV00546 (GK) (D.D.C. Oct.

Similar to other types of websites, a newspaper 12, 2005).
15

that did not want its content indexed by Google could exclude Google’s crawlers by modifying the website’s Robots.txt file, which would effectively Google, News (publishers) Help: Additional Tips: Robots, available at http://www.google.com/ support/news_pub/bin/answer.py? hl=en&answer=93977 (last visited Apr. 8, 2010).
11 16

Caroline McCarthy, Agence France-Presse,

Google settle copyright dispute, CNET News, Apr. 6, 1030_3-6174008.html?part=rss&tag=2547-1_3-020&subj=news (last visited Apr. 8, 2010). All Headline News, About AHN / Company

render the site invisible to Google’s search engines. 2007, available at http://news.cnet.com/2100-

Background, available at http://web.archive.org/ The relationship between Google and The web/20071231082631/ www.allheadlinenews.com/corp/ (last visited May 29, 2010).
17

Associated Press would likewise prove contentious. The two companies settled a dispute in 2006 over the use of AP content on Google News and have recently been renegotiating a new licensing agreement. See Russell Adams, AP Stories Reappear on Google News, Wall Street Journal Digits Blog, Feb. 9, 2010, available at http:// blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/02/09/ap-storiesreappear-on-google-news/ (last visited Feb. 22, 2010).
12

Complaint at ¶¶ 4-5, The Associated Press v. All

Headline News Corp., No. 1:08-cv-00323-PKC (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2008).
18

Id. Defendants’ Motion and Notice of Motion To

19

Dismiss Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12, First Amended Complaint, Agence France The Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp., No. 1:08-cv-00323-PKC (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 29, 2008). Presse v. Google, Inc., No. 1:05CV00546 (GK)

Page 23

20

The Associated Press v. All Headline News Id. at 461. In declining to dismiss the AP’s

28

17 U.S.C. § 102(a) (2010). 17 U.S.C. § 106. The two primary exceptions to

Corp., 608 F. Supp.2d 454 (S.D.N.Y. 2009).
21 29

claim for hot news misappropriation, the Court found that the AP, a New York-based company, could assert a claim under New York common law against the Florida-based All Headline News.
22

these exclusive rights are certain compulsory licenses built into the Copyright Act, and the fair use doctrine, which is discussed in detail below.
30

Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service

Press Release, Associated Press, AP and AHN

Co., 499 U.S. 340, 345 (1991).
31

Media Settle AP’s Lawsuit Against AHN Media and Individual Defendants (May 13, 2009), available at http://www.associatedpress.com/pages/about/ pressreleases/pr_071309a.html (last visited May 29, 2010).
23 32

Id. This is known as the idea/expression

dichotomy in copyright law. See CMM Cable Rep., Inc. v. Ocean Coast

Props., Inc., 97 F.3d 1504, 1519-20 (1st Cir. 1996) See Complaint, GateHouse Media, Inc. v. The (titles and short phrases uncopyrightable); Aryelo v. Am. Int'l Ins. Co., No. 95-1360, 1995 WL 561530 at *1 (1st Cir. Sept. 21, 1995) (per curiam, table, unpublished) ("The non-copyrightability of titles in
24

New York Times Co., No. 0-12114-WGY (D. Mass. filed Dec. 22, 2008). Id.

particular has been authoritatively established”); 37 C.F.R. § 202.1(a) (excluding from copyright

25

See Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary Restraining protection “[w]ords and short phrases such as name, titles, and slogans. . . .").
33

Order and Preliminary Injunction and Request for Expedited Hearing, GateHouse Media, Inc. v. The New York Times Co., No. 0-12114-WGY (D. Mass. Dec. 22, 2008).
26

See, e.g., Yankee Candle Co. v. Bridgewater

Candle Co., 259 F.3d 25, 34 (1st Cir. 2001); Concrete Mach. Co. v. Classic Lawn Ornaments,

See Notes from Hearing, GateHouse Media, Inc. 843 F.2d 600, 609 n.9 (1st Cir. 1988).
34

v. The New York Times Co., No. 0-12114-WGY (D. Mass. Dec. 22, 2008).
27

Google Inc.’s Answer and Counterclaims at 22,

Agence France Presse v. Google, Inc., No. See Letter Agreement Re: GateHouse Media, 1:05CV00546 (GK) (D.D.C. May 19, 2005).
35

(Jan. 25, 2009), available at http:// www.citmedialaw.org/sites/citmedialaw.org/ files/2009-01-25-Letter%20Agreement.pdf (last visited Feb. 26, 2010).
36

499 U.S. 340, 345 (1991). 17 U.S.C. § 107.

Page 24

37

Courts have previously found services like

hyper-local blog, both of which covered the same

Google’s search services to be commercial because geographic area. of the incorporation of advertising. See, e.g., Perfect 10, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 508 F.3d 1146, 1166 (9th Cir. 2007).
38 44

Even if user-curated aggregation doesn’t qualify

as fair use, the website operator is likely insulated from liability for copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c), which provides interactive service providers with a based on content uploaded by third parties, so long as they comply with the requirements of the statute (such as registering a DMCA agent with the Copyright Office and responding expeditiously to take-down notices).
45

Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S.

569, 584, 114 S. Ct. 1164 (1994) (commercial factor).
39

nature of work is not dispositive on the first fair use safe harbor against copyright infringement claims

Id. at 578 (internal citations omitted). Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp., 336 F.3d 811, 819

40

(9th Cir. 2003). Although, again, this is not always the case –
41

Perfect 10, Inc., 508 F.3d at 1165. A Feed Aggregator like Google News will

such as when Gawker paraphrases an article without providing additional commentary. (Although Gawker would likely argue that the user comments below the article provide additional commentary on the piece, and thus increase the transformativeness

42

sometimes cover a broader range of topics than some of the news sources that it aggregates, but a situation where Google News and a national news website, like CNN.com, would have many of the same stories on their front pages.
43

this is not always the case. It is not hard to imagine of the use.)
46

Blanch v. Koons, 467 F.3d 244, 256 (2d Cir.

2006).
47

This will not always be true. For example, the

Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters.,

transformative nature of the Specialty Aggregator would be less when it draws its information from another source with a similarly narrow focus, such as a website that collects information about Apple products reproducing news from a magazine devoted to Apple fans. Likewise, in GateHouse hyper-local blog aggregating content from another

471 U.S. 539, 563, 105 S. Ct. 2218 (1985).
48

See, e.g., Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 564-65. This argument is likely bolstered by the fact that

49

Google ultimately negotiated a license for AFP and

Media, Inc. v. The New York Times Co., you had one AP content that appears on the Google News site.

Page 25

50

Robin Wauters, Report: 44% Of Google News

59

Id. Id. at 245. University of Minnesota, Media History Project,

Visitors Scan Headlines, Don't Click Through, TechCrunch, Jan. 19, 2010, available at http:// techcrunch.com/2010/01/19/outsell-googlenews/ (last visited Apr. 10, 2010).
51 61 60

http://www.mediahistory.umn.edu/timeline/1910This argument is likely to be stronger when the 1919.html (last visited Apr. 10, 2010).
62

plaintiff is a small, regional newspaper or blog. For larger news websites like The New York Times or CNN.com, it is less likely that users would be unlikely to find their content but for the news aggregator. Of the four types of news aggregators discussed herein, the Specialty Aggregator has perhaps the strongest argument that it drives new traffic to the content originator’s website, since the will often not overlap significantly with the news website’s current readership.
52

See, e.g., David Lange & H. Jefferson Powell,

No Law: Intellectual Property in the Image of an Absolute First Amendment, 149, 167, 171-72 (2009); Diane Leenheer Zimmerman, Information as Speech, Information as Goods: Some Thoughts on Marketplaces and the Bill of Rights, 33 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 665, 685 n.139, 726 (1992); Eugene Privacy: The Troubling Implications of a Right to Stop People from Speaking About You, 52 Stan. L. Rev. 1049, 1070 (2000).

niche audience targeted by the Specialty Aggregator Volokh, Freedom of Speech and Information

248 U.S. 215 (1918).
63

“The general rule of law is, that the noblest of

53

See INS, 248 U.S. at 230. See id. at 231. Douglas G. Baird, Common Law Intellectual

human productions—knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas—become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use.” INS, 248 U.S. at 250 (Brandeis, J., dissenting).

54

55

Property and the Legacy of International News Service v. Associated Press, 50 U. Chi. L. Rev. 411, 412 (1983).
56

64

As an instance of federal common law, INS is

no longer authoritative after Erie Railroad v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938).
65

248 U.S. at 231. Baird, 50 U. Chi. L. Rev. at 412. 248 U.S. at 240.

See McKevitt v. Pallasch, 339 F.3d 530 (7th

Cir. 2003) (Illinois); Pollstar v. Gigmania Ltd., 170 F.
57

Supp.2d 94 (E.D. Cal. 2000) (California); Fred Wehrenberg Circuit of Theatres, Inc. v. Moviefone, Inc., 73 F. Supp.2d 1044 (E.D. Mo. 1999)

58

Page 26

(Missouri); Pottstown Daily News Publ’g Co. v. Pottstown Broad. Co., 192 A.2d 657 (Pa. 1963) (Pennsylvania); NBA v. Motorola, 105 F.3d 841 (2nd Cir. 1997) (New York). Hot news misappropriation has also been asserted in cases in Massachusetts (Complaint, GateHouse Media, Inc. v. The New York Times Co., No. 0-12114-WGY (D. Mass. Dec. 22, 2008)) and the District of Columbia (First Amended Complaint, Agence France Presse v. Google, Inc., No. 1:05CV00546 (GK) (D.C. Dist. April 29, 2005)), although neither court had occasion to rule on whether the tort was recognized in their state.
66

information it reprinted from a variety of publiclyavailable sources, describing the process thus: According to Etergino, he checks first to see what Recommendations have been reported on Bloomberg Market News. Then he checks Dow Jones, Thomson Reuters, and Fly's competitors such as TTN, StreetAcount.com, and Briefing.com. Next, he visits chat rooms to which he has been invited to participate by the moderator. . . . Etergino also receives “blast IMs” through the Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, or IMTrader messaging services that may go to dozens or hundreds of individuals. Finally, Etergino exchanges IMs, emails, and more rarely telephone calls with individual traders at hedge funds, money managers, and other contacts on Wall Street. 2010 WL 1005160, at *12.
73

105 F.3d 841 (2nd Cir. 1997) Id. at 850-53 (finding three extra elements in

67

hot news misappropriation claims).
68

It is unclear whether the Second Circuit’s

finding that the hot news misappropriation doctrine is not preempted by the Copyright Act would survive the Supreme Court’s holding in Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 539 U.S. 23 (2002).
74 69

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254,

266 (1964) (quoting Associated Press v. U.S., 326 U.S. 1, 20 (1945)). See, e.g., Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514,

105 F.3d at 845. Richard Posner, Misappropriation: A Dirge, 40

527-28, 533-35 (2001) (First Amendment barred imposition of civil damages under wiretapping law for publishing contents of conversation relevant to matter of public concern); Florida Star v. B.J.F., 491 U.S. 524, 534 (1989) (First Amendment barred imposition of civil damages on newspaper for publishing rape victim’s name); Smith v. Daily Mail Publ’g Co., 443 U.S. 97, 103-06 (1979) (First Amendment barred prosecution under state statute

70

Hous. L. Rev. 621, 631 (2003).
71

No. 06 Civ. 4908, --- F. Supp.2d ----, 2010 WL

1005160 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2010).
72

The district court noted that Fly obtained the

Page 27

for publishing names of juvenile offenders without court’s permission); Landmark Commc’ns, Inc. v. Va., 435 U.S. 829, 841-42 (1978) (First Amendment barred criminal prosecution for disclosing information from a confidential judicial disciplinary proceeding); Cox Broad. Corp. v. Cohn, civil cause of action for publishing name of rape victim when information lawfully obtained from court records).
75

47 U.S.C. §230, which bars claims against a website operator based on content supplied by users. This assumes that courts would not consider a claim under the hot news misappropriation doctrine to be an intellectual property claim, since intellectual property claims are specifically excluded

420 U.S. 469, 491 (1975) (First Amendment barred from the protections of Section 230.
76

Although many in the news business appear to

view The Huffington Post as a direct competitor.
77

It is possible that the owner of a User-Curated

In evaluating this factor, the court would need

Aggregator website would be considered immune to to balance additional traffic received by the news hot news misappropriation claims based on information contained in user comments under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, website from the news aggregator against any alleged harm.

Page 28

WAKE FOREST INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW JOURNAL
VOLUME 10 2009 - 2010 NUMBER 1

ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO OWN: HOT NEWS ON THE INTERNET & THE COMMODIFICATION OF NEWS IN DIGITAL CULTURE By Clay Calvert♣ Kayla Gutierrez⊗ Christina Locke⊕ INTRODUCTION Thousands of hard copies of newspapers across the country— particularly editions of college newspapers—are reported pilfered each year.1 But just as the theft of print newspapers can occur at news racks, can online news stories that flow on the Internet also be stolen?
Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communication at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla. B.A., 1987, Communication, Stanford University; J.D. (Order of the Coif), 1991, McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific; Ph.D., 1996, Communication, Stanford University. Member, State Bar of California. Professor Calvert thanks Dean John Wright, Executive Associate Dean Linda Hon and the entire staff in the Dean’s Suite of the College of Journalism and Communications for helping to make his transition from Penn State to the University of Florida a smooth one. ⊗ Masters student in Media Law at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla. B.S., 2008, Telecommunication, University of Florida. ⊕ Doctoral student and Joseph L. Brechner Graduate Assistant at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla. J.D. (with Honors) and M.A.M.C. (with Distinction), 2007, University of Florida. Member, State Bar of Georgia. 1 See Student Newspapers Hit By Theft Nationwide, STUDENT PRESS L. CENTER REP., Spring 2009, at 35, available at https://www.splc.org/report_detail.asp?id=1508&edition=49 (last visited Sept. 5, 2009) (observing that “theft of free student newspapers is one of the most common means of censorship in college media,” and citing instances of theft of college newspapers in 2009 at universities including, among others, Virginia Commonwealth University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Catholic University of America). See generally Clay Calvert, All the News That’s Fit to Steal: The First Amendment, a “Free” Press & a Lagging Legislative Response, 25 LOY. L.A. ENT. L. REV. 117 (2004) (providing an examination of the legal issues and legislation surrounding the theft of free newspapers in the United States).

2

WAKE FOREST INTELL. PROP. L.J.

Vol.10

That question, as this article demonstrates, is no idle academic query or a wasted exercise in verbal gymnastics distinguishing newspapers from news and news stories.2 In fact, it is at the heart of some battles now being fought over news on the Internet. It is, of course, a fundamental tenet of copyright law in the United States that ideas cannot be owned.3 Similarly, as the United States Supreme Court observed nearly twenty years ago, “facts are not copyrightable,”4 adding that this proposition is “universally understood.”5 The implication of these twin principles for the practice of journalism and the often poorly explicated concept of news itself6 is that while “the words and arrangement of a news story would be copyrightable expression,”7 when they are assembled in an original manner and fixed in a tangible medium of expression,8 “the underlying news itself—the facts and events being recounted—of course could not be the subject of copyright protection.”9 In other words, as one federal appellate court put it, “[c]opyrightable material often contains uncopyrightable elements within it.”10 This would seem to protect rewrites of news articles when those rewrites involve re-ordering, reworking, and using the underlying facts—the uncopyrightable underlying “news element,” as the United States Supreme Court once called it11—in different ways.

As Elvis Costello once so aptly put it in a way that attorneys and long-winded legal scholars would be wise to obey, “spare us the theatrics and the verbal gymnastics.” Elvis Costello, The Loved Ones, on IMPERIAL BEDROOM (Rykodisk 1982). 3 See 17 U.S.C. § 102 (b) (2006) (providing, in relevant part, that “in no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea”). See Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters., 471 U.S. 539, 560 (1985) (noting the distinction “between copyrightable expression and uncopyrightable facts and ideas”). 4 Feist Publ’ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 344 (1991). 5 Id. 6 See generally BRUCE D. ITULE & DOUGLAS A. ANDERSON, NEWS WRITING & REPORTING FOR TODAY’S MEDIA 11 (7th ed. 2007) (writing that “the definition of news is elusive,” observing that definitions of news range from “[s]omething you haven’t heard before” to “[w]hat editors and reporters say it is,” and ultimately determining that “[w]hatever it is, news is an extremely complex term, and it is different things to different people”). 7 Gary Myers, The Restatement’s Rejection of the Misappropriation Tort: A Victory for the Public Domain, 47 S.C. L. REV. 673, 675 (1996). 8 See 17 U.S.C. § 102 (a) (2006) (providing, in pertinent part, that “[c]opyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression,” including literary works). The United States Supreme Court long ago recognized that a news “article, as a literary production, is the subject of copyright.” Int’l News Serv. v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215, 234 (1918). 9 Myers, supra note 7, at 675. 10 Nat’l Basketball Ass’n v. Motorola, Inc., 105 F.3d 841, 849 (2d Cir. 1997). 11 Int’l News Serv., 248 U.S. at 234.

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But that does not end the legal inquiry. Copyright principles do not provide the only legal framework for considering possible redress when one news agency or news service believes another company is, in a nutshell, ripping off its news articles. As the Associated Press proved in 2009, the common law tort of hot news misappropriation provides a viable method—at least in those states that recognize it12 and do not view it as pre-empted by the federal Copyright Act13 and in those circumstances that fall within its rather narrow confines14—of fighting back against the alleged digital piracy of news stories online where, as one law journal article contended, the “ease of free riding on the investment of others via Internet-related technological advances threatens to be a serious disincentive to investment in the development of data-based informational products.”15 In July 2009, the Associated Press settled for an undisclosed dollar amount16 a lawsuit asserting that, in layperson’s terms, its news content was being stolen by the All Headline News Corp. (hereinafter “AHN” or “All Headline News”), a Florida-based business that bills itself as “a leading provider of news, weather, and other content for web sites, wireless, digital signage, interactive applications, broadcast

The tort of hot news misappropriation originally was a “creature of the federal common-law,” and “while the federal common-law no longer provides the source for the action of misappropriation, state law can provide the basis for such protection.” Schuchart & Assocs. v. Solo Serve Corp., 540 F. Supp. 928, 942, n.9 (W.D. Tex. 1982). 13 See 17 U.S.C. § 301 (2006) (providing, in general, for the preemption of “all legal or equitable rights that are equivalent to any of the exclusive rights within the general scope of” federal statutes governing copyright, and governing preemption issues of federal copyright law). Importantly, courts have held that the hot news misappropriation tort is “a branch of the unfair competition doctrine not preempted by the Copyright Act.” Fin. Info., Inc. v. Moody’s Investors Serv., Inc., 808 F.2d 204, 209 (2d Cir. 1986). 14 See infra note 81 and accompanying text (identifying the five elements of this cause of action that, according to courts within one federal appellate circuit, must be demonstrated in order for a plaintiff to succeed). 15 Rex Y. Fujichaku, Recent Development, The Misappropriation Doctrine in Cyberspace: Protecting the Commercial Value of “Hot News” Information, 20 U. HAW. L. REV. 421, 425 (1998). 16 See Press Release, Associated Press, AP and AHN Media Settle AP’s Lawsuit Against AHN Media and Individual Defendants (July 13, 2009) (on file with Wake Forest Intellectual Property Law Journal), available at http://www.associatedpress.com/pages/about/pressreleases/pr_071309a.html (noting that “[t]he settlement includes payment by AHN to AP of an unspecified sum to settle the AP’s claim for past unauthorized use of AP expression and news content.”).

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and print use.”17 The AP, which conversely trumpets itself as “the largest and oldest news organization in the world”18 and “the backbone of the world’s information system serving thousands of daily newspaper, radio, television and online customers,”19 alleged in its January 2008 complaint that “AHN has no reporters and is simply a vehicle for copying news reports and misappropriating news gathered and reported by real news services such as AP.”20 As such, the AP asserted that AHN was “free-riding on AP’s significant and costly efforts to collect, report and transmit newsworthy information,”21 thereby creating a low-cost news service with “no journalistic infrastructure”22 that “directly competes with AP’s own news services.”23 Although the AP’s complaint included multiple causes of action, such as breach of contract,24 trademark infringement,25 and copyright infringement,26 the most journalistically intriguing legal theory upon which the AP sued AHN was for hot news misappropriation under the common law of New York.27 In Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp.,28 the AP successfully reached back in time and stretched a ninety-one-year-old precedent— one developed many decades before the Internet enabled the type of appropriation engaged in by AHN—found in the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in International News Service v. Associated Press.29 In that 1918 decision, a majority of the United States Supreme Court determined that, in situations of direct competition where “both parties are seeking to make profits at the same time and in the same field,”30 news that is gathered by one of those parties “must be
About AHN/Company Background, http://www.allheadlinenews.com/corp (last visited Sept. 2, 2009). 18 Associated Press, Facts & Figures, http://www.ap.org/pages/about/about.html (last visited Sept. 5, 2009). 19 Id. 20 Complaint at 2, Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp., 608 F. Supp. 2d 454 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (No. 08 Civ. 323) [hereinafter Complaint]. 21 Id. at 19. 22 Id. at 24. 23 Id. at 19. 24 See id. at 26-27 (setting forth the AP’s seventh cause of action for breaches of contract). 25 See id. at 22-23 (setting forth the AP’s fourth cause of action for infringement of a registered trademark). 26 See id. at 20-21 (setting forth the AP’s second cause of action for copyright infringement). 27 See id. at 19-20 (setting forth the AP’s first cause of action for hot news misappropriation). 28 608 F. Supp. 2d 454 (S.D.N.Y. 2009). 29 248 U.S. 215 (1918). 30 Id. at 236.
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regarded as quasi property”31 that possesses “an exchange value to one who can misappropriate it.”32 In particular, the Court reasoned that the “peculiar value of news is in the spreading of it while it is fresh,”33 implying that when news is no longer “fresh”—a term not defined in International News Service—the property right that one news service possesses against another disappears. Rejecting as “untenable”34 the notion that “news is abandoned to the public for all purposes when published in the first newspaper,”35 the Supreme Court focused instead on fiscal concerns—the concept of unfair competition,36 “the business of making [news] known to the world,”37 and the equitable principle “that he who has fairly paid the price should have the beneficial use of the property.”38 Put more bluntly, because the AP in International News Service had gathered and distributed news due to “a large expenditure of money, skill, and effort,”39 it deserved to profit from the “novelty and freshness”40 of its news and to stop a free-riding rival news service from “misappropriating it for the purpose of disposing of it to his own profit and to the disadvantage of”41 the Associated Press. The case has thus been called by one law professor “the most famous reap/sow case”42 of the twentieth century, drawing from Justice Mahlon Pitney’s underlying concern for fairness that defendant International News Service was “endeavoring to reap where it has not sown.”43 As Professor John Tehranian aptly summed up the majority ruling, International News Service “granted news organizations temporary ownership of factual information in order to preserve their incentive to expend resources on news-gathering without fear of having rivals free ride on the information by scooping them without payment.”44
31 32

Id. (emphasis added). Id. at 238. 33 Id. at 235. 34 Id. at 240. 35 Id. 36 See id. at 235 (“[I]t seems to us the case must turn upon the question of unfair competition in business.”). 37 Id. 38 Id. at 240. 39 Id. at 238. 40 Id. 41 Id. at 240. 42 Wendy J. Gordon, On Owning Information: Intellectual Property and the Restitutionary Impulse, 78 VA. L. REV. 149, 178 (1992). 43 Int’l News Serv., 248 U.S. at 239. 44 John Tehranian, Whither Copyright? Transformative Use, Free Speech, and an Intermediate Liability Proposal, 2005 BYU L. REV. 1201, 1225.

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The “practical needs and requirements of the business” of making and disseminating news thus prevailed before the Supreme Court in International News Service. 45 The case represents, as Professor Dale P. Olson put it a decade ago, “the genesis of misappropriation,”46 and it “formed—and continues to form—the basic contours of the doctrine of misappropriation of publicly disclosed trade values.”47 The continuing formation and evolution of that doctrine and, in particular, the tort of hot news misappropriation in 2009 in Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp. is the focus of this article. And although the federal common law that gave rise to the International News Service decision is now long defunct,48 the hot news misappropriation tort is alive and well in the age of the Internet in New York. Part I of this article analyzes the case of Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp., tracing it from the filing of the complaint through the July 2009 settlement. Importantly, it uses the actual pleadings and briefs filed by the parties, as well as other background information about the parties, to better contextualize the story behind the case. Part II then explores the legal precedent underlying the hot news misappropriation theory that was at issue in the case, as well as some of the criticisms and comments that legal scholars have launched against it over the years. Next, Part III goes beyond a pure legal analysis to explore the potential implications of the hot news misappropriation doctrine for a digital culture in which freshness and up-to-the-minute information is privileged and prized. Part III also identifies the different interests at stake in cases like Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp. Finally, Part IV concludes by suggesting future avenues of research related to the conduct of companies such as All Headline News Corp., including analyzing their behavior from an ethical perspective, not simply a legal one. In brief, journalism ethicists should analyze both the case and hot news doctrine from their viewpoint and position. I.RE-WRITING THE NEWS OR RE-WRITING THE LAW?THE ASSOCIATED PRESS’S BATTLE AGAINST ALL HEADLINE NEWS CORP.

Int’l News Serv., 248 U.S. at 241. Dale P. Olson, Common Law Misappropriation in the Digital Era, 64 MO. L. REV. 837, 878 (1999). 47 Id. 48 See Gary R. Roberts, The Scope of the Exclusive Right to Control Dissemination of Real-Time Sports Event Information, 15 STAN. L. & POL’Y REV. 167, 171 (2004) (“The legal foundation for the INS decision, federal general common law, has since been eliminated by the Supreme Court in the famous Erie Railroad case in 1938.”).
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“AP is a leader in protecting intellectual property rights through monitoring, licensing and enforcement efforts.”49 High-profile evidence buttressing that assertion, which the Associated Press conveys on its website,50 was on full display in 2009 when the news service contended that artist Shepard Fairey engaged in a “willful and blatant violation of The AP’s copyright in a photograph of President Obama”51 that Fairey used to create his so-called Obama Hope poster.52 Tom Curley, president and chief executive officer, proclaimed that the AP’s countersuit against Fairey—the artist had initially sued the AP—“is about protecting the content that The Associated Press and its journalists produce every day, with creativity, at great cost, and often at great risk.”53 Beyond this skirmish over a now iconic image,54 the Associated Press in July 2009 announced it was “creating a way to track and control the distribution of its articles online.”55 The move arose because, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “some bloggers and other Web sites run stories without permission.”56 Tom Curley, AP’s chief executive, incorporated language in a press release echoing the reap/sow principle at the heart of International News Service,57 emphasizing that the AP has “stood by too long and watched other people make money off the hard work of our journalists. We have decided to draw a line in concrete.”58
49

Associated Press, Protecting AP’s Intellectual Property, http://www.associatedpress.com/iprights (last visited Sept. 1, 2009). 50 Id. 51 Answer, Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims of Defendant, the Associated Press at 10, Fairey v. Associated Press, No. 09-01123 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 11, 2009). 52 See generally Christopher Borrelli, Street Artist Fairey at a Crossroad, CHI. TRIB., Feb. 9, 2009, at 3 (reporting on “an allegation from The Associated Press that Fairey infringed its copyright by appropriating one of its photos for the ‘Hope’ poster”). 53 Press Release, Associated Press, Associated Press Defends Lawsuit Brought by Shepard Fairey over Obama Poster (Mar. 11, 2009) (on file with Wake Forest Intellectual Property Law Journal), available at http://www.ap.org/pages/about/pressreleases/pr_031109.html. 54 See James C. Goodale, What’s Fair is Fair. But What is Fair?, 241 N.Y. L.J. 3, (2009) (“Mr. Fairey downloaded the photo from the Internet, cast Mr. Obama in red, white and blue tones, and added ‘Hope’ underneath. The poster became a campaign icon.”) (emphasis added). 55 Russell Adams & Shira Ovide, AP Creates Way to Track Distribution of Articles Online, WALL ST. J., July 24, 2009, at B6. 56 Id. 57 See supra notes 43-45 and accompanying text (discussing this principle within the context of International News Service). 58 Press Release, Michael Liedtke, Business Editor, Associated Press, AP Setting Up Tracking System for Web Content (July 23, 2009) (on file with Wake Forest Intellectual Property Law Journal), available at

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In addition to such policing and monitoring of its content on the Internet via built-in beacons that track where a story moves and posts online,59 the AP demonstrated its resolve on intellectual property matters in very different way in Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp.60In particular, it used an aging doctrine that was developed at a time when print newspapers ruled the day. AHN, based in Wellington, Florida, is owned by a former police officer named Jeffrey Brown, who founded the company after a customer of another website he operated, BridalClicks.com, asked for news content.61 He had no previous journalism experience.62 Despite the lack of relevant bona fides, the business took off fast, and Brown was quoted in 2008 as stating that “despite the troubling and uncertain economy, we’re on track to double our revenues this year.”63 With AHN’s operation apparently becoming a success, AP filed its lawsuit against AHN and Brown in federal court in New York in January 2008.64 The AP alleged that AHN hires poorly paid individuals, instructs them to surf the Internet for new stories, and then has them either copy the stories verbatim or re-write them, all the while carefully omitting any identifying information about their origin.65 In its First Amended Complaint, filed in April 2008, the AP asserted that AHN’s writers “do no independent research and newsgathering in preparing news stories.”66 In fact, the AP contended that—like so many businesses today in the United States—AHN offshored part of the re-writing process to people in Malaysia, with the cost savings allowing AHN to sell what once really were the AP’s stories at a price to subscribers cheaper than the AP could sell them.67 Once the stories are edited, the AP claimed they are “aggregated by AHN into a news feed which it then distributes to its customers and displayed and/or distributed via AHN’s servers.”68
http://www.ap.org/pages/about/whatsnew/wn_072309a.html. 59 Id. (stating that the AP will be “bundling its text stories in an ‘informational wrapper’ that will include a built-in beacon to monitor where stories go on the Internet”). 60 See Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp., 608 F. Supp. 2d 454 (S.D.N.Y. 2009). 61 Bill Frogameni, Associated Press Sues News Provider Based in Wellington, S. FLA. BUS. J., June 20, 2008, available at http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/stories/2008/06/23/story10.html. 62 Id. 63 Id. 64 See Complaint, supra note 20. 65 Id. at 2-3. 66 First Amended Complaint at 16, Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp., 608 F. Supp. 2d 454 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (No. 08 Civ. 323) [hereinafter First Amended Complaint]. 67 Id. at 20. 68 Id. at 16.

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Striking to the economic heart of its hot news misappropriation claim, the AP asserted that AHN’s conduct
is likely to usurp AP’s business relationships and opportunities. AHN’s “news service” directly competes with AP’s own services. Both services are sold to the same potential customer base. Most customers of news service only carry one service. When a company or entity decides to subscribe to AHN’s “news service,” this effectively excludes AP from selling its service to that company or entity.69

Asking the court to enjoin AHN’s actions, the AP closed its argument on the hot news misappropriation cause of action by conjuring up the proverbial parade of horrors that would result in the absence of such a judicial decree:
If Defendants are not enjoined from misappropriating AP’s efforts and investments in this manner, the acts of Defendants and other free-riders will so reduce AP’s incentive to gather and report the news that the existence and/or quality of the news services that AP provides to AP Members, subscribers and other licensees, and thereby to the public, will be substantially threatened.70

AHN, of course, attempted to paint the case as a battle in the David-and-Goliath tradition, arguing that “this case is an attempt by Plaintiff Associated Press to crush by weight of litigation a small company that it views as a competitor in the business of online news distribution.”71 But it defended against the hot news misappropriation cause of action not primarily on the merits of the case, but rather by claiming that the law of Florida—not New York—applied, and Florida did not recognize such a legal theory.72 As the attorneys for AHN and Brown wrote, “Defendants are not aware of any Florida state court opinions that have recognized a theory of misappropriation like that asserted by Plaintiff here.”73 AHN also asserted that the International News Service opinion itself was no longer good law,74 as it claimed the hot news misappropriation doctrine found in International News Service was part of the federal common law that was later eliminated

69 70

Id. at 20. Id. 71 Memorandum in Support of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 at 1, All Headline News Corp., 608 F. Supp. 2d 454 (No. 08 Civ. 323). 72 Id. at 3-10. 73 Id. at 9. 74 Id. at 7, n.2.

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by the U.S. Supreme Court in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins.75 These arguments failed to gain traction, however, with the court. In February 2009, U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel refused to dismiss the Associated Press’s hot news misappropriation claim, as he determined that the cause of action “remains viable under New York law”76 and is not pre-empted by federal copyright law.77 Quoting from a 1997 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that also recognized such a theory under New York law,78 Judge Castel articulated five elements that must be present for a successful cause of action for hot news misappropriation:
(i) a plaintiff generates or gathers information at a cost; (ii) the information is time-sensitive; (iii) a defendant’s use of the information constitutes free riding on the plaintiff's efforts; (iv) the defendant is in direct competition with a product or service offered by the plaintiffs; and (v) the ability of other parties to free-ride on the efforts of the plaintiff or others would so reduce the incentive to produce the product or service that its existence or quality would be substantially threatened.79

Judge Castel did not apply these elements to the facts of the case, however, as AHN’s motion to dismiss focused only on the pre-emption argument and the contention that Florida law, rather than New York, controlled.80

Id. For an in-depth discussion of the Erie Doctrine, see generally Joseph R. Oliveri, Converse-Erie: The Key to Federalism in an Increasingly Administrative State, 76 GEO. WASH. L. REV. 1372, 1375-76 (2008) (observing that “the Erie doctrine – the cornerstone of analysis of the relationship between federal and state law in federal courts – provides that federal courts, except in matters governed by the Constitution or federal statutes, shall apply the substantive law of the forum state,” and adding that in Erie, “the Supreme Court overturned the previous rule of Swift v. Tyson, rejecting the notion of a ‘federal general common law’ to which federal courts had previously looked to find the applicable rule of decision”) (citations omitted). 76 Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp., 608 F. Supp. 2d 454, 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2009). 77 Id. 78 See Nat’l Basketball Ass’n v. Motorola, Inc., 105 F.3d 841 (2d Cir. 1997) (involving the application of the hot news misappropriation tort in the context of a dispute about the transmission of scores and other data about NBA games in progress via paging devices). 79 All Headline News Corp., 608 F. Supp. 2d at 461 (quoting Motorola, 105 F.3d at 845). 80 See All Headline News Corp., 608 F. Supp. 2d at 458 (writing that the motion to dismiss the hot news misappropriation cause of action was based “on two grounds,” including the contention that “choice of law requires that plaintiff’s claim of misappropriation of hot news be considered under the law of Florida, which, defendants contend, has rejected such a cause of action” and the assertion “that a claim for misappropriation of hot news is preempted by the federal Copyright Act”).

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In lauding Judge Castel’s decision, the AP’s director of media relations, Paul Colford, stated the “ruling reaffirms the viability of the hot news misappropriation doctrine, and thereby protects AP’s investments in news gathering and reporting against copying by freeriders.”81 Colford also pointed out that the case was not simply about the AP’s right to make money, but the public’s right to receive information, as he stated that “by preserving the economic incentive to gather and report hot news, this decision will further the public interest in having access to such news and also encourage the efforts of journalists.”82 This framing83 of the case attempts to place the AP in the noble position of protecting the public interest rather than casting it as a greedy entity trying to eliminate a competitor. Significantly, when the case settled,84 the agreement between the parties included a provision under which AHN acknowledged that “the tort of ‘hot news misappropriation’ has been upheld by other courts and was ruled applicable in this case by U.S. District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel.”85 This appears to be a warning shot fired by the AP—a shot targeting other news services and news aggregators86 like AHN—that the AP will use the same theory again to challenge their actions. Ethan K. Ackerman, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who has worked in the U.S. Senate as technology counsel, observed “settlements don’t validate legal theories, court opinions do. That said, part of the settlement required AHN to pseudo-admit the viability of the hot news misappropriation doctrine.”87In its own—albeit much shorter—press release, AHN acknowledged paying the AP an

81

Press Release, Associated Press, AP Statement on All Headline News Court Ruling (Feb. 18, 2009) (on file with Wake Forest Intellectual Property Law Journal), available at http://www.ap.org/pages/about/pressreleases/pr_021809b.html. 82 Id. 83 See generally Jeongsub Lim & Hyunjin Seo, Frame Flow Between Government and the News Media and its Effects on the Public: Framing of North Korea, 21 INT’L J. PUB. OPINION RES. 204, 205-07 (2009) (providing an overview of the concept of framing and framing effects). 84 See Order of Dismissal at 1, All Headline News Corp., 608 F. Supp. 2d 454 (No. 08 Civ. 323) (providing, in relevant part, that the court was “advised that all claims asserted herein have been settled,” and dismissing the case without prejudice to reopening it within 60 days if the settlement was not consummated). 85 Press Release, Associated Press, AP and AHN Media settle AP’s lawsuit against AHN Media and individual defendants (July 13, 2009) (on file with Wake Forest Intellectual Property Law Journal), available at http://www.associatedpress.com/pages/about/pressreleases/pr_071309a.html. 86 See generally Barb Palser, Is It Journalism?, AM. JOURNALISM REV., June 2002, at 62, ## (discussing the concept of news aggregators and, in particular, Yahoo! News). 87 Posting of Ethan Ackerman, to Technology & Marketing Law Blog, http://blog.ericgoldman.org/ (July 22, 2009, 09:44 PST).

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undisclosed amount of money, but it continued to deny the AP’s allegations.88 With this analysis of the Associated Press v. All Headline News case in mind, the next part of this article turns to the development of the tort at issue in it, as well as a review of scholarly legal commentary about it. II.THE EVOLUTION OF THE HOT NEWS MISAPPROPRIATION TORT: A REVIEW OF LEGAL PRECEDENT AND SCHOLARLY LITERATURE The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in International News Service v. Associated Press was handed down in 1918, a time when consolidation in the print newspaper industry was first beginning.89 Media mogul William Randolph Hearst had created what would become the International News Service90 (“INS”) some twelve years earlier to compete against the Associated Press, which had been formed in the mid-1800s.91 The dispute at issue between the two news services began when INS, lacking international cables connecting Europe to the United States, began “clipping news from AP member newspapers”92 and “copying it from AP bulletin boards.”93 By pilfering AP-based content from early editions of East Coast newspapers, INS was actually able to beat the AP, given time-zone differences, to the West Coast newspapers with the AP’s own content,94 As Professor Paul W. Sullivan observes in an excellent
Melvin Baker, Press Release, All Headline News, AHN, AP Settle Lawsuit (July 13, 2009) (on file with Wake Forest Intellectual Property Law Journal), available at http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7015776639?AHN,%2520AP%2520Settle %2520Lawsuit. 89 “Let Munsey Kill It!”: The Birth of the Newspaper Chain, in 1 AMERICAN DECADES 350, 350-51 (Vincent Tompkins ed., 1996) (writing that “[i]n 1890 New York had fifteen English-language daily newspapers. By 1932 it had half that number. The twentieth-century trend toward newspaper consolidation began in earnest during the century’s first decade” and pointing out that “[i]n upstate New York Frank E. Gannett bought a partial interest in the Elmira Gazette in 1906 and then merged it with the Elmira Star. In the 1910s he bought two papers in Ithaca and combined them, and in the 1920s acquired others in Rochester, Utica, and in other northeastern states, laying the groundwork for the largest chain in the country”). 90 In 1958, United Press absorbed International News Service to become United Press International. Richard A. Schwarzlose, International News Service: William Randolph Hearst’s News Wire, in HISTORY OF MASS MEDIA IN THE UNITED STATES: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA 275 (Margaret A. Blanchard, ed., 1998). 91 Laura Bergheim, Press Associations, in 6 DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN HISTORY 458, 458 (Stanley I. Kutler ed., 2003). 92 Paul W. Sullivan, News Piracy: An Interpretation of the Misappropriation Doctrine, 54 JOURNALISM Q. 682, 683 (1977). 93 Id. 94 Id.
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examination of the case that should be read by anyone wanting a complete analysis of it, the “AP objected that some of its own members in the western part of the country were not receiving the news as quickly as INS customers were receiving the pirated news.”95 Importantly, the AP did not argue that its stories were copyrighted. As Professor Eric Easton writes, the “AP argued that securing copyright for its dispatches was impractical and that those dispatches were beyond the scope of the Copyright Act. AP’s property interest lay exclusively in protecting its business from freeriders.”96 As described in the Introduction, Justice Pitney and the majority of the court sided with the Associated Press, expressing deep concern about what it considered to be unfair competition by INS and finding a quasi property right in the fresh news stories that it spent time, money, and labor to gather and produce.97 The property interest held by the AP, Justice Pitney made clear, was not as against all of the world or the newspaper reading public, but only as against its competitors, writing:
The question here is not so much the rights of either party as against the public but their rights as between themselves. And although we may and do assume that neither party has any remaining property interest as against the public in uncopyrighted news matter after the moment of its first publication, it by no means follows that there is no remaining property interest in it as between themselves. For, to both of them alike, news matter, however little susceptible of ownership or dominion in the absolute sense, is stock in trade, to be gathered at the cost of enterprise, organization, skill, labor, and money, and to be distributed and sold to those who will pay money for it, as for any other merchandise.98

From a public policy perspective that centers on an unenumerated First Amendment right to receive speech,99 this is an
Id. Eric B. Easton, Who Owns ’The First Rough Draft of History?’: Reconsidering Copyright in News, 27 COLUM. J.L. & ARTS 521, 547 (2004). 97 See supra footnotes 43-45 and accompanying text (describing Justice Pitney’s opinion for the majority of the high court). 98 Int’l News Serv. v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215, 236 (1918) (emphasis added) (citation omitted). 99 See Bd. of Educ., Island Trees Union Free Sch. Dist. No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853, 867 (1982) (opining that “the right to receive ideas is a necessary predicate to the recipient's meaningful exercise of his own rights of speech, press, and political freedom”); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 482 (1965) (writing that “the right of freedom of speech and press includes not only the right to utter or to print, but the right to distribute, the right to receive, the right to read”); Martin v. Struthers,
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important dichotomy. It suggests that the majority opinion is not intended to deprive the public of news but is, instead, only intended to provide profit and incentive for the gathering of that news by depriving another business entity—a rival/competitor—from profiting from it. In other words, the hot news misappropriation doctrine that was to emerge from the case was not to be used against the public, but against rival businesses. The court also made it clear that, even as against a rival/competitor, the quasi property interest held in news is ephemeral, lasting only so long as the news at issue is fresh. As Justice Pitney wrote:
[T]he view we adopt does not result in giving to complainant the right to monopolize either the gathering or the distribution of the news, or, without complying with the copyright act, to prevent the reproduction of its news articles; but only postpones participation by complainant’s competitor in the processes of distribution and reproduction of news that it has not gathered, and only to the extent necessary to prevent that competitor from reaping the fruits of complainants efforts and expenditure, to the partial exclusion of complainant, and in violation of the principle that underlies the maxim sic utere tuo, etc.100

Finally, Justice Pitney and the majority attempted to make it clear that the misappropriation cause of action could not be used to prevent or thwart one competitor from taking “the news of a rival agency as a ‘tip’ to be investigated, and if verified by independent investigation the news thus gathered is sold.”101 The Court here drew another dichotomy, this time between the uses that a rival could properly make of a competitor’s fresh news content: • Permissible: Use the information as a tip to be independently investigated and corroborated for one’s own story. • Forbidden: “the bodily appropriation of another’s labor in accumulating and stating information.”102

319 U.S. 141, 143 (1943) (writing that the First Amendment freedom to distribute literature “necessarily protects the right to receive it”). 100 Int’l News Serv., 248 U.S. at 241 (emphasis added). The phrase “sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas” reflects an ancient common law maxim in nuisance law that means “use your own so as not to injure another.” Joseph H. Guth, Law for the Ecological Age, 9 VT. J. ENVTL. L. 431, 447 (2008). As Professor Gregory Alexander recently observed, “the negative obligation of the Anglo-American common law to avoid committing nuisance” reflects an approach that “is captured by the sic utere tuo maxim.” Gregory S. Alexander, The Social-Obligation Norm in American Property, 94 CORNELL L. REV. 745, 753 (2009). 101 Int’l News Serv., 248 U.S. at 243. 102 Id. (quoting Associated Press v. Int’l News Serv., 245 F. 244, 247 (2d Cir. 1917)).

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In summary, the majority opinion, although failing to clearly delineate the precise elements of the hot news misappropriation tort that would evolve from the International News Service case, seemed to place three limitations on it, at least in the opinion of the authors of this article: 1. It can only be used by one rival against another rival, not against the public. 2. The quasi property right in news that is instilled by the tort does not last forever against a rival, but merely “postpones participation”103 in the news by the rival, hence the idea that it merely is a “hot news” tort. 3. A rival is free to use a competitor’s fresh news for purposes of providing it with a tip or lead to be independently investigated and produced as its own news story. The majority opinion in International News Service has been the subject of much legal commentary and writing over the years. For instance, University of Chicago Law Professor Richard Epstein observes that Justice Pitney’s opinion “rests upon the idea of property rights in news,”104rights that the AP possessed in its fresh news as against a direct competitor, INS.105 These rights, however, last only while the news is fresh and, in addition, only against a direct competitor.106 This echoes two of the three limitations set forth above. The notion of finding a property right in news, however, is one of the fundamental reasons that International News Service is criticized by legal scholars. For example, Professor Leo J. Raskind blasts the “‘quasi-property’ foundation on which the INS majority relied”107 in order to side with the AP and divine a theory of misappropriation as “question-begging.”108Raskind suggests that the majority’s concern with unfair competition—the “unique commercial ‘dirty trick,’”109 in Raskind’s words, in which INS “took AP news in

Int’l News Serv. v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215, 241 (1918) (emphasis added). Richard A. Epstein, International News Service v. Associated Press: Custom and Law as Sources of Property Rights in News, 78 VA. L. REV. 85, 112 (1992). 105 Id. at 92. 106 See id. at 114 (observing that Justice “Pitney describes the defendant’s interest in its news as ‘quasi property,’ which is good only for a short period of time (less than a day) and then only against the direct competitor of the plaintiff”). 107 Leo J. Raskind, The Misappropriation Doctrine as a Competitive Norm of Intellectual Property Law, 75 MINN. L. REV. 875, 900 (1991). 108 Id. 109 Id. at 881.
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order to have a saleable product”110 and passed it off as its own work—should not have led it to adopt a property foundation for grounding the opinion. As Raskind writes:
Introducing the concept of “quasi-property” diverts the inquiry. The defect in the majority opinion is that it relies on a legal doctrine relating to the marketing side of competition [passing off] and cloaks that doctrine with the status of property. The majority then sought to provide an analysis of a taking of an undefined property interest in the context of a competitive market in which taking is the very nature of the relationship.111

Others also object to the notion of using a property right to protect information. Professor Michael Pendleton describes what he calls “the inappropriateness of property as a conceptual/legal device for ordering rights among the groups of persons who have legitimate interests in protecting as well as accessing (within limits) the substantial labour, skill, effort and investment of time and money involved in creating information ‘products.’”112 Another criticism of the International News Service decision relates to the separation of powers and roles between judges and legislators. As Professor Douglas G. Baird writes, “[critics] argue that judges are poorly situated to identify the policies at stake in an intellectual property dispute and that judges therefore should not recognize intellectual property rights until the legislature has done so.”113 Supporting this proposition that legislators should create the law here is the idea that “the federal system of intellectual property derives from the clause of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to give authors and inventors exclusive rights to their writings and discoveries for a limited time for the purpose of promoting ‘the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’”114In this line, Professor L. Ray Patterson observes that International News Service actually “can be viewed as a copyright case in the guise of unfair competition”115 because, although the AP’s stories were copyrightable, it had not copyrighted them.116 As a copyright case in the United States, it would be governed by legislative rules, not by a court-created doctrine that

110 111

Id. at 885. Id. at 886-87. 112 Michael D. Pendleton, Balancing Competing Interests in Information Products: A Conceptual Rethink, 14 INFO. & COMM. TECH. L. 241, 246 (2005). 113 Douglas G. Baird, Common Law Intellectual Property and the Legacy of International News Service v. Associated Press, 50 U. CHI. L. REV. 411, 417 (1983). 114 Id. at 415 (quoting U.S. CONST. art. I, § 8, cl. 8). 115 L. Ray Patterson, Free Speech, Copyright, and Fair Use, 40 VAND. L. REV. 1, 59 (1987). 116 Id. at 58-59.

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was, as Professor Raskind contends, launched “in an ad hoc fashion” to fill a vacuum in favor of the Associated Press.117 More generally but certainly not less importantly, the majority opinion has been criticized as being at odds with the First Amendment freedom of speech. As Professor Diane Zimmerman writes about the majority’s rationale that hard work and effort in gathering news should be rewarded with property rights for exclusive use:
Taken at face value, this principle suggests that property rules are appropriately applied whenever someone exploits for profit information generated by the personality, activities, or intellectual efforts of someone else – and that the First Amendment is not offended by the requirement that the user first bargain for that right with the source of the value. Certainly, no evidence suggests that First Amendment jurisprudence has ever accepted this view.118

Given these criticisms of the opinion, it is not surprising that the justices themselves split in International News Service. In particular, Justice Louis Brandeis dissented at length,119 while Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. issued a very brief concurrence that was joined by Justice Joseph McKenna.120 Brandeis, who parsimoniously defined news as “a report of recent occurrences,”121 objected to the idea that news is property. He opined:
An essential element of individual property is the legal right to exclude others from enjoying it. If the property is private, the right of exclusion may be absolute; if the property is affected with a public interest, the right of exclusion is qualified. But the fact that a product of the mind has cost its producer money and labor, and has a value for which others are willing to pay, is not sufficient to ensure to it this legal attribute of property. The general rule of law is, that the noblest of human productions – knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas – become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use.122

Brandeis also emphasized the danger to the right of the public to receive information that might be affected by extending a property
Raskind, supra note 107, at 881. Diane Leenheer Zimmerman, Information as Speech, Information as Goods: Some Thoughts on Marketplaces and the Bill of Rights, 33 WM. & MARY L. REV. 665, 722 (1992). 119 Int’l News Serv. v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215, 248-267 (1918) (Brandeis, J., dissenting). 120 Id. at 246-248 (Holmes, J., concurring). 121 Id. at 249 (Brandeis, J., dissenting). 122 Id. at 250.
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right in news, writing that an extension of property rights in news would lead to “a corresponding curtailment of the free use of knowledge and of ideas; and the facts of this case admonish us of the danger involved in recognizing such a property right in news, without imposing upon news-gatherers corresponding obligations.”123 Even if one were to extend such a right, Brandeis opined that such a decision should be made by a legislative body, not a judicial one, writing that “courts are ill-equipped to make the investigations which should precede a determination of the limitations which should be set upon any property right in news or of the circumstances under which news gathered by a private agency should be deemed affected with a public interest.”124 Brandeis here seemed clearly concerned about potential harm to the public’s interest in news that might be caused by the majority’s holding. As Professor Geraldine Szott Moohr observes, Brandeis believed that “a new rule, unless carefully crafted, could injure the general public,”125 and thus “preferred a rule that encouraged free use of knowledge and ideas.”126 A number of lower federal court opinions have since considered, to varying degrees, the viability and elements of the hot news misappropriation tort,127 but probably the most important opinion for purposes of the AP’s case against AHN, given its decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, is National Basketball Ass’n v. Motorola, Inc.128 The case did not involve either news stories or news agencies, but centered instead on the real-time transmission of NBA game scores and statistics, taken from television and radio broadcasts of games in progress, via a paging device manufactured by Motorola and compiled by a service
Id. at 263. Id. at 267. 125 Geraldine Szott Moohr, Federal Criminal Fraud and the Development of Intangible Property Rights in Information, 2000 U. ILL. L. REV. 683, 695 (2000). 126 Id. at 696. 127 See, e.g., Nat’l Basketball Ass’n v. Motorola, Inc., 105 F.3d 841 (2d Cir. 1997); Fin. Info., Inc. v. Moody’s Investors Serv., Inc., 808 F.2d 204 (2d Cir. 1986); Scranton Times v. Wilkes-Barre Publ’g Co., No. 3:08-cv-2135, 2009 WL 585502 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 6, 2009); X17 v. Lavandeira, 563 F. Supp. 2d 1102 (C.D. Cal. 2007); McGraw-Hill Cos. v. Int’l Sec. Exch., Inc., No. 05 Civ.1129(HB), 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18674 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 1, 2005); Lowry’s Reports, Inc. v. Legg Mason, Inc., 271 F. Supp. 2d 737 (D. Md. 2003); Scholastic, Inc. v. Stouffer, 124 F. Supp. 2d 836 (S.D.N.Y. 2000); Morris Commc’ns. Corp. v. PGA Tour, Inc., 117 F. Supp. 2d 1322 (M.D. Fla. 2000); Gannett Satellite Info. Network, Inc. v. Rock Valley Cmty. Press, Inc., No. 93 C 20244, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15736 (N.D. Ill. 1994); Nash v. CBS, Inc., 704 F. Supp. 823 (N.D. Ill. 1989); P.I.T.S. Films v. Laconis, 588 F. Supp. 1383 (E.D. Mich. 1984); Schuchart & Assocs. v. Solo Serve Corp., 540 F. Supp. 928 (W.D. Tex. 1982); Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters., 501 F. Supp. 848 (S.D.N.Y. 1980). 128 105 F.3d 841.
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called Sports Team Analysis and Tracking Systems.129 The case is important for two primary reasons: it recognized the existence of the hot news misappropriation tort in New York,130 and it articulated the same five elements131 of the cause of action spelled out by Judge Castel in the AP’s battle against AHN. In specifying those elements, the appellate court in Motorola called the hot news misappropriation tort “properly narrowed,”132 suggesting it is cabined quite closely by the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit in Motorola interpreted the Supreme Court’s International News Service decision as founded on the goal of “the protection of property rights in time-sensitive information so that the information will be made available to the public by profit-seeking entrepreneurs.”133 As such, a viable hot news misappropriation claim will only survive preemption by the Federal Copyright Act if three key thingsare present: (i) the factual information at issue is time sensitive; (ii) there is a free-riding defendant; and (iii) there is a threat to the very existence of the product or service provided by the plaintiff.134 If it survives preemption, then a court will turn to the five elements of the tort itself. III.NEWS, CULTURE AND CONTROL OF INFORMATION IN THE DIGITAL AGE:RAMIFICATIONS OF THE HOT NEWS MISAPPROPRIATION TORT The hot news misappropriation tort originated in 1918 when people obtained their news via newspapers. Today, people get their news on the Internet, BlackBerrys and iPhones, as well as on television and even Twitter;135 an August 2008 report by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, for instance, found that “since the early 1990s, the proportion of Americans saying they read a newspaper on a typical day has declined by about 40%.”136 Conversely, the same survey found that “since 2006, the proportion of Americans who say they get news online at least three days a week has
Id. at 843-44. Id. at 845. 131 See supra note 81 and accompanying text. 132 Motorola, 105 F.3d at 848. 133 Id. at 853. 134 Id. 135 See Bob Franklin, The Future of Newspapers, 9 JOURNALISM STUD. 630, 630-31 (2008) (observing that today’s news content is delivered on “multiple media platforms” and “delivered by the Internet, pod casts and mobile telephony, more often than by newspaper delivery boys and girls”). 136 PEW RESEARCH CTR. FOR THE PEOPLE & THE PRESS, AUDIENCE SEGMENTS IN A CHANGING NEWS ENVIRONMENT 3 (2008), http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/444.pdf.
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increased from 31% to 37%.”137 We also live in a culture that thrives on the constant flow of information. As the website for Twitter states, “In countries all around the world, people follow the sources most relevant to them and access information via Twitter as it happens—from breaking world news to updates from friends.”138 Twitter has more than 20 million users,139 and as the Philadelphia Inquirer observed, it has played “a growing role in disseminating news and organizing social and protest movements.”140 Might the use of the hot news misappropriation tort hinder or otherwise stanch the flow of news in such a faster-is-better world? The dramatic changes in the speed at which news is conveyed, as well as the manner and mode of its receipt, can be a double-edged sword when intellectual property concerns are put into the equation. As Brian Cooper, the executive editor of the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa, recently observed:
In this Internet Age, with thousands of media outlets available at the click of a mouse, it is easier than ever to follow news events anywhere – from your hometown to the other side of the world. And it is also easier than ever for less-scrupulous outlets to appropriate that news and label it their own. Simply copy, paste, delete credit lines and – voila!141

The Associated Press clearly is concerned about the ease at which such piracy can occur. It explains on its website why it has chosen to fight such battles so aggressively:
The Associated Press is a not-for-profit news cooperative that spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year gathering and sharing news of public interest from around the world. Licensing of this content by our members is critical to support our news operations. In the new digital content economy, however, a significant amount of AP news and news from AP members is used without permission or fair compensation. This situation has serious consequences: it dilutes the value of news for licensors and advertisers; it fragments and disperses content so widely that consumers end up relying on fragmented coverage to get their news
Id. at 4. About Twitter, http://twitter.com/about (last visited Sept. 1, 2009) (emphasis added). 139 See Verne Kopytoff, Virtually Famous Folks, S.F. CHRON., July 27, 2009, at A1 (noting that Twitter has 21 million users and describing how it turns ordinary people into popular figures on the service). 140 John Timpane, Tweeting Twitter Seriously, PHILA. INQUIRER, July 30, 2009, at A1. 141 Brian Cooper, Say, Where Did That News Story Come From?, TELEGRAPH HERALD (Dubuque, Iowa), June 3, 2008, at A4.
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despite the availability of comprehensive and authoritative coverage on a 24-hour basis.142

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The AP’s actions likely have a large impact on so-called online news aggregating sites that, as attorney Jeffrey D. Neuburger writes, “have become ubiquitous on the Internet.”143 An adjunct Professor at Fordham University School of Law, Nueburger points out the AP had previously been successful in obtaining settlements from other online news aggregators, including Google News and Verisign.144 The AP’s win in federal court against AHN gives it more leverage to obtain further settlements in the future. The potential ramifications of the AP’s current use of the hot news misappropriation tort stretch beyond the Internet to also affect television and radio journalism. As journalist Ken Robertson of the Tri-City Herald in Washington State wrote in early 2009:
[I]t’s common practice for radio and TV “news” readers to simply rip their stories off from their local newspaper, seldom bothering to credit the newspaper. This kind of theft has been commonplace for decades, and we newspaper people called it “rip and read” and joked that you could often hear the sound of the newspaper being folded on the air.145

The practice of rip-and-read journalism on the radio may be increasing today, Robertson points out, as economic pressures mean that “radio and TV stations have even smaller staffs and thus even less time to do any original reporting and must rely more and more on rip and read.”146 The AP’s newspaper clients—who pay for and work together with the AP—might now invoke the hot news misappropriation tort to forbid a local radio station from reading its stories on the air. “In Boise, Idaho, for example, the newspaper has told AP to forbid Boise radio and TV stations from using the newspaper’s news that is shared on the AP wire,”147 Robertson writes. Perhaps one of the most interesting questions involving the ramifications of Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp. is whether the hot news misappropriation doctrine can be successfully used to squelch the speech of bloggers and citizen journalists who make use of online news like that conveyed by the AP. In other
Associated Press, Protecting AP’s Intellectual Property, http://www.associatedpress.com/iprights/faqiprights.html (last visited Sept. 1, 2009). 143 Posting of Jeffrey D. Neuburger to New Media & Technology Law Blog, http://newmedialaw.proskauer.com (Feb 26, 2009). 144 Id. 145 Ken Robertson, Opinion: AP’s Suit Over Theft of ‘Hot News’ Should Rattle TV, Radio, TRI-CITY HERALD (Kennewick, Wash.), Feb. 20, 2009, at Commentary. 146 Id. 147 Id.
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words, will the hot news doctrine jeopardize the rapid and free exchange of information on what the U.S. Supreme Court once called “the vast democratic forums of the Internet?”148 Conversely, could a blogger who gets a scoop and breaks an important political news story be able to own the story, as it were, for a brief amount of time—as long it is “hot” news—and thereby stifle its dissemination to the wider public that relies on information conveyed by news services like the Associated Press? This is particularly important because, as Paul Farhi recently noted in the American Journalism Review:
Two of the biggest campaign trail scoops came not from a professional journalist, but from a blogger named Mayhill Fowler. . . . Using her own money to follow the campaign around the country, the 61-year-old Fowler recorded Obama’s comments, made at a fundraiser in San Francisco, that “bitter” small-town voters “cling to guns and religion.” (Fowler never identified herself as a blogger; she was admitted to the closed event because she was an Obama contributor.) In June she encountered Bill Clinton at a rally in South Dakota and (again, failing to identify herself) asked about an unflattering profile of him in Vanity Fair. When Clinton launched into a tirade about the article's author, former New York Times reporter Todd Purdum (“sleazy!” “a scumbag!”), Fowler recorded that, too, and posted it online.149

The answer to each these questions would generally seem to be no. Why? Because the elements of the hot news misappropriation cause of action frame the tort so narrowly that most cases involving bloggers and citizen journalists on one side of the case, and a news service like the AP on the other side, simply would not fall within it. In particular, the fourth element of the tort as framed by Judge Castel in Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp.—and quoting the Second Circuit’s opinion in National Basketball Ass’n v.Motorola— requires the plaintiff to prove that “the defendant is in direct competition with a product or service offered by the plaintiffs.”150 The operations of the Associated Press or a news service like the United Press International151 simply are not in “direct competition” with the

Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 868 (1997). Paul Farhi, Off the Bus, AM. JOURNALISM REV., Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009, at 28, 31. 150 Associated Press v. All Headline News Corp., 608 F. Supp. 2d 454, 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (citing Nat’l Basketball Ass’n v. Motorola, 105 F.3d 841, 845 (2d Cir. 1997)). 151 The United Press International describes itself as “a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide. UPI is a global operation with offices in Beirut, Hong Kong, London, Santiago, Seoul and Tokyo.” About United Press International, http://about.upi.com (last visited Sept. 5, 2009).
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services provided by a blogger or citizen journalist. The tort will only be successful if there are rivals in direct competition with each other. Bloggers simply are not news services; both may supply important information that many people may consider to be news, but merely trafficking in similar information does not put them in direct competition. For instance, the Associated Press: 1) has more than 240 bureaus in 97 countries; 2) features 4,100 editorial, communications and administrative employees worldwide; 3) is owned by its 1,500 newspaper members; and 4) offers to its members news, photos, graphics, audio, and video.152 The stereotypical “blogger in his pajamas,”153 in comparison, may hit an important scoop from time to time, but he or she simply does not fulfill the same function— supplying newspapers, radio stations, and websites across the country with a constant and steady stream of information and different formats of mediated content—and consistently discover the same type of information that is dug up “by skilled reporters working beats day in and day out.”154 The AP can, to put it bluntly, be in many different places at one time, spanning the globe; the isolated blogger simply cannot. If the AP thus sued an individual blogger for taking one of its breaking news stories and posting it on the blogger’s website, as his or her own work, without either attribution or permission, the blogger certainly may have violated fundamental ethical tenets of journalism prohibiting plagiarism,155 but surely he or she has not committed the tort of hot news misappropriation.
Associated Press,Facts & Figures, http://www.ap.org/pages/about/about.html (last visited Sept. 5, 2009). 153 This phrase is often used by the news media themselves to stereotype bloggers. See, e.g., Carl Carter, Who Will Pay for the News? The Internet has Walloped Newspapers, BIRMINGHAM NEWS (Ala.), Mar. 8, 2009, at 1F (contending that “bloggers in pajamas” cannot replace mainstream newspapers because those bloggers, along with “cell-phone photographers,” merely “piggyback on the real work done by real reporters”); Marc Fisher, Politics 24/7: No One Can Hear You Scream, WASH. POST, Oct. 14, 2007, at M1 (using the twin phrases “bloggers in their pajamas” and “pajamas media”); Logan Jenkins, What’s the Future of the U-T? Read On, For Now, SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIB., Jan. 26, 2009, at B2 (arguing in favor of the importance of traditional newspapers and contending that there is “no way can a loose network of bloggers in pajamas – or, for that matter, time-challenged broadcast outlets – match our concerted effort to inform in detailed depth”). 154 Editorial, Burris Scoops Show How Much Newspapers Matter, CHI. SUN-TIMES, Feb. 17, 2009, at 16. 155 For instance, the ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalists bluntly admonishes journalists to “never plagiarize.” Society of Professional Journalists, Code of Ethics, available at http://www.spj.org/pdf/ethicscode.pdf (last visited Sept. 1, 2009). See Norman P. Lewis, Plagiarism Antecedents & Situational Influences, 85 JOURNALISM & MASS COMM. Q. 353, 353 (2008) (observing that “plagiarism seems to stick to journalism like a leech, despite universal prohibitions, zerotolerance policies, and fallout from the 2003 Jayson Blair episode”). See generally
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Ultimately, the Associated Press should be entitled to some form of qualified protection for its time, labor, and efforts in gathering breaking news, but not against bloggers or citizen journalists. The question really centers on defining the precise scope and range of the protection to which it should be entitled, given the competing interests at stake, against rival news services and news aggregators. Those interests, in the opinion of the authors of this article, would seem to be at least threefold: • the interests of the AP as the gatherer and creator of the newsstories; • the interests of the AP’s competitors and, in particular news aggregators; and • the interests of the audience, recipients, and users of the news stories.156 In light of these three interests, one might ask the following threshold question: Why is it important to protect the Associated Press in the first place, as it gathers information and writes news stories, when the public (the third possessor of an interest noted above) can obtain information from so-called citizen journalists and bloggers so readily today? Professor Michael Schudson of the University of California, San Diego, addressed that same issue in 2009, concluding that “matters of professional training, experience, and judgment are as or more important than ever”157 in the world of journalism and reasoning that “one need not idealize the newspaper press to recognize that to this day television, radio, and online news feed off the basic reporting that to an overwhelming extent comes from organizations whose economic survival no one knows how to guarantee.”158 In other words, there remains a fundamental difference in quality and content that separates professional journalists from bloggers and citizen journalists, even if that difference stems from a desire for economic survival. According to a 2007 article published in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly:
Aggregators produce little original news content, instead providing a platform for established news producers and access for users to multiple news sources. Arguably the most popular online news portal, Yahoo!News, allows users
Marie Dunne White, Plagiarism and the News Media, 4 J. MASS MEDIA ETHICS 265 (1989) (discussing the concept of plagiarism and the related issue of lack of attribution in news media ethics). 156 Cf. Pendleton, supra note 114, at 246 (identifying a very similar list of competing interests that must be taken into account in any dispute over intellectual property where time and labor are expended to gather and produce information). 157 Michael Schudson, Ten Years Backwards and Forwards, 10 JOURNALISM 368, 370 (2009). 158 Id..

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to identify favorite topics—politics, business, science, entertainment—from various sources including Associated Press (AP), Agence France-Presse (AFP), Reuters, CNN, and others. A recent Pew study determined that 23% of online news consumers chose Yahoo!News, and while Yahoo!News usage has continued to increase, competitor aggregators, such as Google News, and online news providers, such as MSNBC.com and CNN.com, have lost users.159

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When a news aggregator has permission and explicit authorization from a company or news service to post links to its feeds, there clearly is no possibility of a hot news misappropriation claim. Lack of permission, however, raises the distinct possibility. While Judge Castel did not address the actual merits of such a scenario involving a news aggregator versus a news service,160 it is clear that, as David Simon, a writer and former Baltimore Sun reporter, recently wrote in Columbia Journalism Review, “the relationships between newspapers and online aggregators—not to mention The Associated Press and Reuters—will have to be revisited and revised.”161 The interests of society and the reading public—the third possessor of an interest identified above by the authors of this article—require the economic viability of professional news services because while “amateur journalistsmay have wise and clever things to say,”162 they are not in the practice of regularly breaking news stories and subscribing to journalistic principles of neutrality and supposed objectivity.163 Finally, it is important to note that Judge Castel did not address what attorney Jeffrey D. Neuburger calls “the more difficult and complex questions concerning the use of news reports by bloggers and others who do not merely excerpt and link to online news reports such as those produced by the AP, but add commentary to them as well.”164 In the opinion of the authors of this article, it would seem that legal analysis of such blogger-added-commentary situations should
159

Joe Bob Hester & Elizabeth Dougall, The Efficiency of Constructed Week Sampling for Content Analysis of Online News, 84 JOURNALISM & MASS COMM. Q. 811, 811 (2007). 160 See supra notes 78-79 and accompanying text (describing how Judge Castel only considered the issues of choice of law, preemption and the viability of the hot news misappropriation theory under New York law). 161 David Simon, Build the Wall, COLUM. JOURNALISM REV., July-Aug. 2009, at 36, 36. 162 Michael Shapiro, Open for Business, COLUM. JOURNALISM REV., July-Aug. 2009, at 29, 35. 163 See generally Michael Schudson, The Objectivity Norm in American Journalism, 2 JOURNALISM 149 (2001) (discussing objectivity in journalism). 164 Neuburger, supra note 145.

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incorporate and borrow fair-use factors from copyright law.165 In particular, 17 U.S.C. § 107 specifically notes that criticism and comment of an otherwise copyrighted work may be protected.166 In fact, such commentary might even be considered a form of “news reporting”167 protected as a fair use. If the blogger is not making a commercial profit—per the first fair use factor168—this too would militate in favor of protecting such a use in a blogger-addedcommentary situation. In addition, the smaller the portion of the original article that is appropriated for purpose of commentary, the better for the blogger, as the fair-use statute asks courts to factor in “the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.”169 This issue, of course, remains unresolved, and the article now turns to the Conclusion to offer some ideas of future research and to summarize some of its own findings. IV.CONCLUSION This article has attempted to illustrate the origin, evolution, and continuing viability of the hot news misappropriation doctrine nearly a century after it was first developed and at a time when we are, as one communication scholar recently put it, “in the midst of an epochal transformation of the news media.”170 While the news media and the very nature of journalism may be changing today, the principles of unfair competition and reap/sow equity that gave rise in International News Service v. Associated Press to the hot news misappropriation remain vital, despite the scholarly criticism of them reviewed earlier in this article.171 The AP’s lawsuit against AHN was not the first time in recent years the venerable news service has sued a business for allegedly ripping off its content,172 but it was the first time this century that the AP has coaxed a very favorable judicial ruling to use as precedent in
See 17 U.S.C. § 107 (2006) (setting forth four fair-use factors). Id. 167 Id. 168 See id. § 107(1) (2006) (providing that courts should consider, when making a fair-use determination, “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes”). 169 Id. § 107(3) (2006). 170 Schudson, supra note 159, at 369. 171 See supra notes 109-23 and accompanying text (providing the commentary of other legal scholars on the high court’s decision in International News Service). 172 See Ken Robertson, Opinion, More Trouble Ahead for Copyright Scofflaws, TRICITY HERALD (Kennewick, Wash.), July 14, 2009, http://www.tricityherald.com/942/story/646943.html (“In 2007, [the Associated Press] sued Moreover Technologies Inc. and its parent, VeriSign Inc., for using AP headlines, photos and stories without permission. That case also was settled for undisclosed terms.”).
166 165

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other cases in which it invokes the hot news misappropriation doctrine in New York. The Associated Press thus may also consider itself fortunate that it is headquartered in New York City,173 within a jurisdiction that recognizes the hot news misappropriation tort, such that it can haul defendants into, quite literally, its home court within the Second Circuit.174 Significantly, another state with a large concentration of media entities—California—also recognizes the hot news misappropriation doctrine and recently has applied it to images, not simply news stories, in a case involving celebrity gossip-monger Perez Hilton.175 The fact that both New York and California recognize the hot news misappropriation tort brings increased power to the media companies headquartered there to fight back against nefarious competitors. AHN’s alleged conduct of stripping AP’s stories of attribution and having them masquerade as AHN’s own work raises perhaps as many worthy ethical issues—business ethics and journalism ethics— as legal ones, but they are beyond the scope of this law-focused article. It is worth noting here, however, that the term plagiarism—a cardinal sin in journalism ethics176 —is derived from the Latin word for kidnapper,177 and that moniker perhaps provides an apt way of viewing AHN’s conduct that, in turn, tees up media ethics issues. Given that there are even ambiguities about what constitutes plagiarism in journalism, as University of Florida Professor Norman Lewis recently pointed out in a detailed study,178 there may even be a fundamental issue of whether what AHN allegedly did with the AP’s stories even constitutes plagiarism. Future articles should address the ethical aspects of AHN’s conduct and that of similar entities and news aggregators. The news business, of course, is highly competitive. There have been lawsuits filed over the alleged stealing of sources,179 much
See Associated Press, Contact AP, http://www.ap.org/pages/contact/contact.html (last visited Sept. 1, 2009) (identifying the AP’s headquarters as being located at 450 W. 33rd St. in New York, NY). 174 A discussion of the jurisdictional issues and choice-of-law issues is beyond the scope of this article. 175 See X17, Inc. v. Lavandeira, 563 F. Supp. 2d 1102, 1107 (C.D. Cal. 2007) (involving a case about the use of photographs by Mario Lavandeira, who does business under the name Perez Hilton, and holding that “the hot news tort is cognizable in California”). 176 See supra note 157 and accompanying text (discussing plagiarism and journalism ethics). 177 White, supra note 157, at 267. 178 Lewis, supra note 157, at 355. 179 See Kathryn S. Wenner, It’s My Source and I’ll Sue If I Want To, AM. JOURNALISM REV., Oct 2001, at 16, 16. (describing a lawsuit filed in California
173

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less the stealing of news stories. Thus, it is not surprising that the hot news doctrine would be used today, more than ninety years after it was created, and that other news entities beyond the AP would invoke it. For instance, the doctrine was at the heart of a dispute in 2009 between the Scranton Times and the Times Leader, rival newspapers in Northeastern Pennsylvania, in Scranton Times v. Wilkes-Barre Publishing Co.180 The dispute did not exactly involve what one might typically consider to be news; it focused, instead, on the allegation that the print edition of one newspaper was copying from the various websites of the other newspaper’s obituaries.181 United States District Judge A. Richard Caputo did not reject the possible existence of a hot news misappropriation claim within Pennsylvania and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, but he did find that, on the specific facts of the case, the claim was preempted by federal copyright law because “the Defendant’s alleged copying and re-use of obituaries originally found in Plaintiffs’ publications did not pose a threat to the existence of Plaintiffs’ publications or the ability of those publications to continue the timely publication of obituaries.”182 But future battles are more likely to occur in scenarios like those involving the Associated Press and All Headline News Corporation. When a court finally addresses the actual merits of such a case on the five specific elements of the hot news misappropriation doctrine, it will trigger an opinion meriting a further scholarly analysis. For now, as this article has illustrated, the tort that exists (at least in New York) is quite narrowly articulated and seems unlikely to quash the work of bloggers and citizen journalists in situations where they might be sued by the Associated Press. Finally, it seems that one important issue that must be resolved in such a future case, heard on the merits, is determining for exactly how long news actually remains “hot” or “fresh” in a world of instantaneous, digital communication. When, in other words, does news become cold? As our social expectations of faster and quicker news delivery change due to technology, does this mean that a concomitantly briefer period of quasi property ownership, per a 91year-old case, should be allowed under the hot news misappropriation tort? Although one attorney recently proposed a very precise formula for such situations under copyright law (rather than the common law hot news misappropriation tort at issue in International News
involving competing journals that cover the wood and pulp industries and centering on the claim that the sources used by one of the journals were its trade secrets and could not be used by its former employees who went to work for the rival publication). 180 No. 3:08-cv-2135, 2009 WL 585502 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 6, 2009). 181 Id. at **1-2. 182 Id. at **12-14.

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Service),183 it would seem this is indeed an area that requires the flexibility in equity that gives judges discretion when deciding whether to enjoin the likes of AHN for its alleged news piracy.

See Ryan T. Holte, Restricting Fair Use to Save the News: A Proposed Change in Copyright Law to Bring More Profit to News Reporting, 13 J. TECH. L. & POL’Y 1, 3 (2008) (proposing “a change to current copyright law to bring more profit to news reporting” that “centers around allowing journalists, and the companies they work for, to own 98% of the investigated and researched facts they uncover for twenty-four hours after the story is first published”).
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HOT NEWS MISAPPROPRIATION AND BARCLAYS V. THEFLYONTHEWALL.COM   In 2003, prolific legal scholar and 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner published a law  review article entitled "Misappropriation: A Dirge," which discussed—among other things—the  continued viability of "hot news" misappropriation, a theory of unfair competition that dates  back to the Supreme Court's 1918 case, International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S.  215 (1918), which involved unauthorized re‐publication of wire service reports.1 Contrary to  what Posner's title might suggest, the article didn't outright announce the death of the hot  news doctrine, but it did paint a picture of a legal doctrine on the ropes—disdained by noted  jurists, unwise as a matter of policy, and limited in practical significance. For better or worse, a  decision issued on March 18, 2010 shows the doctrine to be very much alive and relevant. In  fact, the case raises some disturbing prospects for news aggregation and sharing of information  on the Internet more generally.     In Barclays Capital Inc. v. TheFlyOnTheWall.com, ‐‐‐ F.Supp.2d ‐‐‐‐, 2010 WL 1005160  (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2010), Judge Denise Cote of the United States District Court for the Southern  District of New York issued a permanent injunction requiring the Internet‐based financial news  site FlyOnTheWall.com ("Fly") to delay its reporting of the stock recommendations of research  analysts from three prominent Wall Street firms, Barclays Capital Inc., Merrill Lynch, and  Morgan Stanley. The injunction requires Fly to wait until 10 a.m. E.S.T. before publishing the  facts associated with analyst research released before the market opens, and to postpone  publication for at least two hours for research issued after the opening bell.    The injunction is based on Judge Cote's finding, after a bench trial, that Fly engaged in  hot news misappropriation, "free‐riding activity that is directly competitive with the Firms'  production of time‐sensitive information, thereby substantially threatening their incentive to  continue in the business." Barclays, at *32. Morgan Stanley and Barclays also succeeded on  copyright infringement claims relating to Fly's unauthorized copying and distribution of  excerpts from their research reports for a few weeks in 2005, but the court awarded relatively  minor damages on those claims and this doesn't impact Fly's current business practices, which  no longer involve verbatim reproductions or close paraphrases of analyst research.   Background    Like other Wall Street firms, Barclays, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley produce  analyst research reports on stocks. The firms distribute these reports for a fee to their clients,  usually large institutional investors. The firms often release these reports before the NYSE  opens for the day, and the reports contain recommendations (buy/sell/hold) that, according to  the firms, often spur investors into making trades, usually through the firm that issued the 
                                                            
1

 Richard A. Posner, Misappropriation: A Dirge, 40 HOU. L. REV. 621 (2003). 

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report. As a result, the release of a report often has a significant impact on the market price for  the stock in question.    The firms' paying clients gain access to the reports through several means, including the  firms' password‐protected websites, licensed third‐party distributors like Bloomberg and  Thomson Reuters (presumably also using some sort of password protection), and email  messages. In addition, the firms host private conference calls or webcasts in which their  analysts discuss their research reports and recommendations with clients. Access to these calls  and webcasts is restricted to those with the required passcode or login.     The firms take various precautions to ensure that the reports go only to paying clients.  For example, they forbid employees from sharing the reports, their licensing agreements  purport to forbid the clients from redistributing the research content, and licensed distributors  like Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters contractually agree to maintain a "firewall" so that their  media arms can't obtain information from their research arms.    Inevitably, though, the research reports and the recommendations contained in them  leak out, and Fly pioneered the business model of publishing this information for its own clients  on a newsfeed over the Internet. The model has caught on, and, according to the court,  presently "there is a crowded marketplace with small internet companies and major news  organizations reporting the Firms' Recommendations before and after the market opens."  Barclays, at *13.    According to Judge Cote's opinion, it looks like Fly's operations have changed  significantly over the last few years, largely in response to the firms' lawsuit. Before 2005, Fly  relied primarily on employees at the firms who emailed research reports to Fly after they were  released to clients (this was pretty clearly a violation of the employees' duties of loyalty and  confidentiality to the firms). At that time, Fly staff would type the recommendation as a  headline, sometimes accompanied by a verbatim reproduction or close paraphrase of a passage  from the report explaining the basis for the recommendation. Barclays, at *12. Hence the  copyright claims for Fly's conduct in 2005.    As a result of the lawsuit, however, Fly apparently changed its information‐gathering  process. According to testimony from Ron Etergino, Fly's president and majority owner, he "no  longer feels free to look at the research reports, even if someone should send them to him," id.,  and he now gathers information about the firms' reports from other sources:  According to Etergino, he checks first to see what Recommendations have been  reported on Bloomberg Market News. Then he checks Dow Jones, Thomson Reuters,  and Fly's competitors such as TTN, StreetAcount.com, and Briefing.com. Next, he visits  chat rooms to which he has been invited to participate by the moderator. . . . Etergino  also receives "blast IMs" through the Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, or IMTrader  messaging services that may go to dozens or hundreds of individuals. Finally, Etergino 
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exchanges IMs, emails, and more rarely telephone calls with individual traders at hedge  funds, money managers, and other contacts on Wall Street.  Id. In other words, Fly acquires information about the reports through a process that looks a  whole lot like good‐old fashioned journalism. And it largely relies on information that is publicly  available through mainstream and Internet media reports, IM blasts, and what appear to be  open chat rooms. The result is a headline like this: "EQIX: Equinox initiated with a Buy at  FofA/Merrill. Target $110." Barclays, at *10.  Hot News and Copyright Law    As noted, the main dispute in the Barclays case was not about verbatim copying, but  about Fly publishing time‐sensitive facts from the firms' research reports—essentially, the  buy/sell recommendations. Facts are not protected by copyright law. Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural  Telephone Service Co., Inc., 499 U.S. 340, 345 (1991). While the firms' recommendations aren't  exactly facts in the same way as "hard news," the firms appeared to concede that they couldn't  stop Fly's current reporting practices through resort to copyright law. Enter the hot news  misappropriation doctrine, which is controversial precisely because it provides IP‐like  protection to facts despite copyright law's bedrock policy that facts are in the public domain.    In International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215 (1918), the Supreme  Court created the hot news misappropriation doctrine as a matter of federal common law, and  some state courts, like those in New York, adopted it as part of state unfair competition law.  The INS case arose after British and French censors barred INS from sending war dispatches to  the United States because its owner, Hearst, had offended the British and French by siding with  Germany at the outset of WWI. See Posner, at 627. INS employees got around this problem by  paraphrasing AP dispatches published in east coast newspapers and sending them by telegraph  to the West Coast for publication in Hearst newspapers. See INS, 248 U.S. at 231‐32 (at issue  was INS's practice of "copying news from bulletin boards and from early editions of  complainant's newspapers and selling this, either bodily or after rewriting it, to defendant's  customers"); id. at 259‐60 (Brandeis, J., dissenting) ("The means by which the International  News Service obtains news gathered by the Associated Press is also clearly unobjectionable. It is  taken from papers bought in the open market or from bulletins publicly posted.").    The INS Court acknowledged that AP had no copyright claim because it had failed to  register and/or place copyright notices on its news reports (now no longer a requirement under  U.S. copyright law), and because copyright law did not extend to the facts contained in the  reports. But, the Court nonetheless enjoined INS from using AP's news reports in direct  competition with the news service, finding that the INS's free riding "speaks for itself and a  court of equity ought not to hesitate long in characterizing it as unfair competition in business."  Id. at 240. Justices Holmes and Brandeis wrote powerful dissents, decrying the majority's  opinion as unprecedented, unnecessary, and unwise. 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

  The main policy justification advanced by the majority, which remains the motivating  principle behind the hot news doctrine today, is that protecting hot‐news‐type information is  necessary to preserve the incentives that drive economic actors to make the substantial  investment required to produce a socially valuable product or service in the first place. Posner  characterizes this policy impulse as protecting against the danger of "killing the goose that laid  the golden eggs." Posner, at 628.    In the Barclays case, the idea is that Wall Street research reports are a social good—they  help disseminate information important to the proper functioning of the securities markets that  otherwise would not be produced. This may be a disputable proposition, but it's one the court  accepted. And, the theory goes, Wall Street firms like Barclays and Merrill Lynch won't go to the  expense of producing these socially valuable reports if companies like Fly can free ride off of  them and undermine the money‐making potential of the practice. Again, it's disputable  whether Fly's conduct, rather than other economic factors (like international economic  meltdown), has hurt demand for the firms' reports, but Judge Cote found as a matter of fact  that Fly's activities did create a substantial disincentive.     It’s an open question whether or not all of this is wise economic policy. But from a legal  perspective, the hot news doctrine creates an obvious tension with copyright law because, as  noted above, it creates a pseudo‐property right in facts that copyright law says are in the public  domain. This raises the specter of preemption: that is, a situation where federal law displaces  inconsistent state law under the Supremacy Clause. Judge Cote's opinion in Barclays does a  very thorough job on this issue and determines that federal copyright law does not preempt  hot news misappropriation, or at least a narrow version of it. This result was a foregone  conclusion for Judge Cote because the Second Circuit Court of Appeals had already said as  much in National Basketball Association v. Motorola, Inc., 105 F.3d 841 (2d Cir. 1997), which is  controlling precedent in the Southern District of New York.    Under NBA, the narrow version of hot news misappropriation that survives copyright  preemption has the following elements:    (i) a plaintiff generates or gathers information at a cost; (ii) the information is time‐ sensitive; (iii) a defendant's use of the information constitutes free riding on the  plaintiff's efforts; (iv) the defendant is in direct competition with a product or service  offered by the plaintiffs; and (v) the ability of other parties to free‐ride on the efforts of  the plaintiff or others would so reduce the incentive to produce the product or service  that its existence or quality would be substantially threatened.  Barclays, at *20 (quoting NBA, 105 F.3d at 845). Posner says that the "meat" of the test is in  element (v), with (i) through (iv) describing a situation where (v) is likely to be satisfied. Posner,  at 632. Therefore, "[t]he criterion appears to mean that states can protect fact gathering  without running afoul of the preemption provision in the federal copyright statute only when 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

unauthorized copying of the facts is likely to deter the plaintiff or others similarly situated from  gathering and disseminating the facts that the defendant has copied." Id. The test is "alarmingly  fuzzy once the extreme position of creating a legal right against all free riding is rejected, as it  must be." Id. at 638.     In other words, the hot news doctrine presents an inherently subjective and necessarily  fact‐specific standard, and one would expect courts to be cautious in finding it met, if for no  other reasons than to avoid the potential conflict with copyright law and to promote the  public's access to information. In Barclays, the firms convinced Judge Cote at trial that each  element was satisfied, demonstrating that, while it may take a unique set of facts, it's not an  impossible task.   What About the First Amendment?      Notably lacking from Judge Cote's very thorough opinion is any discussion of how hot  news misappropriation interacts with the First Amendment. This could be because Fly didn't  argue the point in its final papers, at least not directly. (Although Fly did raise the First  Amendment as an affirmative defense in its answer.) As we'll see below, though, Fly  undoubtedly raised factual arguments that bear on the question.    The First Amendment issue is an important one because the Supreme Court didn't  address it in INS. Justice Brandeis's dissent gives us a First Amendment tingle in his famous  statement, "[t]he general rule of law is, that the noblest of human productions—knowledge,  truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas—become, after voluntary communication to others,  free as the air to common use," 248 U.S. at 250 (Brandeis, J., dissenting), but even he didn't  seem to appreciate the constitutional implications of the case. It's also an important question  because First Amendment doctrine has developed considerably since 1918, and free speech  concerns of which the Justices then had only a vague inkling now have become an accepted  part of the constitutional landscape.    A long line of Supreme Court cases hold that the First Amendment protects truthful  speech on matters of public concern. See, e.g., Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514, 527‐28, 533‐35  (2001) (First Amendment barred imposition of civil damages under wiretapping law for  publishing contents of conversation relevant to matter of public concern); Florida Star v. B.J.F.,  491 U.S. 524, 534 (1989) (First Amendment barred imposition of civil damages on newspaper  for publishing rape victim’s name); Smith v. Daily Mail Publ’g Co., 443 U.S. 97, 103‐06 (1979)  (First Amendment barred prosecution under state statute for publishing names of juvenile  offenders without permission of court); Landmark Comms., Inc. v. Virginia, 435 U.S. 829, 841‐42  (1978) (First Amendment barred criminal prosecution for disclosing information from a  confidential judicial discipline proceeding). Therefore, “if a newspaper lawfully obtains truthful  information about a matter of public significance then state officials may not constitutionally 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

punish publication of the information, absent a need to further a state interest of the highest  order.”  Smith, 443 U.S. at 103; accord Bartnicki, 532 U.S. at 527‐28.    In Bartnicki v. Vopper, members of a teachers union sued a radio announcer under state  and federal wiretapping laws after he played an unlawfully recorded telephone conversation on  the air. The radio show host had received the recording from a third party who himself had  received the tape in the mail from an anonymous source. The Supreme Court held that the First  Amendment prohibited the recovery of damages against the radio show host for publishing the  tape, explaining that “a stranger’s illegal conduct does not suffice to remove the First  Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern.”  532 U.S. at 535. The  constitutional principle in Bartnicki and other Supreme Court cases is not limited to traditional  forms of media like newspapers and radio broadcasters. See Mary T. Jean v. Massachusetts  State Police, 492 F.3d 24 (1st Cir. 2007) (First Amendment barred criminal prosecution for  posting illegally recorded video online when recording made by third party, even if knowing  receipt of the recording constituted a crime under Massachusetts law).    In Barclays, Judge Cote considered it unimportant that Fly obtained the information it  published from other news services that were publishing the firms' recommendations on the  Internet in advance of Fly's own publication. The court said that "the conduct of third parties is  simply of no moment in finding Fly liable for hot‐news misappropriation," and "it is not a  defense to misappropriation that a Recommendation is already in the public domain by the  time Fly reports it." Barclays, at *22. This may be a faithful application of the INS case itself— recall that INS involved taking facts from publicly available bulletin boards and published  newspaper accounts—but INS never considered the First Amendment, so it can't resolve the  issue.     Under Bartnicki and the cases mentioned above, if Fly obtained the information in  question through lawful means, then the First Amendment protects its right to publish that  information. There is nothing inherently unlawful about Fly reading about a stock  recommendation on a newsfeed provided by another news service or participating in a public  chat room where Wall Street "rumors" are discussed (accessing a passcode‐protected  conference call would be another matter). The court says that Fly has engaged in "illegal  conduct" by publishing the information it did, Barclays, at *22, but this label begs the  question—that is, whether the state may constitutionally penalize publication of truthful  information relating to a matter of public concern that was not obtained in violation of any  other applicable laws.    To be sure, the person who originally leaks a firm research report to a news service or  chat room participant may violate a legal duty owed to one of the firms, but "a stranger's illegal  conduct" is not sufficient to remove First Amendment protection under Bartnicki. The question  is closer for Fly's pre‐lawsuit‐era publication of reports received directly from firm employees 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

who violated a duty of loyalty and confidentiality. It might be independently "unlawful" in the  constitutional sense to knowingly induce a breach of these duties, but even in the trade secrets  sphere this question has not been resolved with any clarity. Furthermore, it would not be  "unlawful" for Fly to communicate by email or telephone with firm clients who are willing to  convey the substance of the recommendations, though this probably violates the client's  license agreement. Regrettably, the court did not differentiate between Fly's different  information‐gathering tactics, and it enjoined publication of information obtained through at  least some practices that clearly aren't "unlawful" in any meaningful sense.    The court might well respond to all this by arguing that the firms' reports are not facts  related to a matter of public concern like ordinary news, but rather "subjective judgments  based on complex and imperfect evidence."  Barclays, at *29. There may well be a  constitutionally significant distinction between reporting the subjective recommendations  generated by these Wall Street firms and objective, external facts that are discovered "out  there" in the world. On the other hand, these subjective judgments have objective, real‐world  consequences, and the announcement of a recommendation is itself a newsworthy event  because it may cause a change in a stock's price. It is difficult, and potentially hazardous, to try  to distinguish between reporting the "subjective" recommendations versus reporting the  "objective" fact that they were made, especially when the publication in question looks like  this: "EQIX: Equinox initiated with a Buy at FofA/Merrill. Target $110."     The court may have ameliorated some of the First Amendment concerns by clarifying  that the scope of its injunction, like the scope of hot news misappropriation, is narrow:    [T]o the extent Fly alters its business and begins to engage in actual analysis of market  movements, and refers on occasion after the market opens in New York to one of the  Firms' Recommendations in the context of independent analytical reporting on a  significant market movement that has already occurred that same day, such conduct  will not run afoul of the injunction.  Id. at *32. But, this description of speech activity (the court doesn't frame it in terms of speech)  that won't be enjoined displays an obvious preference for original/sweat of the  brow/"analytical" content‐creation over the free transmission of facts and information, which is  a lot of what happens on the Internet. 
 

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FEDERAL OPEN RECORDS LAW: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA)  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT  OVERVIEW  The Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), enacted in 1966, provides access to the public  records of all departments, agencies, and offices of the Executive Branch of the federal  government, including the Executive Office of the President. FOIA does not cover the  sitting President, Congress, or the federal judiciary. The statute requires federal  agencies to:  1. 2. 3. 4. Provide access to their records and information, barring certain exceptions;  Suffer penalties for refusing to release covered information;  Appoint a FOI officer charged with responding to information requests; and  Publish agency regulations and policy statements, including their rules for  handling FOIA information requests, in the Federal Register. 

FOIA gives the right to request access to government records to any person for any  reason, whether the person is a U.S. citizen or a foreign national. Requests can be made  in the name of an individual or an organization (including a corporation, partnership, or  public interest group). Individuals have the same access rights as professional  journalists, though journalists who work for established media organizations sometimes  receive better treatment from records‐keepers. Individuals probably won’t qualify for  some of the perks afforded to media professionals, such as fee waivers and expedited  processing, but they are just as capable of using records requests to reveal information  that is important to the public. In fact, according to one study, more FOIA requests  come from ordinary citizens than from professional media organizations.  FOIA covers records from all federal regulatory agencies, cabinet and military  departments, offices, commissions, government‐controlled corporations, the Executive  Office of the President, and other organizations of the Executive Branch of the federal  government. 5 U.S.C. § 552(f).   FOIA does NOT apply to the President, Congress (or members of Congress), or the  federal courts and federal judiciary. Some federally funded organizations may not be  covered by FOIA if the government does not control or regulate their operation.  However, any of those organizations’ records that are filed with federal agencies may be  covered. No private persons or organizations are covered by FOIA. State and local  governments are not covered by FOIA, including federally‐funded state agencies, but all  states and some local governments have passed freedom of information laws. Requests  for information from a state or local governments must be made under that  jurisdiction's freedom of information legislation.   All non‐exempt electronic and physical records held by federal agencies must be  disclosed under FOIA. Federal agencies covered by FOIA are permitted to withhold 

documents, or redact portions of documents, if the records (or information in the  records) are covered by one of the nine exemptions established by FOIA. One of the  most common exemptions relied on the exemption for national security.  There are a number of ways that you can receive government records. The easiest  method is to access an agency's online “reading room” which provides free access to  certain government documents.     AGENCY RECORDS SUBJECT TO FOIA  Any records created, possessed, or controlled by a federal regulatory agency, cabinet  and military departments, offices, commissions, government‐controlled corporations,  the Executive Office of the President, and other organizations of the Executive Branch of  the federal government must be disclosed unless the information contained in the  records is covered by a specific FOIA exemption. FOIA only extends to existing records;  you cannot compel an agency to create or search for information that is not already in  its records. Nor can you use FOIA to compel agencies to answer your general questions  under FOIA. However, you sometimes can agree to accept information in an abbreviated  form rather than the actual documents.  Agencies are required to make the following records available for public inspection and  copying without a formal FOIA request via the Federal Register:  • • • • • final opinions made in the adjudication of cases;  unpublished policy statements and agency interpretations;  staff manuals that affect the public;  copies of records released in response to previous FOIA requests have been or  will likely be the subject of additional requests; and  a general index of released records determined to have been or likely to be the  subject of additional requests. 

Physical records of any description can be requested under FOIA. Traditional typed  documents, as well as maps, diagrams, charts, index cards, printouts and other kinds of  paper records can be requested.   The increasing availability of electronic versions of government records is one of the  most important developments in public access to government information. “E‐records,”  as these records are sometimes called, generally are simpler and quicker to obtain,  easier to analyze, and otherwise better suited to citizen use. With the invention of  online reading rooms and FOIA sections of agency websites, many records take no more  effort to access than personal e‐mail. Information from e‐records can be organized into  databases, searched, and plugged into tables and charts, making it possible to perform  in‐depth analysis in much less time—which opens up new possibilities for public use of  government information. 

  Besides quicker access and (possibly) cheaper reproduction costs, electronic records  have several advantages over their paper‐based counterparts. E‐records can be  compiled into databases for easy searching and comparison. They are easier to sort  through quickly, possibly making it easier to find patterns and discrepancies. This can  make the information‐gathering process significantly simpler and more efficient, which  is a great help to those who don’t have the time and resources to mount in‐depth  investigations. For more information on ways to use electronic records, the Poynter  Institute has an online bibliography of computer‐assisted reporting (CAR) primers and  other sources of information.  Electronic records are becoming more and more prevalent as the government continues  to expand its use of technology. Because of this, any record you seek could be available  in electronic format. Whether you’re talking directly to a records‐keeper or filing an  official FOIA request, you should consider asking for electronic copies of the records you  are requesting. Depending on the agency, you may be able to specify whether you  receive e‐records by e‐mail attachment, CD, or other medium. Some states, for instance,  allow the requester to receive records in the format of their choice. An agency must  make requested records available in electronic format at the request of a person if the  record is readily reproducible by the agency in electronic format (§ 552(a)(3)(B)).  Congress extended the Freedom of Information Act to electronic records by enacting  the Government Printing Office Electronic Information Enhancement Act of 1993  ("Electronic Information Act") and the Electronic Freedom of Information Act  Amendments of 1996 ("E‐FOIA"). The Electronic Information Act requires government to  maintain an online directory of Federal electronic information, including the  Congressional Record, the official record of Congress’ proceedings and debates, as well  as the Federal Register, which contains agencies’ regulations and policy statements. E‐ FOIA requires that government agencies:  • • • prepare electronic forms of records and record indexes;  offer access to those records;  have a FOIA section of their websites, on which they must post agency  regulations, administrative opinions, policy statements, staff manuals, and other  records;  identify common records requests and make those records available online;  create online reading rooms that include information available in traditional  reading rooms; and  create reference guides for accessing agency information, which must be  available online. 

• • •  

While the records you've requested might be covered by FOIA, the information  contained in the records may relate to certain subject areas that are exempt from  disclosure under FOIA. FOIA contains nine exemptions that might impact your request:    1. Classified Documents‐‐information classified in the interests of national security  or foreign policy can be withheld (§ 552(b)(1)(A)).  2. Internal Agency Personnel Rules‐‐ information relating to internal agency  practices is exempt if it is a trivial administrative matter of no genuine public  interest (e.g., a rule governing lunch hours for agency employees) or if disclosure  would risk circumvention of law or agency regulations (e.g., an employee's  computer user id) (§ 552(b)(2)).  3. Information Exempt Under Other Laws‐‐an agency is prohibited from disclosing  information that protected from disclosing under other federal laws. For  example, federal tax laws prohibit the disclosure of personal income tax returns  (§ 552(b)(3)).  4. Trade Secrets or Confidential Commercial Information‐‐this exemption applies to  trade secrets (commercially valuable plans, formulas, processes, or devices) and  commercial information obtained from a person (other than an agency) that  would be likely to harm the competitive position of the person if disclosed (such  as a company's marketing plans, profits, or costs (§ 552(b)(4)).  5. Internal Agency Memoranda and Policy Discussions‐‐in order to protect the  deliberative policymaking processes of government, internal agency memoranda  and letters between agencies discussing potential policy options are exempted  from disclosure (§ 552(b)(5)).  6. Personal Privacy‐‐private data held by agencies about individuals is exempt if  disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy, but a  person is not prevented from obtaining private information about themselves (§  552(b)(6)).  7. Law Enforcement Investigations‐‐this exemption allows the withholding of  information that would, among other things, interfere with enforcement  proceedings or investigations, deprive a person of a right to a fair trial, breach a  person's privacy interest in information maintained in law enforcement files,  reveal law enforcement techniques and procedures, or endanger the life or  physical safety of any individual (§ 552(b)(7)).  8. Federally Regulated Banks‐‐information that is contained in or related to reports  prepared by or for a bank supervisory agency such as the Federal Deposit  Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve, are exempt (§ 552(b)(8)).  9. Oil and Gas Wells‐‐geological and geophysical data about oil and gas wells are  exempted from disclosure (§ 552(b)(9)).  Other than exemption number 3 ‐‐ which relates to information exempt under other  federal law ‐‐ these exemptions are permissive, not mandatory. This means that FOIA 

allows an agency to refuse to disclose otherwise covered records, or to redact portions  of documents, but it does not compel the agency to do so.   An agency must state which exemption it is relying on when it withholds documents or  redacts information. In addition, agencies are required to disclose all non‐exempt  information, even if it is contained in a record that contains other information that is  exempt from disclosure. In other words, if an exemption only applies to a portion of a  record, the agency must release the remainder of the document after the exempt  material has been redacted.    ACCESSING FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RECORDS  FOIA requires that all federal agencies maintain online reading rooms that provide  electronic versions of their regulations, policy statements, and records. Reading rooms  are the easiest method of obtaining certain types of government information, because  accessing them requires only a few clicks on an agency’s website. Therefore, you should  always start by checking to see if the records you are seeking are already available in the  reading room. The type and amount of information available in the reading rooms vary  greatly by agency, but many include a number of useful records.  If you can't get what you want through a reading room, you should carefully consider  how (and in what form) you want the responding agency to provide the documents to  you.  If the information is not available online, you can try simply asking for it. Agencies are  required to make the following records available for public inspection and copying  without a formal FOIA request:  • • • • final opinions made in the adjudication of cases  unpublished policy statements and agency interpretations  staff manuals that affect the public  copies of records released in response to previous FOIA requests that are of  sufficient interest to the public that they will likely be the subject of additional  requests  a general index of released records determined to have been or likely be the  subject of additional requests 

Explain what records you’re seeking and that you’re prepared to file an official request if  necessary. A record‐keeper familiar with FOIA might honor a request made in‐person or  via telephone, saving both you and the agency time and (possibly) money. If that  doesn’t work, you can try speaking to the agency’s FOIA officer.   

If you cannot access the records through these informal means, you then will need to  file a formal FOIA request.  The United States Government Manual contains a list of federal agencies and a brief  description of their functions. The Manual also contains the addresses and telephone  numbers for each agency. Online Directories to Government Information provide  information on which agencies have responsibility for various subject areas. The Library  of Congress provides links to congressional committees, publications, and other  information. While Congress is not subject to FOIA, the Library of Congress has  extensive records on many government agencies. The National Archives and Records  Administration contains extensive records from across the federal government,  including the historical records of federal agencies, congressional bodies, and courts.  In your request you can ask to receive either an electronic copy or a physical copy of the  records. If the records already exist in the form that you request them in, then the  agency must generally provide the records in your preferred form. However, if you  request an electronic copy of records that only exist in paper form, then the agency  must only provide you with an electronic copy if it is reasonably able to do so, meaning  that the record is "readily reproducible" in the alternate format. If you would prefer a  certain type of electronic format, the agency need only provide the records in that  specific format if it is reasonably able to do so. See 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(3)(B).  Depending on the agency, physical copies of records may usually be mailed or faxed to  you, while electronic copies of records may either be e‐mailed to you or sent to you on a  CD‐ROM or other disk drive. Because of the various ways you can receive the records, it  is very important that you specify your preferred method when you initially file your  request.    WRITTEN FOIA REQUESTS  Written requests are the only way to legally assert your FOIA rights. These should be  mailed, faxed, e‐mailed, or hand‐delivered to the relevant agency’s offices, depending  on which methods the agency allows. A quick online search of the agency's name and  "FOIA" should provide you with specific information about how the particular agency  accepts FOIA requests. If you can't find the information through an online search, check  the Federal Register, which should include this information.  A FOIA request should be addressed to the agency's FOIA officer or the head of the  agency. It must include:  • Your name and contact information, including your address if you want the  records mailed to you or your e‐mail address if you are requesting that electronic  records be e‐mailed to you.  A statement that you are seeking records under the Freedom of Information Act. 

A description of the record(s) you are seeking. The only requirement is that you  “reasonably describe” the records. Basically, this means that you must give  enough information that a record‐keeper would be able to find the records  without an undue amount of searching. It is generally advisable to make the  request as specific as possible, so if you know the title or the date of a particular  document, or can precisely describe the class of documents you seek, you should  set out these details. Being specific helps you avoid paying fees for records that  you actually do not need and helps to expedite your request.  

In addition to the required elements listed above, you might want to include some of  the following additional information in your request:  • • Your preferred method of contact for any questions about the record(s) you are  seeking, whether it be mail, e‐mail, or telephone.  Your preferred medium for receiving the record(s), such as paper, CD‐ROM,  microfiche, e‐mail attachment, etc. (note that you are not always guaranteed to  receive the records in your preferred format, but the agency will attempt to  honor such requests if possible). See the section on Requesting Electronic  Records in this guide for more information.  You do not need to tell the government organization why you want the  information; every person has a right to request records regardless of his or her  profession. That said, you may want to inform the record‐keeper that you plan  to use the information to publish on a matter of public interest.  A request for a fee waiver or expedited review for your request, if applicable.  The maximum fee you are willing to pay for your record(s). You should indicate  that you wish to be contacted if the charges will exceed this amount. 

• •

Your FOIA request should be addressed to the relevant agency's FOIA officer or the head  of the agency. The U.S. Department of Justice has a fairly comprehensive list of FOIA  contacts at federal agencies. If the agency you want isn't listed there, you can usually  find the information easily by conducting a quick web search; just type in "agency's  name" and "FOIA contact." If you are unsure of which agency to send your request to,  the US Government Manual may be of assistance. You will likely receive a faster  response if you make your request in accordance with the agency's own FOIA  regulations (these can be viewed in the Code of Federal Regulations), but the above  minimum requirements are sufficient to make a valid FOIA request.  Technically, government organizations must respond to a FOIA request with a denial or  grant of access within 20 business days. Note that the agency must only respond within  20 days; it does not have to deliver the records within the 20‐day time period. The time  period does not begin until the proper agency or office actually receives your request.  Furthermore, under the new 2007 FOIA amendments, the agency may exceed the 20‐ day time limit if it needs to request more information from you in order to process your  request. 

Agencies may extend this time limit by up to 10 additional working days (they must  inform you they are doing so) if one of the following "exceptional circumstances" exists:  the record‐keeper must search an extraordinary amount of records; the search involves  records from multiple offices; or the search involves records from multiple  organizations. If your request cannot be fulfilled within these time periods, the agency  may ask you to reasonably modify your request or allow for an alternative time frame.  Realistically, many agencies do not comply with these time limits. Some agencies may  have a large backlog of requests, and they are usually permitted to treat requests on a  "first come, first served" basis as long as they devote a reasonable amount of staff to  responding to the requests. These agencies generally have a processing system that  allows simpler requests to be handled quickly so that these requests do not have to  "wait in line" behind more complex requests.    Expedited processing  FOIA provides for requests to receive “expedited review” if the request meets certain  requirements. Generally speaking, you will be entitled to expedited treatment if health  and safety are at issue or if there is an urgent public interest in the government activity  at issue.  If you think there is a compelling reason why you need the information sooner than the  normal period under FOIA, you should clearly explain your reasons in your initial FOIA  request. Agencies must decide whether or not to grant expedited processing within 10  calendar days of the request. Aside from these specific circumstances listed above,  agencies may use their discretion in deciding whether or not to grant expedited review.  So, it doesn’t hurt to ask even if you don’t meet the requirements.  You should also check the individual agency's requirements to see if they allow other  types of requests to receive expedited treatment. The Department of Justice, for  instance, offers expedited review “for requests concerning issues of government  integrity that have already become the object of widespread national media interest” or  “if delay might cause the loss of substantial due process rights.”     Checking the Status of Your Request  Under the 2007 FOIA amendments, the agency must provide you with a tracking  number if your request will take longer than 10 days to process. Then, if you haven't  heard back from an agency or are unsure about the status of your request, you can use  the tracking number to find out more information. Each agency is required to have at  least one "FOIA Requester Service Center" that can give information about the status of  pending FOIA requests. The agency must tell you the date that it received your request 

and must give an estimated date that it will complete your request. The centers can  generally be contacted by mail, e‐mail, or telephone.    FEES  Federal agencies are allowed to charge “reasonable” costs for responding to your FOIA  request. This typically includes fees for the time the record‐keeper spends searching for  the correct documents as well as the cost of duplicating those documents. See 5 U.S.C.  552(a)(4)(A).  FOIA breaks down requesters into three categories for determining fees:  • • Commercial use requesters, who must pay all fees for search, duplication, and  review  Requesters from the professional media, educational institutions, and scientific  institutions, who do not have to pay search fees and only pay duplication costs  after the first 100 pages  All other requestors, who pay search fees after the first two hours and  duplication costs after the first 100 pages 

Note that this means that small requests should always be free as long as the  information is not intended for commercial purposes. Also, you should always be as  specific as possible when describing the documents in your initial FOIA request. This will  reduce the amount of time that the record‐keeper must spend searching for the  documents, which will potentially save you money.  Non‐traditional journalists generally will fall into the last category ‐‐ and thus may be on  the hook for search fees ‐‐ even if they intend to publish the information in blogs,  websites, or other media. If you are not associated with professional media, you can  always request that you should be considered under the second category because of  your intent to publish. The New FOIA Reform Act, which goes into effect in December  2008, seems to broaden the scope of the "professional media" category. Under the new  amendment, a person can be considered part of the news media if he or she gathers  information that is of public interest, creates a distinct work, and distributes that work  to an audience. However, the Reform Act cautions that this is not an all‐inclusive  category, so it remains to be seen if bloggers and other citizen journalists will be able to  benefit from fee waivers generally only reserved for "professional" media.   The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's FOIA Guide breaks down some of  the actual fees you can expect to pay:  • Search fees generally range from $11 to $28 per hour, based on the salary and  benefits of the employee doing the search. Fees for computer time, which are  described in each agency’s FOI regulations, vary greatly. They may be as high as 

$270 per hour. Photocopying costs are normally between 3 and 25 cents per  page.  If you think your request could involve a significant amount of search time or  copying, make sure your FOIA request includes a limit on the fees you’re willing  to pay. You may also want to ask in advance for an estimate of what the  expected fees may be. 

Here are some additional things to keep in mind when dealing with fee issues:  • • Agencies can charge search fees even if they don’t find any documents that  satisfy your request, since the futile search still took time.  As long as you aren’t requesting the information for commercial purposes,  agencies cannot charge you for time they spend deciding whether documents  should be exempt or time they spend blacking out restricted information from  the documents.  Organizations can’t require you to pay in advance if the expected fee is less than  $250 and you don’t have a prior history of failing to make payments with the  organization. 

Under FOIA, organizations are required to publish fee schedules in the Federal Register.  An organization’s FOI officer should be able to provide you with the schedule, though  some are available on organizations’ websites. The fee schedule includes information  about how much the particular agency charges for searching, copying, etc.  You can always try asking the organization to waive or reduce fees, even if you haven't  formally requested a fee waiver.    Fee waivers and fee reductions  Under the Freedom of Information Reform Act of 1986, your FOIA requests could be  eligible for total or partial waiver of fees if you can show that the disclosure of the  information is in the public interest—even if you aren’t a professional journalist. This  requires that you specifically request a waiver or reduction of fees and explain why you  think the public has an interest in understanding the information. You also must explain  any financial interest you have in the information, though a financial stake in publishing  the information ‐‐ such as if you are paid to blog ‐‐ should not pose a problem.  Agencies consider fee waiver requests on a case‐by‐case basis. You can appeal fee or  waiver decisions in the same way you appeal request denials.    LEGAL REMEDIES UNDER FOIA IF YOUR REQUEST IS DENIED 

You have several options if your FOIA request is denied in whole or in part. First, you can  attempt to resolve informally any disputes you have with the responding agency. If  informal resolution fails, you should appeal the denial within the relevant agency before  taking any other action. If your appeal is unsuccessful and the agency withheld the  information because it is classified, you can apply to have the information declassified. If  these options have failed to resolve the dispute, you can seek mediation through the  newly authorized FOIA ombudsman or file a lawsuit in court to enforce your rights  under FOIA.    Informal Resolution  The simplest ‐‐ and often most effective ‐‐ remedy is to seek informal resolution of the  dispute. Delays are frequently due to the overworked nature of most FOIA officers. Your  offer to "revise" or "narrow" the scope of your request can go a long way toward getting  faster, and better, treatment of your request. If you revise your request, be sure to  make clear that you willingness to compromise is not considered a "new" request by the  agency (a new request will start the FOIA clock running again). If the agency tells you  that the records don't exist, ask them to describe their search methodology. Perhaps  they aren't looking for the right things or in the right places. It might also help if you  offer to resolve fee or fee waiver issues by paying a small amount.  While you engage in informal resolution be sure and keep records of all of your contacts  with the agency. Track all time and response deadlines carefully.    Appealing within the Relevant Agency  If the agency denies your request or does not respond within the required time period,  you can appeal to the agency's FOIA Appeals Officer. If the agency sent you a denial  letter, it should set out the agency's appeal procedures. Take special note of the time  limitation for appeals, which are usually around thirty days. If you haven't received any  response from the agency (an excessive delay in complying with a request constitutes a  denial under FOIA) you should send your appeal to the head of the agency.  Appeal letters can be used to challenge the agency's failure to respond in a timely  fashion, a decision not to release records in whole or in part, the adequacy of the search  used to locate responsive records, and the agency's refusal to grant you a fee waiver.  In your FOIA appeal letter you should:  • • Cite section 552(a)(6) of FOIA and clearly list your grounds for appeal;  Attach copies of the original request letter and the denial letter; 

Take some time to explain the reasons why the denial should be reconsidered  (for example, because the exemption does not properly apply to the document,  or because the agency should waive the exemption in the current case); and  State that you expect a final ruling on your appeal within 20 working days, as  required by FOIA. 

Sample appeal letters can be found on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the  Press' website and at the National Security Archive.  Make sure you are familiar with the exemptions to FOIA so you can argue that the  records you are seeking are not or should not be exempted. If the agency denies your  appeal or does not respond within 20 days, you may file a lawsuit in federal court.  If the agency denied your request because the information is classified (i.e. the agency  relied on the national security exemption), you can make a separate request for  mandatory declassification review of the information. You can learn more about  declassification review procedure by going to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of  the Press' FOIA Guide.    Filing a Lawsuit  If your request is denied, and your internal appeal does not reverse this decision, you  may sue the agency in the United State District Court in your state of residence, in the  state where the records are located, or in the District of Columbia. It is generally  recommended that you retain an attorney to bring such a suit. If your lawsuit is  "substantially successful", the agency will be ordered to pay your attorney's fees.  However, you have the right to appear on your own behalf in court by filing a complaint  pro se.   Obtaining records through legal action can be a costly and drawn‐out process. Some  lawsuits over FOIA denials can last more than a year. If you assert that there is a public  interest in your timely access to the records, the court could speed up your case through  “expeditious consideration.”  Lastly, keep in mind that if you file a lawsuit, you must do so within six years from the  date of your initial FOIA request, even if you receive no response or an incomplete  response from the agency. 

 

Media Law in the Digital Age Exercising Your Right to Know: Getting Access to Government Information Kennesaw State University September 25, 2010

Open Records
I. A. General Georgia has a long and proud tradition of encouraging openness in governmental meetings and records. Principles of openness in government are found in the Constitution of Georgia, our state statutes, and the decisions of the appellate courts of the State of Georgia. The two statutes which apply to most meetings and records are known as the “Sunshine Acts.” These consist of the open and public meetings laws (Official Code of Georgia [O.C.G.A.] §§ 50-14-1 through 50-14-6) and the open and public records laws (O.C.G.A. §§ 50-18-70 through 50-18-76). General provisions of openness A. B. III. A. United States Constitution 6th Amendment Georgia Constitution Article 1 § 1 Paragraph 11 Open records act Definition of open records act 1. The Act provides that public records shall be open for a personal inspection by “any citizen of this state.” See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(b). Records are also to be made available to non-residents of Georgia as well. See 93 Op. Atty. Gen. 27 (1993).   C. What is a public record?  1. The statute lists the following as public records. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(a). a. b. c. d. e. f.   Documents; Papers; Letters; Maps; Books; Tapes;
1

   

II.

 

g. h. i. 2.

Photographs; Computer based or generated information (see below); or, Similar material prepared and maintained or received in the course of the operation of a public office or agency.

Public records subject to disclosure also include these items when they are received or maintained by a private person, corporation, or other private entity on behalf of a public office or agency. In other words, placing public records in private hands does not protect them from disclosure. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(a).

   

C.

Whose records are public records? 1. 2. The open records act incorporates the definition of agency set forth in the open meetings act (see below). The open records act also states that private entities that act as “vehicles” of an “agency” are subject to the open records act. An entity acts as a “vehicle” when it carries out the functions or responsibilities of an agency or other governing body covered by law. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(a).

D.

What records can be legally withheld? (most commonly referenced) 1. 2. Medical records. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(2). Confidential personnel evaluations from outside sources (and some other personnel documents). See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(5). a. Records relating to the discipline of public employees are to be released 10 days after the materials are presented to the agency for action, or 10 days after the investigation terminates. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(5).

3.

In 1992, the state legislature enacted an optional special procedure for access to information regarding those who were applying for, or were being considered for, positions such as a department head or county manager or county administrator. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(7). Upon a request to the agency: a. At least 14 calendar days prior to the meeting at which the final action or vote is to be taken for the position, the agency shall release all documents which came into its possession with respect to as many as three persons considered finalists for the job. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(7).
2

 

 

b.

An applicant at this time can withdraw his/her name from consideration and thereby avoid disclosure, in which case the identity and records of the next most qualified candidate are to be disclosed. O.C.G.A. See § 50-18-72 (a)(7).

4.

Public disclosure is not required for trade secrets which are submitted to public agencies under requirement of law. Georgia law has defined a trade secret as a secret process not patented but known only to certain individuals using it in trade having commercial value, as opposed to the mere privacy which an ordinary commercial business is carried on. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (b)(1). Public disclosure is not required for real estate records pertaining to acquisition until after the transaction. Public disclosure is not required for engineers’ costs estimates and rejected or deferred bid proposals concerning road projects until such time as the final award is made. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(6)(A)(B). Public disclosure is not required for criminal investigation records when they concern a case still under active investigation. See O.C.G.A. § 5018-72 (a)(4). a. Regardless of the status of an investigation, the initial police, arrest, and initial incident report is an open record and must be disclosed. Because the Act also covers audio and video records, 911 calls and videos of traffic stops, etc., must be disclosed as well. Individual accident reports are available under the open records act upon the submission of a written statement of need by the requesting party. See O.C.G.A. §§ 50-18-72 (a)(4)(4.1)(16).

   

5.

6.

7.

An individual’s social security number and insurance or medical information in personnel records may be redacted from such records. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(11.1). Public disclosure is not required for a public employee’s home address, home telephone number, social security number, and insurance or medical information. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(13)(13.1). Public disclosure is not required for records acquired by a public agency related to carpooling and ridesharing. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(14). Public disclosure is not required for records of security plans which would compromise security against sabotage or criminal or terrorist acts and the nondisclosure of which is necessary for the protection of public safety. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(15).
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8.

9. 10.

 

 

E. 1.

How much can we charge for copying public records? The public agency has the right to assess a copying charge of up to $.25 cents per page, as well as reasonable search and retrieval fees. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71 (c)(d). The first 15 minutes of search and retrieval time is free. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71 (d). The charges for finding and segregating the public records that are requested must be based on the rate of pay of the lowest paid employee authorized to search for and organize those records. See O.C.G.A. § 5018-71 (d). A “fee may not be imposed under O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71 when a citizen seeks only to inspect records that are routinely subject to public inspection, such as deeds... “ McFrugal Car Rental v. Garr, 262 Ga. 369, 418 S.E.2d 60 (1992). Before a public agency can collect copying costs, it must give an estimate of what those costs will be. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71.2.

2. 3.

   

4.

5. F.

When do we release public records? 1. The individual in control of the records has a reasonable time, not to exceed three business days, to determine whether the requested records are subject to access and to permit inspection and copying. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 (f). Where responsive records exist, but are not available within three business days of the request, a written description of such records, together with a timetable for their inspection and copying shall be provided within that period. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 (f). If access to the requested records is denied in whole or in part, the specific legal authority exempting such records from disclosure must be specified by Code section, subsection, and paragraph in writing. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (h). a. No addition to or amendment of such designation shall be permitted thereafter, except that such designation may be amended or supplemented one time within five days of discovery of an error or within five days of the institution of an action to enforce the release of records. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (h).

2.

3.

 

4

 

G.

Are computer records public records? 1. 2.

In 1992, the state legislature made clear that computer-based or computergenerated information is a public record. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 (a). No new fees other than those directly attributable to providing access shall be assessed where records are made available by electronic means. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71.2. Records maintained by computer shall be made available where practicable by electronic means, including internet access, subject to reasonable security restrictions preventing access to non-requested or nonavailable records. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 (g).

   

3.

H.

Penalties 1. A person who knowingly and willfully violates the open records act by failing to provide proper access, or failing to provide access within the proper time limits, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $100. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-74. The superior courts have jurisdiction in law and equity to hear actions pertaining to violations of the Open Records Act. See O.C.G.A. § 50-1873 (a). The attorney general has jurisdiction to enforce open records violations. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-73 (a). Any agency or person who provides access to information in good faith reliance on the requirements of the Open Records Act shall not be liable in any action on account of having provided access to such information. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-73 (c). As recently retired Chief Justice Norman Fletcher wrote, “if there is the slightest doubt, or any questions whatsoever... DO NOT CLOSE.” Steele v. Honea, 261 Ga. 644 (1991).

2.

3. 4.

Prepared by: Georgia First Amendment Foundation 150 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue Suite 230 Decatur, GA 30030 (404) 525-3646 www.gfaf.org 08/16/10 hmanheimer@gfaf.org

 

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6

Accessing Public Records – a Comparison between Florida and Georgia Public Records and Open Meetings Laws

Georgia Access Laws in General: Florida’s Access Laws in General: Principles of openness in government are found in the Florida has some of the oldest open records and meetings laws in Constitution of Georgia, state statutes, and the decisions of the the country. Florida’s open records law was enacted in 1909, and appellate courts of the State of Georgia. The two statutes which the “Government in the Sunshine” law that opened up access to apply to most meetings and records are known as the “Sunshine meetings of just about every aspect of State and local government Acts.” These consist of the open and public meetings laws was enacted in 1967. Fla. Stat. §§119.01, 286.011. Additionally, (Official Code of Georgia [O.C.G.A.] §§ 50-14-1 through 50-14- Article 1 of Section 24 of the Florida Constitution indicates that 6) and the open and public records laws (O.C.G.A. §§ 50-18-70 there is a right of access to records and meetings involving public through 50-18-76). business. Even though the terms of the public records and meetings laws tend to be broad and the exemptions are drafted narrowly, there is also a privacy right set forth in the state constitution that courts have used to curb the right to access on occasion. Florida’s Public Records Laws • The Florida Constitution states that “[e]very person has the right to inspect or copy any public record made or received in connection with the official business of any public body, officer, or employee of the state, or persons acting on their behalf, except with respect to records exempted pursuant to this section or specifically made confidential by this Constitution. This section specifically includes the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government and each agency or department created thereunder; counties, municipalities, and districts; and each constitutional officer, board, and commission, or

Georgia’s Public Records Laws • The Act provides that public records shall be open for a personal inspection by “any citizen of [the] state.” See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(b). Records are also to be made available to non-residents of Georgia as well. See 93 Op. Att’y. Gen. 27 (1993). • Public records are those held by agencies or private entities acting on behalf of agencies. O.C.G.A. § 50-1870(a). “Agencies” are defines as most sub-divisions of state or local government. O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(a)(1). • The statute defines public records as documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs or computer

 

entity created pursuant to law or this Constitution.” • Fla. Stat. §119.01: “it is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records shall at all times be open for a personal inspection by any person” • A “public record” is all "documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of physical form, characteristics or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency." Fla. Stat. § 119.011(12). • Non-governmental bodies that are “acting on behalf” of a public agency are also subject to the public records law, Fla. Stat. § 119.011(2) Commonly Encountered Exemptions: Commonly Encountered Exemptions: • Medical records – exempt from the public records law • Medical Records – Health care providers are directed not under O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(2) to release personally identifiable medical records under a • Personnel Records - Personnel evaluations from outside federal law – the Health Insurance Portability and sources are exempt from the public records law under Accountability Act. Autopsy records are exempt from O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(5). Records relating to the public view under Fla. Stat. § 406.135. Pursuant to an discipline of public employees and applications for attorney general’s opinion, public hospital records are government employment are exempt for a certain period open under Florida Records law. Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 97of time after they come into the hands of an agency. 49. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(5) & (7). Public disclosure is not • Personnel Records – Generally determined by the courts required for a public employee’s home address, home to be open unless it involves medical records. Law telephone number, social security number, and insurance enforcement and criminal justice personnel records – or medical information. O.C.G.A. § 50-18including those of judges, state attorneys, and public 72(a)(13)(13.1) defenders -- containing addresses, telephone numbers or • Trade Secrets – exempted from public disclosure under pictures of those personnel or their spouse or children are O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (b)(1) exempt under § 119.071(4)(d). Public Universities are • Real Estate Records – Records made by or for a state granted permission to promulgate rules exempting records entity related to real estate purchases are not public until of faculty and administrators from the public records law.

information. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(a).

 

• • •

• •

after the transaction is completed or abandoned. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(6)(A)(B). Criminal Investigations – Records of active criminal investigations are exempt from public disclosure under O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(4), except for the initial police, arrest, and initial incident, which are public records at all times. Social Security Numbers – An individual’s social security number and insurance or medical information in personnel records may be redacted from such records. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(11.1) Security Plans – Public disclosure is not required for records of security plans that would compromise security against sabotage or criminal or terrorist acts and the nondisclosure of which is necessary for the protection of public safety. See O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (a)(15 • •

Fla. Stat. § 1012.91. Records of internal investigations of law enforcement personnel or public university faculty or administrators are also exempted until the investigation is complete. Fla. Stat. § 112.533(2). Trade Secrets – exempt under Fla. Stat. § 815.045 Real Estate Records – The following statutes protect record regarding a property acquisition by a state or local government entity until after a contract for sale has been inked: Fla. Stat. §§ 125.355, 166.045, 1013.14 Criminal Investigations – Records of active criminal investigations that will lead to intelligence gathering about ongoing criminal activity are exempt from the public records law. Fla. Stat. § 119.071(2). To what extent accident reports, police blotters and incident reports do not contain records of active criminal investigations, they are open under the public records law. Social Security Numbers – Agencies have to keep social security numbers confidential under Fla. Stat. § 119.071(5) unless they are open under another statute. Security Plans – Security plans that would reveal security systems, plans or procedures of any state agency or private entity are exempted from the public records law. Fla. Stat. § 119.071(3).

Fees: • Records custodians may charge up to $.25 cents per page for copies, as well as reasonable search and retrieval fees. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71 (c)(d) • The charges for finding and segregating the public records that are requested must be based on the rate of pay of the lowest paid employee authorized to search for and organize those records, but the first 15 minutes of searching is free. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71 (d)

Fees: • Public bodies can charge the actual cost of duplication for records, not to exceed 15 cents a page for letter or legal size copies. Fla. Stat. § 119.07(4)(a)(1). • A special service charge can be charged if a request requires extensive use of technology resources or clerical support to compile but should be a reasonable charge based on the actual costs to the agency Fla. Stat. § 119.07(1)(b)

 

• Computer Records: The public records act covers electronic records, and if an agency maintains a record in electronic form, it must provide it in that form upon request. Fla. Stat. § 119.01(2)(f) Penalties: • A records custodian who willfully and knowingly defies the terms of the public records statute commits a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year of prison and a fine up to $1000. Fla. Stat. 119.10 • A requestor can sue in circuit court for denial of access to records and if they win can get attorneys fees. Fla. Stat. § 119.12(1).

No fee can be charged for a simple inspection of the record. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71 Computer Records: Computer-based or computer-generated information is a public record. If an agency maintains a record in electronic form, it must provide it in that form upon request. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 (g) Penalties: • A person who knowingly and willfully violates the open records act by failing to provide proper access, or failing to provide access within the proper time limits, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $100. O.C.G.A. §15-1874 • A requestor can bring an action for a violation of the Open Records Act in superior court. O.C.G.A. § 50-1873 (a). Also, the attorney general has jurisdiction to enforce open records violations. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-73 (a). • Any agency or person who provides access to information in good faith reliance on the requirements of the Open Records Act shall not be liable in any action on account of having provided access to such information. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-73 (c).

Georgia’s Open Meetings Laws General terms of the statute: Meetings of a state or local government entity are open to the public. OC.G.A. § 50-14-1(a)(2). The term “meeting” is defined as a quorum of the government body when official action is taken, discussed or presented. O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(a)(2).

Florida’s Open Meetings Laws General terms of the statute: "All meetings of any board or commission of any state agency or authority or of any agency or authority of any county, municipal corporation, or political subdivision . .” must be open to the public. Fla. Stat. § 286.011(1). Meeting is further defined by case law to be a gathering of two or more members of the governmental board or commission at issue. Deerfield Publishing Inc. v. Robb, 530 So.2d 510 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988)

 

Notice: The board or commission must provide reasonable notice of the meeting. Fla. Stat. § 286.011(1). Minutes of the meeting must be recorded and available to the public. Fla. Stat. § 286.011(2). Commonly Encountered Exemptions: • Pending litigation - A commission or board may meet in private to discuss pending litigation with the entity’s attorney, but a transcript needs to be taken, which should be released to the public after the litigation is over. Fla. Stat. § 286.011(8) • Trade Secrets - Trade secrets shall not be disclosed at a public meeting. Fla. Stat. §403.111. • Student Records - Meetings involving a parent or guardian’s challenge to a student record are exempt from the public meetings statute. Fla. Stat. § 286.011

Notice: Every public meeting must be noticed by posting a notice including the place and date of the meeting in a conspicuous place where the government body usually meets. O.C.G.A. 50-14-1 Commonly Encountered Exemptions: • Pending litigation - Meeting where government entities will consult with legal counsel about pending or potential litigation are exempt from the public meeting law. O.C.G.A. § 50-14-2 • Employment decisions- Meetings involving discussions or deliberations regarding employee appointments, hiring or disciplinary actions are closed. O.C.G.A. 50-14-3(6). However, votes on these same issues must be taken in public. • Real Estate – Meetings discussing future real estate purchases are exempt from the open meetings act. O.C.G.A. 50-14-3(4) • Trade Secrets – There is no mention of trade secrets in the open meetings act. • Student Records – Meetings involving student records are not exempted from the open meetings law. Red & Black Publishing C. v. Board of Regents, 427 S.E. 2d 257 (1993). Email: Although the open meetings law doesn’t address email, the Georgia Supreme Court has found that meetings conducted on email are subject to the open meetings act. Kilgore v. R.W. Page Corp., 261 Ga. 410, 405 S.E.2d 655 (1991). Email: An attorney general opinion indicates that the open meetings law applies to meetings conducted on email. Op. Att'y Gen. 2001-20 (2001). Penalties: • Members of a board or commission who attend a meeting that is in violation of the open meetings law can be

Penalties: An elected official that violates the open meeting act can be subject to a recall election. O.C.G.A. §21-4-3

 

convicted of a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by a term in prison up to 60 days and a fine of up to $500. Fla. Stat. § 286.011(3)(b). Any other government official violating the terms of the statute can be fined up to $500. Fla. Stat. § 286.011(3)(a)

Prepared by:

Catherine J. Cameron Professor of Legal Skills Stetson University College of Law 1401 61st St. So. Gulfport, Fl 33707 (727)562-7884 ccameron@law.stetson.edu

Much of the information regarding Georgia law was taken from the work of :

Hollie Manheimer Georgia First Amendment Foundation

 

LIBEL & PRIVACY: MINIMIZING THE RISKS OF PUBLISHING ONLINE  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT    An online publisher is exposed to potential legal liability with every news article, blog post,  podcast, video, or even a user comment. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise because  the Internet, after all, is available to anyone who wishes to connect to the network, and even  the smallest blog or most obscure discussion forum has the potential to reach hundreds of  millions of people throughout the world. Often the legal risks are small, but not always. The risk  can take a number of forms, depending on what and the nature of the publication. The section  that follows is intended to help online publishers identify potential “red flags” when publishing  something that might result in liability, and can know to be extra careful to take the necessary  steps to minimize potential legal risks.    First, if what is published contains information that harms the reputation of another person,  group, or organization, the online publisher may be liable for "defamation" or "false light."  Defamation is the term for a legal claim involving injury to reputation caused by false  statements of fact and includes both libel (typically written or recorded statements) and  slander (typically spoken statements). False light, which is similar to defamation, generally  involves untrue factual implications. The crux of both of these claims is falsity; truthful  statements and implications that harm another's reputation will not create liability, although  they may open the online publisher up to other forms of liability if the information published is  of a personal or highly private nature.     Second, if the news website publishes private or personal information about someone without  their permission, the online publisher is exposed to legal liability even if its portrayal is factually  accurate. For example, in most states a publisher can be sued for publishing private facts about  another person, even if those facts are true. The term "private facts" refers to information  about someone's personal life that has not previously been revealed to the public, that is not of  legitimate public concern, and the publication of which would be offensive to a reasonable  person. This would include such things as writing about a person's medical condition, sexual  activities, or financial troubles.    If the online publisher uses someone else's name, likeness, or other personal attributes without  their permission for an exploitative purpose it could also face liability for what is called  misappropriation or right of publicity. Usually, people run into trouble in this area when they  use someone's name or photograph in a commercial setting, such as in advertising or other  promotional activities. But, some states also prohibit use of another person's identity for the  user's own personal benefit, whether or not the purpose is strictly commercial.  
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  Third, if the news website has web forums, allow reader comments, host guest bloggers on the  site, or if the site reposts information received from RSS feeds, section 230 of the  Communications Decency Act (“CDA 230”) will likely shield online publishers from liability for  problematic statements made by their users, guests and other third‐parties. This important  federal law protects website operators from tort liability for statements contained in these  materials – and any other user‐submitted content – published on the site. Online publishers will  not lose this immunity even if they edit this content, whether for accuracy or civility, and are  entitled to immunity so long as the edits do not substantially alter the meaning of the original  statements. Keep in mind that CDA 230 will only protect online publishers – and not the online  publisher itself, an employee or someone acting under its direction – posts something on the  blog or website. It does not shield online publishers from its own statements.       PUBLISHING INFORMATION THAT HARMS ANOTHER'S REPUTATION    Defamation is the general term for a legal claim involving injury to one's reputation caused by a  false statement of fact and includes both libel (defamation in written or fixed form) and slander  (spoken defamation). The crux of a defamation claim is falsity. Truthful statements that harm  another's reputation will not create liability for defamation (although they may open an online  publisher up to other forms of liability if the information published is of a personal or highly  private nature).    Defamation in the United States is governed by state law. While the U.S. Constitution sets some  limits on what states can do in the context of free speech, the specific elements of a  defamation claim can ‐‐ and often do ‐‐ vary from state to state.       Generally speaking, a person who brings a defamation lawsuit must prove the following:    1. The defendant published the statement. In other words, that the defendant uttered or  distributed it to at least one person other than the plaintiff. There is no requirement  that the statement be distributed broadly, to a large group, or even to the general  public. If something is published on the Internet, it can be assumed that this  requirement has been met.    2. The statement is about the plaintiff. The statement need not name the person explicitly  if there is enough identifying information that those who know the person will recognize  the statement as being about him or her.  
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    3. The statement harmed the reputation of the plaintiff, as opposed to being merely  insulting or offensive. Generally speaking, a defamatory statement is a false statement  of fact that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule or contempt, lowers him in the esteem  of his peers, causes him to be shunned, or injures him in his business or trade.     4. The statement was published with some level of fault. Fault requires that the defendant  did something he should not have done or failed to do something he should have.  Depending on the circumstances, the plaintiff will either need to prove that the  defendant acted negligently, if the plaintiff is a private figure, or with actual malice, if  the plaintiff is a public figure or official.    5. The statement was published without any applicable privilege. A number of privileges  may be available depending on what the defendant published and the source(s) he  relied on for the information.    In cases involving public officials, public figures or matters of public concern, a plaintiff must  prove that the statement was false. In cases involving matters of purely private concern, in  many states the burden of proving truth is on the defendant. This is not to say that every detail  published must be perfectly accurate to avoid liability. If a few minor details are wrong, this will  not necessarily negate the truth of what is published so long as the statement at issue is  substantially true. Statements of pure opinion, which cannot be proven true or false, cannot  form the basis of a defamation claim (e.g., a statement that Bill is a jerk, is clearly a statement  of opinion).     Keep in mind that the republication of someone else's defamatory statement can itself be  defamatory. In other words, an online publisher won't be immune simply because it is quoting  another person making the defamatory statement, even if it properly attributes the statement  to its source. For example, if an online publisher quotes a witness to a traffic accident who says  the driver was drunk when he ran the red light and it turns out the driver wasn't drunk and he  had a green light, it can't hide behind the fact that it was merely republishing the witness'  statement (which would likely be defamatory).    On the other hand, if an online publisher repeats what someone else said or wrote in an official  hearing or official document, there’s an important privilege that may protect online publishers  provided that it attributes the information and is accurate in its reporting.   
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There also is an important provision under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that  may protect an online publisher – but not the publisher itself or its employee ‐‐ posts  something on the blog or website that is defamatory.     Damages for Defamation    In most states, the plaintiff must also prove that the defamatory statement caused him or her  actual damage. Actual damages include such things as the loss of a job because of the  defamatory statement, but can also include mental anguish or suffering associated with the  defamation. Some jurisdictions also recognize "per se" defamation, where damage is presumed  if the defamatory statement relates to one of the following subjects:    • Impugns a person's professional character or standing;  • States or implies that an unmarried person is unchaste (e.g., is sexually active);  • States or implies that a person is infected with a sexually transmitted disease; or  • States or implies that the person has committed a crime of moral turpitude (e.g., theft or  fraud).    If a plaintiff succeeds in proving defamation, he or she is entitled to recover what is called  compensatory damage, which is the payment of money to compensate the plaintiff for the  wrong that has been done. This includes not only out‐of‐pocket expenses (e.g., doctor's bills),  but also personal humiliation, mental anguish and suffering, and lost wages and benefits if the  defamation caused the plaintiff to lose employment. In limited circumstances, a plaintiff may  also be able to recover punitive damages, which are awarded in addition to compensatory  damages and are intended to punish the defendant.    Note that some states require that a plaintiff must first ask the defendant to correct or remove  the defamatory statement in order to be entitled to certain types of damages.     FALSE LIGHT CLAIMS    False light is one of the four categories of "privacy torts" (the others being misappropriation,  intrusion, and publication of private facts). While the nature of false light claims vary by state,  they generally protect people from offensive and false facts stated about them to the public.    Not all states recognize claims for false light. In the states that do recognize a cause of action  for false light, the specific requirements to raise a claim vary.    
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Generally speaking, a false light claim requires the following:    1. The defendant published the information widely (i.e., not to just a single person, as in  defamation);    2. the publication identifies the plaintiff;    3. it places the plaintiff in a "false light" that would be highly offensive to a reasonable  person; and    4. the defendant was at fault in publishing the information.    See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 652E.    Distinguishing Between False Light and Defamation Claims    False light is similar to defamation. Most states that allow false light claims recognize some  differences between false light and defamation, but there is still a great deal of overlap. In fact,  a number of states do not recognize false light claims at all because of the overlap with  defamation and because the vague nature of the tort might chill free speech.    Several states that allow both false light claims and defamation claims differentiate the two by  saying they protect people against different harms flowing from false statements. These states  indicate that defamation protects a person's public reputation while false light remedies the  victim of a false statement for his or her emotional distress.    For example, California holds that unlike defamation, false light concerns untrue implications  rather than directly false statements. For instance, an article about sex offenders illustrated  with a stock photograph of an individual who is not, in fact, a sex offender could give rise to a  false light claim, even if the article and photo caption never make the explicit false statement  (i.e., identifying the person in the photo as a sex offender) that would support a defamation  claim.    Several states view false light as more narrow than defamation in certain respects ‐‐ that is,  someone might be able to sue for defamation but not false light. For instance, false light  requires broad publication to many people, while a defamatory statement could be made to  only a few people. Some states note that false light requires the statement in question to be  highly offensive to a reasonable person, while defamation does not require offensiveness so 
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long as the statement actually harmed the reputation of the plaintiff. Finally, a number of  states require the plaintiff to make a stronger showing that the defendant is at fault for false  light than for defamation.    Avoiding False Light Claims    False light lawsuits often arise on the margins of stories, rather then at their core. For example,  one might use a stock photo of a particular street to illustrate a story on local prostitution, and  inadvertently create the impression that a person caught at random in the photo was  frequenting the prostitutes. An online publisher should be careful about what is used to  illustrate its work    Always be careful to check all facts and document the support for all of the information  published. Statements that may seem innocuous or harmless may offend a reader and could  give rise to a lawsuit if they are also false.     When working online, be particularly mindful of the formatting of the site. Be sure that the  website doesn't get reformatted in such a way as to create an unwitting juxtaposition of images  and stories that creates a connotation that the online publisher had not intended.    PUBLISHING PERSONAL AND PRIVATE INFORMATION    If a reporter physically enter a private area, photograph or take video of people engaged in  private activities in places where they reasonably expect to be private, or in some other way  intrude into a person's privacy (by, for example, opening the person's mail), she could be liable  for a violation of what is called "intrusion upon seclusion." If the reporter collects certain  personal data, this can also intrude into a person's private affairs. In the newsgathering context,  the actual collection of the data could be seen as intrusion if the method used meets the four  general elements for an intrusion claim.    Generally speaking, however, an online publisher/ reporter would not be liable for intrusion if  she photographs or captures video of people in public places, even if they have not consented  to being recorded, because individuals cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy when in  public. Nor will she be liable for intrusion if she gathers private information from documents  that are available to the general public.    Online publishers should note that it is not necessary that the photographs or information are  published; an intrusion claim rests solely on the way in which information is gathered. If the 
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private information is subsequently published, the online publisher can also face liability for  what is called “publication of private facts.”    When an online publisher publishes information about someone without permission, it is  potentially exposed to legal liability even if the portrayal is factually accurate. Most states have  laws limiting a publisher’s ability to publish private facts about someone and recognizing an  individual’s right to prevent use of his or her name, likeness, and other personal attributes for  certain exploitative purposes, such as for advertising goods or services. These laws originally  sprang from a policy objective of protecting personal privacy; the aim was to safeguard  individuals from embarrassing disclosures about their private lives and from uses of their  identities that are hurtful or disruptive of their lives. Over time, the law developed and also  recognized the importance of protecting the commercial value of a person's identity ‐‐ namely,  the ability to profit from authorizing others to use one's name, photograph, or other personal  attributes in a commercial setting.    Specifically, there are two types of legal claims that relate to unauthorized publication of  personal and private information:    Publication of Private Facts: The legal claim known as "publication of private facts" is a species  of invasion of privacy. An online publisher commits this kind of invasion of privacy by publishing  private facts about an individual, the publication of which would be offensive to a reasonable  person. This legal claim can only be successful, however, if the facts in question are not  legitimately newsworthy. So, for instance, if the online publisher discloses the fact that a  person has an embarrassing health condition, it might be liable for publication of private facts.  If, however, this medical condition is particularly relevant to some topic of public interest ‐‐ say,  the person’s fitness to serve in public office, a court might find that the publication is lawful.  Determining what facts are of legitimate public concern is often difficult to determine, so the  online publisher may want to get permission before disclosing potentially embarrassing  information about an individual.     Using the Name or Likeness of Another: The legal claim known as "misappropriation of name  or likeness" is a species of invasion of privacy. Over time the courts also recognized a legal claim  for violation of the "right of publicity," which is closely related. An online publisher commits  misappropriation and/or violates the right of publicity when it uses an individual's name,  likeness, or other personal attributes without permission for an exploitative purpose. These  legal claims usually apply to the use of a name or image in a commercial setting, such as in  advertising or other promotional activities, but they may apply anytime an online publisher  takes advantage of another person's identity for its own benefit. However, individuals cannot 
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stop every mention, discussion, or reporting on their lives or activities, and many states  explicitly exempt news reporting and other expressive activities from liability. For example, if  the online publisher advertises its website using the photograph of a famous rival blogger (or  even an unknown rival blogger) without permission, then it might be liable for misappropriation  of that person’s likeness. (Another way of saying this is that it might be liable for violating the  blogger's "right of publicity.") But, if the online publisher writes an article commenting on the  posts of that same blogger and include his picture, it generally won't be liable for using the  blogger's name without permission or including the photograph for illustrative purposes.     While these laws can create pitfalls for citizen media creators, the risks are manageable and  online publishers can take certain steps to protect themselves. Most importantly, if online  publishers stick to reporting or commenting on matters of legitimate public interest and only  portray people who have a reasonable relationship to the topic, then it generally can avoid  liability.     As a general rule, if online publishers follow good journalistic practices and standards ‐‐ being  thorough, fair, and accurate in what they publish, carefully attributing their sources and quotes,  and not phrasing statements in such a way as to create implications that they do not intend or  do not have the evidence to support ‐‐ this will minimize the likelihood that they will be  successfully sued for defamation (honing these good habits has other benefits as well, as they  will make their work more accurate and credible).    PRIVILEGES AND DEFENSES    There are times, however, when even the most careful publisher can be sued for defamation. In  such a situation, a number of defenses may be available depending on what was published and  the source(s) relied upon for the information. The most important defense is "truth." If the  statement at issue is substantially true, a defamation claim cannot succeed because an online  publisher has a right to publish truthful information even if it injures another's reputation. But  truth is not the only defense that may be available. For example, if an online publisher  publishes a defamatory allegation made by a party in a lawsuit, even if it turns out that the  allegation is false, a defamation claim cannot succeed because of the right to report on  allegations made in court regardless of whether they are true. Similarly, statements by  legislators on the floor of the legislature, or by judges while sitting on the bench are typically  privileged and cannot support a cause of action for defamation, even if they turn out to be  false.   

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Sometimes the reliance on these sources may result in the publication of defamatory  falsehoods, but in publishing the information an online publisher is performing the vital civic  function of making information available to the public and of playing a watchdog role with  regard to the government and other interests in society. To deal with the tension between the  possibility of defaming individuals and the importance of reporting the news and information in  a timely manner, courts have developed a number of defenses which often called "privileges"  by lawyers.     Possible privileges and defenses include:    • Substantial Truth: "Truth" is an absolute defense to an action for defamation.     • Opinion and Fair Comment Privileges: Statements of opinion generally cannot support a  cause of action for defamation, even if they are outrageous or widely off the mark. A  defense similar to opinion is "fair comment on a matter of public interest."     • Fair Report Privilege: This very important privilege may apply if an online publisher relied  on a public document or a statement by a public official for the incorrect information,  made clear that the public document or statement was the source, and fairly and  accurately used the source.    • Neutral Reportage Privilege: The neutral reportage privilege covers unverified accusations  made by one public figure about another on a matter of legitimate public interest, such as  when a politician who opposes a health care bill says that the bill's sponsor is taking  money from the pharmaceutical industry.    • Wire Service Defense: If an online publisher republishes information from a reputable  news source (such as the Associated Press) it may be entitled to the wire service defense  if it turns out that the information was false.    • Statute of Limitations: If the plaintiff has waited too long to file a lawsuit, the defamation  claim might be barred by the statute of limitations, which sets the maximum amount of  time plaintiffs can wait before bringing a lawsuit after the events they are suing over have  occurred.    SUBSTANTIAL TRUTH   

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"Truth" is an absolute defense against defamation. See New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S.  254 (1964), and Time Inc. v. Hill, 385 U.S. 411 (1967). Consequently, a plaintiff has to provide  convincing evidence of a defamatory statement's falsity in order to prove defamation.    The law does not require that a statement must be perfectly accurate in every conceivable way  to be considered "true." Courts have said that some false statements must be protected for the  wider purpose of allowing the dissemination of truthful speech. The resulting doctrine is known  as "substantial truth." Under the substantial truth doctrine, minor factual inaccuracies will be  ignored so long as the inaccuracies do not materially alter the substance or impact of what is  being communicated. In other words, only the "gist" or "sting" of a statement must be correct.    The substantial truth defense is particularly powerful because a judge will often grant summary  judgment in favor of a defendant (thus disposing of the case before it goes to trial) if the  defendant can show that the statement the plaintiff is complaining about is substantially true,  making the defense a quick and relatively easy way to get out of a long (and potentially  expensive) defamation case.    Substantial truth can also be a flashpoint for libel cases involving public figures and officials who  must show actual malice by the defendant in order to recover. In Masson v. New Yorker  Magazine, 501 U.S. 496 (1991), the plaintiff tried to argue that inaccurate quotations were  evidence of actual malice. The Supreme Court refused to adopt such a stringent rule, noting the  difficulty of taking notes and translating from recordings and the need to edit a speaker's  comments into a coherent statement. The Court stated:    We conclude that a deliberate alteration of the words uttered by a plaintiff does not  equate with knowledge of falsity for purposes of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan and  Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., unless the alteration results in a material change in the  meaning conveyed by the statement. (citations omitted)     The Court went on to note the use of quotation marks to directly attribute inaccurate  statements to the speaker "bears in a most important way on [this] inquiry, but it is not  dispositive in every case." Generally speaking, a publisher is given more leeway for inaccuracies  when he is interpreting his sources than when he is purporting to be providing a "direct account  of events that speak for themselves." Time, Inc. v. Pape, 401 U.S. 279 (1971).    Some examples of statements that courts have found to be "substantially true":   

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A statement that a boxer tested positive for cocaine, when actually he had tested positive  for marijuana. See Cobb v. Time Inc., 24 Media L. Rep. 585 (M.D. Tenn 1995).  A statement that an animal trainer beat his animals with steel rods, when actually he had  beaten them with wooden rods. See People for Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Berosini,  895 P.2d 1269 (Nev. 1995).  A statement that a father sexually assaulted his stepdaughter 30‐50 times, when the  stepdaughter testified he had done so only 8 times. See Koniak v. Heritage Newspapers,  Inc., 198 Mich. App. 577 (1993).  A statement that a man was sentenced to death for six murders, when in fact he was only  sentenced to death for one. See Stevens v. Independent Newspapers, Inc., 15 Media L.  Rep. 1097 (Del. Super. Ct. 1998).  A statement that Terry Nichols was arrested after the Oklahoma City Bombing, when  actually he had only been held as a material witness. See Nichols v. Moore, 396 F. Supp.  2d 783 (E.D. Mich. 2005).  A statement that a man was charged with sexual assault, when actually he had only been  arrested but not arraigned. See Rouch v. Enquirer & News of Battle Creek, 440 Mich. 238  (1992). 

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  OPINION AND FAIR COMMENT PRIVILEGE    The right to speak guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution includes the  right to voice opinions, criticize others, and comment on matters of public interest. It also  protects the use of hyperbole and extreme statements when it is clear these are rhetorical  ploys. Accordingly, an online publisher can safely state its opinion that others are inept, stupid,  jerks, failures, etc. even though these statements might hurt the subject's feelings or diminish  their reputations. Such terms represent what is called "pure opinions" because they can't be  proven true or false. As a result, they cannot form the basis for a defamation claim.    This is not to say that every statement of opinion is protected. If a statement implies some false  underlying facts, it could be defamatory. For example, stating that "in my opinion, the mayor  killed her husband" is not likely to be a protected opinion. Couching false statements of fact as  opinion or within quotes from other sources generally won’t protect online publishers either.  Nor will trying to cover by saying that a politician “allegedly” is a drug dealer, or that someone 
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else said the politician “is a drug dealer,” or that in writer’s opinion, the politician is a drug  dealer. A reader may well assume that the publisher has unstated facts to base the conclusion  on, and it would be a defamatory statement if the implied facts turn out to be false.    All opinions that rely on underlying facts, however, are not necessarily outside the opinion  privilege. If the online publisher states the facts on which it is basing its opinion, and the  opinion stated could be reasonably drawn from those truthful facts, the online publisher will be  protected even if the conclusion turns out to be incorrect. For example, if an online publisher  were to say "In my opinion, Danielle is failing out of school" it would likely lead its readers to  assume that there are some unstated facts it relied on to draw its conclusion. Such a statement  would not be protected, as the privilege does not protect back door entry of facts as "opinion"  through innuendo. On the other hand, if an online publisher states "In my opinion, Danielle is  failing out of school because she is a blond and the only thing I ever see her do at the library is  check Facebook," this provides the reader with the information it is basing the opinion on, and  allows the reader to come to his own conclusion.    Keep in mind that even if the online publisher states the facts relied upon for the opinion, but  those facts turn out to be false, the privilege will not apply. For example, if the online publisher  says that "In my opinion, Danielle is failing out of school because she failed biology," the  privilege would not apply if she got a C in biology.    To determine whether a statement is an opinion or a fact, courts will generally look at the  totality of the circumstances surrounding the statement and its publication to determine how a  reasonable person would view the statement. Under this test, the difference between an  opinion and a fact often comes down to a case‐by‐case analysis of the publication's context.    Distinguishing Between Statements of Fact and Opinion    In general, facts are statements that can be proven true or false; by contrast, opinions are  matters of belief or ideas that cannot be proven one way or the other. For example, "Chris is a  thief" can be proven false by showing that throughout his entire life Chris never stole anything.  Compare that statement with "Chris is a complete moron." The latter is an opinion (or,  technically, "a pure opinion"), as what constitutes a moron is a subjective view that varies with  the person: one person's moron is not necessarily the next person's moron. Put another way,  there would be no way to prove that Chris is not a moron. If a statement is a "pure opinion," it  cannot be the basis for a defamation claim.   

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Of course, it is not always easy to determine whether a statement is a pure opinion. As we  noted above, opinions that imply false underlying facts will not be protected. For example,  stating that "Chris is insane" could be both a fact and an opinion. It could mean Chris has been  diagnosed with psychosis and needs to be hospitalized in a mental institution; this could be  proven false. It could also mean that Chris has wacky ideas that one doesn't agree with, which is  an opinion. In determining which meaning the statement should be given, courts often rely on  context and common‐sense logic (or to phrase it in legalese, the "totality of circumstances" of  the publication). For example, if one called Chris insane in a forum post as part of a heated  argument over politics, the statement would likely be interpreted as an opinion.    Some examples of protected opinions include the following:    • Statements in the "Asshole of the Month" column in Hustler magazine that described a  feminist leader as a "pus bloated walking sphincter," "wacko," and someone who suffers  from "bizarre paranoia" were protected opinion because the context of the magazine and  column made it clear that the statements were "understood as ridicule or vituperation"  and "telegraph to a reader that the article presents opinions, not allegations of fact."  Leidholdt v. L.F.P. Inc., 860 F.2d 890 (9th Cir. 1988).    • Statement in the New York Post that referred to the plaintiff as a "fat, failed, former  sheriff's deputy" was protected opinion because it was hyperbole and had an "alliterative  quality" with a "rhetorical effect indicative of a statement of opinion." Jewell v. NYP  Holdings, Inc., 23 F. Supp.2d 348 (S.D.N.Y. 1998).    • Statements on a radio talk show that described the plaintiff as a "chicken butt," "local  loser" and "big skank" were not defamatory because they were "too vague to be capable  of being proven true or false" and had "no generally accepted meaning." Seelig v. Infinity  Broadcasting, 97 Cal. App. 4th 798 (Cal. Ct. App. 2002).    • A cartoon of a noted evangelist leader fornicating drunk in an outhouse with his mother  because the parody was so outrageous it could not "reasonably be understood as  describing actual facts" about Falwell or events in which he participated. Hustler  Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 53 (U.S. 1988).    Keep in mind, however, that an online publisher can't make a statement an opinion merely by  prefacing it with "in my opinion." Saying that "in my opinion, Alex stole ten dollars from the  church collection basket" would lead most listeners to conclude that the publisher had  evidence that Alex had indeed stolen the money, and that the publisher intended the 
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statement as one of fact rather than opinion. The courts do not give protection to false factual  connotations disguised as opinions.    Context and the Totality of the Circumstances    In general, courts will look at the context and medium in which the alleged defamation  occurred. For example, a statement is more likely to be regarded as an opinion rather than a  fact if it occurs in an editorial blog as opposed to a piece of investigative journalism. The wider  context may also provide a framework for the court: during the McCarthy‐era witch hunts of  the 1950s, for example, courts routinely held that referring to someone as a "Communist" was  defamatory; in the present day, "communist" has taken on a more generalized (if still often  derogatory) political meaning, and courts would almost certainly find use of the word to be a  protected opinion.    The Internet presents particular issues for the courts, as it is a medium where the lack of face‐ to‐face contact can often make judging the actual meaning and context of a publication  difficult. Courts are likely to take into account the particular social conventions of the Internet  forum at issue in evaluating a statement's context.    But much remains to be determined, such as how the courts would handle the nature of many  discussion forums. A 2001 case that dealt with the opinion privilege is worth quoting at length  as an indication of the approach courts may well take in determining whether an online posting  is a statement of opinion or fact. In regards to a post on a financial bulletin board site the court  noted:    Here, the general tenor, the setting and the format of [the] statements strongly suggest  that the postings are opinion. The statements were posted anonymously in the general  cacophony of an Internet chat‐room in which about 1,000 messages a week are posted  about [the particular company]. The postings at issue were anonymous as are all the  other postings in the chat‐room. They were part of an on‐going, free‐wheeling and  highly animated exchange about [the particular company] and its turbulent history. . . .  Importantly, the postings are full of hyperbole, invective, short‐hand phrases and  language not generally found in fact‐based documents, such as corporate press releases  or SEC filings.     Global Telemedia International, Inc. v. Doe 1, 132 F.Supp.2d 1261, 1267 (C.D.Cal., 2001).    

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In short, the court concluded that "the general tone and context of these messages strongly  suggest that they are the opinions of the posters." Id. at 1267. It is likely that other courts will  take a similarly broad view regarding Internet forums for purposes of the opinion privilege.    To summarize, the factors courts often use to determine whether a statement is a protected  opinion are:    • What is the common usage and specific meaning of the language used?  • Is the statement verifiable? Can it be proven false?  • What is the full context of the statement?  • What are the social conventions surrounding the medium the statement occurred in?      FAIR REPORT PRIVILEGE    The fair report privilege may protect online publishersfrom liability ‐‐ even if something is  defamatory ‐‐ if it relied upon a official public document or statement by a public official for the  false information, made clear that the document or statement was the source, and fairly and  accurately used the source. This privilege enables online publishers to freely report, for  example, about what people say during a council meeting or from the witness stand during a  trial or to quote from public records.    The fair report privilege's historic rationale has been to encourage public scrutiny of  governmental activities through fair and accurate reporting of governmental proceedings. The  defense allows online publishers to report on government activity without bearing the  overwhelming burden of first proving the truth of everything said in government documents  and proceedings.    Keep in mind that not all states recognize the fair report privilege, so check your state's  defamation section to confirm that the publisher is covered. In those states that do recognize  the privilege, it will generally apply where:       1. the source is an official public document or statement by a public official on a matter of  public concern;     2. there is proper attribution of the information to that source; and     3. the publisher fairly and accurately portrays the information from the document or  statement.   
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Sources Covered By the Fair Report Privilege    While each state can decide for itself what sources are covered by the fair report privilege, it  generally applies to publicly available government records, official government reports, and  statements made by government officials. Interim and unfinished government records and  reports generally are not covered.    Examples where the fair report privilege would probably apply include:    • Statements made by a judge in a trial  • A speech made by a city council member during a council meeting  • Testimony during a trial  • Facts recorded in a final police report  • Analysis reported in an Environmental Protection Agency survey    The privilege would probably not apply to:    • Statements made by an arresting officer about the facts of the case, where those facts are  not recorded in the police report  • Gossip overheard on the courthouse steps  • Offhand remarks made by a government official in a private setting  • Statements made in a draft government report    Many sources may fall into gray areas. In general, the privilege is more likely to apply if the  statement or fact comes from a public figure acting in his official capacity or a final, public  report. It is less likely to apply where the figure is more private or is acting outside of his official  scope of duties, or where the report is more preliminary or is inaccessible to the public.    Further, each state defines the scope of the privilege differently. For example, some states  extend the privilege to more private settings such as a meeting of a corporation's share holders.  Please consult your state's defamation section for specifics.    Ensuring That The Use of Sources is "Fair and Accurate"    Whether the statement is true or not does not matter for purposes of the fair report privilege:  even if the witness whose testimony relied on is later convicted of perjury, the privilege still  applies if the online publisher accurately reported and attributed the testimony he provided in  the first place. It would apply even if the online publisher had knowledge that the witness was 
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lying in his testimony. The purpose of the privilege is to protect statements or facts from public  sources that are newsworthy in and of themselves, regardless of their veracity.    But what is critical is that the online publisher accurately report (or abridge fairly) the  information: reporting that the witness said the defendant deliberately burned down the house  when the witness had only said that the defendant accidentally dropped a match would not be  protected by the fair report privilege. Be particularly careful when the online publisher is  "translating" complex legalese. Further, be careful not to use quotations selectively. For  example, if a witness in her testimony said she saw the defendant rob the store, then corrects  herself thirty minutes later in the same testimony to indicate that she had really not seen the  robbery, quoting only the first part would likely fall outside the fair report privilege.    In general, courts will look at whether the online publisher acted in "good faith," looking far  more favorably at an honest mistake that was made in condensing a long, complex statement  or document than at selective quotation that may be perceived as maliciously intending to  portray the subject in the least favorable light possible. Not every fact must be included, but  many courts will find the privilege lost if the overall reporting is too one‐sided.    NEUTRAL REPORT PRIVILEGE    Although not widely adopted, the neutral reportage privilege is designed to protect the  interests of the press in reporting on matters of public interest, which can often only be done  by reporting accusations made by one public figure about another. Without a neutral reportage  privilege, if online publishers publish what another person has said or written and that  statement turns out to be defamatory, they may be liable for defamation even if they stated  that they believed the allegation was untrue.     Keep in mind that not all states recognize the neutral reportage privilege or apply it to non‐ traditional publishers, so check your state's defamation section to confirm that the online  publisher is covered. In those states that do recognize the privilege, it will generally apply  where:       1. A responsible, prominent organization or individual;     2. Makes a serious charge on a matter of public interest;     3. Against another public figure or organization; and     4. The charge is accurately and disinterestedly reported.    Edwards v. National Audubon Soc., 556 F.2d 113 (2d Cir. 1977). 
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  The privilege was first recognized in a 1977 case involving the New York Times, which reported  accusations made by the National Audubon Society that a group of scientists were behaving as  "paid liars" on the issue of whether DDT was harming bird populations. The story posed a  dilemma. The reporter had a good sense that the Audubon Society had little or no evidence to  back up its claims and that due to republisher liability he might well be liable for defamation if  he published the story. But he also recognized that in his hands was a newsworthy story about  an accusation made by a prominent organization. The court responded by recognizing a new  form of First Amendment protection:    What is newsworthy about such accusations is that they were made. We do not believe  that the press may be required under the First Amendment to suppress newsworthy  statements merely because it has serious doubts regarding their truth. Nor must the  press take up cudgels against dubious charges in order to publish them without fear of  liability for defamation. . . . The public interest in being fully informed about  controversies that often rage around sensitive issues demands that the press be afforded  the freedom to report such charges without assuming responsibility for them.     Edwards, 556 F.2d at 120.  The court explicitly stated that the reporter's knowledge of factual  inaccuracies in the story was immaterial to whether or not the privilege applied.    Examples of the Neutral Reportage Privilege    Examples of instances where courts have applied the neutral reportage privilege include:    • Newspaper report that a state auditor accused a town trustee of faking a snow  emergency to gain access to emergency funds. Watson v. Leach, 1996 Ohio App. LEXIS  2474 (Ohio Ct. App. 1996).  • A newspaper report that a political campaign brochure accused the county's Italian‐ American judges of having mafia connections. Celebrezze v. Netzley, 1988 Ohio App. LEXIS  3153 (Ohio Ct. App. 1988).  • A land developer calling another developer "unscrupulous" during a town meeting.  McCracken v. Gainesville Tribune, Inc., 146 Ga. App. 274, 275 (Ga. Ct. App. 1978).    Differing State Approaches to the Neutral Reportage Privilege   

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Although the neutral reportage privilege has been adopted in some jurisdictions, few states  have clear state‐wide rulings on what the privilege entails. Even in those states that recognize  the privilege, it can vary in important ways:    • Private figure plaintiffs: Edwards v. National Audubon involved an instance where the  person defamed (the plaintiff) was a nationally known scientist, a prominent public figure.  In cases where the plaintiff is a private person, courts have split over whether to  recognize the neutral reportage privilege. See, e.g., Khawar v. Globe International, 19 Cal.  4th 254, 271 (Cal. 1998) (plaintiff was a youth accused of involvement in the Robert  Kennedy assassination). The trend, however, seems to be for courts to recognize the  privilege even when private figure plaintiffs are involved.    • Trustworthy and prominent sources: Few sources are more trustworthy and prominent  than the National Audubon society talking about an issue related to bird populations. But  often this is not the case. Major stories can come from sources who are neither  "trustworthy" nor "prominent." The courts go both ways on the issue of whether the  privilege applies to cases like these. Many judges have emphasized the trustworthiness of  the source as a key determining factor in whether the privilege applies; others take a  broader view on the circumstances of the story.    • Public interest and newsworthiness: A scientist allegedly covering up the fact that DDT  was killing birds was something the public had a strong interest in being informed of.  Courts vary, however, as to how legitimate the public interest needs to be. Some require  that there must be a "raging controversy" involving an issue related to the public good.  Others are more lenient. Also keep in mind that judges will often look more favorably at  the applicability of the privilege if there is a strong public interest in the accusation.      WIRE SERVICE DEFENSE    If an online publisher republishes a news item from a "reputable news service,” it may be  covered by a privilege called the "wire service defense." This defense to a defamation claim is  distinct from the immunity provisions in the section 230 of the Communications Decency Act  (commonly referred to as CDA 230 immunity), which may also apply to republished content  from a third‐party.     Generally speaking, in states that recognize the wire service defense, it will apply if:   
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   1. the online publisher republished a news item from a reputable news agency;     2. the online publisher did not know the information was false;     3. The news item on its face does not indicate any reason to doubt its veracity; and     4. the online publisher does not substantially alter the news items when republishing it.    In the Internet context, it is not clear how wide a net is cast by the term "reputable news  agency." Traditional wire services such as the Associated Press and United Press International  would likely be covered, but courts have not yet looked at the wire‐service defense in light of  RSS feeds and similar distribution tools.    Keep in mind that rewriting news items in a blog format will limit an online publisher’s ability to  invoke the wire service defense.     STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS    "Statute of Limitations" is a term used by courts to describe the maximum amount of time  plaintiffs can wait before bringing a lawsuit after the events they are suing over have occurred.  This time limit is typically set by state statute and is intended to promote fairness and keep old  cases from clogging the courts. Generally speaking, the limitations period for intrusion claims  begins to run on the date when the intrusion occurred.    Each state sets it own time limits for bringing a lawsuit and a court will typically apply the  appropriate statute of limitations of the state in which the suit is filed. A relatively short  limitations period is an acknowledgment of the importance of free speech principles, since a  short time period reduces the potential chilling effects of speech‐challenging lawsuits.    Each state has its own statute of limitations for defamation claims, which vary between one  and three years.    Determining When the Statute of Limitations Period Begins    Generally speaking, the limitations period begins to run when a defamatory statement is  "published" (i.e., communicated to someone other than the plaintiff).    This rule is relatively easy to apply when a defamatory statement is spoken to a third person.  But what about situations where publication is to a mass audience, such as on the Internet? In  these situations, the statute of limitations could begin anew at the time of each publication. For  example, the statute of limitations could begin every time someone reads a blog post or finds 
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an archive copy of a newspaper in a library, even if the original material was published years  ago.    Single Publication Rule    Most states have adopted the so‐called "single publication rule," which states that the statute  of limitations period begins to run when a defamatory statement is first published. For  example, if a magazine is distributed to thousands of news stands, only "one publication" is  deemed to have occurred for purposes of the statute of limitations. As a result, the limitations  period begins when the magazine was initially made available, not when an extra copy of it left  over on the news stand is sold two weeks later.    However, the single publication rule is not absolute. If the purported defamatory content is re‐ published to a substantially different audience or is altered in a substantial way, a new statute  of limitations period may begin to run. For example, if the material in a magazine is  incorporated into a book, a new statute of limitations period will likely begin when the book is  published.    Most states have applied the single publication rule to the Internet. Generally, the statute of  limitation period begins when a defamatory statement is first made available online. Courts will  likely find re‐publication has started a new statute of limitations period only when online  material is altered in a significant way: be careful to consider this if the online publisher is  thinking of substantially editing or rewriting old material.     While an online publisher can't always eliminate its legal risks when publishing private  information about individuals or using peoples' names and likenesses, there are a number of  ways it can minimize the risk of being on the receiving end of a publication of private facts,  misappropriation, or right of publicity lawsuit. Some suggestions include:    • Report on subjects and facts that are newsworthy: Reporting on topics and facts that are  legitimately newsworthy typically will not invade the privacy of individuals portrayed in  the work or unlawfully exploit their names or likenesses. It is not always easy to  determine whether a particular topic or fact is newsworthy, but common sense can go a  long way. Avoid obscure and salacious details that don't have direct bearing on the topic,  and don't use someone's photograph to illustrate the work unless they have some  reasonable connection to the issue at hand. Following this latter advice can also help  avoid claims for defamation and false light.   
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Gather information from publicly available sources whenever possible: If a publisher  relies on publicly available information, such as property records and public financial  information, it is unlikely that publication of that information will invade someone's  privacy. Getting information from publicly available court records is an especially good  idea because the First Amendment protects publishers when publishing truthful  information obtained from court records and doing so may also protect it from  defamation liability under the neutral report privilege, even if the information turns out  to be false. Reporters for online publishers should avoid using advanced equipment, such  as telephoto lenses or highly sensitive microphones, to obtain information or  photographs that could not have been gotten otherwise. Gathering information in this  way result in liability for intrusion, and publishing material obtained through these  methods is more likely to violate someone's privacy.  Be upfront about the intended use of information and photographs: When reporters  interview or take photographs of someone, they should be clear with that person about  how the information gathered or photograph taken will be used. It is better to know  about these concerns ahead of time, so that the online publisher can make an informed  decision about whether to go ahead as planned. In addition, being upfront provides  context to ask for consent, discussed immediately below.  Where possible, get consent from the people covered: Consent is typically one of the  strongest defenses to publication of private facts, misappropriation, and right of publicity  claims. When interviewing someone or taking photographs for later publication, it is good  practice to seek consent to use the information gathered and/or photographs taken on  the website or blog. Get consent in writing whenever possible. There are two consent  forms or "releases" that may be helpful ‐‐ a model release and an interview release.  Remember that minors cannot give consent on their own behalf, and that a consenting  party generally may revoke consent any time prior to publication.   

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RECENT DEVELOPMENTS:  DEFAMATION AND INVASION OF PRIVACY  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT    This year’s crop of defamation and invasion of privacy cases have been a mixed bag,  running the gamut from the sublime to the absurd. On the one hand, we have judges rejecting  attempts to find libel in 140 character snippets (Horizon Group Management LLC v. Bonnen)  and finding that reporters can still be reporters even if they publish their work – gasp! – on the  Internet (Kaufman v. Islamic Society of Arlington). On the other, we have a three judge panel of  the First Circuit holding that a defendant can be guilty of libel even when the statements are  true (Noonan v. Staples).     Fustolo v. Hollander, 455 Mass. 861, 920 N.E.2d 837 (Mass. 2010).    Steven Fustolo, a Boston‐area developer, sued Fredda Hollander for defamation based  on five articles written by Hollander for a community newspaper reporting on Fustolo’s plans  for development of three North End properties. Hollander filed a motion to dismiss the case  under the Massachusetts anti‐SLAPP statute, Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 59H, which the trial  court denied. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed on appeal.    Hollander was a co‐founder of the North End Waterfront Residents' Association  (NEWRA) and originally submitted articles to the Regional Review newspaper as a means of  advocating the organization's positions. In 1997, the newspaper began paying Hollander for her  stories, after instructing her to cover neighborhood meetings, including NEWRA meetings,  objectively and factually. In May and June 2006, the Regional Review published five articles  written by Hollander on the proposed development of three North End properties by Fustolo.  Two of these articles reported on NEWRA meetings: one to discuss the issue; and a second  meeting at which NEWRA voted to oppose redevelopment of one of the properties. A third  article covered the meeting of another community group, North End/Waterfront Neighborhood  Council, which voted in favor of the project opposed by NEWRA.     In denying Hollander’s motion, the trial court judge concluded "that Hollander did not  engage in petitioning activities 'on her own behalf as a citizen' because she wrote the articles in  her capacity as a reporter, and also because she received compensation for doing so."  Id. On  appeal, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court agreed that her involvement in NEWRA did  not make her articles an exercise of her "right to petition" on the development issue because  the articles were objective journalistic accounts that did not advocate a particular position or  disclose the writer's involvement. The court acknowledged that Hollander had "a personal  interest in the development issues that she wrote about," and that she "sought to bring issues  that she considered important to the attention of residents, politicians, and government  officials," but ultimately concluded that her subjective and sincere personal interest was not  legally relevant. What the SJC cared about was that "Hollander's articles did not contain 

statements seeking to redress a grievance or to petition for relief of her own." Id. at 842. On  this point, the court gave weight to an affidavit submitted by Hollander:   Indeed, she expressly stated in her affidavit that in writing all her articles, she was  "always careful to present an objective description of the subject matter, including the  positions of both sides where applicable," and that while she had personal views on the  issues she covered, "they were not reflected in the articles I wrote."   Id.     The SJC took pains to emphasize that the denial of anti‐SLAPP protection would not  deprive journalists of the constitutional protections they (and others) enjoy against defamation  liability:   To the extent that Hollander fears a chilling effect on reporters and the press if they are  not entitled to claim the protection of the anti‐SLAPP statute in cases where they write  about contentious issues of public concern, we note that the common law of  defamation, with its constitutional overlay, see, e.g., New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376  U.S. 254 (1964), provides reporters with protection for both opinions and, of probable  greater relevance to this case, for fair reports of public meetings of both government  bodies and organizations such as NEWRA. . . . While "the Legislature intended to enact  very broad protection for petitioning activities," "the scope of the statute has its limits."  There is no reason to stretch the anti‐SLAPP statute beyond its appropriate boundaries  in order to create a level of protection for reporters beyond that to which they are  currently entitled under the existing defamation law.   Id. at 844 (citations omitted).   Horizon Group Management LLC v. Bonnen, Civ. No. 2009 L 8675 (Circ. Ct. Cook County, Ill.  Jan. 27, 2010).    Horizon Realty Group, an apartment leasing and management company in Chicago, filed  a defamation lawsuit against a former tenant, Amanda Bonnen, over a tweet she posted about  the company on Twitter. According to the complaint, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Bonnen  posted the following tweet on May 12, 2009:   @JessB123 You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was  bad for you?  Horizon realty thinks it's ok.  Upon Defendant’s motion to strike, the Court dismissed Horizon’s lawsuit, finding “the tweet  nonactionable as a matter of law.”  In a ruling issued from the bench, Cook County Circuit Court  Judge Diane J. Larsen held that Bonnen's tweet wasn't capable of supporting Horizon's claim  because it was "too vague to meet the legal standards of libel" and that the tweet could be  construed innocently or as a statement of opinion.  

Hobbs v. Pasdar, Civ. No. 4:09‐cv‐00008‐BSM, 2009 WL 5462584 (E.D. Ark. Dec. 1, 2009).     Terry Hobbs sued Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines and her band mates in Arkansas  state court for defamation, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress after  Maines published a open letter on the band's website and MySpace blog that allegedly  "accused [Hobbs] of committing the murder of Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael  Moore." Compl. ¶ 15. In the letter, Maines (who was sued under her married name, Natalie  Pasdar) encouraged readers to support the movement to free the so‐called "West Memphis  Three" – Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin – three teenagers who were  convicted of murdering three eight‐year‐old boys in 1994. (The underlying story is chronicled in  the HBO documentaries, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Paradise Lost  2: Revelations, which cast doubt on the guilt of the three teenagers.) Maines and her co‐ defendants removed the case to Arkansas federal court in January 2009.    In the letter, a copy of which is attached as an exhibit to the complaint, Maines claimed  that DNA evidence from the crime scene and other evidence linked Hobbs to the murders  rather than Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin. This information appears to be based on Echols's  petition for a writ of habeus corpus challenging his conviction. The complaint also alleges that  Maines made defamatory statements at a "Free the West Memphis Three" rally.      In its decision granting summary judgment, the court found that Hobbs was a limited  purpose public figure because he voluntarily injected himself into the public controversy  surrounding the guilt or innocence of the three teenagers by appearing in the HBO  documentaries and giving numerous of interviews to the print media about the DNA evidence  in question, appeared on talk shows including Anderson Cooper 360, and even selling the movie  rights to his life story and to the life story of his deceased stepson Stevie Branch, one of the  murdered children.     Having found that Hobbs was a limited public figure, the court found that under New  York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), Hobbs would have to demonstrate actual malice in  order to prevail on his claims. The court determined that no reasonable jury could find that  Maines and her co‐defendants acted with actual malice—that is, that they "made the  statements at issue with knowledge that the statements were false or with reckless disregard  for whether they were false or not."  Hobbs, at *22. Although Maines admitted that she didn't  read Echols' 188‐page brief, which originally outlined the evidence in question, the court  focused on Maines' word‐for‐word use of the press release that was approved by Echols'  defense attorneys, implicitly finding that this reliance on the legal experts was justifiable.    

Kaufman v. Islamic Society of Arlington, 291 S.W.3d 130 (Tx. App. 2009).    The Islamic Society of Arlington, Texas, and several other Islamic organizations sued Joe  Kaufman in Texas state court for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress based on  an article Kaufman wrote for a website called FrontPage Magazine.     Kaufman is the chairman of Americans Against Hate, an organization that describes itself  as a "civil rights organization and terrorism watchdog group."  In his article published on the  FrontPage Magazine website, Kaufman called for a protest of "Muslim Family Day" at Six Flags  Over Texas, an amusement park in Arlington. In the course of the article, Kaufman claimed that  two organizations sponsoring the event (who were not parties to the lawsuit) had ties to radical  Islamic groups abroad, including Al‐Qaeda. Plaintiffs, a group of Islamic organizations that co‐ sponsored the event, filed suit asserting a claim of defamation against Kaufman.     Kaufman filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied by the district court.  Kaufman subsequently sought an interlocutory appeal from the order denying summary  judgment pursuant to Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 51.014(a)(6), which allows "a member of  the electronic or print media" to appeal from the denial of a motion for summary judgment  when the action is one “arising under the free speech or free press clause of the First  Amendment to the United States Constitution, or Article I, Section 8, of the Texas Constitution.”   Plaintiffs opposed Kaufman’s motion on the grounds that he is not a media defendant for the  purposes the statute because “he ‘merely posts to the internet,’ because Front Page Magazine  is simply Kaufman's own internet blog. . . and because Kaufman has not demonstrated that he  has the training associated with traditional journalism.”  291 S.W.3d at 138.     The appeals court rejected the plaintiffs’ contentions and found that Kaufman was  entitled to seek an interlocutory appeal pursuant to § 51.014(a)(6), noting that “Kaufman is a  full time investigative journalist,” and that “Front Page Magazine. . . is a ‘national publication  which focuses mainly on the issues of politics and terrorism and has a monthly readership of  approximately 500,000.’”  Id. at 139. The court held that “[w]e cannot agree with appellees that  Front Page Magazine's internet status alone costs Kaufman his benefit to file an interlocutory  appeal as a member of the electronic media,” finding that “articles communicated through the  internet equate in legal effect in some circumstances to words published by more traditional  electronic or print media.”  Id. at 140. The court further noted that “various courts outside of  our jurisdiction have recognized the internet (either implicitly or explicitly) as a type of  nontraditional electronic media.”  Id. at 141.     While the court was careful to note that “[w]e do not hold, therefore, that everyone  who communicates on the internet would qualify as a member of the electronic media under  section 51.014(a)(6),” the court soundly rejected the contention that the medium of  communication should determine whether a person qualifies as a journalist. Id. at 142.  

Moreno v. Hanford Sentinel, Inc., 91 Cal. Rptr. 3d 858 (Cal. Ct. App.2009).    Cynthia Moreno, a UC Berkeley student who grew up in Coalinga, CA, posted negative  statements about Coalinga and its inhabitants on her MySpace page, in a posting entitled "An  ode to Coalinga."  Although Moreno removed the posting six days later, Roger Campbell, the  principal of the local high school, discovered her post and gave a copy to a friend who worked  for the Coalinga Record, a local newspaper. The newspaper published the "ode" in its Letters to  the Editor section, attributing it to Cynthia and giving her full name. Townspeople subsequently  harassed Cynthia's family, forcing the family to move away and Moreno's father to abandon his  20‐year‐old family business.      Cynthia and her family filed suit against the principal and the publishers of the  newspaper, seeking to recover for invasion of privacy through publication of private facts and  intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted the newspaper's motion to  strike the complaint under the California anti‐SLAPP statute (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16), as  well as the principal's demurrer on both counts. The Morenos originally appealed both rulings,  but later abandoned their appeal against the newspaper, leaving only the principal.     The Court of Appeals, Fifth Appellate District, held that the Morenos could not recover  for invasion of privacy because the facts published were not private:    Here, Cynthia publicized her opinions about Coalinga by posting the Ode on  myspace.com, a hugely popular internet site. Cynthia's affirmative act made her article  available to any person with a computer and thus opened it to the public eye. Under  these circumstances, no reasonable person would have had an expectation of privacy  regarding the published material.   91 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 862.  The court also found that publishing Cynthia's full name along with the  article was not actionable, even though she had not included her last name on her MySpace  page. Because that page included her photograph, the court determined that Cynthia's identity  as the author of the "ode" was public.     In denying Moreno's request for permission to amend the complaint, the court also  determined that her publication on MySpace precluded any claim for misappropriation of her  name or likeness. The court noted that misappropriation, as a species of invasion of privacy,  also requires the plaintiff to have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The court did, however,  reinstate the Morenos' emotional distress claim, ruling in the non‐published portion of the  decision that a jury could reasonably find that the principal's conduct in turning over a copy of  the "ode" to the newspaper was "extreme and outrageous."  

Noonan v. Staples, 561 F.3d 4 (1st Cir. 2009).    Alan Noonan, a former Staples employee, was fired for alleged violations of the firm’s  travel and expense policy. The following day, Staples Executive Vice‐President Jay Baitler sent a  memorandum to about 1,500 employees which included the following:  It is with sincere regret that I must inform you of the termination of Alan Noonan’s  employment with Staples. A thorough investigation determined that Alan was not in  compliance with our [travel and expenses] policies. As always, our policies are  consistently applied to everyone and compliance is mandatory on everyone’s part. It is  incumbent on all managers to understand Staples['s] policies and to consistently  communicate, educate and monitor compliance every single day. Compliance with  company policies is not subject to personal discretion and is not optional. In addition to  ensuring compliance, the approver’s responsibility to monitor and question is a critical  factor in effective management of this and all policies.  Noonan v. Staples I, 556 F.3d 20, 23‐24.  Noonan subsequently filed suit in state court against  Staples, alleging three causes of action:  “(1) libel based on the Baitler e‐mail; (2) breach of the  two stock‐option agreements; and (3) breach of the severance agreement.”  Id. at 23.  After the  case was removed to federal court, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment on  Noonan’s claims, and the district court entered judgment for Staples on all three claims.    On appeal, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the breach of  contract claims, but remanded Noonan’s libel claim for trial. The court based its decision on a  1902 Massachusetts statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 92, which states that truth is a defense  to libel unless "actual malice is proved."  The court interpreted “actual malice” to mean  common law malice of “ill will,” rather than Sullivan’s knowing or reckless disregard for the  truth.  The court therefore ruled that Noonan could prevail on his libel claim if Baitler’s email  was sent with malevolent intent or ill will, despite the fact that Noonan admitted to pre‐ populating his reports in violation of company policy.       Staples filed a motion for a rehearing en banc, asserting that the statute ran afoul of the  First Amendment by holding parties liable for making truthful statements. The First Circuit  denied Staples' petition, holding that Staples had waived the constitutional issue:   Staples now contends that it raised the issue in its initial brief. But that brief simply  acknowledged that the statute was not constitutional as applied to a matter of public  concern. Staples did not timely argue that the present matter was a matter of public  concern or that the statute was unconstitutional as applied to matters of private  concern. That Staples did not timely raise the issue is also made clear by the fact that it  has not, until now, filed the notice required for a challenge to the constitutionality of a  state statute. See Fed. R. App. P. 44(b). The issue is waived, and the fact that the issue  raises constitutional concerns does not save the waiver.  

561 F.3d 4, at 6.  The court also indicated that the constitutional issue was not "so clear that the  panel should have acted sua sponte to strike down a state statute."  Id. at 6.  The First Circuit  further pointed out that Staples "still does not cite a case for the proposition that the First  Amendment does not permit liability for true statements concerning matters of private  concern."  Id.  The court appeared to discount this possibility, relying on language from two  Supreme Court cases ‐‐ Philadelphia Newspapers v. Hepps1 and Dun & Bradstreet v. Greenmoss  Builders2 ‐‐ to suggest that speech on matters of private concern does not enjoy full First  Amendment protection.      After remand, the case proceeded to a jury trial in Boston. After trial, the jury found in  favor of Staples on Noonan's defamation claim.   Global Wildlife Foundation v. Brilleaux, No. 2010‐0000866 (La. Dist. Ct. Mar. 15, 2010).    Global Wildlife Center, a wildlife preserve in Folsom, Louisiana, sued Nicholas Brilleaux,  publisher of the Hammond Action News blog, after he published a satirical article about a fake  giraffe attack at the preserve. Hammond Action News publishes Onion‐style fake news stories  about regional happenings in the Hammond area northwest of New Orleans.     On March 2, 2010, Judge Brenda Bedsole Ricks of the 21st Judicial District Court in  Amite, Louisiana granted Global Wildlife Center a temporary restraining order requiring  Brilleaux to remove the story from his blog. After a subsequent hearing on Global Wildlife  Center’s motion for a preliminary injunction, for which the ACLU filed an amicus curiae brief in  support of Brilleaux, arguing that the First Amendment protects his satirical work, District Judge  Beth Wolfe dissolved the temporary restraining order and denied the request for a preliminary  injunction. The court also ordered Global Wildlife to pay Brilleaux $500 in attorneys' fees and  court costs.  Twelve Inches Around Corp. v. Cisco Sys., Inc., No. 08 Civ. 6896, 2009 WL 928077 (S.D.N.Y.  Mar. 12, 2009).    Plaintiff is the operator of a website that seeks to temporarily match (or “rent”)  information technology specialists with companies in need of their expertise. Defendant Cisco  Systems operates a program to grant individuals certification (such as “Cisco Certified Network  Professional”) if they pass a Cisco‐administered test. As part of its marketing policy, Cisco offers  certain incentives to customers that employ staff holding Cisco certifications, generally offering  greater incentives for customers that employ larger numbers of Cisco‐certified technicians.    Cisco’s attorneys sent a cease‐and‐desist letter to plaintiff, asserting that the website  infringed Cisco's trademarks, and that the program of “renting” Cisco‐certified technicians in 
                                                             
1 2

 472 U.S. 749 (1985).   475 U.S. 767 (1986). 

order for companies to attain Cisco discounts was fraudulent. Cisco’s attorney also sent a letter  to plaintiff’s internet service provider, alleging that plaintiff was “committing fraud by brokering  individuals who [have Cisco certifications] to third‐party companies, so the companies can  attain higher partnership levels and corresponding product discounts, in contravention of Cisco  certification and partnership agreements” and including eight paragraphs “under penalty of  perjury” purporting to identify the specific trademark registrations allegedly infringed,  repeating the trademark infringement and fraud allegations stated earlier in the letter, and  affirming that “[t]o the best of my knowledge, all of the statements made above are true and  correct.”  2009 WL 928077, at *1‐2. Plaintiff’s ISP subsequently took down the website.       Plaintiff sued Cisco and its attorneys, asserting claims for misrepresentation under 17  U.S.C. § 512 (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA), libel, fraud, unfair business  practices, and tortious interference. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.  R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The court dismissed plaintiff’s DMCA, fraud, unfair business practices, and  tortious interference claims. The court refused to dismiss plaintiff’s claim for libel, however.  While defendants had sought dismissal of the libel claims on the grounds that the lawyer’s  letter was a non‐actionable opinion, the court held that while “[a] letter from a lawyer can be a  non‐actionable statement of opinion,” a “lawyer's statements are not immune from the libel  laws” and that “a reasonable reader encountering the full context of the letter, in particular the  affirmation made ‘under penalty of perjury’ and the format of the letter resembling an affidavit  could reasonably believe that the statements are fact not opinion.”  Id. at *4.  Super Future Equities, Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota, N.A., No. 3‐06‐CV‐0271B (N.D. Tex.  Feb. 12, 2009).     As part of an ongoing lawsuit, Orix Capital Markets, LLC filed a counterclaim against the  plaintiffs alleging that they set up a website ‐‐ www.predatorix.com ‐‐ that published false and  defamatory statements about Orix. According to the counterclaim, the website included  allegations that the company committed tax fraud and was under federal investigation for  violating racketeering laws. Orix subsequently amended its counterclaim to add a claim for  copyright infringement arising from the re‐posting of a page from the Orix website.     The underlying facts of the case are a bit convoluted. Orix, which operates a real estate,  finance, and asset management business, foreclosed on a Louisiana apartment building owned  by the Rafizadeh family of Houston. This foreclosure triggered a series of legal disputes  between the Rafizadehs and Orix, and the Texas case began in 2006, when the Rafizadehs'  company, Super Future Equities, Inc., brought a class action complaint against Orix and other  defendants alleging breach of contract, negligence, breach of fiduciary duties, and violations of  the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The federal court in  Texas ultimately dismissed these claims, but allowed Orix’s counterclaim to proceed.  

  The counterclaim‐defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court  granted in part and denied in part. The court dismissed Orix's claims for business  disparagement, tortious interference, and copyright infringement (notably, the court found that  the use of the Orix’s page was fair use), but found that the defamation claim was sufficient to  go to the jury.     In February 2009, after a two‐week trial, the jury awarded Orix $2.5 million in  compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. After the verdict, the parties  settled the case on undisclosed terms and the counterclaim‐defendants published an apology  on the website, acknowledging that the previous postings were incorrect. 
 

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

LEGAL TOPICS IN ADVERTISING LAW FOR ONLINE PUBLISHERS  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT    RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN FTC‐REQUIRED DISCLOSURES OF ENDORSEMENTS AND  TESTIMONIALS IN ADVERTISING    In October 2009, the Federal Trade Commission issued "Guides Concerning the Use of  Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising" (the "Guidelines") that may impose a disclosure  requirement on bloggers and social media users who review or otherwise write about products  and services. The Guidelines, which officially went into effect on December 1, 2009, call for  online publishers to disclose "material connections" they have with a company whose products  or services they "endorse." This means that bloggers and social media users must disclose their  relationship with a company when they are being paid or otherwise compensated by the  company to comment favorably on its products or services. The Guidelines also say that  bloggers may be held liable for making misleading or unsubstantiated claims about a product or  service.    The Guidelines impact a relatively narrow category of online publishing activities that can be  construed as "endorsements," like writing reviews or otherwise commenting favorably on  products or services. And, putting aside a few gray areas, the Guidelines require disclosure of  only relatively established relationships with companies—like getting paid, participating in a  network marketing program, or receiving a steady stream of freebies. On top of that, the  Guidelines are easy to comply with, and they require nothing more than upholding good  journalistic standards and prinicples, namely independence and transparency. Finally, the FTC  staff have made numerous public statements indicating that they are more interested in  educating than suing bloggers.    Bloggers and users of social media only need to disclose their relationship with a company  when they "endorse" a product of service. Accordingly, for the vast majority of online  publishers, the Guidelines probably won't come into play much. But if you publish reviews or  otherwise regularly discuss products and services, the Guidelines could impact your work, and  you should have a sense of what constitutes an "endorsement."    An "endorsement" is "any advertising message . . . that consumers are likely to believe reflects  the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser,  even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the sponsoring advertiser."  Guides, § 255.0(b).    Not all online discussion of product attributes or consumer experiences will qualify as an  "endorsement." The FTC explains in its commentary on the Guidelines: "the fundamental  question is whether, viewed objectively, the relationship between the advertiser and the  speaker is such that the speaker's statement can be considered 'sponsored' by the advertiser  and therefore an 'advertising message.'" Federal Register Notice, at 8.   
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

The FTC will look at the following factors to determine whether a message conveying positive  statements about a product or service is an "endorsement":    • whether the speaker is compensated by the advertiser or its agent;  • whether the product or service in question was provided by free by the advertiser;  • the terms of any agreement;  • the length of the relationship;  • the previous receipt of products or services from the same or similar advertisers, or the  likelihood of future receipt of such products or services; and  • the value of the items or services received.    Federal Register Notice, at 9. That's a lot of factors, but most of the FTC's examples in the  Guidelines and its public statements suggest that it is primarily concerned with those getting  paid in cash, those participating in network marketing programs, and those receiving a steady  stream of products from a company or group of companies.     FTC Investigation of Ann Taylor LOFT Event for Bloggers    On April 20, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission notified Ann Taylor that it had completed its  first investigation under the ... In the end, the FTC decided not to take any action against An  Taylor, whose LOFT division offered gifts to bloggers who attended a January 26 “exclusive  blogger preview” of the chain’s summer 2010 line.    Invitations to the event promised a “special gift” to bloggers who attend and “those who post  coverage from the event will be entered in a mystery gift card drawing where you can win up to  $500 at LOFT!”     The FTC guidelines require bloggers (and those who post on other social media, such as Twitter  and Facebook) who receive free or discounted product or service in exchange for writing a  review to disclose the freebie or face the possibility of an FTC enforcement action. Under these  guidelines, the bloggers who received the gift cards and wrote about the event were obliged to  disclose the freebies. Some of the bloggers disclosed the gifts while others didn’t comment on  the issue or stated that they did not receive the gifts.    In a letter to LOFT’s attorney announcing that it was taking no action in the matter, the FTC  stated that    Upon careful review of this matter, we have determined not to recommend enforcement  action at this time. We considered a number of factors in reaching this decision. First,  according to LOFT, the January 26, 2010 preview was the first (and, to date, only) such  preview event. Second, only a very small number of bloggers posted content about the  preview, and several of those bloggers disclosed that LOFT had provided them gifts at  the preview. Third, LOFT adopted a written policy in February 2010 stating that LOFT will  not issue any gift to any blogger without first telling the blogger that the blogger must 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

  The FTC letter also noted that LOFT posted a sign at the preview telling bloggers that they  should disclose the gifts, but noted that "[i]t is not clear, however, how many bloggers actually  saw that sign."    While the FTC took no action against LOFT or the bloggers who covered the event, it is clear  that the Commission is keeping an eye out for blatant offers to bloggers and other social media  posters in return for coverage.  For those who post on blogs and other social media, this means  that it is important to be familiar with the rules and to be careful to disclose any product or  service, including discounts, they receive in return for writing about that product or service.       INTERSECTION OF ADVERTISING AND PRIVACY LAW    Introduction to Behavioral Advertising    As a source of revenue, websites including those operated by news organizations have placed  advertisements on their sites. Since advertisers are willing to pay a premium for greater  assurance that ad placements will be seen by users that are most likely to be interested in the  product or service offered, technology enables advertisers to target directly individual users  based on their web surfing activity. This practice is known as “behavioral” advertising.    This individual behavioral advertising has raised a number of privacy concerns: whether  personally identifiable information is being collected, how the information collected is being  protected, and whether current laws are being violated if data are being collected without the  consent of the parties involved. It is often unclear whether current laws, such as the Electronic  Communications Privacy Act apply to online advertising providers that collect information  through monitoring clicks, search terms or other methods. It is likely that in many cases these  laws could be held to apply to such activities and that consent is required from one of the  parties to the communication.    There are no current federal regulations specific to online behavioral advertising and the  Federal Trade Commission maintains that industry self‐regulation is preferable to agency  regulations because the state of the industry is fluid and complex. Industry groups have  developed more detailed guidance and in 2009, the FTC released a set of self‐regulatory  principles regarding the information that may be collected online and how companies should  notify their customers about the collection.    In online advertising’s simplest form, a commercial website rents out “space” on its site to  another website which places a hot link banner advertisement in that space. When clicked, the  banner ad sends the user directly to the advertiser’s website. In this simplest scenario, all users 
3   

disclose the gift in his or her blog.  The FTC staff expects that LOFT will both honor that  written policy and take reasonable steps to monitor bloggers' compliance with the  obligation to disclose gifts they receive from LOFT. 

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

will see the same advertisement, regardless of whether the user may be interested in that  product or service. Since advertisers will pay a premium for the increased likelihood that users  viewing their advertisement would be interested in the product or service, offered, advertisers  use technology to more accurately target online ads to the desired audience.    These techniques to target ads to individual Internet users is known as “behaviorally targeted  advertising” by tracking web activity of each user and inferring each user’s interests based on  that activity. In most cases, online advertising providers such as DoubleClick and NebuAd  monitor Internet use by placing a “persistent cookie” on the user’s computer. These cookies are  small text files that reside on a hard drive indefinitely and once the cookie is in place, it gathers  certain information related to that user’s online activity on a continuous basis and relays that  information to the online advertising provider who can use assemble that data into an  individual profile used to target advertising.     Electronic Communications Privacy Act    Concerns have been raised that online advertising providers, websites, and Internet service  providers (ISPs) that agree to collect certain data generated by Internet traffic to behaviorally  target advertising may be violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) 100 Stat.  1848, 18 U.S.C. 2510‐2521. The ECPA prohibits electronic communications service providers  from intentionally divulging information while in transit to third parties, unless an exception  applies.     Online advertising providers are acquiring information such as the fact that a user clicked on a  particular link (an action which is the equivalent of asking the site providing the link to send the  user information), and they are acquiring that information while the communication is in  transit. Advertisers may also acquire information, such as words entered into a search engine or  answers to online forms, while it is in transit. Under ECPA, it is illegal, with certain enumerated  exceptions, for any person to “intentionally intercept, endeavor to intercept, or procure any  other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any wire, oral or electronic  communication,” where “intercept” can mean the acquisition of the contents of any electronic  communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device, “contents”  includes any information concerning the substance, purport, or meaning of that  communication, and “electronic communication” includes any transfer of signs, signals, writing,  images, sounds, data or other intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a  wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photo optical system that affects interstate or  foreign commerce. Because the advertisers record that a particular user requested information  a website by clicking on a particular link or sent information to a website, advertisers appear to  be “intercepting” the “contents” of those “electronic communications” and such interceptions  are likely covered by ECPA.    The interception of electronic communications is not prohibited by ECPA if one of the parties to  the communications has consented to the interception. Consent is not defined by ECPA, nor do  precise instructions of how and when consent may be obtained under ECPA appear in 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

regulation. There have been few cases dealing with ECPA’s application to online advertising  providers and non examining ECPA’s application to agreements between ISP providers and  online advertising providers.     Agreements for online advertising providers to monitor certain web traffic may be between the  online advertising provider and the website operators seeking to have ads placed on their sites.  The advertising providers receive information about user activity on participating websites and  aggregate that data to better target ads. In litigation against the online advertising provider  DoubleClick for violations of ECPA, the court examined whether websites were “users” of  electronic communications services under ECPA.    The court reasoned that websites are “users” (and, therefore, “parties to the communications”  at issue) because they actively respond to requests they receive over electronic  communications services by deciding whether to send the requested document, breaking the  document down into TCP/IP protocol, and sending the packets over the Internet. Because  websites are “users” of electronic communications, the court found that websites are also  “parties to the communications” in dispute; therefore, website owners have the ability to  consent to a communication’s interception.    The court also held that the website operators had consented, by virtue of their contract with  DoubleClick, to allow the company to intercept certain traffic on their websites in order to  target advertising to website visitors. Consent for private interceptions of electronic  communications cannot be granted if the purpose of the interception is the commission of  criminal or tortious conduct. The court noted that the focus of the determination of criminal or  tortious purpose under ECPA is “not upon whether the interception itself violated another law;  it is upon whether the purpose for the interception—its intended use—was criminal or  tortious.” Applying that standard, the court found that the plaintiffs had not alleged that  DoubleClick’s primary motivation for intercepting communications was to injure plaintiffs  tortiously.    In a similar suit against online advertising provider Pharmatrak, the court outlined limitations to  the consent exception regarding these types of agreements. In that case, Pharmatrak had  contracted with certain drug companies to provide advertising on their websites. Included in  the agreement was permission for the advertising provider to record certain web traffic that did  not include personally identifiable information. Perhaps inadvertently, the online advertising  provider did collect a small amount of personally identifiable information though it had pledged  not to do so. The advertiser argued that consent had been granted for such interception. The  court disagreed. According to the court, it is for the party granting consent to define its scope,  and the parties in this case had not consented to the collection of personally identifiable  information. In collecting personally identifiable information by intercepting data without the  consent of one of the parties, the online advertiser potentially had violated ECPA, but may have  lacked the requisite intent to be found liable under the statute. The appeals court directed the  trial court to conduct further investigation into the matter.   
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

Given the conclusions in the above cases, it appears that online advertising providers, like  DoubleClick, that partner to collect data from individual websites generally are not violating  ECPA, because the websites are “parties to the communication” with the ability to consent to  interception. Based on these cases, the advertising providers will not be seen as running afoul  of ECPA so long as the data the advertising providers collect do not fall outside the scope of the  data the advertising providers’ clients have agreed to disclose.    On the other hand, when the partnership is between the ISP and the online advertising  provider, neither of the parties to the agreement to intercept web traffic is a party to the  communications that are being intercepted. Therefore, it would appear that consent for the  interceptions must be obtained from individual customers of the ISPs. The questions, in these  circumstances, are whether consent must be “affirmative,” or if it can be “implied,” and if  consent must be “affirmative” what process must be used to obtain such consent from  individual users.    Consent to interceptions has been implied by the surrounding circumstances of  communications. While consent may be implied, it may not be “casually inferred.” It seems  unlikely, as a result, that merely by using an ISP’s service, a customer of that service has implied  her consent to the interception of her electronic communications by online advertising  providers. If consent likely may not be implied simply from use of an ISP’s service, then a form  of affirmative consent from the ISP’s customer would be necessary.    In other statutes requiring consent for certain types of disclosure, regulatory regimes have  developed to define when and how affirmative consent should be obtained. A similar debate is  occurring now involving how ISPs should obtain consent from their customers to share data  about their online activities with online advertising providers. The debate centers around  whether ISPs and advertisers must obtain “opt‐in” consent or if they may continue to obtain  “opt‐out” consent for these interceptions. “Opt‐in” consent is obtained when a party to the  communication is notified that his or her ISP has agreed to allow an online advertiser to track  that person’s online activity in order to better target advertising to that person. The advertiser,  however, may not begin to track that individual’s web activity until the individual responds to  the notification granting permission for such activity. If the individual never responds,  interception can never begin. “Opt‐out” consent, by contrast, is obtained when a party to the  communication is notified that his or her ISP has agreed to allow an online advertiser to track  that person’s online activity and the advertising provider will begin such tracking unless the  individual notifies the ISP or the advertiser that he or she does not grant permission for such  activity. If the individual never responds, interception will begin. Currently, it appears that  companies such as NebuAd are obtaining or planning to obtain “opt‐out” consent for the  information gathering they engage in with ISPs. The present question is whether “opt out”  consent is sufficient to satisfy the ECPA consent requirement. This question has yet to be  addressed by a federal court or clarified by legislation or regulation.    Federal Trade Commission Online Advertising Self‐Regulatory Principles   
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

In February of 2009, the FTC released a new set of Self Regulatory Principles for Online  Behavioral Advertising. These principles represent the most recent step in the FTC’s ongoing  examination of behavioral advertising practices, which began with the release of proposed self  regulatory principles for public comment in December of 2007. Among other things, the  finalized principles clarified the types of advertising to which they should be applied and  discussed what notification is sufficient for what types of data the site or advertiser is collecting  about a consumer. A brief sketch of the principles follows.    • The FTC’s principles cover only online behavioral advertising. Online behavioral  advertising means “the tracking of a consumer’s online activities over time.” The  principles make clear that so‐called “first party” advertising (where no information is  shared with a third party) and contextual advertising (where the ad is based on a single  page visit or search) are not covered by the principles.  • According to the principles, websites engaged in online behavioral advertising should  provide clear notification to consumers regarding the types of data being collected on  the site and why, as well as the opportunity for consumers to choose whether their data  may be collected for such purposes.  • Companies collecting the data should provide reasonable security for the data. The  security measures should be concomitant with the sensitivity of the data (the more  sensitive the data, the more protected it should be). The data should be retained only so  long as necessary to fulfill a legitimate business purpose or as required by law.  • Companies must keep the promises they make to their customers. If the company  decides to use previously collected data for purposes that differ materially from the  uses the company described to the customer at the time data collection began, the  company should obtain the affirmative express consent of affected customers.  • Companies should collect sensitive data (e.g., social security number, medical  information, financial account information, etc.) for behavioral advertising only after  obtaining affirmative express consent from the consumer.      COMPLYING WITH MARKETING RESTRICTIONS AND CAN‐SPAM    In 2003, Congress enacted the Controlling the Assault of Non‐Solicited Pornography and  Marketing (CAN‐SPAM) Act to curb spam and sets forth rules for commercial email, commercial  messages and gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them along with penalties for  violations. CAN‐SPAM doesn’t apply just to bulk email; it covers all commercial messages which  the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the  commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email  that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business‐to‐ business email. Each separate email in violation of CAN‐SPAM is subject to penalties of up to  $16,000, so non‐compliance can be costly. The main requirements for compliance are:    (1) Don’t use false or misleading header information  (2) Don’t use deceptive subject lines 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

  CAN‐SPAM covers email where the primary purpose of the message is commercial. Content is  considered commercial if it advertises or promotes a commercial product or service, including  content on a website operated for a commercial purpose. In contrast, content is transactional if  it facilitates an already agreed‐upon transaction or updates a customer about an ongoing  transaction.     On May 12, 2008, the Federal Trade Commission issued final rules for complying with CAN‐ SPAM’s requirements. The final rule established a presumption that marketers are allowed ten  business days to process an opt‐out request and within that period may continue to send  commercial electronic mail to someone who has opted out.    The final rule also narrowed the meaning of the term “sender.” The statutory definition of  “sender” in 15 U.S.C. § 7702(16)(A) is “a person who initiates [a commercial electronic] mail  message and whose product, service or Internet website is advertised or promoted by the  message.” Where a single email message contains advertisements for multiple entities, the rule  clarifies that there can be a “single sender” for compliance purposes if:    (1) the “single sender” falls within the statutory definition of “sender” set forth above;  (2) the “single sender” is identified in the “from” line of the email as the sole sender of the  message;  (3) if sexually oriented material appears in the message, then the term “sexually explicit” is  placed in a clear and conspicuous manner in the message; and  (4) the “single sender” complies with the CAN‐SPAM’s prohibitions against deceptive  transmission information and deceptive subject lines, required return path and required  elements to include in a commercial email messages.    This rule makes it easier for one party to be responsible for complying with CAN‐SPAM’s opt‐ out requirements where multiple parties advertise in a single e‐mail message. 

(3) (4) (5) (6) (7)

Identify the message as an ad  Tell recipients where you are located  Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you  Honor opt‐out requests promptly  Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. 

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

 

ADVERTISING LAW FOR ONLINE PUBLISHERS    FTC ISSUES FINAL GUIDES ON THE USE OF ENDORSEMENTS AND   TESTIMONIALS IN ADVERTISING  SCOTT DAILARD  DOW LOHNES 

The Federal Trade Commission’s revised Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements  and Testimonials in Advertising (the “Endorsement Guides”) went into effect on December 1,  2009.  Like all FTC Guides, the revised Endorsement Guides are advisory in nature and do not  operate with the force of law.  Nonetheless, they articulate standards that the FTC Staff will use  to evaluate whether advertising practices are deceptive in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.   To varying degrees, the Endorsement Guides also influence courts and state attorneys general  when they interpret parallel state consumer protection statutes.  Accordingly, counselors for  advertisers and endorsers should take note of several important changes to the Endorsement  Guides, most of which involve testimonials that publicize extraordinary results achieved by  using an advertiser’s product, endorsers who use blogs, social networking sites or other  “consumer‐generated media” to publish reviews, and celebrities who endorse products on talk  shows or other “unconventional” advertising formats.  The following summarizes the key  provisions of the revised Endorsement Guides.    Elimination of “Results Not Typical” Safe Harbor     The revised Endorsement Guides eliminated a “safe harbor” that previously permitted  testimonials promoting extraordinary results obtained from using an advertiser’s product as  long as they were accompanied by a conspicuous “results not typical” disclaimer.  Under the  new Endorsement Guides, a testimonial describing results that a consumer obtained using an  advertised product generally will be deemed to convey an “implied typicality” claim.  In other  words, the FTC will interpret the testimonial as a claim that the endorser’s experience  represents the results that consumers can generally expect to achieve when using the  advertised product in the depicted circumstances.  According to the revised Endorsement  Guides, a disclaimer stating that the endorser’s “results are not typical” is no longer sufficient  to avoid deception.  Instead, if the endorser’s experience with the advertiser’s product or  service is non‐typical, the testimonial advertisement must also disclose the results that  consumers can generally expect to achieve.  For example, if an ad features “before” and “after”  pictures of a woman who claims to have lost 50 pounds in 6 months using the advertiser’s diet  plan, the ad must also disclose how much weight most women can expect to lose in the  depicted circumstances – e.g., “most women who follow our plan for 6 months lost at least 15  pounds.”  The “generally expected results” disclosure must be substantiated by data obtained  from valid, well‐controlled clinical studies or other objectively reasonable evidence.    Disclosure of “Material Connections” Between Advertisers and Endorsers in Consumer‐ Generated Media   
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

The FTC has long required testimonial advertisements to disclose any “material  connections” between an advertiser and an endorser – typically the provision of free products  or monetary compensation in exchange for a product review – if consumers would not  otherwise expect the connection. The revised Endorsement Guides expressly extend this  principle to relationships that arise when advertisers use “consumer‐generated media” to  promote their products, and they discuss various circumstances in which messages conveyed by  bloggers and users of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will be regulated as  commercial endorsements.    If an advertiser pays someone to blog about a product or service or tout its attributes on  a message board or a social media site, the review clearly will be considered an endorsement,  and the reviewer will be required to disclose his or her relationship with the advertiser.  (The  same is true if the blogger is paid by a third party – such as the operator of a word‐of‐mouth  marketing network – acting on behalf of an advertiser).   The reviewer’s obligations are more  difficult to determine if the only incentive he or she receives is the value of a free product  sample that accompanies a marketer’s request for a review.  In these situations, the FTC will  evaluate the need for a disclosure on a case‐by‐case basis using a test that focuses on whether  the receipt of the merchandise could affect the weight or credibility of the reviewer’s  statements, and whether the connection between the marketer and the reviewer would be  reasonably expected by consumers.        According to the FTC, the fundamental question is whether, viewed objectively, the  relationship between the advertiser and the speaker is such that the speaker’s statement can  be considered “sponsored” by the advertiser and therefore an “advertising message.”  In this  context, the FTC distinguishes between critics who work for traditional media outlets and  consumer endorsers who receive free products as incentives to publish favorable reviews.  The  revised Endorsement Guides generally do not require disclosures from reviewers working for  traditional media companies because the FTC reasons that consumers generally expect that  professional critics may have received, for example, the books they review, or saw the movies  they critique, for free.  The FTC also stated that in “usual circumstances,” it would not consider  reviews published by traditional media outlets “with independent editorial responsibility” to be  sponsored advertisements because the weight that consumers give to statements that appear  in such reviews would not be affected by knowing whether the media publisher paid for the  product in question.       By contrast, when reviews appear in social media, the FTC reasons that it is much more  difficult for consumers to distinguish independent editorial opinion from endorsements that  have been procured (directly or indirectly) by an advertiser.   Accordingly, under the revised  Endorsement Guides, reviewers who receive free products from an advertiser and then blog  about their opinions on a social media site should disclose their relationship to the advertiser if:  (i) the product or service has substantial value, or (ii) the product or service is provided to the  consumer as part of a network marketing program, or (iii) the reviewer frequently receives free  products and services from the advertiser (or similar advertisers) because he or she has an  established blog readership within a particular field or demographic.  
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

If a material connection exists, both the advertiser and the endorser (e.g., the blogger or word‐ of‐mouth marketer) can be subject to liability for false or deceptive statements made in the  testimonial.  The fact that an advertiser may have no knowledge of, or control over, the  endorser’s statements before they are published will not protect the advertiser from liability.   The FTC stated, however, that in deciding whether to bring an enforcement action, it will  consider an advertiser’s efforts to advise endorsers of their responsibilities and to monitor their  reviews for inaccurate statements.  Accordingly, advertisers that provide free products to  consumer endorsers should establish procedures to advise endorsers of their disclosure  obligations, provide them with accurate product information, monitor their reviews and  document the advertiser’s efforts to promptly identify and correct any exaggerated or  unsubstantiated representations.    The FTC’s approach to endorsements in consumer‐generated media provoked heated  commentary in both the blogosphere and the traditional press.  Critics of the revised  Endorsement Guides accused the FTC of holding new media to a different standard than old  media, or of holding individuals to a stricter standard than large corporations.  Mary Engle,  Director of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices, responded to these charges by noting  that more robust disclosure requirements are necessary to avoid deception in contexts that  blur the line between advertising and editorial content.  Engle also emphasized that the  Endorsement Guides hold social media marketers to the same standards as marketers who use  other media: “Social media marketing is here to stay,” she said, “and we have enough respect  for advertising on the Internet and the important role of the blogosphere as a marketplace for  public opinion to hold it to the same standard we apply to advertising in any other medium.”   Engle also made it clear that the FTC does not plan to make individual bloggers an enforcement  priority.  Instead, she stated that the FTC’s principal “concern is with advertisers who pay  consumers to talk up their products and make it look like independent consumer opinion.”      Celebrity Endorsements     The revised Endorsement Guides clarify that celebrities who are paid to endorse an  advertiser’s products have a duty to disclose their relationship with the advertiser if the  endorsement is made outside of a conventional advertising context.  As a general rule, a  celebrity endorser who appears in a “traditional” advertisement, such as a television  commercial, need not disclose that he is being paid by the advertiser, because consumers  typically assume that celebrities are compensated for their appearances in ads.  The same is not  true, however, of talk show appearances, statements made by celebrities in social media, or  during news interviews.  In such non‐traditional advertising contexts, the celebrity must  disclose his or her connection to an advertiser, because consumers might not otherwise realize  that the celebrity is a paid endorser, rather than just a satisfied customer.     The FTC will assign liability in the celebrity endorsement context in the same way it does  in the consumer‐generated media context.  Both the celebrity endorser and the advertiser can  be liable for the endorser’s false or unsubstantiated statements about the endorsed product.   Although the advertiser cannot control what a celebrity endorser actually says on a talk show, 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

or how the show is edited, it may nonetheless be held liable if the endorser fails to make the  required disclosure or makes false statements about the advertiser’s product.   In deciding  whether to bring an action, however, the FTC says it will give significant weight to whether an  advertiser advised the celebrity in advance about what he or she can and cannot truthfully say  about a product, and about the need to disclose the celebrity’s relationship with the advertiser.            

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Some Online Advertising Law Lingo By Luther T. Munford Phelps Dunbar LLP Jackson, Mississippi Sept. 25, 2010 References: Ian Ballon, E-Commerce and Internet Law (2010) (“E-Commerce”) George B. Delta and Jeffrey H. Matsura, Law of the Internet (2010) (“Internet”) John Hart, Internet Law: A Field Guide (6th ed. 2008) (“Field Guide”) Jan R. Winn and Benjamin Wright, Law of Electronic Commerce (2010) (“Commerce”) Lingo: CAN-SPAM Act, Commerce §2.06[A][2], E-Commerce §§ 29.03 - 29.06, Internet §14.10[A], Field Guide Ch. 8. Site traffic metrics, Commerce § 2.05[E] Click fraud, E-Commerce §28.11, Internet § 14.05 Push distribution, adware, spyware, clickwrap agreements, cookies, Internet §§9.03, 14.05, E-Commerce § 2.07 Behavioral advertising, E-Commerce §28.06, Internet § 14.05 Viral or “Buzz” Marketing, E-Commerce §28.05 Linking or framing, E-Commerce §§ 9.04, 20.04, 28.12, Internet §14.05, Field Guide Ch. 2 Keyword advertising, metatags, E-Commerce §§ 9.10, 9.11, 28.09, Internet §14.05, Field Guide Ch. 2 Content co-branding, E-Commerce §20.03, Internet §14.05 Affiliate marketing, E-Commerce §28.13 Contests, sweepstakes and promotions, E-Commerce §28.16 Lanham Act and State law false advertising, E-Commerce §28.08 Sales taxation of electronic marketing, Internet §15.06, Field Guide Ch. 11.

PD.4144902.1

Online commercial communities, Internet §§14.05, 14.06 Best Practices Guidelines for Legal Information Web Site Providers, Commerce §4.02

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NEWSGATHERING LAW: HOW TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE WHEN YOU’RE GATHERING  INFORMATION FOR A STORY    CHARLES COBLE  Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP  1600 Wachovia Capitol Center  150 Fayetteville Street  Raleigh, North Carolina 27601  T: (919) 839‐0300  F: (919) 839‐0304  E: ccoble@brookspierce.com    When Does an Interview Constitute Intrusion?    Although not all States recognize each of the four claims for invasion of privacy (false  light, intrusion, public disclosure of private facts, and misappropriation), the great majority of  States have adopted the claim of invasion of privacy by intrusion.  Unlawful intrusion is:  An intentional physical or sensory interference with, or prying into, a person’s solitude or  seclusion or his private affairs, where the intrusion is highly offensive or objectionable to a  reasonable person.    Examples of conduct that courts have found constituted unlawful intrusion include  physically invading a person’s home or private place, eavesdropping by wiretapping or  microphone, peering through windows or doors and persistent telephoning.  Potential liability  for intrusion may therefore place some limits how far journalists go in reporting a story or  attempting to interview a source.    A person may not maintain an intrusion claim if he or she consents, at the time of the  alleged intrusion, to being photographed, recorded or videotaped.  Thus, the failure to obtain  consent, when combined with surreptitious recording at a private location, may expose  reporters to liability.    For example, consider a reporter who arrives at the subject’s house with no prior notice,  and, when an adult answers the front door, the reporter begins asking him questions.  During  the interview, the reporter wears a hidden microphone in his necktie, while a cameraman and  sound technician hide in a van across the street.  The subject had not agreed to be interviewed  in advance and at no time during the interview did he consent to being recorded.  On these 

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facts, a federal appeals court in California concluded that the subject could maintain an  intrusion claim.    Some States do not expressly require parental consent to interview a minor in a public  forum or to publish or air a minor’s image in connection with a news story.  However, even if a  minor consents to being interviewed at their home, a reporter is not necessarily protected from  liability for intrusion.  For example, in a case out of California a television film crew appeared  unannounced at the front door of a private residence.  Two young children, ages five and seven,  answered the door and purportedly consented to being interviewed after the news crew  informed them that their friends had just been murdered by their friends’ mother.  The court  ruled that the children, because of their young age, lacked the capacity to consent to the news  crew’s presence on the private property, and, therefore, did not consent to the subsequent  interview.  As a result, summary judgment on an intentional infliction of emotional distress  claim was denied.  In addition to being mindful of potential intrusion claims and issues of consent,  journalists and editors should also be aware that courts generally consider public school  property to be a “non‐public forum.”  This designation means that the U.S. Constitution will  permit reasonable local or state regulations that restrict media access to school property or  that otherwise restrict newsgathering activities on school property, so long are those  regulations are designed to lessen interference with normal school activities.  These permissible  restrictions may even extend beyond school grounds, so long as they apply to a school‐ sponsored activity such as a sporting event, a field trip or a graduation ceremony.     The Difficulty of Protecting Confidential Sources in a Federal Proceeding: The David  Ashenfelter Saga    A reporter’s best bet to quash an otherwise valid subpoena to appear in a state‐court  proceeding is a state shield statute.  If, however, the subpoena was issued under federal law,  such as from a United States Attorney or a federal grand jury or in a civil case pending in federal  court, or if the reporter works in a state that lacks a shield statute, the only option is to rely on  the muddled outcome of a 38‐year‐old United Supreme Court precedent.  Despite its age, the  value of this case to reporters remains uncertain.    In Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972), the Court held 5‐4 that reporters served  with a grand jury subpoena in a criminal matter do not have a First Amendment privilege  against testifying.  Branzburg actually decided three different cases, each of which involved a  similar set of facts.  In one of the cases, a reporter in Kentucky had published an investigative  piece on the local drug trade in which he had personally observed people producing and using 
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illegal drugs.  The other two cases involved reporters who had been covering the activities of  the Black Panther Party.  In all three cases, local law enforcement officials who were pursuing  criminal investigations sought to compel the reporters to reveal their confidential sources to a  grand jury.    Justice Byron White, writing for the majority, accepted the reporters’ argument that if  journalists are regularly forced to disclose the identity of their confidential sources, those  sources will soon dry up and the reporters will be unable to do their job.  The question, Justice  White said, is whether this potential burden on the rights of the press outweighs the legitimate  needs of law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute crimes.  In the end, White said:  [W]e perceive no basis for holding that the public interest in law enforcement and in ensuring  effective grand jury proceedings is insufficient to override the consequential, but uncertain,  burden on news gathering that is said to result from insisting that reporters, like other citizens,  respond to relevant questions put to them in the course of a valid grand jury investigation or  criminal trial.    Thus, according to Justice White, reporters remain regular citizens and must comply  with a legitimate subpoena just as any other citizen.    Justice Powell wrote a concurring opinion that reporters have used in both state and  federal courts to argue that the Constitution in fact gives qualified protection, even though  Justice White perhaps did not intend recognize such protection.  Justice Powell made clear in  his opinion that despite the majority holding, law enforcement officials do not have a carte  blanche “to annex the news media as an investigative arm of government.”  The critical passage  of his opinion reads as follows:    If a newsman believes that the grand jury investigation is not being conducted in good  faith he is not without remedy.  Indeed, if the newsman is called upon to give  information bearing only a remote and tenuous relationship to the subject of the  investigation, or if he has some other reason to believe that his testimony implicates  confidential source relationship without a legitimate need of law enforcement, he will  have access to the court on a motion to quash and an appropriate protective order may  be entered.  The asserted claim to privilege should be judged on its facts by the striking  of a proper balance between freedom of the press and the obligation of all citizens to  give relevant testimony with respect to criminal conduct.  The balance of these vital  constitutional and societal interests on a case‐by‐case basis accords with the tried and  traditional way of adjudicating such questions.   
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Branzburg is therefore often described as a “4‐1‐4” case, meaning that there were four votes  on either side of the issue, with one vote straddling both sides.  Justice Powell’s concurrence is  the “1” here, and it is his call for a careful balancing by courts that would open the door in later  years to some courts finding a qualified privilege in Branzburg.    The form of that privilege—adopted by many state legislatures in shield laws—was  outlined in Justice Stewart’s dissent.  He wrote that, contrary to the majority opinion, the First  Amendment demanded greater scrutiny of government attempts to compel reporters’  testimony.  Justice Stewart outlined a three‐part analysis: Governmental officials must,  therefore, (1) demonstrate that the information sought is clearly relevant to a precisely defined  subject of governmental inquiry.  (2) They must demonstrate that it is reasonable to think the  witness in question has that information.  (3) And they must show that there is not any means  of obtaining the information less destructive of First Amendment liberties.    In one form or another, this three‐part showing forms the basis of many shield statutes  that provide a qualified privilege to reporters, thereby giving them some protection from  compelled disclosure of confidential (and in some cases non‐confidential) sources and source  material.  In addition, it is the foundation of the long‐standing effort to have a federal shield  statute passed by Congress, an effort that has yet to achieve success.    In recent years, several federal courts have refused to find a federal constitutional  privilege in Branzburg, which calls into question just how much protection that case offers.  In  two high‐profile cases in the District of Columbia, federal district court judges ordered reporters  to disclose confidential sources relating to the Valerie Plame leak investigation and a civil  lawsuit brought by Wen Ho Lee.  These decisions were upheld on appeal.  In addition, a federal  district court in San Francisco ordered reporters to disclose their source in connection with the  BALCO investigation.  The Reporters Committee has cataloged recent federal subpoenas that  gave rise to court challenges.  The lesson of these cases is that a reporter cannot count on  protection—even qualified protection—from a federal subpoena that seeks the identity of a  confidential source or other source materials.  This makes the passage of a federal shield law all  the more critical.      This exposure reporters and their news organizations face in federal proceedings has  been highlighted by a saga involving Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter.  That  dispute arose in the context of a civil lawsuit brought by former federal prosecutor Richard  Convertino in federal court in the District of Columbia.  Convertino led the prosecution of the  so‐called “Detroit Sleeper Cell” defendants shortly after September 11, 2001; however, the 

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Justice Department subsequently removed Convertino from his post and asked that the  convictions he obtained in that matter be dismissed.    In the complaint he filed in the pending civil action, Convertino—who was himself  acquitted of charges that he conspired to conceal exculpatory evidence and lied to a federal  judge in connection with the prosecution—contends that the Department of Justice disclosed  information about him to the news media in violation of the federal Privacy Act.  In connection  with the civil lawsuit, Convertino sought to depose Detroit Free Press reporter David  Ashenfelter.  In particular, he sought from Ashenfelter the identity of a confidential source who  told the newspaper that Convertino was being investigated for misconduct in connection with a  terrorism prosecution.  Information from that source appeared in a January 2004 article that  Ashenfelter authored.    Ashenfelter and the Detroit Free Press fought the subpoena in federal court in Michigan,  moving to quash the subpoena and opposing Convertino’s motion to compel Ashenfelter to  comply with the subpoena.  In these papers Ashenfelter relied on traditional First Amendment  arguments, discussed above.  The federal district court judge rejected these arguments, and  ordered the deposition to move forward in this written decision, which was subsequently  reaffirmed on the newspaper’s request for reconsideration.    However, rather than answer the questions he was asked, Ashenfelter invoked the Fifth  Amendment privilege against self‐incrimination.  He argued he feared prosecution because  Convertino’s attorney had made statements suggesting that Ashenfelter himself was criminally  culpable by withholding the identity of the person Convertino claimed had violated the federal  Privacy Act by revealing information to Ashenfelter about Convertino.  The former prosecutor  then moved to hold Ashenfelter in contempt for refusing to answer questions about his  confidential source.    After some legal maneuvering, the issue finally culminated in another hearing.  The  presiding judge heard testimony from Ashenfelter ex parte and concluded that Ashenfelter’s  invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege was warranted.  As a result, he held that  Ashenfelter did not have to testify, and his source’s identity remained secret and Ashenfelter  was relieved of his obligation to sit for a deposition.  The judge’s decision was hailed by free  speech advocacy groups, who used the episode to help build momentum for passage of a  federal shield law.  If Congress were to pass a federal law akin to most state shield statutes, a  reporter subpoenaed in a federal matter would not have to prevail on a Fifth Amendment (or  First Amendment) argument in order to protect his or her source.    
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Know Your State’s Shield Law    Thirty‐nine States have what have become known as “shield laws” or “reporter's shield  statutes,” which offer varying degrees of protection to reporters from attempts by government  officials and others to compel reporters’ testimony.  For example, North Carolina has a shield  law that follows the majority approach around the country by offering journalists a qualified  privilege from disclosure of sources and source materials, a privilege that can be overcome if  the opposing party makes a sufficient showing.    The key portion of the North Carolina statute reads:    A journalist has a qualified privilege against disclosure in any legal proceeding of any  confidential or nonconfidential information, document, or item obtained or prepared  while acting as a journalist.    For an invaluable compilation of shield laws around the country, go to the Reporters  Committee for Freedom of the Press web site.  A formulation such as North Carolina’s can raise  a host of questions, of course.    What is a journalist?    North Carolina’s shield law defines a journalist as:    Any person, company, or entity, or the employees, independent contractors, or agents of  that person, company, or entity, engaged in the business of gathering, compiling,  writing, editing, photographing, recording, or processing information for dissemination  via any news medium.    This is a rather broad definition, and courts have tended to read it that way.  We do not,  however, know the limits of this definition.  Is a blogger who posts in his free time—the modern  version of the lonely pamphleteer—a journalist under the North Carolina law?  North Carolina’s  appellate courts have not yet given guidance on this question, although a trial court recently  refused to apply the shield law to a subpoena directed to a blog.    However, the answer in California, at least, may be otherwise.  In O’Grady v. Superior  Court, 139 Cal. App. 4th 1423 (Cal. Ct. App. 2006), the well‐publicized case involving allegations  by Apple Computer that a group of bloggers had misappropriated trade secrets, the court 

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declined to wade into the question of what a journalist is, and held simply that California’s  shield statute applied.    What is a news medium?    Under North Carolina’s shield law, a “news medium” is:    Any entity regularly engaged in the business of publication or distribution of news via  print, broadcast, or other electronic means accessible to the general public.  It is important to note that the law references “any entity,” not “any business.”  This  would seem at least to open the door to a non‐commercial blogger or some other non‐ mainstream form of journalism.    When does it apply?    The privilege applies in “any legal proceeding”—both civil and criminal—and covers  “any confidential or nonconfidential information, document, or item obtained or prepared  while acting as a journalist.”  The phrase “as a journalist” is critical, however, because the law  also makes clear that there is no privilege against disclosure when the journalist obtained the  sought‐after information because of his or her own eyewitness observation.  A trial court has  held that the qualified privilege extended to a copy of a radio broadcast of a news program, as  aired.    What does “qualified” mean?    Because the privilege afforded by North Carolina’s statute is qualified rather than  absolute, the privilege can be overcome by the party seeking the information.  The journalist  may be forced to testify or produce evidence if the party seeking disclosure can show that the  evidence or testimony sought:    • Is relevant and material to the proper administration of the legal proceeding for which  the testimony or production is sought;   • Cannot be obtained from alternate sources; and   • Is essential to the maintenance of a claim or defense of the person on whose behalf the  testimony or production is sought.    In North Carolina, when a journalist asserts the reporter’s privilege, this three‐part test  tends to be the legal battleground.  And, as one state court said, it is a “rare instance” in which 
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a party seeking disclosure can meet the requirements.  See, e.g., State v. Petersen, 2003 WL  22965551 (N.C. Super. June 30, 2003).  Another North Carolina state court elaborated:  Both the statutory privilege and the common law privilege are intended to protect the free flow  of information and avoid the impediment that occurs when reporters are subjected to in‐court  examination of their newsgathering activities.  This intrusion is especially offensive when the  same information could be derived from other sources.  Higgins v. Young, 2001 WL 1692379 (N.C. Super. Aug. 08, 2001).    A state shield statute is therefore a critical line of defense journalists can interpose in  response to a civil, criminal, or grand jury subpoena in a state‐court proceeding.  As soon as a  newsroom receives a subpoena, it is imperative that it pass the subpoena along to its counsel  so that he or she can determine whether there is a shield statute and, if so, whether it applies.   There may be time limits under the state rules of civil procedure for interposing objections to  the subpoena and/or for filing a motion to quash.    As the court in Higgins v. Young indicated, however, state shield statutes do not  represent the only form of protection reporters have—the reporter may argue for protection  by a constitutional privilege as well.  In state‐court proceedings in states with shield laws, those  laws will likely provide the most robust protection from disclosure, but in states lacking shield  laws and in federal proceedings the constitutional privilege may well be the only basis for  opposing the subpoena.         

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TOPICS IN NEWSGATHERING LAW  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT    ENTERING THE PROPERTY OF OTHERS TO REPORT ON A STORY    While the First Amendment protects an online publisher’s right to engage in speech, it does not  grant it unfettered access to the property of others. Online publishers (and their counsel)  should always keep in mind that the right of access is no greater than the public's right of  access. In general:    • There is a right to access property that is open to the general public.  • Not all property owned by the government is accessible by the public.  • There is no right to enter private property without the owner's permission.    Even when with the right to access property, however, a reporter may be asked to leave by law  enforcement or the owner of the property. In these situations, it is important that a reporter  and the online publisher understand her rights ahead of time.     The U.S. Constitution protects the right to speak and, in some instances, grants the right to  access public places to gather information. The right to access public property is not absolute,  however. Generally speaking, reporters have the same right of access to public property as the  general public. Generally speaking, government officials and persons in possession of private  property are the only figures who can restrict access to property. If one of these figures asks a  reporter to leave when she believes she has a right to access, she should explain why she has  the right to stay. They may say that the current circumstances are an exception, or she may be  able to convince them to allow her to stay. In any case, she must take care – she can be charged  with trespass for remaining if she does not have a right to remain there.    This section covers access to public (i.e. government‐owned) property. (Refer to the section on  Access to Private Property for more information on entering privately owned property.) Not all  government‐owned property is open to the general public. Depending on the type of property  reporters wish to enter, their right to access public places may be constrained by reasonable  time, place, or manner restrictions, or by the government's interest in managing its property.    Here is an overview of the three types of public property most commonly encountered:    Property That Historically Has Been Open to the Public   
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The right to access public property is strongest when the area has historically been open to the  public for the exercise of speech, public debate, and assembly. These areas are known as public  forums and include spaces such as sidewalks, parks, and town squares. Reporters may freely  enter and gather information while in these public spaces, but they should do so without  disturbing the peace or interfering with those around them. Their right of access does not  confer immunity from all liability if their conduct is disruptive or harassing.    Property That Is Open to the Public for a Limited Purpose    The right to access government‐owned property that is only partially open to the public is a bit  more limited. If the general public is permitted to access only certain areas or for certain limited  purposes, the right to access the property for newsgathering purposes is similarly limited. For  example, some parts of a courthouse are open to the general public, but portions of the  courtrooms themselves are accessible only by the parties in the litigation and judges' chambers  are completely off limits to the public.    However, some public property, even though it is open only for limited purposes, can take on  the attributes of a public forum discussed above. A classic example of this type of property is  public schools and universities. Although public school and university buildings are not wholly  open to the public, some parts of a campus may be considered a public forum. If a school's  large open quad is accessed from public sidewalks and streets and freely used by the general  public with no apparent objection from the school administration, then the quad may be  considered "dedicated" to public use, and therefore more like the traditional public forums of  the public park and sidewalk. Additionally, if the school opens certain of its rooms for non‐ school meetings that are open to the public, those rooms, during those times, will be treated as  public forums.    Remember that because public schools are not entirely public forums, school administrators  often have the discretion to restrict the entry of outsiders, particularly while the school is in  session. Check in with the school administration before entering school grounds or the reporter  may be liable for trespass. Additionally, some states laws prohibit people from loitering within a  certain distance while school is in session. These "school loitering laws" are mainly aimed at  keeping sexual predators and drug dealers away from schoolchildren, but be aware that their  language may be broad enough to cover lawful or innocent activity as well.    Property That Is Not Open To the Public   

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A reporter cannot access or gather information on government‐owned property that is not  open to the general public. This type of property is known as a nonpublic forum in which the  government can charge the reporter with trespass for entrance without authorization. The  following are examples of nonpublic forums:    An airport terminal is a nonpublic forum. See International Society for Krishna Consciousness v.  Lee, 505 U.S. 672 (1992). The Supreme Court has noted that airports are "among those publicly  owned facilities that could be closed to all except those who have legitimate business there."  United States v. Grace, 461 U.S. 171, 178 (1983).    Government‐owned civic centers, stadiums, or theaters used for private commercial purposes  are not public forums. When the government leases a convention center, the private lessee  may legally exclude individuals who want to report on newsworthy events. The event  coordinators may even grant exclusive media coverage rights to a particular media outlet and  deny access to others who want to cover the event (or at least deny them access in their  capacities as journalists).    A reporter may wish to access another's private property in order to gather information to  publish online. However, while there are (rare) circumstances in which the law will condone A  reporter’s entry onto private property without permission, in general the reporter does not  have any right to enter the private property of others without their consent.     Types of Private Property    Residences: The term "private property" encompasses a wide variety of places, from  homes to businesses open to the public. Courts are highly unsympathetic to those who try to  gather news in private homes without consent, and if the reporter enters a private home  without permission, she may be liable for invasion of privacy, trespass and, in certain cases,  intentional infliction of emotional distress.    In the 1940s, the Supreme Court took on the issue of "company towns" with regard to the First  Amendment. Although the company town was private property owned by the company, the  fact that it had been opened up to use by the public generally made it subject to the  constitutional requirements of the First Amendment. Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 (1946).    Today, there are fewer company towns; however, private, gated residential communities may  occupy a similar niche. Visitors seeking access to a private residential community must usually  announce themselves at the gate or receive permission from the development's security guards 
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in order to enter. It's often a wise idea to seek permission before entering such a community.  But even if the reporter does not have express permission, the right to access will be strongest  if the private residential community opens its gates to the public at large.     Businesses: If the reporter tries to access businesses that do not open themselves up to  the public, a reporter may be liable for trespass. However, as a member of the public the  reporter will be able to access businesses open to the public without fear of liability. The  reporter’s right of access does not necessarily translate into a right to gather information while  she is there. The business has given her consent to use the premises as a patron, and her  actions need to be within the scope of that use.    For example, a restaurant consents to a person’s presence for her to enjoy eating a lovely meal  in the company of good friends. In this scenario, taking notes about the food, ambiance, and  service may be fine, whereas approaching other diners for interviews or for photographs likely  oversteps the scope of the restaurant's consent, and she could be liable for trespass. Note that  she may only access the areas of the business that are open to the public. Continuing our  example, while she can enter a restaurant, she cannot go to the kitchen without additional  permission.    Shopping malls have come to occupy a place in modern communities akin to the town square  or main street and thus are arguably public, rather than private, in nature. But unlike the  traditional public forum of a town square, these establishments are privately owned places of  business. Since the Supreme Court's decision in PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S.  74 (1980), stating that there is no constitutional right to free speech in a private shopping mall,  the law of access to shopping malls has largely been left to the states. State courts vary on the  question of whether to allow access to shopping malls. Those that do find them to be public or  quasi‐public forums still note that owners may impose reasonable time, place and manner  restrictions on expression, provided the regulations are content‐neutral, narrowly tailored, and  leave open sufficient alternative channels of communication.    If a reporter wants to go to a shopping mall and gather information, try to avoid disrupting  business activities. For example, it would be better to approach people walking in the corridors  of the mall, or in the food court, than to attempt to talk to everyone entering or exiting.    Entering Private Property While Accompanying Government Officials    A reporter may be invited by law enforcement or other government officials to accompany  them while they perform their duties. These types of situations are called "media ride‐alongs" 
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and can be a great way to gather information about how public officials handle their work.  However, ride‐alongs may take the reporter to events occurring on private property. The  Supreme Court has held that accompanying police in their execution of an arrest warrant in a  private home may make the reporter liable for trespass. See Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603  (1999).    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has a terrific overview on how courts have  treated trespass issues in media ride‐alongs. The issue is complex. As a rule of thumb: if the  reporter is invited on a media ride‐along and enter private property, the reporter should get  consent for her presence from the person in possession of the property. Additionally, she  should note that depending upon the circumstances, her presence may jeopardize an  investigation. Do not be surprised if the local law enforcement agency prohibits media ride‐ alongs altogether.    Some suggestions to minimize the legal risks when entering the property of others include:    • When in doubt, get consent from the person in possession of the property before  entering.  • Make sure the use of the property is consistent with the right to be there.   • Do not make misrepresentations to gain access to public or private property.   • Obtain a press pass or media credentials when possible. Depending on the forum or  event, the owner of the property, local police, or other government agency may have a  procedure for obtaining these passes. Government agencies sometimes require proof  that a requester is a professional journalist, but in some cases the reporter may be able  to qualify if she publishes a blog or website or by simply asserting that there is a public  interest in publishing information from the forum or event.   • Do not disturb the peace or harass people in order to get information when entering a  business open to the public.  • It's generally a good idea to refrain from interfering with subjects or disturbing the  peace. Even if on public property, a reporter may face charges of harassment, assault,  and the like.  • Let the school know ahead of time for access to the campus or to interview students.  • Don't loiter around a schoolyard. Get permission from school officials to be on the  premises; most schools will not allow strangers to wander around without credentials.  • When covering a breaking event, cooperate with authorities, police, and emergency  personnel to be sure that the reporter is not interfering with rescue or other emergency  efforts.   
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  RECORDING CONVERSATIONS    Using a recording device, such as a microphone, video recorder, or camera, is often a helpful  way to capture and preserve information about conversations, interviews, and phone calls. It is  also a good way to document what takes place in a court hearing or public meeting, whether  for personal reference or later broadcast over the Internet.    Federal and state wiretapping laws may limit the ability to record telephone calls or in‐person  conversations (including by recording video that captures sound). These laws not only expose  the person making the recording to the risk of criminal prosecution, but also potentially give an  injured party a civil claim for money damages against the person making the recording.    From a legal standpoint, the most important question in the recording context is whether a  person making the recording must get consent from one or all of the parties to a phone call or  conversation before recording it. Federal law and many state wiretapping statutes permit  recording if one party (including the person making the recording) to the phone call or  conversation consents. Other states require that all parties to the communication consent.    Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell which law applies to a communication, especially a  phone call. For example, if the parties are in different states, then it is difficult to say in advance  whether federal or state law applies, and if state law applies which of the two (or more)  relevant state laws will control the situation. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to get the  consent of all parties. However, when all parties in the recording are both located in the same  state, then you can rely with greater certainty on the law of that state. In some states, this  means that only one party to the communication must consent. In others, all parties will need  to consent.     Who must give permission to record a telephone or in‐person conversation?    Federal law permits recording telephone calls and in‐person conversations with the consent of  at least one of the parties. See 18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(d). This is called a "one‐party consent" law.  Under a one‐party consent law, you can record a phone call or conversation so long as you are  a party to the conversation. Furthermore, if you are not a party to the conversation, a "one‐ party consent" law will allow you to record the conversation or phone call so long as your  source consents and has full knowledge that the communication will be recorded.   

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In addition to federal law, thirty‐eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted "one‐ party consent" laws and permit individuals to record phone calls and conversations to which  they are a party or when one party to the communication consents.     When must you get permission from everyone involved before recording?    Twelve states require the consent of every party to a phone call or conversation in order to  make the recording lawful. These "two‐party consent" laws have been adopted in California,  Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire,  Pennsylvania and Washington. Although they are referred to as "two‐party consent" laws,  consent must be obtained from every party to a phone call or conversation if it involves more  than two people.     Can you record a phone call or conversation when YOU do not have consent from one  of the parties?    Regardless of whether state or federal law governs the situation, it is almost always illegal to  record a phone call or private conversation to which you are not a party, do not have consent  from at least one party, and could not naturally overhear. In addition, federal and many state  laws do not permit you to surreptitiously place a bug or recording device on a person or  telephone, in a home, office or restaurant to secretly record a conversation between two  people who have not consented.    Federal law and most state statutes also make disclosing the contents of an illegally intercepted  telephone call illegal.     Practical Tips for Recording Phone Calls and Conversations    • Check the law of your state before recording a phone call or conversation. Recording  phone calls and conversations without consent may expose you to criminal and civil  liability, so you will want to be aware of what is permissible before taking action. Pay  attention to your state’s consent requirement – i.e., whether one party’s consent is  sufficient to make recording lawful, or whether all parties need to consent.  • Play it safe and get consent to record from all the parties. In many states, the consent of  one party is sufficient to make recording lawful. But the legal situation becomes more  uncertain when parties to a phone call are located in different states. To avoid legal  problems, it is best to get consent from all parties to this kind of multi‐state 

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conversation before recording. Even when all parties to a conversation are in the same  place, it cannot hurt (and it may help) to get consent from everyone.  • Get consent on tape. This is the best way to document that consent was obtained. As a  practical matter, this will require: (1) notifying the person of the intent to record; (2)  getting consent off‐the‐record;  (3) starting the recording and then (4) asking the person  to confirm on‐the‐record that she consents to the recording.  • Don't be secretive. In some states, secret recording is a violation of the law even in a  public place. Whenever possible, make it clear to those around that a recording is being  made. Being upfront puts people on notice that they are being recorded, affords them  the opportunity to object.    RECORDING PUBLIC MEETINGS AND COURT HEARINGS    Generally speaking, attendees are free to record a meeting of a government body required to  be open to the public by law through note‐taking, sound and video recording devices, and  photography, so long as the method of recording used is reasonable and not disruptive. The  ability to do so, however, is based largely on state open meetings laws, and the details of these  laws vary significantly. At least one court has held that there is no federal constitutional right to  make a video recording of an open meeting, at least not when other methods are available for  compiling a record of the proceeding, such as written and stenographic notes or audio taping.  Whiteland Woods, LLP v. Township of W. Whiteland, 193 F.3d 177 (3rd Cir. 1999). Government  bodies may therefore place reasonable restrictions on the use recording devices, including a  ban on certain devices, in order to preserve the orderly conduct of its meetings.    Even when no state open meetings law affirmatively gives the the right to record, many state  statutes permit the recording of speeches and conversations that take place where the parties  may reasonably expect to be recorded. If a reporter is attending a meeting that is open to the  public, it is likely that the people running a meeting or giving a speech should reasonably  assume that they might be recorded. However, it is well‐advised to always take reasonable  steps to make clear that the reporter is recording. Concealing a camera or recording equipment  is not a good idea.    The law regarding the use of audio and video recording devices in court hearings varies a great  deal based on the state. In Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560 (1981), the U.S. Supreme Court  held that the federal Constitution does not prohibit states from allowing cameras in the  courtroom and that states may adopt their own rules permitting such recording equipment.  Note that this ruling does not require states to allow recording in the courtroom, it only says  that states may choose to do so. Since this ruling, all fifty states have adopted rules on the 
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topic, but the rules vary widely. In some states, cameras and recording equipment are  permitted in trial and appellate court proceedings, while in others recording is only allowed in  appellate court proceedings. Most states give the court discretion to impose reasonable  restrictions on the use of cameras and recording equipment in order to maintain the integrity  of its proceedings and to otherwise serve the interests of justice.    The federal appellate courts may adopt their own rules regarding cameras and recording  equipment in the courtroom. At the time of writing, only the Second Circuit and the Ninth  Circuit Courts of Appeals allow recording equipment.    Practical Tips for Recording Public Meetings and Court Hearings    Using a recording device, such as a microphone, video recorder, or camera, is a helpful way to  capture and preserve information about conversations, interviews, and phone calls. It is also a  good way to document what takes place in a court hearing or public meeting, whether for  personal reference or later broadcast over the Internet. Here are some practical tips to  minimize legal risks when recording conversations, phone calls, meetings, and hearings.      • Check the law before showing up. State law varies greatly, especially when it comes to  recording in the courtroom. Looking into the law ahead of time can help the reporter  understand what's possible and the requirements to meet ahead of time.   • Notify the clerk of the court or the governmental body holding the meeting well ahead  of time. Many state laws require that permission be granted in advance in order to  record in a courtroom. This requirement is less common with respect to public  meetings, but it may still be useful to advise the governmental body in question of a  plan to record.   • Don't be secretive. In some states, recording secretly is a violation of the law, even in a  public place like a meeting or courtroom.       THE INTERNET AND SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE COURTROOM      Courts are addressing the extent to which Internet and new media resources should be  available to courtroom observers and jurors.  In two separate cases, state judges in Colorado  and Ohio recently took action against courtroom observers who used social media technology  in court.       

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On February 16, Dwayne Davenport went on trial for the fatal shooting of Michael  Grissett in East Cleveland on January 16, 2009.  (Two other defendants in the case pleaded  guilty, and are awaiting sentencing.) As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on the second  day of trial jurors noticed that Andre Block (the defendant's friend) and Dwight Davenport (the  defendant's cousin), who were seated in the back row of the courtroom observing the trial,  were pointing the above‐mentioned devices at the jury.  After jurors complained to Common  Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo, she ordered Block and Dwight Davenport arrested for  contempt of court and declared a mistrial in the case.       At a hearing on the contempt citation held on February 25, Judge Russo told Block and  Dwight Davenport that they were guilty of "intimidating and frightening my jury," and that their  actions had made the jurors fearful of jury service, forcing the mistrial. Block, who used a Flip  phone to record about eight minutes of the proceedings, claimed that he was taking video of  the defendant, his friend Dwayne Davenport, to remember him in case Davenport was sent to  prison. Judge Russo sentenced Block to 60 days in prison. And Dwight Davenport claimed that  he used his cell phone to send a text message to his girlfriend; no video or photographs of  jurors were found on his phone.  But Judge Russo rejected this claim. "You were seen by more  than one person pointing it at the jury," she said in sentencing Davenport to 30 days in jail. "You  knew full well what you were doing."       After the incident, several signs were posted in the Cuyahoga County courthouse  forbidding the use of recording devices and requiring cell phones to be shut off.  Ohio's court  rules, which were written before the advent of social media technology, allow for broadcasting  of court proceedings with the permission of the presiding judge.  Victims and witnesses have  the right to object to being filmed, videotaped, recorded or photographed, Rule 12(C)(2), but  there is no such provision for jurors (although Rule 12(C)(4) provides that "Media  representatives shall not be permitted to transmit or record anything other than the court  proceedings from the courtroom while the court is in session," which arguably could prohibit  text messaging, tweeting, and other social media dispatches from courtrooms).  Another Ohio  court has banned most cell phones and similar devices from the courthouse.     This is not the first case in which pointing a cell phone has been held to constitute  intimidation.  In Commonwealth v. Casiano, 876 N.E.2d 475 (Mass. Ct. App. 2007), a  Massachusetts appeals court upheld a witness intimidation conviction against a defendant who  pointed a cell phone at an undercover officer in a courtroom hallway while the officer was  waiting to testify against the defendant.  "It is irrelevant whether any photographs were taken,"  Associate Justice R. Marc Kantrowitz wrote for the court, "as the police officer was made to  believe that the defendant was taking pictures of him and could disseminate his likeness, an act  intended to intimidate."  Casiano, at 479.  
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    Another recent incident arose during the Colorado murder case against Willie Clark,  accused of killing Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams. Judge Christina Habas has  imposed strict restrictions on trial observers, including a prohibition on all communications  from the courtroom, whether by blogging, text messaging, or other means, and a ban on  cameras and cell phones from an entire section of the courthouse.       Despite these restrictions, numerous signs in the courthouse summarizing the rules,  security checkpoints at both the courthouse and courtroom doors, and an announcement of  the cell phone ban at the start of proceedings, Robert Forto—who was covering the case for his  blog—had his iPhone with him in the courtroom.  His daughter called him, then his wife sent  him a text message, and then his daughter left a voicemail.  Forto texted his daughter, saying "I  can't talk right now."       A sheriff's deputy saw Forto send the text message and removed Forto from the  courtroom and took his cell phone. After about an hour, during a recess in the trial, Forto was  called before Judge Habas, who according to KMGH‐TV explained: "What you did was a  contempt (of court). It was a direct violation of my order, even if it was well intentioned."   Under the terms of the order, Habas banned Forto from the courtroom, but permitted him to  watch the trial in the overflow room.      But it’s not just observers’ use of technology that is coming under scrutiny.  In January, a  Florida trial court judge banned a Florida Times‐Union reporter from live‐blogging during a  high‐profile murder trial in the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court of Duval County, Florida. Although  an appeals court reversed the trial judge's initial ruling, the judge ultimately retained the  restrictions on the use of media in the courtroom.       The case in question, dubbed the Dubose Murder Trial, involved three brothers being  tried for the murder of a 9‐year‐old girl. It had attracted significant public interest in the  Jacksonville area. During the first day and a half of trial, reporter Bridget Murphy was sending  periodic updates from her laptop in the courtroom to a dedicated blog page on the Times‐ Union's Jacksonville.com website. According to documents filed with the court, after the first  day of live online coverage the blog had received over 1,000 hits and was laden with  commentary from interested readers. Even the State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit,  Angela Corey, who had stopped by the trial in a supervisory capacity on the first day, said she  was a fan of the live coverage and called the blog "awesome," according to the newspaper's  petition appealing the judge’s initial ruling prohibiting live blogging.    
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  On the second day of trial, Circuit Judge L. Page Haddock expelled Murphy and her  laptop from the courtroom. The ban was raised sua sponte, with Judge Haddock telling a Times‐ Union attorney, "They’re distracting the jurors; they’re distracting me."  He also stated that  blogging live from the courtroom violated a Florida Supreme Court order about how many  transmitting devices are allowed in the courtroom. Pursuant to regular court practice in the  jurisdiction, one television camera and one still photographer were also covering the  proceedings, and Judge Haddock ruled that only two devices total were permitted.       Later, it became clear that Judge Haddock was relying on Judicial Administration Rule  2.450, which says that electronic media and still photography coverage of public judicial  proceedings "shall be allowed" subject to the court's discretion, and provides that "at least 1  portable television camera," "[n]ot more than 1 still photographer," and "[n]ot more than 1  audio system for radio broadcast" shall be permitted in any trial or appellate court proceeding.       The next day, Judge Haddock amended his order, stating that he would allow laptops,  but that Rule 2.450 imposed a limitation of two total devices in the courtroom at any one time.  Therefore, if Murphy wanted to continue her coverage, she could only do so if either the still  camera or the video camera were not being used.       The Times‐Union attorneys filed an emergency motion before the District Court of  Appeal for the First District of Florida, requesting that laptop use be permitted at the trial. The  appeals court granted the motion in‐part, holding that Rule 2.450 does not apply to laptops,  even when used to live‐blog:   The rule does not apply to the use of laptop computers, regardless of whether the  device is used to transmit information outside the courtroom. The trial court retains the  authority, however, to prohibit the use of any device which as a factual matter, the  court finds causes a disruption of proceedings.     Morris Pub. Co. v. Florida, No. 1D10‐226 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Jan. 20, 2010.  While the  appeals court disagreed with Judge Haddock's legal reasoning, its ruling recognized his  continuing authority to prohibit the use of laptops if it caused a disruption. The appeals court  decision thus left open to Judge Haddock the possibility of going back to his very first  justification for prohibiting live blogging of the trial.   After reading the appellate court's order  in open court, Judge Haddock stated: "For now, my ruling about devices is going to stay the way  it is."      Just as the Internet and digital devices have made it easier for bloggers and other media  to disseminate information on a trial, these technologies also have made it easier for jurors to 
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conduct independent research related to the trial.  This, in turn, prompted the U.S. Judicial  Conference—which sets policies for all federal courts except the Supreme Court— to  disseminate this past January new suggested jury instructions on "juror use of electronic  communication technologies" during trial.       The suggested instruction to be used before trial states:   You, as jurors, must decide this case based solely on the evidence presented here within  the four walls of this courtroom. This means that during the trial you must not conduct  any independent research about this case, the matters in the case, and the individuals  or corporations involved in the case. In other words, you should not consult dictionaries  or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic  tools to obtain information about this case or to help you decide the case. Please do not  try to find out information from any source outside the confines of this courtroom.      The pre‐trial instruction also admonishes jurors that they must not discuss the case with  anyone, including fellow jurors.  The suggested instruction also includes a laundry list of  technologies that jurors should not use:   You may not communicate with anyone about the case on your cell phone, through e‐ mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, through any blog or website,  through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites,  including Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, and YouTube.       The suggested post‐trial instruction, to be given before the jury begins to deliberate, includes a  more extensive list:   During your deliberations, you must not communicate with or provide any information  to anyone by any means about this case. You may not use any electronic device or  media, such as a telephone, cell phone, smart phone, iPhone, Blackberry or computer;  the internet, any internet service, or any text or instant messaging service; or any  internet chat room, blog, or website such as Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, YouTube or  Twitter, to communicate to anyone any information about this case or to conduct any  research about this case until I accept your verdict.        The Judicial Conference's Committee on Court Administration and Case Management,   which approved the suggested instructions in December, notes in a preface to the instructions  that the committee thought it was important to specifically identify the technologies and  services that jurors should not use: 

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The Committee believes that more explicit mention in jury instructions of the various  methods and modes of electronic communication and research would help jurors better  understand and adhere to the scope of the prohibition against the use of these devices.      The new guidelines follow a spate of cases where appeals courts have overturned jury  verdicts because of social media use by jurors during trial.  One of the earliest cases to do so  was a 2003 Colorado case in which the state's Court of Appeals overturned a defentant’s  conviction based on a juror’s Internet research. In People v. Wadle, 77 P.3d 764 (Colo. App.  2003), aff'd, 97 P.3d 932 (Colo. 2004), a juror in a criminal trial had done research online about  the drug Paxil, which the defendant accused of murdering her step‐grandson had taken, and  shared that research with other jurors.  The trial court denied a motion for a new trial, but the  appeals court reversed, holding that   Although the Internet has made information more accessible for the average person,  the information obtained thereby may be misleading, taken out of context, outdated, or  simply inaccurate. . . In view of the problems and dangers associated with the  unsupervised use of the Internet, trial courts should emphasize that jurors should not  consult the Internet, or any other extraneous materials, at any time during the trial,  including during deliberations.   77 P.3d at 771.       More recently, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals had declared mistrials in two  cases based on juror’s Internet research. In Wardlaw v. State, No. 1478/07, 185 Md. App. 440  (Md. Ct. Special App. May 8, 2009), the trial court had instructed the jurors not to investigate  the case in any way beyond the evidence presented in court.  Yet, despite this admonition, a  juror in the trial of Zarzine Wardlaw used the Internet to independently research the definition  of "oppositional defiant disorder," and whether lying is a part of the illness.  During the trial, a  therapist testified that she had diagnosed a key witness as having the disorder. The trial judge  learned of the research in a note from the jury, and Wardlaw's attorney moved for a mistrial.   Instead, the judge instructed the jury that it could base its verdict only on the evidence  presented in court.  But 30 minutes after the jury resumed deliberations, both the prosecutor  and defense counsel moved for a mistrial based on the juror's Internet research.  The trial court  denied this motion.       The appellate court, in a unanimous, three‐judge decision, concluded that the trial  court's failure to question the jurors about the influence of the Internet research required a  reversal:   [T]he juror’s internet research of ODD, and her subsequent reporting of her finding,  rightly or wrongly, that lying is associated with the disorder, constituted egregious 
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misconduct. . . .  Given the fact that his misconduct came to light while the jury was still  deliberating, and was presumptively prejudicial to either the State or appellant, it was  incumbent upon the trial court to voir dire the jurors to determine whether they could  still render an impartial verdict based solely on the evidence presented at trial. . . .   In this case, the trial court did not voir dire the jury, but instead gave a curative  instruction admonishing the jury not to conduct outside research and reminding them  that they were to render a verdict based only on the evidence presented at trial. It was  error for the court to do so, because a specific inquiry into the thought processes of the  jury was the only method of ascertaining whether the information about ODD, acquired  through the juror’s internet research, improperly and irreparably influenced the jury’s  deliberative process to the prejudice of appellant or the State.   Wardlaw v. State, slip op. at 10‐11.       A different three‐judge panel of the same court reached the same conclusion in Allan  Jake Clark v. State of Maryland, No. No. 0953/08 (Md. Ct. Special App. Dec. 3, 2009). In Clark, a  bailiff discovered printouts from Wikipedia articles in the jury room.  The printouts, which were  entries on "livor mortis" and "algor mortis," touched on an issue in the murder case—namely,  how the time and place of death may be determined by looking at how blood settles in a body.   The court questioned the jurors and determined that only one juror had done outside research  and seen the articles. The jury convicted Clark of first‐degree murder, and the trial judge denied  a defense motion for a mistrial. The appeals court reversed in another unanimous decision,  holding that an "adverse influence on a single juror compromises the impartiality of the entire  jury panel" (quoted in The Baltimore Sun).        A New Jersey appeals court panel reached a similar conclusion in July 2009.  In State of  New Jersey v. Scott, 2009 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1901 (N.J. App. Div. July 20, 2009), cert  denied, 2009 N.J. LEXIS 1370 (N.J., Nov. 9, 2009), the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate  Division, reversed the convictions of three cousins on aggravated manslaughter charges. During  the trial, one of the jurors was very emotional, leaning forward and apparently crying.  Queried  in chambers, the juror said that she could continue.  But after the jury began deliberations,  another juror left a phone message for the trial judge over a weekend break, claiming that the  emotional juror was acting improperly.        Questioned the following Monday, the complaining juror said that the emotional juror  had announced to her fellow jurors that she had researched the defendants, the victims, and  the possible sentence for conviction on the Internet, but had not revealed the results of her  research.  The complaining juror added that the emotional juror had also read—and tried to 

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hide—a newspaper in the jury room, and had announced at the start of deliberations that she  had already made her decision, and held up a piece of paper with her decision.       When questioned, the emotional juror denied doing research on the Internet and said  that she had seen only a headline about the case in the newspaper.  And, according to the  appellate court, "[s]he also admitted to holding up a piece of paper with 'something written on  it' but claimed that she was 'told to' do that 'specific thing.'"  New Jersey v. Scott, slip op., para.  34. The trial judge then questioned the other ten jurors. Four jurors confirmed that the  emotional juror said either that she had done research online or knew where such research  could be done online. But only one of these jurors recalled the emotional juror mentioning  anything she found in that research; the juror said that she had mentioned the possible  sentence for the original murder charges in the case.  One juror remembered that someone had  mentioned that information about the case was available online, but did not recall who had  made this statement. And the remaining three jurors did not recall hearing anything about  Internet research.  Based on the emotional juror's failure to admit her apparent violation of the  court's instructions, the trial court replaced that juror with an alternate.  But he denied a  mistrial, holding that the remaining jurors were not tainted.       The appeals court disagreed with this assessment, concluding that "juror 14's  misconduct tainted the jury as a whole."  New Jersey v. Scott, slip op., para. 52. Citing New  Jersey precedent holding that "[a] deliberating juror may not be discharged and replaced with  an alternate unless the record 'adequately establish[es] that the juror suffers from an inability  to function that is personal and unrelated to the juror's interaction with the other jury  members,'" State v. Jenkins, 182 N.J. 112, 124‐25 (2004), the appeals court held that in this case  "a mistrial should have been declared. Failure to do so constitutes reversible error. The error  requires a new trial."  New Jersey v. Scott, slip op., para. 52       In another case, a federal district court judge declared a mistrial in a complex drug  prosecution after discovering that 10 of the 12 jurors had done independent Internet research  on the case. U.S. v. Frank Hernandez, Crim. No. 07‐60027 (S.D. Fla. mistrial declared March 10,  2009).  As in the other cases, the jurors' research came to light through questioning by the  judge, after one juror sent a note saying that another juror had done research.      

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

UPDATE ON THE FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION ACT  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT    The United State Congress is currently considering two versions of a federal reporters’  shield bill, both dubbed the “Free Flow of Information Act.”  The House passed H.R. 985 in  March 2009 by a voice vote. In December 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted fourteen  to five to send S. 448 to the floor of the Senate for a vote. That bill was subsequently placed on  the Senate calendar, where it awaits a final vote. Assuming it passes, the Senate and House bills  will need to be reconciled—likely through the conference committee process—to arrive at a  final piece of legislation.     While both the House and Senate versions provide a qualified privilege to reporters in  federal proceedings, they differ substantially regarding what type of information is covered and  who can invoke the privilege.  The salient provisions of both bills are summarized below.   Senate Version    The Senate bill—S. 448—only protects the identity of confidential sources and  newsgathering material obtained upon a promise of confidentiality. It defines “protected  information” as “(A) information identifying a source who provided information under a  promise . . . of confidentiality . . . as part of engaging in journalism; or (B) any records, contents  of a communication, documents, or information that a covered person obtained or created—(i)  as part of engaging in journalism; and  (ii) upon a [confidentiality] promise or agreement.” S.  448, §11(6).  The bill leaves intact any common law protections available for sources or  newsgathering information obtained in the absence of a confidentiality agreement. Id. §6(c).    S. 448 originally limited protection to "salaried employee[s]" and independent  contractors for established news media organizations, but amendments in late October  expanded coverage to reach anyone carrying out a reporter’s function.  The bill now defines  “covered person” as anyone who   (i) with the primary intent to investigate events and procure material in order to  disseminate to the public news or information concerning local, national, or  international events or other matters of public interest, regularly gathers, prepares,  collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports or publishes on such matters . . . [;  who] (ii) has such intent at the inception of the process of gathering the news or  information sought; and (iii) obtains the news or information sought in order to  disseminate the news or information by means of print . . . , broadcasting . . . ,  mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means . . . .  

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

Id. §11(2)(A). The omission of language restricting the bill to salaried employees or independent  contractors strongly suggests that the term “covered entity” reaches bloggers and non‐ traditional and amateur journalists who gather news for dissemination to the public.    In a civil matter, the qualified privilege may be overcome if the federal court finds: (1)  the party seeking disclosure has exhausted all reasonable alternative sources for acquiring the  protected information; (2) the testimony or document sought is essential to resolution of the  matter; and (3) the party seeking disclosure has established that the interest in compelling  disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disseminating the news and the free flow of  information. Id. § 2(a)(2)(B).    In a criminal matter, the qualified privilege may be overcome if the federal court finds:  (1) the party seeking disclosure has exhausted all reasonable alternative sources for acquiring  the protected information; (2) if the party seeking to compel disclosure is the Federal  Government, based on public information or information obtained from a source other than  the covered person, there are reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has occurred; (3)  based on public information or information obtained from a source other than the covered  person, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the protected information sought is  essential to the investigation or prosecution or to the defense against the prosecution; (4) the  Attorney General certifies that the decision to request compelled disclosure was made in a  manner consistent with section 50.10 of title 28, Code of Federal Regulations, if compelled  disclosure is sought by a member of the Department of Justice in circumstances governed by  section 50.10 of title 28, Code of Federal Regulations; and (5) the covered person has not  established by clear and convincing evidence that disclosure of the protected information  would be contrary to the public interest, taking into account both the public interest in  gathering and disseminating the information or news at issue and maintaining the free flow of  information and the public interest in compelling disclosure (including the extent of any harm  to national security). Id. § 2(a)(2)(A).  S. 448 also contains several exceptions.  For instance, the shield does not protect any  information, record, document, or item obtained as the result of the eyewitness observations  of, or obtained during the course of, alleged criminal conduct by the reporter. Id. § 3(a).  This  exception does not apply when the alleged criminal conduct is the act of communicating the  documents or information at issue.  Id. § 3(b). The shield also does not apply when the  information sought is reasonably necessary to prevent or mitigate death, kidnapping,  substantial bodily harm, or destruction of critical infrastructure. Id. § 4. Further still, there is an  exception for cases where information is sought to prevent terrorist activity or harm to national  security. Id. §5.   House Version 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

  The House bill—H.R. 985—is similar to the Senate’s version, but there are some  important differences.  Significantly, H.R. 985 extends the shield’s qualified privilege to  any  documents or information obtained during the newsgathering process, not just sources or  material obtained in return for a promise of confidentiality.  The bill states that a federal entity  may not compel a covered person to “provide testimony or produce any document related to  information obtained or created by such covered person as part of engaging in journalism.”  H.R. 985, § 2(a).     H.R. 985 is less expansive than the Senate bill in terms of who enjoys the shield’s  protection. It limits protection to those who gather news "for a substantial portion of the  person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain." Id. § 4(2).1 This language would probably  exclude many bloggers and student journalists, and even some freelancers who don't get paid  well.  The definition of “covered person” also excludes persons and organizations identified as  foreign powers, agents of foreign powers, terrorists, and terrorist organizations.  Id. § 4(2)(A)‐ (E).    In a civil matter, the qualified privilege may be overcome if the federal court finds: (1)  the party seeking disclosure has exhausted all reasonable alternative sources for acquiring the  protected information; (2) the testimony or document sought is critical to the successful  completion of the matter; and (3) the public interest in compelling disclosure of the information  or document involved outweighs the public interest in gathering or disseminating news or  information. Id. § 2(a)(1), ‐(a)(2)(B), ‐(a)(4).  With respect to the third element, H.R. 985 gives  the court authority to consider the extent of any harm to national security in conducting the  balancing test. Id. §2(b).  If the testimony or document sought could reveal the identity of a source, the privilege  is only overcome if a court finds that disclosure is necessary to one of the following ends: (1)  prevention (or identification of a perpetrator) of terrorism;  (2) prevention of “significant and  specified” national security harms; (3) prevention of substantial bodily harm or imminent  death; (4) identification of someone who has disclosed a trade secret; or (5) identification of  someone who “without authorization disclosed properly classified information and who at the  time of such disclosure had authorized access to such information . . .” Id. §2(a)(3).   In a criminal matter, the qualified privilege may be overcome by the same showing as  above, with the additional requirement that, based on information obtained from a person  other than the covered person, (1) there are reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has 
                                                             
   The House bill defines "covered person" as “a person who regularly gathers, photographs, records,  writes, edits, reports, or publishes information concerning matters of public interest for dissemination to the  public for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or substantial financial gain, including a supervisor,  employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such a person.”  H.R. 985, §4(2). 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

occurred; and (2) the testimony or document sought is critical to the investigation or  prosecution or to the defense against the prosecution. Id. § 2(a)(2)(A).      The House bill excludes from protection any information, record, document, or item  obtained by the reporter as a result of eyewitness observation of alleged criminal conduct, or as  a result of the commission of alleged criminal or tortious conduct by the reporter.  The  exception does not apply when the alleged criminal or tortious conduct is the act of  transmitting or communicating the information, record, or document in question.  Id. §2(e).    H.R. 985 contains a provision stating that the proposed federal shield will not apply to  “civil defamation, slander, or libel claims or defenses under State law, regardless of whether or  not such claims or defenses, respectively, are raised in a State or Federal court.” Id. § 2(d). 
 

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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?  STATE SHIELD LAWS: AN OVERVIEW  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT 

  The United States Supreme Court last addressed the constitutionality of a reporter’s  privilege in Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972). The journalists in the consolidated  Branzburg cases argued that the free flow of information would be chilled if they could not  ensure the anonymity of sources.1 If a reporter’s privilege does not exist to protect journalists  from disclosing unpublished information, they argued, sources will be less likely to speak and  the First Amendment will be greatly harmed.2 Though sympathetic to their case, the court  clearly held that (1) there is no privilege to refuse to appear before a grand jury until the  government demonstrates a compelling need for the testimony; and (2) there is no privilege to  refuse to answer questions that directly relate to criminal conduct that a journalist has  observed and written about.3    Despite the 5‐4 ruling against a reporter’s privilege, the court did say that there is “merit  in leaving state legislatures free, within First Amendment limits, to fashion their own  standards.”4 Nearly 40 years after Branzburg and as of November of last year, 37 states and the  District of Columbia have some form of a shield law. Thirteen states do not and of those only 8  recognize a qualified reporter’s privilege based on their state constitutions, common law or the  First Amendment. Of those states that do have a shield law or recognize a qualified privilege,  the protection granted to journalists varies. The most contentious issues concern the scope of  protection:   • • Who is protected? Full‐time employees of larger, traditional media organizations, for  example, or part‐time online journalists as well?  What is protected? The identities of sources or notes and materials too? Are confidential  and non‐confidential materials protected equally? Is an eye‐witness account of a journalist  protected?  How strong is the protection? What balancing tests do courts use when determining if a  reporter’s privilege applies? 

  As states continue to enact and refine their shield laws, the answers to these questions  become more clear. But the inconsistency among shield laws remains. Efforts to pass federal  shield law legislation, though recently amplified, continue to stall and in the words of one court,  Branzburg will not be overturned. Said the D.C. Circuit after rejecting a reporter’s privilege  argument in 2006: “Unquestionably, the Supreme Court decided in Branzburg that there is no 
                                                             
       
1 2

 Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 679‐81 (1972).   Id.  3  Id. at 708.  4  Id. at 706. 

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

First Amendment privilege protecting journalists from appearing before a grand jury or from  testifying before a grand jury or otherwise providing evidence to a grand jury regardless of any  confidence promised by the reporter to any source. The Highest Court has spoken and never  revisited the question. Without a doubt, that is the end of the matter.”5 When it comes to  forcing journalists to testify, state law may be the last line of defense.  Who is Protected?    Maryland enacted the first state shield law in 1896, responding to the imprisonment of  a Baltimore Sun reporter for refusing to reveal a confidential source to a grand jury. Technology  changed considerably since then, providing new media through which journalists can report.  While most shield laws protect print and broadcast journalists, states have been slow to include  new media and bloggers.     Current shield laws largely focus on “traditional” forms of journalism. Alabama’s shield  law, for example, protects only journalists at “any newspaper, radio broadcasting station or  television station.”6 The same for Kentucky7 and Ohio.8 Florida’s shield law covers only those  journalists who work as a salaried employee or independent contractor of “a newspaper, news  journal, news agency, press association, wire service, radio or television station, network, or  news magazine.”9 The statute explicitly excludes book authors and those who are not  professional journalists, meaning those who do not gather news for “gain or livelihood.”10  Georgia also excludes any journalist whose work is not published in a “newspaper, book,  magazine, or [on] radio or television broadcast.”11 New York provides absolute protection for a  journalist’s confidential information and sources;12 but a “journalist,” according to the state’s  shield law, is only one who is paid for his or her reporting.13 In Texas, a journalist is one who  gathers news “for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for a substantial financial  gain.”14     Legislation that defines a journalist by income or a particular type of media is  nonsensical, wrote John Eden of the Partnership for a Secure America, a bipartisan foreign  policy think tank.15 “In an era of instantaneous dissemination of information over the Internet 
                                                             
   In re Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller, 438 F.3d 1141, 1147 (D.C. Cir. 2006).  6    Ala. Code § 12‐21‐142 (1986).  7    Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. 421.100 (Baldwin 1990).  8    Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2739.04, §§ 2739.12 (Baldwin 1981 & 1990 Supp).  9    Fla. Stat. § 90.5015(1)(a) (1998).  10    Id.  11    Ga. Code Ann. § 24‐9‐30 (1993).  12    N.Y. Civ. Rights Law § 79‐h(b).  13    Id. at § 79‐h(a)(6).  14    H.B. 670, 81st Leg., Reg. Sess. (Tex. 2009).  15    John Eden, The Partnership for a Secure America, Fixing the Federal Shield Law, Sept. 24, 2009  http://blog.psaonline.org/2009/09/24/fixing‐the‐federal‐shield‐law/ (last visited April 6, 2010). 
5

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

by bloggers and other part‐time pundits, it’s hard to see why the privilege should be limited to  journalists who are getting paid to collect news,” Eden said.16 “If what we care about is getting  the most up‐to‐date, accurate information, why should it matter whether a blogger or a CNN  reporter has delivered the news to us?”17    Whether or not an individual should be considered a journalist under shield laws “has to  do more with the function that person is performing,” said Gregg Leslie, legal director for the  Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.18 “If the blogger’s involvement is to report  information to the public and to gather information for that purpose openly then they should  be treated like a journalist.”19    There are several bills sitting in state legislatures that would extend shield law  protection to bloggers. Massachusetts, one of the states without a shield law, is currently  debating a bill that defines a journalist by his or her actions — engagement in “bona fide news  gathering” — rather than for whom the journalist is employed.20 It also describes the “news  media” not as a traditional print or broadcast entity, but as any organization that “is in the  regular business of news gathering and disseminating news or information to the public by any  means, including but not limited to, print broadcast, photographic, mechanical, internet, or  electronic distribution (emphasis added).”21 New York considered an extension of its current  shield law to “journalist bloggers.”22 Its law now covers only print, broadcast and wire  services.23 Kansas is on the verge of passing perhaps the most progressive shield law, one that  explicitly provides coverage to “online journal[s]” that are engaged in “the regular business of  newsgathering and disseminating news or information to the public.”24 The bill offers  protection based primarily on whether an individual engages in journalism, not whether he or  she is a professional journalist.25 That means student journalists could be covered as well.     

  In Hawaii, it doesn’t matter. That state protects those whom disseminate information to  the public “by means of tangible or electronic media.”26 Though the wording of California’s 
                                                             
   Id.  17    Id.  18    The First Amendment Center, Blogging Overview, http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/press/  topic.aspx?topic=blogging, (last visited April 6, 2010).  19    Id.  20    Massachusetts House Bill 1650 §2 (2009)  21    Id.  22    Sewell Chan, The New York Times, Bill Would Extend Shield Law to Cover Bloggers, May 20, 2009  http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/bill‐would‐extend‐shield‐law‐to‐cover‐bloggers/ (last visited April  7, 2010).  23    New York Civil Rights Law Article 7 § 79‐h.  24    Kansas Senate Substitute for House Bill No. 2585 (2010).  25    Id.  26    Hi. ALS 210 (2008). 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

shield law implies coverage for traditional media only, a 2006 ruling extended that coverage to  online news sites as well.27 Nebraska’s Free Flow of Information Act is one of the more liberal.  Its shield law doesn’t use the word “journalist” at all but instead protects any “person engaged  in procuring, gathering, writing, editing, or disseminating  news or other information.”28 The  types of media covered by the statute include, but are not limited to, “any newspaper,  magazine, other periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature  syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system.”29     This type of statute begs the question: Why define “news media” at all? A broad  definition of “professional journalist” may be the only thing that’s needed, said Lucy Dalglish,  executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.30 Critiquing New  York’s recent effort to expand its shield law last year, Dalglish noted that “blogging is a  technology and a method of delivery.”31    “Some people are doing valuable journalism when they blog. Others do not,” she said.32  “What you are trying to protect is the journalism function, not the technology or the  platform.”33  What is Protected?    The most narrow shield laws and interpretations of a reporter’s privilege protect  journalists only against the disclosure of anonymous sources. The most broad also protect them  from disclosing confidential and non‐confidential materials, published and unpublished  information, eye witness accounts and details about their news organization’s editorial process.    “The sources are not the only things sought in these forays into reporting practices and  newsroom procedures,” wrote the First Amendment Center’s Paul McMasters in 2004.34  “Federal officials also have gone after telephone records and reporters’ notes and reportedly 

                                                             
   See O'Grady v. Superior Court, 139 Cal. App.4th 1423 (Cal. Ct. App. 2006) (holding that the shield law  applies to persons gathering news for dissemination to the public, regardless of whether the publication medium is  print or online.)  28    Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 20‐146 (1992).  29    Id. at §§ 20‐145(2).  30    Sewell Chan, The New York Times, Bill Would Extend Shield Law to Cover Bloggers, May 20, 2009  http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/bill‐would‐extend‐shield‐law‐to‐cover‐bloggers/ (last visited April  7, 2010).  31    Id.  32    Id.  33    Id.  34    Paul K. McMasters and Geoffrey R. Stone, The First Amendment Center, Do Journalists Need a Better  Shield?, Dec. 14, 2004, http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/commentary.aspx?id=14547 (last visited April 7,  2010). 
27

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

have tried to enlist journalists as informants, get certain information from being reported and  forced reporters off of stories they have covered for months or years.”35    Kentucky’s shield law is one of the more narrow, only protecting journalists from  disclosing the “source of any information procured or obtained.”36 There is no protection from  disclosing notes or eyewitness accounts unless doing so would identify a confidential source.37  Louisiana,38 Ohio39 and Pennsylvania40 have similar statutes. Though Colorado’s shield law  protects journalists from disclosing “any news information received, observed, procured,  processed, prepared, written, or edited by a newsperson, while acting in the capacity of a  newsperson,” there are several exceptions.41 The privilege of non‐disclosure doesn’t apply to  information received at a press conference, previously published or broadcast or based on the  journalist’s personal observation of a crime.42    Many states, however, protect not just materials related to confidential sources, but all  materials produced while gathering news. Under Montana’s shield law, for example, no  journalist is required “to disclose any information obtained, or prepared or the source of that  information.”43 New Mexico,44 Tennessee,45 Rhode Island46 and Washington47 offer similar  protection. While some state courts distinguished confidential information (more coverage)  from non‐confidential information (less or no coverage),48 journalists in North Carolina can  claim protection for both under its shield law.49 North Dakota offers just as broad protection,  preventing the disclosure of any information or source, unless a district court determines that  “the failure of disclosure of such evidence will cause a miscarriage of justice.”50 Several states  believe such a miscarriage of justice would occur if their respective shield laws applied in  defamation cases. Illinois,51 Oregon,52 Rhode Island53 and Tennessee54 all prevent a journalist  from using any type of reporter’s privilege as a defense .  
                                                             
35

   Id.  36    Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. 421.100 (Baldwin 1990).  37    See Maddox v. Williams, 23 Med. L. Rptr. 2118 (Ky. Cir. Ct. 1995).  38    La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 45:1451‐1459 (West 1992).  39    Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2739.04, §§ 2739.12 (Baldwin 1981 & 1990 Supp.).  40    42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5942 (1993).  41    Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13‐90‐119(2).  42    Id.  43    Mont. Code Ann. §§ 26‐1‐902.  44    N.M. Stat. Ann. § 38‐6‐7 (Michie 1987).  45    Tenn. Code Ann., Title 24, Ch. 1, Part 2, § 24‐1‐208 (1996).  46    R.I. Gen. Laws, Title 9, §§ 9‐19.1‐3(b)(1).  47    Wash. Rev. Code § 5.68.010.  48    See State v. Turner, 550 N.W.2d 622 (Minn. 1996); CBS Inc. v. Jackson, 578 So.2d 698, 700 (Fla. 1991);  Marketos v. American Employers Ins. Co., 185 Mich. App. 179 (1990).  49    N.C. Gen. Stat. Ch. 8, Art. 7 § 8‐53.9 (1999).  50    N.D. Cent. Code § 31‐01‐06.2 (1991).  51    735 ILCS 5/8‐901‐909. 

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

  Federal courts generally hold that the First Amendment does not excuse reporters from  testifying about eyewitness observations. This finding of law is often reflected in state shield  laws. North Carolina, for example, doesn’t offer journalists a privilege against “disclosure of any  information, document, or item obtained as the result of the journalist’s eyewitness  observations of criminal or tortious conduct, including any physical evidence or visual or audio  recording of the observed conduct.”55 New Jersey’s otherwise broad shield law expressly  prohibits protection to journalists testifying about eyewitness observations of “any act of  physical violence or property damage.”56 The limitation, however, is narrowly construed and  doesn’t apply to observations of the aftermath of such crimes.57  How Strong is the Protection?    Very few shield laws are absolute. New York, for example, provides absolute protection  for confidential information and “related material” gathered by the journalist under an express  agreement of confidentiality.58 A balancing test is used, however, when determining if non‐ confidential information should be disclosed.     The dissent in Branzburg endorsed such a balancing test, or qualifications to a reporter’s  privilege: When a grand jury asks a reporter to reveal confidences, the government should have  to: (1) demonstrate probable cause to believe that the reporter has information clearly relevant  to a specific probable violation of law; (2) demonstrate that the information cannot be obtained  by alternative means less destructive of First Amendment rights; and (3) demonstrate a  compelling and overriding interest in the information.59 This opinion reflected an influential  decision by the Second Circuit 14 years earlier in Garland v. Torre, 259 F.2d 545 (1958), in which  the court laid out its own test: To overcome privilege and obtain compelled disclosure, a litigant  must make a clear and specific showing that the information sought is: (1) highly material and  relevant to the underlying claim; (2) necessary or critical to maintenance of the claim; and (3)  unavailable from alternative sources.    States have considered these tests — most often the Garland factors — when balancing  their own shield laws with governmental interests. When dealing with non‐confidential  information, New York uses a test nearly identical to that in Garland.60 Texas, which passed its  shield law last year, uses a six‐part test that includes showing that the subpoena is not 
                                                                                                                                                                                                    
                 
52 53

 Or. Rev. Stat., Title 4, Ch. 44, §§ 44.530(3).   R.I. Gen. Laws, Title 9,  §§ 9‐19.1‐3(b)(1).  54  Tenn. Code Ann., Title 24, Ch. 1, Part 2, § 24‐1‐208 (1996).  55  N.C. Gen. Stat. Ch. 8, Art. 7 § 8‐53.9 (1999).  56  N.J.S.A. 2A:84A‐21a(h).  57  See Matter of Woodhaven Lumber & Mill Work, 123 N.J. 481 (1991).  58  N.Y. Civ. Rights Law § 79‐h(b).  59  Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. at 743 (Stewart, J., dissenting).  60  N.Y. Civ. Rights Law § 79‐h(c). 

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

overbroad, that timely notice was given to the journalist and that “the interest of the party  subpoenaing the information outweighs the public interest in gathering and dissemination of  news, including the concerns of journalists.”61    Generally, if the party seeking information fails to fulfill any of the Garland factors, the  privilege is upheld. Other courts find that if so many as one factor isn’t satisfied, none are.  There are certain circumstances that tend to favor disclosure: if upholding the privilege would  infringe the constitutional rights of the defendant, if the information request has already been  published or if the information is not confidential. The tests are fact‐intensive and can lead to  unpredictability across jurisdictions. In absence of a federal shield law, this is what makes  discrepancies among state statutes so concerning.     Following Branzburg, “a host of different approaches were adopted at the state and  federal levels,” wrote First Amendment scholars James Thomas Tucker and Stephen Wermiel in  their defense of a federal shield law.62 “What has resulted is a lack of uniformity and  uncertainty that can lead to different results for the same set of facts.”63  
 

                                                             
   H.B. 670, 81st Leg., Reg. Sess. (Tex. 2009).  62    James Thomas Tucker and Stephen Wermiel, Enacting a Reasonable Shield Law: A Reply to Professors  Clymer and Eliason, 57 AM. U.L. REV. 1291, 1298 (2008).  63    Id. 
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The Georgia Open Records Act Caselaw Summary
Lesli N. Gaither Dow Lohnes, PLLC lgaither@dowlohnes.com Coupled with the Open and Public Meetings Act (O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1 through § 50-1460), the Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70 through § 50-18-76) is an invaluable tool for journalists and citizens seeking to inspect government records in Georgia. In fact, the Open Records Act starts with the presumption that records are “open for a personal inspection by any citizen of this state, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse this privilege to any citizen.” O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(b). As summarized below, since its passage in 1959, the Open Records Act has been subject to numerous opinions addressing its scope and application.

1959

General. Bradford v. Bolton, 215 Ga. 188, 192 (1959) (Head, J.): * Notes that the Open Records Act had not yet been enacted at the time the action was filed. Attorney-client privilege. Crow v. Brown, 332 F. Supp. 382, 389 n.5 (N.D. Ga. 1971) (Edenfield, J.), aff’d, 457 F.2d 788 (5th Cir. 1972): * Rejects county’s contention in housing discrimination suit that memoranda written by the county attorney are inadmissible as protected by the attorney-client privilege; the court stated that only confidential attorneyclient communications are so protected whereas these memoranda are Fulton County records and open to public inspection pursuant to the Open Records Act. Election petitions. Rentz v. City of Moultrie, 231 Ga. 579 (1974) (Jordan, J.): * Citizens have a right pursuant to the Open Records Act to view election petitions. * Ingram, J., dissented as to other aspects of the decision. Law enforcement records. Houston v. Rutledge, 237 Ga. 764 (1976) (Gunter, J.): * Suit for access to files maintained by the Columbus, Georgia Sheriff relating to the deaths of inmates in the jail under his supervision. * The Court rejected the Sheriff’s argument and the decision of the trial court (Land, J.) that the Open Records Act make public only papers and records required to be prepared and maintained by statute. Rather, all documents, papers, and records prepared and maintained in the course of the operation of a public office are “public records.”

1971

1974

1976

1

*

*

*

* 1978

The Court held that records made and maintained in the course of a pending investigation should not in most instances be available for inspection by the public. However, “once an investigation is concluded and the file closed, either with or without prosecution by the state, such public records in most instances should be available for public inspection.” If a public official nevertheless refuses to do so, “the judiciary must balance the interest of the public in favor of inspection against the interest of the public in favor of non-inspection....” The Court noted that “in our construction of this [the Open Records Act] statute we have attempted to apply First Amendment principles which favor open, unfettered communication and disclosure except where some limitation thereon is required in the public interest.” Justice Ingram concurred, stating “I would make it clear that, since the files here involved have been determined to be public files, there is a strong presumption that they should be made available for public inspection immediately. ... [U]nless the sheriff on remand can show some persuasive reason why the files should not now be made available for public inspection, I believe we have a duty under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Code Ann. § 40-2701 to require the files to be made available for public inspection without further delay.” Justice Jordan dissented without opinion.

Civil investigative records. Northside Realty Associates v. Community Relations Commission, 240 Ga. 432 (1978) (Marshall, J.): * Suit for access to records compiled by the Community Relations Commission in the course of conducting a racial discrimination “testing” campaign. * The Court made clear, as Justice Ingram had indicated in a concurring opinion in Houston v. Rutledge, that once a request for identifiable public records is made, “the burden is cast on the [records’ custodian] to explain why the records should not be furnished.” The case was remanded to the trial court (Wofford, J.) to allow it to balance the public interest in disclosure v. nondisclosure. Ambulance service records. Griffin-Spalding County Hospital Authority v. Radio Station WKEU, 240 Ga. 444 (1978) (Nichols, J.): * Suit by a radio station for access to records relating to a public hospital’s ambulance service. * Court affirmed the order of the trial court (Whalen, J.) that the information, with the exception of patient medical records, be produced; and ordered that the hospital separate the confidential from the nonconfidential information Board of medical examiners records. Morton v. Skrine, 242 Ga. 844 (1979) (Hall, J.): * Suit by a doctor pursuant to the Open Records Act against the state board of medical examiners for access to the board’s investigatory file on him. 2

1978

1979

*

The Court affirmed the trial court (Weltner, J.), holding that access was prohibited by another law making such medical investigation reports confidential.

1979

Law enforcement records. Brown v. Minter, 243 Ga. 397 (1979) (Undercofler, J.): * Suit by newspaper editor for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to certain records representing completed investigations by the Internal Investigation Unit of the Atlanta Police Department. * The Court held that the trial court (Fryer, J.) had properly afforded access to most of the documents, withholding only limited records on the ground that they would disclose information regarding on-going investigations, etc. * The Court reaffirmed that the burden of justifying non-disclosure is on the government. Privacy interests. Athens Observer, Inc. v. Anderson, 245 Ga. 63 (1980) (Undercofler, J.): * Suit by an Athens newspaper for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to a report commissioned by the vice-president of research and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Georgia. * The Court affirmed that portion of the decision of the trial court (Gaines, J.) holding that the report was a public record and reversed that portion approving only the release of only an edited version. The Court held that the entire report was a public record and had to be produced. * The Court rejected contentions by the State that the report constituted personnel information and that its disclosure would constitute an invasion of privacy. It stated that the right of privacy does not protect “legitimate inquiry into the operation of a government institution and those employed by it. On the contrary, the public policy of this state has been clearly expressed by the legislature in adopting the Open Records Act. The purpose is not only to encourage public access to such information in order that the public can evaluate the expenditure of public funds and the efficient and proper functioning of its institutions, but also to foster confidence in government through openness to the public. That the information may comment upon certain public officials’ performance of their official duties does not warrant suppression by the courts.” * Finally, the Court held that the state’s assertion that “such reports must be protected in order to assure candid assessments by evaluators does not overcome the need for the public to obtain the reported information.” * Justice Jordan, joined by Justices Bowles and Marshall, dissented, arguing that “[t]he documents here sought are merely written evaluations or opinions of an outside group of experts. Until acted on officially by university officials such material does not assume the status of a public ‘record’ or writing.” Housing Authority records. Doe v. Sears, 245 Ga. 83 (1980) (Nichols, J.): 3

1980

1980

*

*

*

Suit by newspaper editor for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to “certain computer printouts kept by the Atlanta Housing Authority as part of its business records,” containing the names, addresses, sources of income and rents owed by tenants. The Court held that the Act clearly applied to the Housing Authority. It further held that the “underlying implication” of the Act is that all records are open to inspection unless closed by a “specific exception.” The Court thus held that the printouts were public records. The Court rejected the decision of the trial court (Eldridge, J.) to not reveal, on grounds of privacy, names and addresses of tenants whose rents were delinquent by less than 6 months. The Court stated: “This court holds today that the general public properly is concerned with whether or not public housing tenants are paying their rentals when due. Accordingly, we hold that each of the tenants impliedly waived whatever constitutional, statutory or common law rights of privacy he may have had in the status of his rental account and the amounts and sources of his income when he allowed his rental account to become unpaid when due.”

1980

Citizenship requirement. Atchison v. Hospital Authority of the City of St. Mary’s, 245 Ga. 494 (1980) (Clarke, J.): * Suit by an employee of a Florida newspaper for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to business telephone records of a public hospital. * The Court reversed the refusal of the trial court (Scoggin, J.) to afford access. Public hospital records. Richmond County Hospital Authority d/b/a University Hospital v. Southeastern Newspapers Corporation, 252 Ga. 19 (1984) (Smith, J.): * Suit by two newspapers for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to information identifying the names, salaries, and job titles of public hospital employees earning more than $28,000 annually. * In affirming the order of the trial court (Fleming, J.) compelling access, the Court stated that “[t]he public has a legitimate interest in the operation of this institution and the salaries paid to those employed there.” The Court found speculative the hospital’s predictions that highly qualified staff would go elsewhere and morale would plummet if salaries were disclosed. The Court found such speculation clearly insufficient to overcome “the strong public policy of this state in favor of open government.” Tax records. Pensyl v. Peach County, 252 Ga. 450 (1984) (Hill, J.): * Suit by a taxpayer for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to certain tax information on residences adjoining his. * The Court affirmed the order of the trial court (Wilcox, J.) that the records be disclosed, noting: “The General Assembly has seen fit to exempt intangible personal property and other tax records from the open records law but has not seen fit to exempt ad valorem property tax records. We

1984

1984

4

* 1984

are unwilling to extend the exemption to tax records which the General Assembly has not seen fit to exclude.” Justice Smith dissented without explanation.

Law enforcement records. Irvin v. Macon Telegraph Publishing Company, 253 Ga. 43 (1984) (Gregory, J.): * Suit by the Macon Telegraph against the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Director of GBI for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to records of GBI investigations concerning the conduct of several employees of the State Farmers’ Market in Macon. * The Court affirmed the order of the trial court (Vaughn, J.) that the records be disclosed. The Court rejected claims that the records were personnel records and that the public interest in non-disclosure outweighed the public interest in disclosure. In doing so, the Court agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that “the public has an overriding interest in learning the results of the GBI investigation and the administrative law judge’s review of certain of these results. Specifically, the trial court found the public has an interest in learning ‘about the operation and functioning of a public agency, namely the State Farmer’s Market at Macon, and the workrelated conduct of public employees; [in gaining] information [to] evaluate the expenditure of public funds and the functioning of a public institution or agency; [in having] information openly available to them so that they can be confident in the operation of their government; and [in insuring] that both the activity of public employees suspected of wrongdoing and the conduct of those public employees who investigate the suspects is open to public scrutiny.” * Justice Marshall, joined by Justice Smith, dissented, “for the reasons set forth in Justice Jordan’s dissent in Athens Observer.” Law enforcement records — State patrol ticket-fixing. Harris v. Cox Enterprises, Inc., 256 Ga. 299 (1986) (per curiam): * Suit by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for access to the GBI’s report on its investigation of the Georgia State Patrol. * The Court affirmed the decision of the trial court (Daniel, J.) that the records be produced, reiterating the state’s “strong policy of open government” and the Court’s prior holdings that “information reflecting upon an individual’s performance of official duties would not be exempt from open records.” Athletic association records. Macon Telegraph Publishing Company v. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, 256 Ga. 443 (1986) (Bell, J.): * Suit by the Macon Telegraph for access pursuant to the Open Records Act of records showing the assets, liabilities, income and expenses of the University of Georgia Athletic Association. * The Court reversed the order of the trial court (Pierce, J.) denying access, concluding that “regardless of whether the documents are prepared by employees of a private Athletic Association or by Dr. Barber as Treasurer 5

1986

1986

of that Association, it is clear that they are ‘documents, papers and records prepared and maintained in the course of the operation of a public office,’ and are therefore ‘public records’ under the Open Records Act.” 1987 Law enforcement records — Wayne Williams files. Napper v. Georgia Television Company, 257 Ga. 156 (1987) (Marshall, J.): * Suit by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB and ABC News for access to the City of Atlanta’s investigative files on the Atlanta child murders. * The Court affirmed the decision of the trial court (Alverson, J.) that the files were public records and should be produced, but held that “the trial court should have deleted from the files information identifying individuals who were investigated but not charged with or prosecuted for a crime, as well as information which would prove personally embarrassing to individuals who were not the targets of the investigation, unless the trial court determines that ‘exceptional interests militate in favor of disclosure.’ * Judge Alverson found such exceptional interests on remand and ordered production, with few deletions. * On remand, Judge Alverson also awarded attorney’s fees to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB and ABC News. * F.B.I. records in local police custody. An order entered in a separate, federal action preventing disclosure of such records in the City’s files that originated from the FBI was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in United States v. Napper, 887 F.2d 1528 (11th Cir. 1989). Attorney-client privilege. Atlanta Legal Aid v. City of Atlanta, No. D14722 (Fulton County Superior Court, Apr. 14, 1989) (Sears-Collins, J.): * Suit by Atlanta Legal Aid for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to the City’s records of its investigation of corruption in the City’s housing rehabilitation program. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution filed an amicus brief on Atlanta Legal Aid’s behalf on April 12, 1989. * On April 14, 1989, Judge Sears-Collins ordered the City to produce the records, rejecting the City’s claim that since the records were compiled by the City Attorney they were exempt from disclosure as attorney-client privileged. Public university presidential search records. Board of Regents v. The Atlanta Journal & The Atlanta Constitution & Glenn McCutchen, 259 Ga. 214 (1989) (Weltner, J.): * Suit by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for access to records as to candidates being considered by the Regents for the presidency of Georgia State University. * On March 24, 1989, Judge Langham ordered that the records be produced, with the exception of confidential evaluations prepared by the Regents and letters of recommendation prepared by third parties. * On April 25, 1989, the Court affirmed Judge Langham’s order, rejecting the Regents’ contentions (1) that the Board is not subject to the Act, (2) 6

1989

1989

* *

*

* 1989

that all presidential search records are exempt from disclosure as “confidential evaluations,” and (3) that the public interest in nondisclosure of such records outweighs the public interest in disclosure. The Court noted that “it would make for a strange rule, indeed, to hold that a person who applies for a public position — to serve the public and to be paid by the public — has the right to keep secret from the public the very existence of such an application.” Justice Clarke concurred, emphasizing the statutory mandate that exceptions to the Open Records Act must be construed narrowly. Justice Gregory concurred, noting that the Open Records Act exception for confidential evaluations of candidates for public employment and the Open Meetings Act exception for meetings to consider candidates for public employment are in harmony: “What both protect from disclosure is the give and take among decision makers so that they may make candid and difficult comparisons of the qualifications of candidates for public office and employment, and their performance once selected. ... This does not mean however that the identity and other information about candidates, officials, and employees is exempted.” Justice Marshall, joined by Justice Smith, dissented, arguing (1) that the Open Meetings Act exception for meetings to consider candidates for public employment should be read to exclude disclosure under the Open Records Act of any records maintained in connection with a presidential search and (2) that the public interest favored nondisclosure. Justice Bell dissented without opinion.

Law enforcement records. Parker v. Lee, 259 Ga. 195 (1989) (Bell, J.): * Open Records Act exemption for law enforcement records compiled in a pending investigation applies only when there is an “imminent adjudicatory proceeding[] of finite duration.” Fact that death row inmate could be tried for alleged rape, for which an indictment against him is outstanding, does not justify non-release of records. * The fact that the person requesting the records is a death row inmate is irrelevant. There is “no reason to distinguish [a death row inmate’s] (or any other individual citizen’s) right of access from news organizations’ right of access.” * Justice Marshall, joined by Justice Smith, dissented. Records of quasi-public entities — The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Atlanta Journal & The Atlanta Constitution & Glenn McCutchen. v. The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc., No. D63684 (Fulton County Superior Court, Mar. 14, 1989) (Eldridge, J.): * Suit for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to records of The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc. * On March 14, 1989, the trial court held that the Bureau is subject to the Open Records Act because of its public function (promoting tourism and convention business for the City) and because it receives over half of its funds from hotel/motel taxes and ordered the Bureau to disclose records as 7

1989

*

to its expenditure of these funds. The trial court also held that the Bureau is not required to disclose records as to its expenditure of funds received from other sources. The Bureau appealed and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution cross-appealed and the order was stayed pending their outcome. In the fall of 1989, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed without opinion. 259 Ga., XXX.

1989

Coroner’s inquest. Kilgore v. R. W. Page Corp., 259 Ga. 556 (1989) (Weltner, J.): * Access to coroner’s records is governed by the Open Records Act. Insurance information. Evans v. Belth, 193 Ga. App. 757 (1989) (Birdsong, J.): * O.C.G.A. § 33-2-8.1(c) requires withholding from public inspection of any and all information acquired by the Insurance Commissioner from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, provided the same was obtained under expectation of privacy by the Association at the time of information release to the Commissioner. * The section overrides the Open Records Act and applies retroactively to documents obtained prior to the section’s effective date, April 10, 1989. Incident reports. Cook Publishing Company, Inc. v. Charles W. Bryant, individually and in his capacity as Sheriff of Cook County, Georgia, No. CV89162 (Cook County Superior Court, Mar. 19, 1990) (Knight, J.): * Suit against sheriff for access to incident reports. * Based upon sheriff’s testimony “that he and his deputies are ready and willing to provide all future incident reports requested,” newspaper’s motion for injunctive relief denied. Child abuse records. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution and Glenn McCutchen v. Georgia Department of Human Resources, No. D-73733 (Fulton County Superior Court, Apr. 20, 1990) (Hicks, J.): * Suit for access to records of reports of child abuse and deprivation concerning children who died while under the protection of the State in 1988 and 1989. * On April 20, 1990, the trial court ordered the records produced to The Journal-Constitution but ordered the newspaper not to disclose certain identifying information in the records. Hospital accreditation records. Georgia Hospital Association v. Ledbetter, 260 Ga. 477 (1990) (Clarke, J.) (Fletcher, J., with Smith, J., dissenting): * Declaratory judgment action brought by the Georgia Department of Human Resources for an adjudication of the open records status of DHR records on the accreditation of hospitals, public and private, throughout the state. * The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Gwinnett Daily News intervened to seek access and the trial court (Langham, J.) ordered the records opened to the public.

1989

1990

1990

1990

8

*

The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that “[t]he public has a legitimate interest in the records which make up the DHR’s hospital licensing decisions.”

1990-91

Public university coaches income records. Dooley v. Davidson and The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, 260 Ga. 577 (1990) (Weltner, J.); Cremins v. The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, 261 Ga. 496 (1991) (Fletcher, J.): * Suits involving requests by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for access pursuant to the Open Records Act to records of athletically-related income (shoe contracts, radio and television shows, etc.) of athletic coaches at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. * In Dooley, the Court concluded that certain records reflecting the athletically-related “outside” income of University of Georgia athletic coaches were “public records” although they were neither on file with the University nor were they ever seen by the University President. The Court found that the records were prepared and maintained or received in the course of the operation of the University and Athletic Association because Board of Regents policies and NCAA rules required the coaches to report such income to the President and in some cases required the President’s prior approval of the activity. * The Court established that the following categories of records are required to be disclosed under the Act: (1) Records in the hands of employees that pertain to the receipt of athletic equipment and apparel; (2) Records of outside income received in connection with the operation of the university and the [athletic] association; and (3) Records in the hands of employees that have been prepared for the purpose of complying with reporting requirements relating to specified income. * The Court also held that records relating to money received for speaking appearances “unconnected with and not in conflict with the performance of an official duty” are not public records. * Chief Justice Clarke and Presiding Justice Smith dissented. Each would limit the definition of “public record” to those required to be maintained by law or those actually on file at the public office or agency. * After Dooley, Fulton Superior Court Judge Frank Hull granted the Newspapers’ motion for summary judgment in an identical case involving athletic coaches at Georgia Tech. * On July 3, 1991, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. Police investigatory files. McBride v. Wetherington, 199 Ga. App. 7 (1991) (Cooper, J.): * Appeal from trial court order denying appellant’s claims that police department had improperly refused to grant him access to investigatory records and seeking copies of those records free of charge based on appellant’s indigence. 9

1991

*

*

The appellate court affirmed. The court held that O.C.G.A. § 50-1872(a)(4) does not require a police department to turn over investigatory records when there is an ongoing investigation and, in any event, the records were later made available. The court held that a copying fee of 25 cents per page was allowed by O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71(c) and that the statute contained no provision for excusal of payment upon filing of a pauper’s affidavit.

1991

Car telephone records. Dortch v. The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, 261 Ga. 350 (1991) (Fletcher, J.) (Smith and Benham, JJ., dissenting): * Suit for access to unredacted copies of City of Atlanta car telephone records. * On September 19, 1990, the trial court (Sears-Collins, J.) ordered the records produced. * Notwithstanding that some of the calls made were personal calls for which the public official reimbursed the City, the Court held that personal information that is intermingled or co-mingled with official public documents or information that is being maintained by a city agency is subject to disclosure under the Open Records Act. * In response to the City’s claim that some of the telephone numbers of persons on city cellular phones might be unlisted, the Court held that “[e]ven if we were to hold that publication of unlisted telephone numbers involved disclosure of secret or private facts, we cannot say, in the circumstances presented here, that such disclosure would be so offensive or objectionable to a reasonable man as to constitute the tort of invasion of privacy.” * The Court further held that records reflecting the numbers of the Cityowned cellular telephones must be disclosed notwithstanding the fact that “this could result in increased telephone bills” by virtue of calls made to the cellular phone. “While we understand the potential financial problems that disclosure of the cellular telephone numbers could create, there is presently no exemption for such records under the Act. Any such remedy must come from the General Assembly.” Psychiatric records. Southeastern Legal Foundation v. Ledbetter, 260 Ga. 803 (1991) (Fletcher, J.): * Suit by news organizations and the Southeastern Legal Foundation for access to records prepared and maintained or received by the State regarding the commitment, diagnosis, treatment and release of James Calvin Brady. On April 24, 1990, less than 24 hours after Brady’s release from a State mental facility where he had been diagnosed as having homicidal tendencies, Brady gunned down five persons at random in a major Atlanta metropolitan shopping mall. * On May 1, 1990, the trial court (per Coursey, P.J.) denied motions for access to the records without prejudice, concluding that “[b]ased on the limited facts which have been presented, this court finds that Mr. Brady’s 10

1991

*

*

* 1991

privacy interest in his records outweighs the interest of the public at this time.” On June 13, 1990, the trial court (Castellani, J.) denied renewed motions for access despite public disclosure by Brady’s attorney of portions of the records sought and despite public statements by Brady’s attorney that “Mr. Brady is not interested in privacy. He wants the world to know.” On appeal, the Supreme Court, per Justice Fletcher, affirmed. The Court held that the records sought were “clinical records” which are specifically made confidential by the Mental Health Code, O.C.G.A. § 37-3-1(2). As a result, the records are exempt under the Act as “records ... which by law are prohibited or specifically exempted from being open to inspection by the general public.” The records at issue were subsequently disclosed in the course of the criminal proceedings against Mr. Brady.

Attorney’s fees. GMS Air Conditioning, Inc. v. Georgia Dep’t of Human Resources, 201 Ga. App. 136 (1991) (Pope, J.): * Where a case presented factual issues as whether the defendant agency, though it produced documents plaintiff requested after a lawsuit was filed, violated the Open Records Act by not producing them before the suit was filed and whether the violation, if any, was “completely without merit as to law or fact,” the trial court (Cummings, J.) erred in granting summary judgment for the agency on plaintiff’s attorney’s fees claim. Executive search records. The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution v. Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc. and Spencer Stuart and Associates, Inc., No. S91A1200 (Ga. 1991): * Suit for access to records reflecting the names, resumes and vitae of candidates for President of the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, a private non-profit corporation which receives over 60% (nearly $6 million) of its annual budget from tax revenues. To conduct the search, the Bureau retained an executive search firm, Spencer Stuart, at a cost of $30,000. * On June 3, 1991, the trial court (Johnson, J.) issued an order holding that records sent directly to the Bureau were public records, but records which were prepared and retained by Spencer Stuart, although disclosed to and utilized by the Bureau members, were not public records. * Appeal dismissed as premature. The Newspapers subsequently dismissed the action after enactment of certain revisions to the Act. Tax appraisals. Douglas v. Pope, No. D-86301 (Fulton County Superior Court, Apr. 12, 1991) (Alverson, J.): * Held that O.C.G.A. § 48-5-314 is not a blanket prohibition against the production pursuant to the Open Records Act of materials held by boards of tax assessors but rather was intended only to protect from disclosure materials, except the return, provided by taxpayers to the tax assessors office, such as taxpayer accounting records, profit and loss statements, 11

1991

1991

*

* 1991

income and expense statements, balance sheets, depreciation schedules, and like materials. “The purpose of the confidentiality provisions of O.C.G.A. § was to protect the privacy of individual taxpayers, not to protect the board of tax assessors and its agents from public scrutiny as to their procedures, their activities, and methods of assessing property.” Attorney’s fees awarded to plaintiff.

Charges for agency attorney time spent reviewing Open Records Act requests. Trammell v. Martin, 200 Ga. App. 435 (1991) (Pope, J.): * Suit for access to bills for legal services performed for and paid by Clayton County. Defendant county finance director attempted to charge plaintiff for the cost of attorney time spent reviewing the bills for exempt information. The trial court held that such a charge was not permitted under the Act. * The Court affirmed on appeal holding that the evidence showed “that defendant wrongly planned to charge plaintiff for attorney time required to review the requested documents for information exempt from disclosure. The trial court corrected this violation by ruling plaintiff could not be charged for that service since it is not a charge authorized under OCGA § 50-18-71.” * The Court also held that agencies must use the most “economical means available for providing copies of public records” and remanded the case for a determination of whether the county had done so. Complaints concerning agency employees. The City of St. Mary’s v. Camden Newspapers, No. 91V0420 (Superior Court of Camden County, July 25, 1991; Aug. 20, 1991), sum. aff’d, (Ga.): * Suit for access to complaint filed by City employee complaining of harassment by City council member. The request was made more than 10 days after the complaint had been filed with the City. * The trial court (Taylor, J.) held that the complaint was not exempt from disclosure since the complaint had been presented more than 10 days previously and the City’s investigation had terminated. Nor was the complaint protected from disclosure by virtue of privacy interests asserted either by the council member or the complaining employee. Criminal enforcement. Jersawitz v. Eldridge, 262 Ga. 19 (1992) (Bell, J.): * District Administrative Judge of the Fifth Judicial District and Chief Judge of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit (Eldridge, J.) lacked authority to issue an order interpreting the Open Records Act as not permitting a private citizen to swear out an arrest warrant against a public official for violation of the Act and ordering all judicial officers and judges in the District and Circuit to refrain from issuing any such arrest warrant to any individual other than the Attorney General, District Attorney or Solicitor General acting in their official capacities.

1991

1992

12

1992

Property appraisals. Black v. Georgia Dep’t of Transportation, 262 Ga. 342 (1992) (Hunt, J.): * Appeal from trial court’s denial of Open Records Act request by plaintiff to inspect appraisals of his property in connection with DOT’s efforts to condemn. * The Court held that O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(6) does not require such records to be disclosed until after the condemnation proceedings conclude and DOT has acquired the property. The Court also held that O.C.G.A. § 32-3-7 should not be read to require DOT to disclose matters in condemnation proceedings that it would not ordinarily have to disclose in discovery. * Justice Weltner, joined by Justice Sears-Collins, dissented, arguing that the clear wording of O.C.G.A. § 32-3-7(a) provides that DOT “acquires” property as soon as it files a declaration of taking. Fees. McFrugal Rental of Riverdale, Inc. v. Garr, 262 Ga. 369 (1992) (Clarke, J.): * Open Records Act plaintiff, which sought to inspect city council minutes, city zoning maps and ordinances, challenged city manager’s imposition of a fee to cover the cost of a temporary employee to supervise the inspection. Denial of relief by the trial court reversed. * Emphasizing the importance of public access to government information, the Court held that “any fee imposed pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71 constitutes a burden on the public’s right of access to public records. Therefore, the statute must be narrowly construed. As we construe the statute, the imposition of a fee is allowed only when the citizen seeking access requests copies of documents or requests action by the custodian that involves an unusual administrative cost or burden. Thus, a fee may not be imposed under O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71 when a citizen seeks only to inspect records that are routinely subject to public inspection, such as deeds, city ordinances or zoning maps. Further the custodian of the records must bear the burden of demonstrating the reasonableness of any fee imposed.” “Secrets of State” exemption. Hardaway Co. v. Rives, 262 Ga. 631 (1992) (Bell, J.): * Appeal from ruling of trial court (Langham, J.) that “Engineer’s Cost Estimate” documents generated by the Department of Transportation as part of the process of evaluating bids for work on Savannah’s Talmadge Memorial Bridge were exempt from disclosure under the Open Records Act as “secrets of state,” O.C.G.A. § 24-9-21(4), or “state matters of which the policy of the state and the interest of the community require concealment,” O.C.G.A. § 24-9-27(d). Reversed. * The Court emphasized that “any purported statutory exemption from disclosure under the Open Records Act must be narrowly construed.” The Court agreed that “the public interest in exempting engineering cost estimates from disclosure until projects are completed or abandoned 13

1992

1992

*

outweighs the public interest in favor of disclosure,” but concluded, consistent with past precedent, that the Court does not “have the discretion to judicially craft such an exemption. The balancing test which the special concurrence urges us to apply was expressly limited by Board of Regents to instances where individual privacy rights were involved.” Justice Fletcher, joined by Justice Hunt, concurred specially, concluding that a balancing was appropriate but weighed in favor of disclosure as construction had been completed.

1993

Public university student disciplinary court records. Red & Black Publishing Company v. Board of Regents, 262 Ga. 848 (1993) (Hunt, J.): * Appeal from ruling of trial court (Hull, J.) that records of the University of Georgia Student Organization Court must be disclosed to the public pursuant to the Open Records Act but that the Court’s disciplinary hearings are not subject to the Open Meetings Act. Affirmed in part, reversed in part. * The Court concluded that both the records and the disciplinary hearings of the Student Organization Court must be open to the public: “We are mindful that openness in sensitive proceedings is sometimes unpleasant, difficult, and occasionally harmful. Nevertheless, the policy of this state is that the public’s business must be open, not only to protect against potential abuses, but also to maintain the public’s confidence in its officials.” 262 Ga. at 854. Records of private entities acting under agency direction and control. Clayton County Hospital Authority v. Webb, 206 Ga. App. 693 (1993) (Andrews, J.): * Appeal from ruling of trial court (Ison, J.) ordering Clayton County Hospital Authority (CCHA) and five affiliated corporations to produce records under the Open Records Act. * The Court of Appeals held that the Act applies to records of private entities when such entities function “under the direction and control of [a hospital authority] to implement the [authority’s] duty to provide for the public health.” * The Court held that the disputed records — relating primarily to transfers of funds from the CCHA to five private affiliated corporations and to transfers of funds between any of those corporations — are public records. Citing the fact that assets of the CCHA had been transferred to some of the corporations and the fact that all of the records were in the possession or control of the CCHA, the Court found that the “private status” alone of the corporations did not insulate them from the strictures of the Open Records Act. Alleged trade secrets submitted to agency. BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., d/b/a Southern Bell v. Georgia Public Service Commission, No. E-7376 (Fulton County Superior Court, Apr. 16, 1993) (Eldridge, J.), aff’d without opinion (Ga.): 14

1993

1993

*

*

Appeal from administrative determination by Georgia Public Service Commission that Southern Bell must provide certain documents pursuant to a PSC order and that PSC would not agree to maintain documents confidential. Trial court concluded that Southern Bell had demonstrated that documents constituted “trade secrets” and that PSC was obligated to maintain their confidentiality. The court determined that the Georgia Trade Secrets Act and the Georgia Open Records Act together required that the PSC not disclose the documents to the public. The court also found that Southern Bell had a property interest in the “trade secrets” and that the PSC was further prohibited under the requirements of the United States Constitution from publicly disclosing the documents.

1993

District attorney work product. Hall v. Madison, 263 Ga. 73 (1993) (Hunstein, J.): * Appeal from denial of death row inmate’s request for writ of mandamus. After murder conviction was upheld by Georgia Supreme Court, appellant sought district attorney’s files relating to his prosecution pursuant to the Open Records Act. Trial court (McWhorter, J.) denied writ of mandamus without findings or conclusions. Supreme Court affirmed. * The Court concluded that petition for writ of mandamus was premature since appellant still had alternative legal remedy available to him in a habeas proceeding. The Court expressly distinguished Napper v. Ga. Television on grounds that party seeking production of files in Napper was not defendant and so did not have habeas proceeding available. Mootness. Conklin v. Zant, 263 Ga. 165 (1993) (Carley, J.): * Appellant brought suit seeking order compelling appellees to allow him to inspect and copy certain records pursuant to the Open Records Act. Trial court (Smith, J.) dismissed action as moot based on defendant’s having turned over requested records. * Supreme Court reversed because evidence showed only that appellees had turned over some, but not all, of the records requested by appellant. Police investigatory notes. Lebis v. State, 212 Ga. App. 481 (1994) (Birdsong, J.): * Appeal from denial by trial court (Pannell, J.) of criminal defendant’s request for the production of investigative notes pertaining to his case. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, stating without analysis that investigative notes are “`notes’ not `reports’“ and cannot be classified as “police arrest reports, accident reports, or incident reports” subject to the Open Records Act. Privately held records. Hackworth v. Board of Education for the City of Atlanta, 214 Ga. App. 17 (1994) (Smith, J., with Pope, C.J. and McMurray, P.J.): * Suit for access to personnel records of certain City of Atlanta school bus drivers. Trial court (Daniel, J.) held that personnel records held by a

1993

1994

1994

15

*

*

privately-owned transit company that contracts with the city to provide drivers were not public records. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, concluding that, because the city’s contract with the transit company allowed the city to review the records and because the operation of buses is a “legitimate function of the school board and within the operation of a public agency,” the records were public records despite the fact that they were not physically in the possession of the city. The court remanded the decision to the trial court to determine whether any of the records are exempt from disclosure based on concerns of “personal privacy.” Citing Dortch v. Atlanta Journal, 261 Ga. 350 (1991), the court instructed the trial court to order disclosure of all records unless disclosure would constitute the tort of invasion of privacy.

1994

Commercial solicitation. Speer v. Miller, 864 F. Supp. 1294 (N.D. Ga. 1994) (Hall, J.): * Suit for permanent injunction by criminal defense attorney preventing enforcement of O.C.G.A. § 35-1-9, which prohibits the inspection or copying of law enforcement agency records for the purpose of commercial solicitation. Prior to passage of § 35-1-9, the plaintiff had used the records to solicit clients for his legal practice, and he claimed that refusing to allow him to continue to peruse those records violated his First Amendment rights. The trial court had initially denied plaintiff’s challenge, but the Eleventh Circuit reversed, ruling that “a mere reading of this statute indicates that it probably impinges upon Speer’s commercial speech.” Speer v. Miller, 15 F.3d 1007, 1010 (11th Cir. 1994). * On remand from the Eleventh Circuit, the district court held that O.C.G.A. § 35-1-9 violates the First Amendment and is unconstitutional because it does not directly advance a substantial state interest. The court specifically rejected the state’s argument that the statute advanced the substantial interest of “protecting people’s privacy.” According to the court, that effect is “so riddled with exceptions that the statute’s ability to advance the asserted purpose is anemic and betrays a true alternative purpose” (preventing solicitation). Online computer access. Jersawitz v. Hicks, 264 Ga. 553 (1994) (Hunstein, J.): * The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the denial by the trial court (Langham, J.) of plaintiff’s request for on-line computer access to the Fulton County real estate deed records: “While we are mindful that the prevalence of computers in homes, offices and schools may make on-line access to computerized public records desirable, requiring that means of access must be addressed by the General Assembly.” Rape incident reports. Doe v. Board of Regents, 215 Ga. App. 684 (1994) (en banc) (Beasley, J.): * Trial court refused to issue injunction sought by university employee enjoining disclosure of a university police incident report, sought by The 16

1994

1994

*

*

Red & Black, regarding the employee’s claim that she had been abducted and raped on the university campus by an unknown assailant. Court of Appeals held that pursuant to the Open Records Act the newspaper is entitled to the requested report but, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-6-23(a), with the university employee’s name and identifying information redacted. Birdsong, J., Andrews, J., Blackburn, J., and Ruffin, J., dissent from the Court’s decision to authorize redaction of any part of the report. Andrews, J., writes that O.C.G.A. § 16-6-23(a) “does not cover an admittedly false allegation of rape. It is undisputed that the incident investigated by the campus police did not occur.” Blackburn, J., writes that “I join Judge Andrews in concluding that appellant has lost any right she would otherwise have had to keep her identity from being disclosed because of her admitted fabrications and the superior right of the public to know of the falsity of her original complaint, and the right to know who falsely complained.”

1995

Tax information. Bowers v. Shelton, 265 Ga. 247 (1995) (Thompson, J.): * Affirming order of trial court (Jenrette, J.) entering permanent injunction pursuant to Open Records Act preventing Attorney General from disclosing confidential tax information contained in closed criminal investigation file. Police incident reports. City of Brunswick v. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Florida Times-Union, 265 Ga. 413 (1995) (Carley, J.): * Appeal from order of trial court (Williams, J.) requiring City to disclose serial rape incident reports despite City’s professed concern that doing so would hamper investigation and pose risk to victims’ safety. For these reasons, and based upon an ex parte presentation by the City, the trial court had initially refused to order production. However, the trial court reversed itself and ordered production after the Times-Union published an article disclosing certain facts relating to the incidents. * Cross-appeal by The Journal-Constitution and The Times-Union challenging the trial court’s conclusion that incident reports can ever be protected and that it was proper to hear City’s witnesses ex parte. * Supreme Court affirmed in all respects, concluding that portions of incident reports may be exempted from disclosure to the extent they contain confidential information otherwise exempted from disclosure under the Act. Hospital authorities. Northwest Georgia Health System, Inc. v. Times-Journal, Inc., 218 Ga. App. 336 (1995) (McMurray, J.): * Appeal from order of trial court (Hines, J.) holding that combinations of private hospitals and public hospital authorities are subject to the provisions of the Open Meetings and Open Records Acts.

1995

1995

17

*

Court of Appeals affirmed, stating that “[w]ithout question, these private, nonprofit corporations became the vehicle through which the public hospital authorities carried out their official responsibilities.”

1996

Fees. Powell v. Von Canon, 219 Ga. App. 840 (1996) (Johnson, J.): * Appeal from order of trial court (Wood, J.) holding that defendant government officials are limited to charging only the actual cost of computer disk or tape onto which requested information is transferred and, after the first quarter hour of work, only the hourly wage of the lowest paid full-time employee capable of overseeing or performing transfer. * Court of Appeals affirmed as to all defendants except clerk of superior court on ground that superior court clerks are authorized by O.C.G.A. § 15-6-96 to sell computer generated records for a profit. 911 incident cards. The Bainbridge Post Searchlight, Inc. v. Decatur County, No. 96-V-302 (Decatur County Superior Court, Sept. 10, 1996) (Cato, J.): * Action to require county to make available for public inspection 911 incident cards completed by 911 dispatchers for the purpose of registering, dispatching and preserving information from callers that is necessary or important for an appropriate emergency agency to effectively respond to the emergency. * Held that 911 incident cards are equivalent to initial police incident reports and must be made open for inspection by the public at reasonable times at the 911 facility where the cards are kept. Settlement agreements. City of Helen v. White County News, No. 96-CV-409DB (White County Superior Court, Oct. 7, 1996) (Barrett, J.): * Action for access to documents relating to settlement of former police chief’s civil rights action against city. * Held that “[c]onsistent with the public policy of the Open Records Act, the public has a right to know the terms of a settlement agreement in which a public entity has settled a lawsuit” and that “the nondisclosure provisions of the Settlement Agreement ... are void as against the public policy of the State of Georgia.” The court rejected the city’s contention that disclosure would be improper because “a right of privacy may exist on behalf of those individuals in the underlying lawsuit.” District Attorney records. Felker v. Lukemire, 267 Ga. 296 (1996) (Thompson, J.): * Action by death row inmate for access to district attorney’s records on prosecution. After hearing and production of additional records, trial court found that the district attorney had complied with inmate’s request and denied relief. * The Supreme Court affirmed, finding that “the district attorney fully complied with his obligations under the Act. And he had no reason to suspect that he did not comply.”

1996

1996

1996

18

1997

Inmate appeals. Hall v. Linahan, 225 Ga. App. 439 (1997) (McMurray, J.): * Appeal by state prison inmate of trial court order concerning inmate’s Open Records Act requests. * Because inmate was currently in the custody of Department of Corrections, held that appeal was controlled by Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, O.C.G.A. § 42-12-1 et seq., and, because no application for discretionary review had been filed, had to be dismissed. Child abuse records. In re Hansen, No. 165958 (Fulton County Juvenile Court, Nov. 14, 1997) (Hatchett, J.): * Granting access pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 49-5-41(B) to records of Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Family and Children Services, of all Georgia children who died between January 1, 1993 and August 31, 1997 and had been reported previously to state protective service workers. Privacy of public employees. Chatham County v. Adventure Radio Group, et al., Case No. CV97-1406-FR (Eastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court, Dec. 22, 1997) (Freesemann, J.): * Denying request of county and certain county employees to redact the names of certain county employees who were the subject of tape-recorded derogatory remarks by senior police officials. “The Court sympathizes with the female employees who desire to keep their names secreted. Unfortunately, however, these women have, albeit unwillingly, become figures in a public drama. Therefore, dissemination of information pertaining to this drama is no violation of their right to privacy.” * Granting request of Savannah Morning News and WSAV-TV for injunction requiring access. Motor vehicle accident reports. Statewide Detective Agency v. Zell Miller, 115 F. 3d 904 (11th Cir. 1997) (Barkett, J.): * A private detective agency filed suit against the Governor and the Attorney General of Georgia, seeking to enjoin enforcement of statute criminalizing request for motor vehicle accident reports for commercial solicitation purposes. * Affirming the District Court preliminary injunction order, the 11th Circuit Court held that the statute represented an unconstitutional restraint of commercial speech. Investigatory report concerning sexual harassment. Fincher v. State, 231 Ga. App. 49 (1998) (Ruffin, J.): * Pursuant to the Open Records Act, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles of Georgia released to a local television station an investigatory report concerning claims that one of its employees had sexually harassed a coworker. The employee sued claiming invasion of privacy. * Affirming the dismissal, the Court of Appeals found that the report was a public record not subject to any exemptions under the Georgia Open

1997

1997

1998

1998

19

Records Act. The Court further found that the public interest in obtaining the report outweighs any private interest. 1999 Settlement records. Savannah College of Art and Design v. School of Visual Arts Inc., 270 Ga. 791 (1999) (Hunstein, J): * Appeal concerning public access to court records in a civil case. The trial court ordered that confidential settlement documents filed with a discovery motion should be open because the plaintiff failed to meet its burden in limiting access. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the plaintiff’s privacy interest in the documents clearly outweighed the public’s interest in access. Discovery procedures considered adequate legal remedy. Millar v. Fayette County Sheriff's Dept., 241 Ga. App. 659 (1999) (Blackburn, J.): * Attorney's action against county and county sheriff under Georgia's Open Records Act, seeking injunction requiring them to turn over certain public records relating to his client's federal action against them, was premature; when request for injunction was made, attorney retained adequate legal remedy, namely right to seek defendants' records through discovery procedures in his federal action. Eldridge and Barnes, J.J. concurring. Verbal requests for records. Howard v. Sumter Free Press, Inc., 272 Ga. 521 (2000) (Hines, J.): * Sheriff’s contention that he was not required to comply with verbal requests by the press for access to public records, but only to “bona fide” written requests, was unavailing. Verbal requests do not diminish their efficacy under the Open Records Act. Records versus information. Schulten v. Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, 272 Ga. 725 (2000) (Carley, J.): * Law firm filed writ of mandamus to compel hospital to permit inspection and copying of records since 1995. Court denied relief, because request would violate Open Records Act by requiring hospital to compile and prepare reports that were not yet in existence. * Failure by hospital to furnish non-existent records does not constitute a denial of a request for access to public records. Trade secrets. Georgia Dep’t of Natural Resources et al. v. Theragenics Corp., 273 Ga. 724 (2001) (Carley, J.): * Trade secrets exception to disclosure under the Act not expressly limited to documents specifically identified as confidential at time of submission to agency. * Because Act places ultimate responsibility for non-disclosure on agency, agency cannot construe submitter’s failure to identify all trade secrets at time of original filing as waiver of confidentiality.

1999

2000

2000

2001

20

2001

Internet access. J.K. Champion, M.D. v. State, Civil Action File No. 2000CV26375 (Fulton Superior, Apr. 9, 2001) (Goger, J.): * Trial court dismissed complaint for injunction to prevent continued public Internet access to the fact that plaintiff doctor had entered into a disciplinary consent order with the State Board of Medical Examiners, holding, inter alia, that Act mandated access. Motor vehicle records. Spottsville v. Barnes, 135 F. Supp. 2d 1316 (N.D. Ga. 2001) (Thrash, Jr., J.): * Challenge to 1999 amendment to the Open Records Act that restricts disclosure of motor vehicle accident reports to certain designated groups of persons including the media. The amendment was upheld and found not to be an unconstitutional prior restraint on commercial speech. Police reports concerning rape. Dye v. Wallace, 274 Ga. 257 (2001) * Trial court held that Georgia’s Rape Confidentiality Statute, which made it unlawful for the media to identify rape victims, was unconstitutional. * Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the media can publish information from police reports that are lawfully obtained. Court records filed under seal. Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc., 184 F. Supp. 2d 1353 (N.D. Ga. 2002) (O’Kelley, J.): * Holding that records filed under seal in support of the parties’ respective summary judgment motions must be unsealed. There was no third party request to unseal the records. Rather, the decision was in response to the Court’s order directed to the parties to show cause why the records should remain under seal. * The Court held that documents filed under seal in connection with a dispositive motion in a civil case may remain sealed only if the party seeking closure can show good cause that outweighs the public’s interest in dissemination. * The Court did allow two depositions to remain under seal finding that the plaintiff showed that good cause exists because the documents contained trade secrets. Income tax records of individual who received government contract. City of Atlanta v. Corey Entertainment , Inc., 278 Ga. 474 (2004) (Fletcher, J.): * Holding that Georgia’s Open Records Act requires the disclosure of the tax returns of an individual who won a government contract for her business based on that fact that she successfully applied for status as a “Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.” * The Court rejected the individual’s claim that her privacy interests outweighed the public interest in disclosure, finding that there is “a strong need for open government to prevent the appearance of impropriety and corruption in the certification process” for “disadvantaged” businesses.

2001

2001

2002

2004

21

*

The Court also found that the income tax return was not a “personal net worth statement” or “documentation supporting it,” which would have been exempt from disclosure under federal regulations.

2004

Housing Authority records. Strange v. Housing Auth. of City of Summerville, 268 Ga. App. 403 (2004) (Barnes, J.): * The Housing Authority filed suit seeking, inter alia, to enjoin Appellants from making future open records requests on the Authority. Appellants had made several open records requests in the past. * Appellants filed a counterclaim alleging that the Authority violated the Open Records Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Authority on the counterclaim, holding that it was rendered moot when the Authority amended its complaint to withdraw its injunction request. * The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the counterclaim was not moot because the Authority also had failed to provide documents in response to Appellants’ open records requests and, therefore, could still be liable under the Open Records Act. State insurance commissioner records. Hoffman v. Oxendine, 268 Ga. App. 316 (2004) (Phipps, J.): * The Court held that it was an abuse of discretion by the state Insurance Commissioner to withhold reports regarding the investigation of an insurer. * The Court found that the Insurance Commissioner could not rely on authority and/or reasons to deny disclosure that were not stated in his response to the Open Records request. * Here, the Insurance Commissioner failed to cite the “pending investigation” exception to the Open Records Act in his response to the request; therefore, the Court held that the trial court erred in permitting the Commissioner to use this argument in denying disclosure. Police records — Private university police force. The Corporation of Mercer University v. Barrett & Farahany, LLP, 271 Ga. App. 501 (2005) (Johnson, J.) (Ruffin, C.J. and Barnes, J., concurring), cert. denied, 2005 Ga. LEXIS 392 (Ga. May 23, 2005): * Suit by law firm against Mercer University for access to records maintained and generated by the Mercer University Police Department. * The Court reversed the decision of the trial court (McConnell, J.) that the records be produced, holding that a police force hired by a private university is not a public office or agency just because it performs certain functions authorized by the State by statute. * The Court also held that the police force did not receive or maintain documents in the performance or service of a function on behalf of a public office or agency, because evidence showed that the police force worked solely for Mercer University. The fact that the police force was required to report gang activity to local law enforcement was irrelevant.

2004

2005

22

* * 2005

Simply performing some task or function with an indirect public benefit, or with benefit to the public as a whole, does not transform a private entity’s records into public records. Purpose of Open Records Act would not be furthered by compelling disclosure of records in this case.

Attorney’s fees and procedure — Petitioner should follow up after receiving response to ORA request before rushing to sue for attorney’s fees. Everett v. Rast, 272 Ga. App. 636 (2005) (Miller, J.): * The Court affirmed the decision of the trial court denying Everett’s motion for attorney’s fees and expenses, holding that the city had not failed to produce records without substantial justification. Rather, the city indicated that it would comply and that documents in addition to those in its possession “may or may not” be in the possession of various city departments. * Everett improperly rushed to litigation instead of contacting the city after it responded that it would provide documents. Attorney’s fees and procedure — Custodian of records must affirmatively respond to ORA request within 3 business days. Wallace v. Greene County, 274 Ga. App. 776 (2005) (Bernes, J.): * The Court reversed and remanded the decision of the trial court denying Wallace’s motion for summary judgment on attorney’s fees, holding that the county violated the Open Records Act by not affirmatively responding to Wallace’s request within 3 business days. Thus, Wallace met first prong of test for attorney’s fees. * Court remanded on unresolved issue of whether Wallace had shown that county lacked substantial justification for the violation, the second prong of test for attorney’s fees. Private entities as vehicles for public agencies due to involvement of public officials. Baker v. Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce et al., 2005-cv105088, Nov. 17, 2005 Order (Johnson, J.), currently on appeal: * Suit by Attorney General and newspaper for access to NASCAR Hall of Fame and Super Bowl bids submitted and maintained by private entities. * The Court held that records maintained by private entities related to the bids were subject to Open Records Act because public officials and their pledges of political and financial support were “absolutely necessary” to the possible success of the bids. * The bids were received in the course of the operation of a public office because the private entities needed the public officials and acted with their full knowledge and acquiescence. * Certain exceptions under the statute protecting bids from disclosure did not apply here. Records of bids for Atlanta to host NASCAR Hall of Fame and Super Bowl. Central Atlanta Progress, Inc. v. Baker, 278 Ga. App. 733 (2006) (Johnson, J.): 23

2005

2005

2006

*

*

*

Two private corporations, composed of Atlanta-area businesses, submitted bids for Atlanta to host the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the 2009 Super Bowl, and newspaper requested copies of the bids under the Georgia Open Records Act, but corporations refused, arguing that the bids were not subject to the Act because they were not prepared by or on behalf of public agencies. The Attorney General issued an opinion that “in light of the significant involvement of public officials, public employees, public resources and public funds in the matters, the bids were subject to the [Act] and should be disclosed,” but the corporations still refused. The superior court agreed and ruled for the newspaper. Court affirms trial court’s decision, explaining that the bids involved the use of public funds; they called for the future use of substantial public resources; and, public officials and employees participated in preparing them. The Act “must be broadly construed to effect its purposes.”

2006

Attorney’s fees and procedure — Summary Judgment improper when evidence shows that records custodian failed to respond to ORA request within 3 business days, and no substantial justification exists for not doing so. Benefit Support, Inc. v. Hall County, 281 Ga. App. 825 (2006) (Blackburn, J.): * County failed to respond to a records request within three days of receiving it, and requester sued for attorney’s fees for failing to comply with the Georgia Open Records Act. Trial court denied the county’s request for summary judgment on this claim, finding that both prongs of the test set forth in Wallace were satisfied: the county missed the threeday deadline, and it did not have a substantial justification for its omission. * Court affirms trial court’s denial of summary judgment, explaining that because the county did not produce the documents until after the civil litigation commenced, “and because the county has further failed to explain this dilatory conduct in any evidence submitted with its summary judgment motion, some evidence shows that the county’s violation lacked substantial justification.” Trade-secrets exception to ORA. Douglas Asphalt Company v. E.R. Snell Contractor, Inc., 282 Ga. App. 546 (2006) (Barnes, J.): * Trial court enjoined DOT from giving unredacted copies of certain records to asphalt company because the records contained contractors’ trade secrets, which could give asphalt company a competitive advantage. * Court affirms trial court, finding that the exception to the Act for trade secrets, O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(b)(1), applies, and explaining that the “trial court did not err in concluding that the contractors presented evidence that the information derived economic value from not being generally known or readily ascertainable to others.” Court also holds that although the product was sold in public places, this did not transform the confidential, technical specifications of the product’s design into public property.

2006

24

*

Court rejects asphalt company’s contention that trade-secret exception was not satisfied because the contractors were not required by law to submit the information to the DOT. “While it is true that the contractors were not required by law to enter into contracts with the state, several witnesses testified that once they entered those contracts, they were required by law to submit the information to the DOT before starting or continuing work.” Court explains that information that must be submitted in conjunction with government contracts is “required by law” as that phrase is used in O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(b)(1).

2007

Access to Election Materials. Smith v. DeKalb County, 288 Ga. App. 574 (2007) (Ellington, J.): * Injunction proper to Georgia Secretary of State to prevent public from obtaining election data. * Individual submitted Georgia Open Records Act request to director of elections seeking CD containing “all ballot images and ballot styles as well as vote totals and a copy of the consolidated returns from the election management system.” Director notified Secretary of State of request and that she intended to release the records. Secretary of State sought TRO to prevent this. * Lower court granted TRO and permanent injunction preventing unauthorized individuals from accessing election CDs because it found Georgia law required CD’s to remain under seal for at least 24 months following election unless otherwise directed by superior court, but superior court had not ordered the seal be lifted. Because the CD is statutorily designated to be kept under seal, it is exempt from records open to public inspection. * Injunction is also proper because CD contains security information that could compromise election security, so it falls within exemption for “material which if made public could compromise security against sabotage, criminal, or terroristic acts.” Though copy of CD could be provided without this security information, government need not create this since it was not in existence at the time of the request. Notice where State (or its agency) is a party. Georgia Department of Agriculture v. Griffin Industries, 284 Ga. App. 259 (2007) (Adams, J.): * Department did not receive adequate notice in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 9-10-2(1) that merits of Open Records Act request were going to be considered by court, thus court’s decision granting full requested relief was improper. * Only notice in record was of case management conference, and only pending motion was for temporary relief, thus Department did not have adequate notice of hearing on merits of ultimate issue. Open Records Act requests regarding government wrongdoing. Moore v. Gabriel, No. 3:05-CV-31(CDL), 2007 WL 917291 (M.D. Ga. Mar. 22, 2007): * Open Records Act requests relating to potential abuse and 25

2007

2007

mismanagement by government are protected First Amendment speech because this is of core public interest. 2008 Open Records Act does not excuse improper service. Melton v. Wiley, 262 Fed. Appx. 921 (11th Cir. 2008) (per curiam): * Plaintiff claimed Open Records Act, which protects from disclosing records revealing home address of law enforcement officers, validated substitute service crafted by process server who served someone other than defendant at defendant’s place of business. * Court rejects this argument explaining that Open Records Act does not excuse failure to perfect service in accordance with Georgia law. Pending investigations and three-day response requirement. Unified Gov’t of Athens-Clarke County v. Athens Newspapers, LLC, 284 Ga. 192 (2008) (Carley, J.): * Newspaper filed suit against county claiming it violated Open Records Act by refusing access to police records of unsolved rape and murder case from 1992. Although investigation was inactive, the investigatory file had not been closed. * Trial court granted summary judgment for county finding the records exempt because they fell within exemption for “pending investigations,” set forth in O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(4). * Appellate court reversed, finding the exception unsatisfied because evidence showed there had been no progress in solving the case for several years and because there was no ongoing, active investigation. Court of Appeals noted that statutory exemptions to the Open Records Act must be narrowly construed. * Georgia Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals holding and held that the investigation remained “pending” and thus subject to the Open Records Act exemption. * Georgia Supreme Court held that for purposes of the Open Records Act exemption, a seemingly inactive investigation, which has not yet resulted in a prosecution, remains undecided and therefore remains “pending” until it is concluded and the file is closed. Similarly, a prosecution is pending until a conviction has been reviewed on direct appeal and no further direct litigation of an imminent nature and finite duration remains. * Georgia Supreme Court approved of Court of Appeals’ interpretation of three-day response requirement in O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(f) as requiring response within three business days of agency receiving request irrespective of when specific person at agency in charge of records receives request. * Hunstein, J. (concurring in part and dissenting in part) disagreed with majority’s analysis of “pending investigation” exemption and stated that exemption should only apply to those investigations and prosecutions being “actively, definitely and imminently pursued.” Open Records Act Does Not Permit Recovery of Damages. Chisolm v. 26

2008

2008

Tippens, 289 Ga. App. 757, 762 (2008) (Mikell, J.): * Noting in dicta that Open Records Act does not permit recovery of compensatory or punitive damages. 2008 Records Generated During Internal Investigation of Sexual Misconduct Were Subject to Disclosure and Were Not Work Product. Fulton DeKalb Hospital Auth. v. Miller & Billips, 293 Ga. App. 601 (2008) (Johnson, J.): * Law firm filed suit against Fulton DeKalb Hospital Authority pursuant to Open Records Act seeking disclosure of records generated during internal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. Authority had refused to produce certain records, including tape-recorded interviews, interview notes, and investigator’s final report to the General Counsel on the basis of the work product doctrine. * Following in camera review, trial court rejected work product claim and ordered disclosure of records despite involvement of legal department in investigation, finding that investigation was a routine inquiry in response to complaints and was not conducted in anticipation of litigation. * Appellate court affirmed, finding that Authority had commenced investigation not in response to any claim or threat of litigation, but only because it received anonymous complaints. Public Agency Must Raise Specific Exemption in Initial Response to Requesting Party. Jaraysi v. City of Marietta, 294 Ga. App. 6 (2008) (Mikell, J.): * Property owners filed suit against City for refusing to disclose records regarding unfinished construction on their property for which building permit had been revoked and which was subject to Municipal Court demolition action. * Court rejected City’s attempt to rely on “pending investigation or prosecution of criminal or unlawful activity” exemption under O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(4) because City failed to specify this reason in its initial response to Open Records Act request, and instead did not reference specific Act provision until summary judgment. Court also noted that City’s citation to O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72, without more, was insufficient in that City did not cite subsection and paragraph relied upon. * Appellate court vacated trial court’s grant of summary judgment for City where record showed that City violated Open Records Act by failing to respond to request within three business days and rejected argument that property owners’ action was moot because City had eventually provided requested records. Court remanded case to trial court to determine whether attorney’s fees were warranted under O.C.G.A. § 50-18-73(b). Documents Held By Private Entity Performing Public Function; Trade Secrets Exemption. United Healthcare of Georgia, Inc. v. Georgia Dep’t of Cmty. Health, 293 Ga. App. 84 (2008) (Bernes, J.): * Private party contracted with Georgia Department of Community Health (“DCH”) to serve as third-party administrator for administration of State 27

2008

2008

*

*

*

* 2008

Health Benefit Plan. Following Open Records Act request to DCH, private party filed suit seeking to enjoin disclosure of certain documents relating to its contract with DCH. Court held that documents were “public records” because, even though in possession of private party, Open Records Act requires disclosure of documents possessed by a private entity performing a service or function for or on behalf of a public agency. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(a). Court held that documents were “required by law to be submitted to a government agency” in satisfaction of trade secrets exemption to the Open Records Act, O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(b)(1) (rejecting the trial court’s holding on this point) because private entity had submitted documents to DCH pursuant to contractual obligation. Rejecting public policy argument in favor of disclosure and finding that plain language of O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(b)(1) constitutes General Assembly’s determination that trade secret protection outweighs any greater public benefit in disclosure. Remanding to trial court for determination of whether certain documents meet two-part test for trade secrets under O.C.G.A. § 10-1-761(4)(A).

Lack of Federal Jurisdiction. Flemming v. Morris, No. 4:08-CV-51 -CDL, 2008 WL 2442184, at *5 (M.D. Ga. Apr. 30, 2008) (Faircloth, M.J.): * Prisoner filed suit bringing 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Open Records Act claim. * After determining that § 1983 claim should be dismissed, Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of Open Records Act claim as outside the subject matter jurisdiction of federal court. * Although documents at issue may have been relevant to plaintiff’s federal claims, the determinations which must be made regarding the documents’ status and accessibility under Georgia law are not related to the issues underlying plaintiff’s federal claims and are therefore not part of the same case or controversy. Personnel Records of Municipal Employee. Goddard v. City of Albany, 285 Ga. 882, 684 S.E.2d 635 (2009) (Benham, J.): * Court held that appellant’s right to privacy was not violated when her personnel documents were released by her manager pursuant to the Open Records Act. * Personnel records of municipal employees are not entitled to any blanket exemption from the Open Records Act. Appellant’s privacy claim, therefore failed. Lack of Federal Jurisdiction. GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc., v. MARTA, No. 1:09CV-594-TWT, 2009 WL 5033444 (N.D.Ga. Dec. 14, 2009) (Thrash, Jr., J.): * Court declined jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ Open Records Act claims. * Court did not have federal question jurisdiction because the plaintiffs’ claims were based on state law. Court did not have supplemental jurisdiction because the plaintiffs’ Open Records Act claims did not arise 28

2009

2009

out of a common nucleus of operative fact with any federal claim in the case. * Plaintiffs’ claims were narrow in that they only involved questions as to whether the records requested were subject to the Open Records Act, whether the defendants responded to the requests, and if the defendants responded, when they responded. 2009 Recoverable Damages. Shabazz v. Marchand, No. 1:09-CV-1741-WSD, 2009 WL 3148676 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 29, 2009) (Duffey, Jr., J.): * Court dismissed plaintiff’s claim for compensatory and punitive damages based on defendant’s failure to respond to plaintiff’s Open Records Act request. Court held that the Open Records Act does not authorize compensatory or punitive damages, only an award of attorney fees and litigation expenses in actions brought to enforce the statute. * Court also dismissed plaintiff’s claim for compensatory and punitive damages based on claim that defendant disseminated to an “unauthorized recipient” information that included plaintiff’s social security number, in violation of O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72. Court held that defendant was not an “authorized recipient” whose conduct is governed by § 50-18-72(a) (11.3) (C). Defendant was a custodian of records and, therefore, did not obtain records pursuant to the Open Records Act. Court again noted in relation to this claim that the Open Records Act does not authorize compensatory or punitive damages. * Court noted that plaintiff could file action against county requesting equitable relief in the form of access to the requested records if he believed that he was improperly denied access to a public record. His claim should not have been against defendant in her individual capacity. Access to Personnel File. Soloski v. Adams, 600 F. Supp. 2d 1276 (N.D.Ga. 2009) (Shoob, S.J.): * Court noted that personnel file of a dean of a university is available to the public under the Open Records Act. * Court held that reprimand letter placed in plaintiff’s personnel file, which stated that former dean of college at state university violated university’s nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policy, was not an adverse employment action, even though file was accessible to public under Georgia Open Records Act.

2009

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

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: SECTION 230, COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT    For online publishers and the attorneys advising them, Section 230 of the  Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230 (2006)) is perhaps the most important piece of  legislation to come out of Congress in the last 15 years. It provides broad protection against  liability for many types of legal claims arising from the actions of users and commenters. While  some recent cases have carved out narrow exceptions to Section 230 immunity, it continues to  serve as a powerful tool for minimizing the risks inherent in allowing third parties to publish  online.  Background on Publisher and Distributor Liability     Under standard common‐law principles, a person who publishes a defamatory  statement by another bears the same liability for the statement as if he or she had initially  created it. Thus, a book publisher or a newspaper publisher can be held liable for anything that  appears within its pages. The theory behind this "publisher" liability is that a publisher has the  knowledge, opportunity, and ability to exercise editorial control over the content of its  publications.1    Distributor liability is much more limited. Newsstands, bookstores, and libraries are  generally not held liable for the content of the material that they distribute unless they have  knowledge that the material is tortious or illegal in nature.2  The concern is that it would be  impossible for distributors to read every publication before they sell or distribute it, and that as  a result, distributors would engage in excessive self‐censorship. In addition, it would be very  hard for distributors to know whether something is actionable defamation; after all, speech  must be false to be defamatory.     Not surprisingly, the first websites to be sued for defamation based on the statements  of others argued that they were merely distributors, and not publishers, of the content on their  sites. One of the first such cases was Cubby v. CompuServe, Inc., 776 F. Supp. 135 (S.D.N.Y.  1991). CompuServe provided subscribers with access to over 150 specialty electronic "forums"  that were run by third parties. When CompuServe was sued over allegedly defamatory  statements that appeared in the "Rumorville" forum, it argued that it should be treated like a  distributor because it did not review the contents of the bulletin board before it appeared on  CompuServe’s site. The court agreed and dismissed the case against CompuServe.     Four years later, a New York state court came to the opposite conclusion when faced  with a website that held itself out as a "family friendly" computer network. In Stratton Oakmont  v. Prodigy, 23 Media L. Rep. 1794 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1995), the court held that because Prodigy was 
                                                            
  See RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS § 578 (1977); Harris v. Minvielle, 19 So. 925, 928 (La. 1896).   See Tacket v. General Motors Corp., 836 F.2d 1042, 1046‐47 (7th Cir. 1987); RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF  TORTS § 581(1) (1977). 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

exercising editorial control over the messages that appeared on its bulletin boards through its  content guidelines and software screening program, Prodigy was more like a "publisher" than a  "distributor" and therefore fully liable for all of the content on its site.     The perverse upshot of the CompuServe and Stratton decisions was that any effort by an  online information provider to restrict or edit user‐submitted content on its site would result in  the provider facing a much higher risk of liability if it failed to eliminate all defamatory material  than if it simply didn’t try to control or edit the content of third parties at all.   The Communications Decency Act      This prompted Congress to pass the Communications Decency Act in 1996. The Act  contains deceptively simple language under the heading "Protection for Good Samaritan  blocking and screening of offensive material":   No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher  or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.   47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1). Section 230 further provides that "[n]o cause of action may be brought  and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this  section." 47 U.S.C. § 230(e)(3).    Courts have generally relied upon a three‐pronged test to determine whether a party is  entitled to protection under Section 230. The three conditions that must be satisfied in order to  successfully invoke Section 230 protections are:  1. The defendant is “a provider or user of an interactive computer service..”  2. The defendant is being “treated as the publisher or speaker” of information for the  purposes of liability.  3. The challenged information is “information provided by another information content  provider.”  Websites Covered by Section 230      Is an "interactive computer service" some special type of website? No. For purposes of  Section 230, an   "interactive computer service" means any information service, system, or access  software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a  computer server.   47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2). Most courts have held that through these provisions, Congress granted  interactive services of all types, including blogs, forums, and listservs, immunity from tort 

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

liability so long as the information is provided by a third party.3  As a result of Section 230,  Internet publishers are treated differently from publishers in print, television, and radio.   Claims Covered by Section 230      Section 230 has most frequently been applied to bar defamation‐based claims.4  In the  typical case, a plaintiff who believes she has been defamed sues both the author of the  statement and the website that provided a forum or otherwise hosted the material. Courts  have held with virtual unanimity that such claims against a website are barred by Section 230.     But immunity under Section 230 is not limited to defamation or speech‐based torts.  Courts have applied Section 230 immunity to bar claims such as invasion of privacy,5  misappropriation,6 and in a case brought against MySpace, a claim asserting that MySpace was  negligent for failing to implement age verification procedures and to protect a fourteen‐year  old from sexual predators.7     However, Section 230 explicitly exempts from its coverage criminal law,  communications privacy law, and "intellectual property claims."  47 U.S.C. § 230(f). In  interpreting these exclusions, courts agree that Congress meant to exclude federal intellectual  property claims, such as copyright and trademark, but they disagree whether state‐law  intellectual property claims (or claims that arguably could be classified as intellectual property  claims, such as the right of publicity) are also exempted from the broad immunity protection  Section 230 provides.8     Finally, Section 230 does not immunize the actual creator of content.9  The author of a  defamatory statement, whether he is a blogger, commenter, or anything else, remains just as  responsible for his online statements as he would be for his offline statements.   Online Activities Covered by Section 230      Courts have consistently held that exercising traditional editorial functions over user‐ submitted content, such as deciding whether to publish, remove, or edit material, is immunized 
                                                            
 See, e.g., Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018, 1030 n.15 (9th Cir. 2003) (noting that the term “includes a wide  range of cyberspace services, not only internet service providers”).  4  See, e.g., Whitney Info. Network, Inc. v. Verio, Inc., No. 04‐cv‐462, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1424, at *7 (M.D.  Fla. Jan. 11, 2006); Patentwizard, Inc. v. Kinko’s Inc., 163 F. Supp.2d 1069, 1071 (D.S.D. 2001).  5   Parker v. Google, Inc., 242 Fed. Appx. 833, 833 (3d Cir. 2007).  6  Gregerson v. Vilana Fin., Inc., No. 06‐1164 AMD/AJB, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11727, at *28‐29 (D. Minn.  Feb. 15, 2008).  7   Doe v. MySpace, 474 F. Supp.2d 843 (W.D. Tex. 2007).  8  Compare Perfect 10, Inc. v. CCBill LLC, 488 F.3d 1102, 1118 (9th Cir. 2007) (finding plaintiff’s right of  publicity/misappropriation claim preempted under Section 230) and Atl. Recording Corp. v. Project Playlist, Inc.,  603 F. Supp.2d 690, 703‐04 (S.D.N.Y. 2009).   9  See, e.g., FTC v. Accusearch Inc., 570 F.3d 1187 (10th Cir. 2009). 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

under Section 230.10  As one moves farther away from these basic functions, immunity may still  exist, but the analysis becomes more fact‐specific.   Exceptions to Section 230 Immunity:  Roommates.com and Barnes v. Yahoo!    In an en banc decision, the Ninth Circuit found that defendant Roommates.com, an  apartment matching service, was not entitled to protection under Section 230 against claims  under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and related laws.11  The decision, written by Judge Kozinski,  exploded forever the longstanding assumption (among Internet lawyers, at least) that website  operators would always be immune under Section 230 for publishing and organizing content  provided by their users, so long as the underlying claim didn't involve intellectual property,  federal criminal law, or the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.     Roommates.com is a website that helps match people looking for a place to live with  people who've got space to rent. Before users can search or post listings, they must create a  profile by answering a number of questions. Users must specify, using drop‐down menus,  information about their gender, sexual orientation, and whether they will bring children to a  household. They also must provide information about their preferences in roommates with  regard to the same three criteria. In addition, the registration interface encourages users to  provide "Additional Comments" about themselves and their desired roommate in an open‐ ended fill‐in‐the‐blank form. The website then publishes all this information on the user's  profile page and uses it to channel subscribers toward listings with compatible preferences,  including through a search function. Two advocacy groups sued Roommates.com, arguing that  these practices violate the Fair Housing Act and California housing discrimination law.  Roommates.com invoked Section 230 as a defense.     The decision has three holdings: (1) Section 230 does not bar the claim that  Roommates.com violated the FHA by asking questions about gender, sexual orientation, and  children during the registration process; (2) Section 230 does not bar the claim that  Roommates.com violated the FHA by publishing answers created using its pull‐down menus and  by providing search functionality and email notices based on this information; and (3) Section  230 bars a FHA claim based on the "Additional Comments" provided by users.  As to the first  holding, if we assume for the sake of argument that asking certain questions violates the law, it  follows that asking them is the website's own act, not the user's. The third holding is consistent  with the Seventh Circuit's decision in Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights v. Craigslist,  Inc., 2008 WL 681168 (7th Cir. Mar. 14, 2008), which held that Section 230 barred FHA claims  against Craigslist for posting the discriminatory notices of its users. A Craigslist user, much like a 
 See, e.g., Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018, 1031 (9th Cir. 2003) (“[T]he exclusion of ‘publisher’ liability  necessarily precludes liability for exercising the usual prerogative of publishers to choose among proffered  material and to edit the material published while retaining its basic form and message.”)  11  Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.com, LLC, 521 F.3d 1157 (9th Cir. 2008). 

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

Roommates.com user filling out the "Additional Comments" section, has complete discretion  about what to place in his or her notice; there are no pull down menus or specific questions  prompting or encouraging the user to indicate a discriminatory preference.     The importance of the Roommates.com decision rests with the second holding. The  court found that Roommates.com was responsible for user‐created content that violated the  FHA because it (a) required subscribers to provide allegedly unlawful information as a condition  of accessing its service; and (b) provided a limited set of pre‐populated answers.  Roommates.com, 521 F.3d at 1165‐66. With respect to its search and email functions, the court  held that Roommates lost Section 230 immunity by designing its system to use allegedly  unlawful criteria to channel information to particular users and forcing users to participate in  the discriminatory process. Id. at 1167.     On the one hand, Roommates.com is one of the first cases to hold a website operator  liable for content chosen by a user from a pull‐down menu, and this result is at least facially  inconsistent with the Ninth's Circuit's own Carafano v. Metrosplash.com, 339 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir.  2003), which Judge Kozinski re‐interpreted, and some district court cases, like Whitney  Information Network, Inc. v. Xcentric Ventures, LLC, 2008 WL 450095, at *9‐12 (M.D. Fla. Feb.  15, 2008). But, if you narrow this case to its facts, it is relatively unremarkable and easy to  distinguish from other cases. Here, the court found that Roommates.com forced its users to  answer allegedly illegal questions, provided only allegedly unlawful answer choices, and then  imposed the allegedly unlawful criteria on its users through searches and email notifications.     The Court tried to limit the impact of its ruling, noting that “[t]he message to website  operators is clear: If you don’t encourage illegal content, or design your website to require  users to input illegal content, you will be immune.”  The opinion emphasized that this wasn’t a  seismic shift away from Section 230 immunity, stating:  Websites are complicated enterprises, and there will always be close cases where a  clever lawyer could argue that something the website operator did encouraged the  illegality. Such close cases, we believe, must be resolved in favor of immunity, lest we cut  the heart out of section 230 by forcing websites to face death by ten thousand duck‐ bites, fighting off claims that they promoted or encouraged—or at least tacitly assented  to—the illegality of third parties.  521 F.3d at 1175. Despite this limiting language, more recent cases have shown that plaintiffs’  lawyers have grabbed on to Roommates.com and another recent Ninth Circuit decision, Barnes  v. Yahoo!, Inc. to chip away at the broad protections afforded by Section 230.    Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc., 570 F.3d (9th Cir. 2009) clarifies one of the many possible lines  between enjoying Section 230 protection and losing it, namely what kinds of legal claims treat 

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

an interactive computer services as a "publisher or speaker" within the meaning of the statute  and what kinds do not.     At issue in Barnes was the fact that plaintiff’s ex‐boyfriend created a fake personals ad  for her on Yahoo! and impersonated her on various online forums:   Barnes did not authorize her now former boyfriend to post the profiles, which is hardly  surprising considering their content. The profiles contained nude photographs of Barnes  and her boyfriend, taken without her knowledge, and some kind of open solicitation,  whether express or implied is unclear, to engage in sexual intercourse. The ex‐boyfriend  then conducted discussions in Yahoo’s online “chat rooms,” posing as Barnes and  directing male correspondents to the fraudulent profiles he had created. The profiles  also included the addresses, real and electronic, and telephone number at Barnes’ place  of employment. Before long, men whom Barnes did not know were peppering her office  with emails, phone calls, and personal visits, all in the expectation of sex.   570 F.3d at 1098. Barnes demanded that Yahoo! take the information down, but Yahoo! was  not very responsive ‐‐ even though it had a policy providing for the removal of fake profiles if  the complaining party provided a copy of her drivers' license. The opinion notes what happened  next:  During the same period, a local news program was preparing to broadcast a report on  the incident. A day before the initial air date of the broadcast, Yahoo! broke its silence;  its Director of Communications, Ms. Osako, told Barnes that she would “personally walk  the statements over to the division responsible for stopping unauthorized profiles and  they would take care of it.”  Barnes claims to have relied on this statement and took no  further action regarding the profiles and the trouble they had caused. Approximately  two months passed without word from Yahoo!, at which point Barnes filed suit against  Yahoo! in Oregon state court. Shortly thereafter, the profiles disappeared from Yahoo!’s  website, apparently never to return.   Id. at 1099.    Barnes attempted to plead around Section 230 in a number of creative ways. She  claimed that since Section 230 only relieved online service providers of being held to be the  publisher of defamatory material, that did not relieve Yahoo! of the obligation to take down  allegedly defamatory material once it had notice of its tortious nature. Barnes then tried to  argue that Section 230 only applies to websites that try and remove some objectionable  material. Barnes argued that the statutory purpose of the Amendment was to encourage  websites affirmatively to police themselves, not to provide an excuse for doing nothing, noting  that section 230(c) is captioned “Protection for ‘good samaritan’ blocking and screening of  offensive material.”  Cf. Roommates, 521 F.3d at 1163‐64.      While the court rejected these attempts to plead around Section 230, it nevertheless  found one of Barnes’ claims not preempted: promissory estoppel. As noted above, Yahoo! 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

engaged in discussions with Barnes and promised to remove the material. However, Yahoo!  failed to do so.     Subsection 230(c)(1) creates a baseline rule: no liability for publishing the content of  other information service providers. However, the court concluded, insofar as Barnes alleged a  breach of contract claim under the theory of promissory estoppel, subsection 230(c)(1) of the  Act would not preclude her cause of action. 570 F.3d at 1109.   RECENT CASES  Dart v. Craigslist, Inc., 665 F. Supp.2d 961 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 20, 2009).    Thomas Dart, the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, sued personal ad site Craigslist in  March 2009, alleging that the site is a "public nuisance" under Chicago Municipal Code §8‐8‐ 020, because its users have posted ads in the "erotic services" category that facilitate  prostitution. The civil complaint, filed by the Sheriff in his official capacity, sought an injunction,  compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys' fees. The complaint alleged that Craigslist  creates a "public nuisance" because its "conduct in creating erotic services, developing twenty‐ one categories, and providing a word search function causes a significant interference with the  public's health, safety, peace, and welfare." Compl. ¶ 92.    Ruling on Craigslists’ motion to dismiss, Judge John Grady found Dart’s claims to be  preempted by Section 230, noting that the objectionable content was created by Craigslist  users, not Craigslist itself. Dart attempted to argue that Craigslist, like Roommates.com, should  be viewed as co‐authoring or inducing the objectionable content through its creation of an  "erotic" or "adult" services category and the inclusion of subcategories like "w4m."  Judge  Grady rejected this argument, noting that the elements cited by the Sheriff could also be used  to facilitate the placement of lawful ads:   While we accept as true for purposes of this motion plaintiff's allegation that users  routinely flout Craigslist's guidelines, it is not because Craigslist has caused them to do  so. Or if it has, it is only "in the sense that no one could post [unlawful content] if  craigslist did not provide a forum." . . . Section 230(c)(1) would serve little if any purpose  if companies like Craigslist were found liable for "causing" or "inducing" users to post  unlawful content in this fashion.   665 F. Supp.2d at 969.  Finkel v. Facebook, No. 102578/09, 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 32248 (N.Y. Sup. Sep 15, 2009).     Denise Finkel, a 2008 graduate of Oceanside High School on Long Island, sued four of  her former high school classmates and their parents after the students created a private  Facebook group called "90 Cents Short of a Dollar," which allegedly contained false and  defamatory statements about her. Finkel also sued Facebook, claiming that the social  networking should be held liable for publishing the defamatory statements because it "should 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

have known that such statements were false and/or have taken steps to verify the  genuineness" of the statements. Complaint ¶ 28.      In response to Facebook's motion to dismiss the Complaint under Section 230, Finkel  argued that because Facebook's Terms of Service granted it an "ownership" interest in the  content on its site, it was not entitled to protection under Section 230. In a 5‐page decision,  New York Supreme Court Justice Debra James rejected Fikel’s ownership theory, holding:   "Ownership" of content plays no role in the Act's statutory scheme. The only issue is  whether the party sought to be held liable is an "interactive computer service" and if  that hurdle is surmounted the immunity granted by 42 USC 230(c)(1) is triggered if the  content was provided by another party.   2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 32248, at 3‐4.  Goddard v. Google, Inc., 640 F. Supp.2d 1193 (N.D. Cal. 2009).    Goddard sued Google after clicking on an allegedly fraudulent AdWords advertisement  for “free” mobile subscription service providers (“MSSP”), which resulted in unauthorized  charges to her cell phone bill. Goddard asserted claims against Google for state unfair  competition and money laundering, breach of contract, and negligence, alleging that Google  was complicit in the alleged fraud because its AdWords program helped generate the keywords  used in the offending advertisements.     On Google’s first motion to dismiss, the court found Goddard’s claims preempted by  Section 230. The court rejected Goddard’s assertion that Section 230 was inapplicable claim  because her unfair competition claims were anchored in the federal anti‐money laundering  criminal statute and excluded under §230(e)(1). The court likewise rejected Goddard’s breach  of contract claims, finding that Google never made affirmative representations regarding the  services advertised through AdWords, finding that the behavioral restrictions on advertisers  contained in the AdWords contract didn’t create affirmative marketing representations  enforceable by third parties. While dismissing Goddard’s complaint, the court granted her leave  to amend her complaint to take into account the intervening decision in Roommates.com,  explaining that:   [T]here may be instances in which an internet content provider will be considered  "'responsible' at least 'in part' for [posted third‐party content] because every [posting] is  a collaborative effort" between the internet provider and the third‐party content  provider. Fair Housing Council, 521 F.3d at 1167. If Plaintiff could establish Google's  involvement in "creating or developing" the AdWords, either "in whole or in part," she  might avoid the statutory immunity created by § 230.  2008 WL 5245490 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 17, 2008).  

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

  In an amended complaint, Goddard alleged "that Google's mathematical algorithm  'suggests' the use of the word 'free' in relation to 'ringtone' as a means of attracting more  visitors to [the MSSPs'] sites, and that MSSPs whose offerings are not actually free are literally  powerless to resist," and as a result Google “contribute[ed] materially” to the alleged unlawful  activities. 640 F. Supp.2d at 1199.    The court subsequently granted Google's second motion to dismiss, holding that  Google's AdWords program was merely a "framework that could be utilized for proper or  improper purposes" and that Google did not "elicit[] the allegedly illegal content and make[]  aggressive use of it in conducting its business."  Id. at 1198. In denying Goddard a chance to  amend her complaint once more, the court found that "Google must be extricated from this  lawsuit now lest [Section 230's] 'robust' protections be eroded by further litigation."    Doe II v. MySpace, Inc., 175 Cal. App. 4th 561 (2009).    The appeal included four consolidated cases filed by the families of teenaged girls that  were sexually assaulted by men they met on the social networking site MySpace. The  complaints asserted claims against MySpace for negligence and strict product liability based on  MySpace’s alleged failure to implement age verification software and more stringent privacy  settings. In finding plaintiffs’ claims barred by Section 230, the Court found that Congress did  not intend to limit the protections of Section 230 to defamation claims. The court rejected  plaintiffs’ allegations that their claims arose out of MySpace’s own tortious conduct and thus  fell outside of Section 230. In so holding, the court found that the claims were predicated on  holding MySpace liable as a publisher for third party content because they sought to hold the  website responsible for the communications between users.    NPS LLC v. StubHub Inc., No. 06‐4874‐BLSI, 2009 WL 995483 (Mass. Super. Jan. 26, 2009).    The New England Patriots filed a lawsuit against StubHub Inc., one of the largest online  ticket resellers, claiming that the company encourages fans to violate Massachusetts' anti‐ scalping laws and the team's prohibition against reselling tickets. The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk  Superior Court, also named as defendants two local residents and 50 "John Does," who  allegedly resold their season tickets on StubHub.com.     Through its website, StubHub allows people to buy and sell tickets to sporting, concert,  theater, and other events. Sellers can choose whether to sell their tickets at a fixed price, via a  minimum price auction, or via a declining price auction, in which the seller sets a price that  decreases each day. Under its user agreement, StubHub receives a 25% commission for each  sale: 15% of the selling price from the seller, and 10% added to the total sales price due from  the buyer. StubHub also provides reduced fees and special privileges to certain "Large Sellers,"  who "take a large interest in tickets spanning over multiple events and genres."  

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

  After discovery, StubHub moved for partial summary judgment on the Patriot’s claim of  intentional interference with advantageous relations, arguing, among other things, that Section  230 exempted it from liability for the actions of its users. The Patriots claimed that StubHub  tortiously interfered with the team's relationship with its fans by intentionally inducing or  encouraging ticket holders to transfer their tickets in violation of their season ticket licenses  and Massachusetts' anti‐scalping laws, which prohibit, inter alia, selling tickets for more than $2  over the face value plus service charges. In response, StubHub argued in its motion that it isn't  responsible for what its users do because it does not sell tickets itself, but simply provides an  online forum for others to sell tickets.     StubHub also argued that it should be treated no differently from the newspaper "want‐ ads," an analogy that the court was quick to reject:   There are, however, at least two fundamental differences between StubHub's website  and the "want‐ads" in the classified pages of a newspaper or comparable website. First,  the newspaper generally charges a fixed price for the advertisement; its price is not  dependent on the amount of the sale. See Chicago Lawyers' Comm. for Civil Rights  Under Law, Inc. v. Craigslist, 519 F.3d 666, 671‐672 (7th Cir. 2008). Second, newspapers  do not affirmatively seek to increase the price charged in the classified ad, especially  when doing so may constitute a violation of law. In Craigslist, the Seventh Circuit,  rejecting a claim that craigslist helped to violate the anti‐discrimination laws in the Fair  Housing Act, noted that nothing in the service provided by craigslist encouraged those  posting listings for rental or sale properties to add discriminatory preferences in  violation of the Act. Id. at 671.   NPS, at *12.     Justice Gants concluded that "StubHub is an interactive computer service, that sellers  who post their tickets on StubHub are information content providers within the meaning of §  230, and that StubHub does not lose the immunity provided by the CDA if it simply knew that  its sellers were potentially in violation of G.L. c. 140, § 185A or § 185D." NPS, at *12.  Citing the  Ninth Circuit's decision in Roommates.com, however, Justice Gants found that Section 230  immunity does not apply to interactive computer service providers who are found to have  "contribute[d] materially to the alleged illegality of the conduct." NPS, at *13 (quoting  Roommates, 521 F.3d at 1167‐68). The court held that the Patriots sufficiently alleged that  StubHub “contribute[d] materially” to the alleged illegal conduct, noting:   [A]s discussed earlier, there is evidence in the record that StubHub materially  contributed to the illegal “ticket scalping” of its sellers. In effect, the same evidence of  knowing participation in illegal “ticket scalping” that is sufficient, if proven, to establish  improper means is also sufficient to place StubHub outside the immunity provided by  the CDA.  NPS, at *13. This finding was based on the following allegations:   
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

StubHub's pricing structure "meant that it profited from any violation of the anti‐ scalping laws, since its revenue increased in direct proportion to the price of the ticket  sold."   StubHub did "not require the seller (or even ask the seller) the face value of the ticket . .  . . The absence of such information permits illegal ticket scalping to occur through the  StubHub website and prevents any policing of the website to prohibit such scalping."   StubHub "affirmatively encouraged LargeSellers in the LargeSeller's Handbook to 'check  the website from time to time for underpriced tickets or exclusive listings that may not  be seen elsewhere,' and still encourages LargeSellers to buy these underpriced tickets  by waiving for them the fee due from all other ticket buyers‐10 percent of the sales  price." "[B]y encouraging LargeSellers to buy these tickets, is essentially encouraging  LargeSellers to resell these tickets at higher prices, from which StubHub will enjoy a  higher commission."  

Accordingly, the court denied StubHub’s partial motion to dismiss.  GW Equity LLC v. Xcentric Ventures LLC, 2009 WL 62173 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 9, 2009).    GW Equity, LLC, a mergers and acquisition firm that acts as a consultant to middle‐ market business owners who seek to sell or merge their businesses, sued Xcentric Ventures, LLC  and Edward Magedson in Texas federal court for defamation and other torts over reports  published on the Ripoff Report website, which provides a forum in which consumers may  accuse companies and individuals of various "rip‐off" and "bad business" practices.     In its complaint, GW Equity alleged that Ripoff Report published false and defamatory  reports submitted by users without verifying their accuracy. In an effort to circumvent the  immunity for website operators provided by Section 230, GW Equity further alleged that  Xcentric and Magedson created, developed, and published defamatory titles, headings, and  metatags for these reports concerning GW Equity. It also claimed that Ripoff Report generated  defamatory content by providing users with drop‐down boxes containing defamatory tags, such  as "corrupt companies," which were applied by users to reports about GW Equity.     After completing discovery, Xcentric and Magedson moved for summary judgment. In  October 2008, a federal magistrate judge issued his report on the motion, which was later  adopted by the court, recommending that the district court grant Xcentric and Magedson's  motion for summary judgment. The magistrate judge found that Xcentric and Magedson were  entitled to the protection of Section 230 because GW Equity had failed to raise a genuine issue  of fact concerning Xcentric’s development or creation of defamatory content. The court  indicated that providing drop‐down boxes with "a broad choice of categories from which a user  must make a selection in order to submit a report [was] not sufficient" to deprive the  defendants of immunity, especially because they "did not solely provide users with a selection  of categories that were negative and/or defamatory in nature." GW Equity, at *6, *18.  
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

  The court also found that there was no competent evidence that any Ripoff Report  employee ever wrote or significantly edited report titles and headings, or changed the category  tag on a user report. See id. at *17‐18. The court relied in part on a report produced by Xcentric  showing IP addresses and locations connected with the reports and rebuttals about GW Equity.  This report showed the IP addresses of Ripoff Report servers and machines used by Ripoff  Report staff, and none of those IP addresses matched up with the IPs of a report or a rebuttal  about GW Equity. See id. at *17.     Finally, the court rejected GW Equity's argument that Ripoff Report's "Corporate  Advocacy Business Remediation & Satisfaction Program" took the website outside of the  protections of Section 230. According to GW Equity, under this program Ripoff Report will, for a  fee, investigate "rip‐off" reports targeting member companies and post prominent rebuttals to  those reports. The court indicated that "it is not a bar to immunity for an Internet provider to  refuse to remove defamatory material created by a third party, or to otherwise use it to their  advantage, even though the Internet provider’s conduct may be considered reprehensible and  offensive." Id. at *19. 

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

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: ONLINE ANONYMITY    Several cases in 2009 and 2010 have addressed the legal process for uncovering the  identities of anonymous or pseudonymous Internet speakers. State high courts in the District of  Columbia, Maryland and New Hampshire decided cases in which parties sought to compel  website operators to disclose the identity of anonymous posters, and lower courts in Illinois,  New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee also addressed the  issue.  Federal district courts also weighed in, with decisions in the District of Columbia,  Pennsylvania, Missouri, and New York.     Nearly all of the decisions this past year recognized a qualified First Amendment right to  speak anonymously that must be balanced against a would‐be plaintiff’s right to seek proper  redress for legally actionable harm. In effectuating this balance, most courts required a party  seeking identifying information to provide notice and make a substantial legal and factual  showing of the merits of the underlying claim before unmasking an anonymous or  pseudonymous speaker intended to be named as a defendant.1 Most2 of these courts adopted  either the Dendrite3 or the Cahill4 standard, or some variation, with a few courts recognizing  that the distinction is largely semantic.5    Anonymous speech also broke into the popular press with model Liskula Cohen’s  successful effort to uncover the identity of the “Skanks in NYC” blogger.6 While a slight oddball  in terms of its legal analysis, the Cohen case does not represent a significant departure from the  other anonymous speech cases discussed in this section.     In other developments, two decisions elaborated on the standard for unmasking of an  anonymous poster who would serve as a witness, rather than as a defendant.7  These courts  adopted a four‐part test, previously applied in Doe v. 2TheMart.com8 and Enterline v. Pocono  Medical Center,9 which looks a good deal like the test applied in qualified reporter’s privilege 
                                                            
 See Sinclair v. TubeSockTedD, 596 F. Supp. 2d 128 (D.D.C 2009); Zherka v. Bogdanos, 08 Civ. 2062  (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 2009); Solers v. Doe, 977 A.2d 941 (D.C. 2009); Brodie v. Independent Newspapers, 966 A.2d 432  (Md. 2009); The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. v. Implode‐Explode Heavy Indus., Inc., ‐‐‐ A.2d ‐‐‐‐, 2010 WL 1791274  (N.H. 2010); A.Z. v. Doe, 2010 WL 816647 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Mar. 8, 2010); Swartz v. Doe, No. 08C‐431  (Tenn. Cir. Ct. Oct. 8, 2009).  2  The two exceptions were the court in Hester v. Doe, No. 10‐CVS‐361 (N.C. Super. Ct. June 28, 2010) and  Maxon v. Ottawa Publ’g Co., 3‐08‐0805 (Ill. App. Ct. June 1, 2010).  3  Dendrite Int’l v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001).  4  Doe v. Cahill, 884 A.2d 451 (Del. 2005).  5  See, e.g., Sinclair v. TubesocktedD, 596 F. Supp. 2d 128, 132 (D.D.C. 2009); Swartz v. Doe, No. 08C‐431,  slip op. at 8 (Tenn. Cir. Ct. Oct. 8, 2009).   6  Cohen v. Google, Inc., 887 N.Y.S.2d 424 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2009).  7  McVicker v. King, 2010 WL 786275 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 3, 2010); Sedersten v. Taylor, 2009 WL 4802567 (W.D.  Mo. Dec. 9, 2009).   8  140 F. Supp. 2d 1088 (W.D. Wash. 2001).  9  2008 WL 5192386 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2008). 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

cases. Additionally, in comparison to 2008,10 courts in 2009 and 2010 were less receptive to  claims that state shield laws protect the identities of anonymous commenters.    Finally, two incidents involving newspapers voluntarily outing website commenters  received considerable attention, a good deal of it negative. One involved a St. Louis Post‐ Dispatch reporter who turned over the IP address of a vulgar commenter to a local school that  traced the comment back to an employee, who resigned.11 The second involved the Cleveland  Plain Dealer’s decision to disclose publicly that several comments posted on its site were linked  to the email account of a local judge.12 The public relations backlash from these incidents  suggests that a website privacy policy should spell out clearly when a website operator may  disclose identifying information other than in response to legal process, and that employees  should be trained to comply with that policy.   THE CASES  Hester v. Doe, No. 10‐CVS‐361 (N.C. Super. Ct. June 28, 2010).    Former Vance County commissioner Thomas S. Hester, Jr. sought the identities of six  pseudonymous commenters who allegedly posted defamatory comments to a local community   blog.  The court, while citing the standard set forth in Dendrite Int’l v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J.  App. Div. 2001), adopted only "some" of the Dendrite test.  In testing the sufficiency of the  plaintiff’s claims, the court applied the motion to dismiss standard set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P.  12(b)(6), finding that the higher standard under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 adopted by many courts was  "way too stringent and premature."  Slip op. at 3.  After conducting the motion to dismiss  analysis, the court ultimately quashed the subpoena as applied to certain of the blog posts the  court found to be non‐defamatory, but allowed the subpoena as to other commenters.   Maxon v. Ottawa Publishing Co., 3‐08‐0805 (Ill. App. Ct. June 1, 2010).    Plaintiffs had sought the identities of a pseudonymous commenter that had posted  allegedly defamatory statements in comments on articles posted on the website of a local  newspaper.  The lower court applied a modified version of the Dendrite and Cahill test and  dismissed plaintiffs’ petition for discovery of the commenter’s identity.  The appeals court  rejected the proposition that “anonymous speech, in and of itself, warrants constitutional  protection,” and accordingly found that there was “no need for the additional procedural 
                                                            
 In 2008, courts in Montana and Oregon ruled that their state shield laws protected the identities of  anonymous commenters, viewing such information as material obtained during the newsgathering process. See  Doe v. TS, CV08030693 (Or. Cir. Ct. Sept. 30, 2008); Doty v. Molnar, No. DV 07‐022 (Mont. Cir. Ct. Sept. 3, 2008).   11  See Ars Technica, Paper outs “anonymous” commenter, job loss ensues (Nov. 18, 2009), at  http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2009/11/paper‐outs‐anonymous‐commenter‐job‐loss‐ensues.ars.  12  First Amendment Coalition, Cleveland newspaper causes stir by unmasking anonymous poster—a judge  (March 29, 2010), at http://www.firstamendmentcoalition.org/2010/03/cleveland‐newspaper‐causes‐stir‐by‐ unmasking‐anonymous‐poster‐%E2%80%93‐a‐judge/. 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

requirements articulated in the Dendrite‐Cahill test.”  Slip op. at 11‐12.  Instead, the court  determined that the only test a lower court should apply to a petition seeking the identity of an  anonymous commenter was that set forth in Supreme Court Rule 224, which requires the  plaintiff to establish all elements of a claim for defamation.  Id. at 13‐14.  The court specifically  rejected any additional requirement to balance the commenter’s First Amendment rights, and  further rejected the application of a summary judgment standard, rather than a motion to  dismiss standard, to test the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s claims.  Id.  The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. v. Implode‐Explode Heavy Indus., Inc., ‐‐‐ A.2d ‐‐‐‐, 2010 WL  1791274 (N.H. 2010).    In Mortgage Specialists, the New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s  order that the publishers of the mortgage industry watchdog site, The Mortgage Lender  Implode‐O‐Meter ("ML‐Implode"), turn over the identity of an anonymous source who provided  ML‐Implode with a copy of a financial document prepared by The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. for  submission to the New Hampshire Banking Department, finding that the website qualified as a  “reporter” and was thus entitled to invoke the qualified newsgathering privilege under Part I,  Article 22 of the New Hampshire Constitution. The court also vacated the trial court’s order that  ML‐Implode reveal the identity of a pseudonymous commenter who allegedly posted  defamatory statements about the company, adopting the Dendrite balancing test.    In ruling that ML‐Implode was entitled to invoke the qualified newsgathering privilege  under the New Hampshire Constitution, the court flatly rejected The Mortgage Specialists'  argument that "the newsgathering privilege is inapplicable here because Implode is neither an  established media entity nor engaged in investigative reporting."  2010 WL 1791274, at *2‐3.  It  explained that "[t]he fact that Implode operates a website makes it no less a member of the  press," and that "Implode's website serves an informative function and contributes to the flow  of information to the public."  Id.  Therefore, the court concluded, "Implode is a reporter for  purposes of the newsgathering privilege."  Id.  The court remanded the issue to the trial court  with instructions to apply the balancing test set forth by the First Circuit in  Bruno & Stillman,  Inc. v. Globe Newspaper Co., 633 F.2d 583, 595‐98 (1st Cir. 1980), which requires the court to  “balance the potential harm to the free flow of information that might result against the  asserted need for the requested information.” Id. at 596.  The test sets our several factors for  trial courts to consider, including whether the claim is merely “a pretense for using discovery  powers in a fishing expedition,” whether there is a need for confidentiality between the  journalist and the source, the exhaustion of other non‐confidential sources, and the importance  of confidentiality to preserve the journalist's continued newsgathering effectiveness.  Id. at 597‐ 98.    In vacating the trial court’s order to reveal the identity of the pseudonymous  commenter, the court recognized a First Amendment right to speak anonymously.  2010 WL 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

1791274, at *5.  To guide the lower court in weighing the speaker’s First Amendment rights  against Mortgage Specialist’s interest in uncovering the author of the allegedly defamatory  statements, the court adopted the balancing test first set forth in Dendrite Int’l, Inc. v. Doe  Number 3, 342 N.J. Super. 134, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001).  2010 WL  1791274, at *6.  Under the Dendrite test, the plaintiff must notify the commenter of the  subpoena and give him or her a chance to respond.  The court must then review the plaintiff’s  complaint and the proffered evidence in order to determine whether the plaintiff has made a  prima facie case on each element of its causes of action.  If the plaintiff meets this burden, the  court must then “balance the defendant’s First Amendment right of anonymous free speech  against the strength of the prima facie case presented and the necessity for the disclosure of  the anonymous defendant's identity to allow the plaintiff to properly proceed.”  775 A.2d at  760‐61.  In re Lerner, No. HUD‐L‐0672‐10 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. Mar. 19, 2010).    In In re Lerner, A New Jersey trial court ruled that the president of the Galaxy Towers  Condominium Association was not entitled to pre‐suit discovery of the identities of anonymous  critics who posted comments on “Galaxy Facts,” a website forum used by Galaxy Towers condo  owners to discuss a variety of issues, including the Association’s governance and leadership. In  an oral ruling, the court held that Rule 4:11‐1, the New Jersey rule of civil procedure governing  pre‐suit discovery, does not authorize pre‐suit discovery in order to learn the identities of  potential defendants. Citing Dendrite, the court explained that “[New Jersey] courts have set  forth a procedure whereby a party seeking to file a complaint for defamation can sue  anonymous speakers even before he or she knows who they are,” adding that “in those  circumstances, pre‐complaint discovery would not be appropriate.” Tr. at 22. Because the  condominium association president had not filed a John Doe complaint before seeking  discovery, the court denied the requested discovery.  A.Z. v. Doe, 2010 WL 816647 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Mar. 8, 2010).    In A.Z. v. Doe, a mid‐level appeals court in New Jersey affirmed an order quashing a  subpoena seeking subscriber information for a Gmail account. The plaintiff was a member of  her high school’s “Cool Kids & Heroes” program, comprised of students of high academic  achievement who pledged to maintain standards of “exemplary personal conduct.” An  anonymous individual set up a Gmail account and sent an email to the faculty advisor for the  Cool Kids & Heroes program stating that seven students, including the plaintiff, were “breaking  their contracts, and breaking the law.” The email attached several photographs taken off  Facebook showing students drinking and smoking pot. Only one of the photographs included  the plaintiff, and it showed her standing at a ping pong table about to throw a ping pong ball,  but it did not show her drinking or smoking.  
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

  The plaintiff filed a John Doe lawsuit against the sender of the email and subpoenaed  Google, and the Doe defendant filed a motion to quash. The trial court granted the motion,  reasoning that the plaintiff failed to show that the strength of her prima facie case and the  necessity for disclosure outweighed Doe’s First Amendment right to anonymous speech.    On appeal, the court adhered to the Dendrite standard and affirmed the trial court,  though on different grounds. The appeals court ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to  unmask the defendant because she could not make out a prima facie case of defamation.  Specifically, the court found that the plaintiff presented no evidence that the statement she  was “breaking [her] contract[], and breaking the law” was false. The court noted that the  plaintiff “never provided a sworn statement that she was not consuming alcohol while  underage, that the photograph was a forgery, that the photograph had been altered, or that  she was not the person who was depicted in the photograph.”  2010 WL 816647, at *5. The  court also found compelling additional photographs taken off Facebook that Doe submitted in  support of the motion to quash. These photographs showed plaintiff holding and drinking  alcoholic beverages along with the other students. Id. at *6. The court concluded: “We are  satisfied that regardless of whether the balancing test embodied in Dendrite’s fourth prong is  applied or not, no plaintiff is entitled to an order unmasking an anonymous author when the  statements in question cannot support a cause of action for defamation.” Id. at *7.  McVicker v. King, 2010 WL 786275 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 3, 2010).    In McVicker, a federal district court in the Western District of Pennsylvania denied  William McVicker’s motion to compel Trib Total Media, the publisher of the South Hills Record  and YourSouthHills.com, to disclose identifying information for seven identified screen names.  McVicker, the plaintiff in an employment discrimination case, sought the posters’ identities in  order to impeach the testimony of city council members who made the decision to fire him.     In ruling on the motion to compel, the district court reviewed the various standards  applied by other courts in anonymous speech cases and determined that “a party seeking  disclosure must clear a higher hurdle where the anonymous poster is a non‐party.” McVicker,  2010 WL 786275, at *3 (citing Doe v. 2TheMart.com, 140 F. Supp. 2d 1088, 1095 (W.D. Wash.  2001)). The court adopted the four‐part test applied in 2TheMart.com and Enterline v. Pocono  Medical Center, 2008 WL 5192386 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2008), which requires the court to  consider whether (1) the subpoena was issued in good faith; (2) the information sought relates  to a core claim or defense; (3) the identifying information is directly and materially relevant to  that claim or defense; and (4) information sufficient to establish or to disprove the claim or  defense is unavailable from any other source. McVicker, 2010 WL 786275, at *5.     The court determined that McVicker failed to show that the identifying information was  directly and materially relevant to his employment claim because it was primarily useful for 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

impeachment purposes. Id. The court also found that the identities of the commenters and  information in their possession were not strictly necessary for McVicker to impeach the city  council members effectively, and that the same or similar information might be obtained  through "normal, anticipated forms of discovery." Id. at *6.   In the course of its analysis, the court also “summarily rejected” McVicker’s argument    that the YourSouthHills.com's privacy policy created no expectation of privacy, finding that the  policy “clearly reflects that [the website publisher] will disclose its users’ personally identifiable  information only in very limited situations.” Id. at *5.     The district court also ruled that Trib Total Media had standing to assert the First  Amendment rights of individuals posting to its website. See id. at *4.  Sedersten v. Taylor, 2009 WL 4802567 (W.D. Mo. Dec. 9, 2009).    In Sedersten, a federal district court in the Western District of Missouri denied John  Sedersten’s motion to compel The Springfield News‐Leader to divulge the identity of  "bornandraisedhere," a pseudonymous commenter who commented on an article on the  News‐Leader's website. The subpoena issued in conjunction with Sedersten's civil lawsuit  against the City of Springfield, Missouri, Springfield's police chief, and a former Springfield  police officer. The News‐Leader article discussed county prosecutors' decision to drop charges  against the police officer, a decision that "bornandraisedhere" sharply criticized. Gannett  Missouri Publishing, the publisher of the News‐Leader, objected to the subpoena, and  Sedersten moved to compel the newspaper to turn over information.     As in McVicker, the district court briefly reviewed the various standards applied by other  courts in anonymous speech cases and determined that “a party seeking disclosure must clear a  higher hurdle where the anonymous poster is a non‐party.” 2009 Wl 4802567, at *2 (citing Doe  v. 2TheMart.com, 140 F. Supp. 2d 1088, 1095 (W.D. Wash. 2001)). The court adopted the four‐ part test applied in 2TheMart.com, which requires the court to consider whether (1) the  subpoena was issued in good faith; (2) the information sought relates to a core claim or  defense; (3) the identifying information is directly and materially relevant to that claim or  defense; and (4) information sufficient to establish or to disprove the claim or defense is  unavailable from any other source. Id. The court also explained that it would “keep in mind  other First Amendment principles, such as the strict scrutiny applied to restrictions on political  speech.” Id.    Applying this test, the court determined that “this is not the exceptional case that  warrants disclosure of an anonymous speaker’s identity.” Id. The court found that the evidence  Sedersten sought to elicit from bornandraisedhere was cumulative, and that Sedersten could  rely on the comments in making out his negligent hiring/retention case against the City without  knowing the identity of the speaker. In addition, the court commented that, if 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You? 

bornandraisedhere was in fact the chief of police (a named defendant), then Sedersten could  simply question the chief on the comments during a deposition. Id. at *2 n.5.    The court also rejected Sedersten’s argument that bornandraisedhere had waived First  Amendment protection by agreeing to the News‐Leader’s privacy policy, which reserved to the  newspaper "the right to use, and to disclose to third parties, all of the information collected  from and about [users] while [using] the Site in any way and for any purpose." Id. at *1, 3. The  court was unconvinced by Sedersten’s reliance on “two sentences in a two‐page document in  which the overarching theme is that information provided by a user of the site may be used for  various commercial purposes.” The court further explained that “[n]othing on the face of the  privacy policy even hints a user may be waiving his or her constitutional right to anonymous  free speech by posting comments or materials on the News‐Leader’s website.”  Id. at *3.  Swartz v. Doe, No. 08C‐431 (Tenn. Cir. Ct. Oct. 8, 2009).    In Swartz, a Tennessee trial court ruled that plaintiffs Donald and Terry Keller Swartz  were entitled to discover the identity of the anonymous blogger behind the “Stop Swartz” blog  who published critical statements about them and encouraged readers to post information on  their whereabouts and activities. In ruling on the defendant’s motion to quash, the court  adopted the Dendrite standard, which requires the following five‐part test: (1) the plaintiff must  notify the poster that he or she is the subject of a subpoena or discovery request; (2) the  plaintiff must give the poster reasonable time to file opposition to the application; (3) the  plaintiff must identify the exact statements purportedly made by each anonymous poster that  give rise to each claim; (4) the plaintiff must make a prima facie or substantial showing of proof  for each element of each cause of action; and (5) the court must balance the First Amendment  interests of the anonymous poster against the strength of the plaintiff’s prima facie case and  the need for disclosure to allow the claims to proceed. Slip op. at 7. With respect to prong four  of this test, the court indicated that the factual showing “must be made by affidavit, deposition,  or sworn statement, and that mere allegations of fact are insufficient.”  Id. at 8.     In characterizing the test, the court cut through the semantic differences between the  various standards available to courts in anonymous speech cases:  As the Solers and Krinsky courts have noted, the labels of "summary judgment" or even  "prima facie" are potentially confusing. By adopting the Dendrite analysis, the Court  does not focus on the terminology, but rather the requirement that a plaintiff make a  substantial legal and factual showing that the claims have merit before permitting  discovery of an anonymous defendant's identity.  Id. The court determined that the Swartzes succeeded in making this substantial legal and  factual showing, pointing out that they submitted copies of the offending blog posts and  testified regarding the falsity of the statements and damages. Id. at 9‐10. 

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Solers v. Doe, 977 A.2d 941 (D.C. 2009).      In Solers, a software developer sued a John Doe defendant for defamation and tortious  interference over an anonymous tip submitted to an industry watchdog group claiming that the  software developer had engaged in software privacy. Solers subpoenaed the watchdog group,  seeking information about the anonymous defendant’s identity. On appeal, the D.C. Court of  Appeals adopted a protective standard for its lower courts to follow and emphasized that a  plaintiff "must do more than simply plead his case" to unmask an anonymous speaker claimed  to have violated the law. 977 A.2d at 958.     The D.C. Court of Appeals’ test most closely resembles those set out in Doe v. Cahill, 884  A.2d 451 (Del. 2005), and Krinsky v. Doe 6, 159 Cal.App. 4th 1154 (Cal. Ct. App. 2008). It  requires a court to follow five steps before ordering the disclosure of an anonymous or  pseudonymous speaker's identity: (1) ensure that the plaintiff has adequately pleaded the  elements of a defamation (or other) claim; (2) require reasonable efforts to notify the  anonymous defendant that the complaint has been filed and the subpoena has been served; (3)  delay further action for a reasonable time to allow the defendant an opportunity to file a  motion to quash; (4) require the plaintiff to proffer evidence creating a genuine issue of  material fact on each element of the claim that is within its control; and (5) determine that the  information sought is important to enable the plaintiff to proceed with his/her lawsuit. Id. at  954‐56. With respect to the fifth prong, the court indicated that it would not require a showing  that the plaintiff had exhausted alternative sources for the information, so long as the other  elements of the test had been satisfied. The D.C. Court of Appeals remanded the case to the  trial court for application of this test.  Cohen v. Google, Inc., 887 N.Y.S.2d 424 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2009).    In Cohen, a New York trial court granted model Liskula Cohen pre‐suit discovery from  Google to reveal the identity of the anonymous publisher of the “Skanks in NYC” blog. Cohen  alleged that the blog author defamed her by calling her a “skank” and a “ho” and posting  photographs of her in provocative positions with sexually suggestive captions, all creating the  false impression that she is sexually promiscuous.    The court analyzed the discovery request under New York CPLR § 3102(c), which  provides for discovery “to aid in bringing an action.” The court ruled that, under CPLR § 3102(c),  a party seeking pre‐action discovery must make a prima facie showing of a meritorious cause of  action before obtaining the identity of an anonymous defendant. See 887 N.Y.S.2d at 426‐27 &  n.5. While acknowledging the First Amendment issues at stake and citing Dendrite, the court  opined that New York law’s requirement of a prima facie showing “appear[s] to address the  constitutional concerns raised in this context.” Id. at 427 n.5. 

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

  The court held that Cohen adequately made this prima facie showing of defamation,  finding that the “skank” and “ho” statements, along with the sexually suggestive photographs  and captions, conveyed a factual assertion that Cohen was sexually promiscuous, rather than  an expression of protected opinion. Id. at 428‐29. Somewhat confusingly, in rejecting the  blogger’s argument that her statements should be viewed as opinion because “as a matter of  law . . . Internet blogs serve as a modern day forum for conveying personal opinions, including  invective and ranting,” the court cited an old case from Virginia, In re Subpoena Duces Tecum to  America Online, Inc., 2000 WL 1210372 (Va. Cir. Ct.), rev’d on other grounds, 542 S.E.2d 377 (Va.  2001), which applied a lenient “good faith” standard to a discovery request seeking the identity  of an anonymous commenter. This reference is best understood as dicta, however, because the  court invoked the case in dealing with a peripheral point. Furthermore, the AOL test is  inconsistent with CPLR § 3102’s requirement of a “prima facie showing of a meritorious cause  of action,” which the court invoked to sidestep First Amendment analysis. Id. at 427 n.5.  Alton Telegraph v. Illinois, 08‐MR‐548 (Ill. Cir. Ct. May 15, 2009).    In Alton Telegraph v. Illinois, an Illinois trial court denied in part the Alton Telegraph’s  motion to quash a subpoena issued by state prosecutors seeking the identity of five  pseudonymous posters who commented on a Telegraph story about an ongoing murder  investigation. The court rejected the Alton Telegraph’s argument that the pseudonymous  commenters were “sources” protected by the Illinois shield law.     While acknowledging in the abstract that commenters could serve as sources, the court  ruled that these commenters were not sources because the Telegraph reporter did not use any  information supplied by them “in researching, investigating, or writing the article,” and “none  of the comments were written until after the article was published.” Slip op. at 5. In the  alternative, the court ruled that, even if the shield law did apply to the case, the state had  “satisfied its burden to divest the Telegraph of its privilege” because it had exhausted all other  sources of information and the sources were relevant. Id. at 6. Nevertheless, the court granted  the motion to quash with respect to three of the commenters because their comments did not  contain the same highly relevant information and “appear[ed] to be nothing more than  conversation/discussion.” Id. at 7. Neither the court nor the parties raised the issue of the  commenters’ First Amendment rights to speak anonymously.   Zherka v. Bogdanos, 08 Civ. 2062 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 2009).    In Zherka, a federal district court in the Southern District of New York granted The  Journal News’ motion to quash subpoenas seeking the identities of three pseudonymous  posters to a forum on the LoHud.com website. In ruling on the motion to quash, the court  applied a multi‐part test derived from Dendrite, Sony Music Entertainment v. Does, 326  F.Supp.2d 556 (S.D.N.Y. 2004), and Doe I v. Individuals, 561 F. Supp. 2d 249 (D. Conn. 2008), 
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which has the following elements: (1) the plaintiff must make a reasonable attempt to provide  notice to the anonymous poster; (2) the plaintiff has to provide the court with the full  statements which are at issue; (3) the plaintiff must make a concrete showing of a prima facie  case; (4) the court should consider whether the information is available through alternate  means; and (5) if all the other elements are satisfied, the court must balance the First  Amendment interests of the anonymous posters against the need for disclosure in order to  allow the plaintiff to proceed.13 See Zherka, Tr. at 28‐31.    In applying this standard, the court gave considerable weight to prong four, finding that  the plaintiff had failed to pursue alternative means of identifying the posters and suggesting  that the named defendants likely knew the posters’ identities. Id. at 30‐31. The court gave the  plaintiff permission to re‐serve the subpoena after discovery between the named parties and  stated that “it should be done with appropriate notice as outlined above, and with concurrent  filing to me showing the full statements, laying out the prima facie case, and describing why  there are no effective alternative means to get the information.” Id. at 32.   Brodie v. Independent Newspapers, 966 A.2d 432 (Md. 2009).    In Brodie, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed the trial court’s order denying  Independent Newspapers’ motion to quash a subpoena seeking the identity of five  pseudonymous commenters. The plaintiff, Zebulon Brodie, sought the identities of the  commenters to pursue a defamation action against them over statements on a website forum  criticizing Brodie for selling his historic home to another developer who allegedly burned it  down and accusing Brodie of maintaining a dirty Dunkin' Donuts franchise. The Court of Appeals  ruled that Brodie’s subpoena should have been quashed. In the process, it clarified the  appropriate standard for the lower courts, indicating that “a test requiring notice and  opportunity to be heard, coupled with a showing of a prima facie case and the application of a  balancing test,” such as the Dendrite standard, “most appropriately balances a speaker's  constitutional right to anonymous Internet speech with a plaintiff's right to seek judicial redress  from defamatory remarks.” 966 A.2d at 456.     The Court of Appeals spelled out a five‐part test, under which a court should take the  following steps before ordering disclosure of the identity of an anonymous or pseudonymous  speaker: (1) require the plaintiff to undertake efforts to notify the anonymous posters that they  are the subject of a subpoena or application for an order of disclosure, including posting a  message of notification of the discovery request on the message board; (2) withhold action to  afford the anonymous posters a reasonable opportunity to file and serve opposition to the 
                                                            
 Interestingly, the court indicated that the First Amendment interests of the posters under prong five  would be diminished if the website privacy policy warned that identifying information would be disclosed in  response to court order or other legal process. Zherka, Tr. at 28. The court did not provide detailed reasoning on  this point.  
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application; (3) require the plaintiff to identify and set forth the exact statements purportedly  made by each anonymous poster, alleged to constitute actionable speech; (4) determine  whether the complaint has set forth a prima facie defamation per se or per quod action against  the anonymous posters; and (5) if all else is satisfied, balance the anonymous poster’s First  Amendment right of free speech against the strength of the prima facie case of defamation  presented by the plaintiff and the necessity for disclosure of the anonymous defendant’s  identity. Id. at 457.     The Court of Appeals ruled that Brodie did not have a valid cause of action against the  posters because statements made by certain posters were not actionable and the statute of  limitations had run against other posters not named in Brodie’s complaint. See id. at 449.   Sinclair v. TubeSockTedD, 596 F. Supp. 2d 128 (D.D.C. 2009).    In Sinclair, a federal district court in the District of Columbia quashed a subpoena  seeking the identities of three pseudonymous Internet users. In early 2008, plaintiff Lawrence  Sinclair published a YouTube video and blog claiming that he had engaged in sexual activities  and done drugs with then‐presidential candidate Barack Obama. In response, “TubeSockTedD”  uploaded a video to YouTube stating that Sinclair was “spreading lies about Obama.” Another  Internet user, “mzmolly,” posted a comment on Democratic Underground.com stating that  Sinclair was a mental patient who was institutionalized on the date in 1999 when he claimed to  have encountered Obama. A third, “OWNINGLIARS,” posted a comment on Digg.com stating  that Sinclair was a liar and was in a mental hospital when he claimed he met Obama. Sinclair  filed a John Doe lawsuit for defamation against all three and sought identifying information  from the relevant Internet service providers, and the pseudonymous posters moved to quash.    The court granted the motion to quash and dismissed the complaint in its entirety. It  surveyed the case law on the First Amendment right to speak anonymously and held that,  under either the Cahill or the Dendrite standard, Sinclair was not entitled to the requested  discovery because his complaint was facially invalid. Specifically, the court determined that  Sinclair's complaint did not plead facts necessary to establish the court's subject‐matter  jurisdiction over the case or personal jurisdiction over the pseudonymous defendants. In  addition, the court ruled that Sinclair's defamation claims failed as a matter of law because he  did not plead either actual malice or special damages, and because section 230 of the  Communications Decency Act protected mzmolly and OWNINGLIARS for "simply summarizing  and reporting information obtained from" a third party. In conclusion, the court stated: “Where  the viability of a plaintiff’s case is so seriously deficient, there is simply no basis to overcome  the considerable First Amendment interest in anonymous speech on the Internet. Sinclair has  provided no ground to do so here.” 596 F. Supp. 2d at 134.  

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  Although the court quashed the subpoena and dismissed the complaint, it refused to  award mzmolly and Democratic Underground sanctions against Sinclair because of the novel  areas of law involved. Id. at 134 n.4.   

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

  RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: SECTION 512, DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act    In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Although the  DMCA as a whole extended the reach of copyright law and is generally regarded as favoring the  interests of copyright owners, it also created provisions limiting the liability of certain online  actors. Section 512 of the DMCA, 17 U.S.C. § 512, contains the DMCA's "safe‐harbor" provisions  for online service providers. These provisions shield online service providers, like website  operators, ISPs, hosting providers, and search engines, from copyright infringement claims  made against them based on the conduct of their customers or users. To take advantage of the  safe‐harbor provisions, online service providers need to implement "notice‐and‐takedown"  procedures that call for expeditious removal of content upon receipt of a valid takedown notice  from a copyright owner.     Safe‐harbor for Internet Service Providers Under DMCA Section 512    Online publishers that publish or use the creative work of others, their trademarks, or  certain confidential business information without the permission of the owner may be exposing  themselves to legal liability for violations of intellectual property law. Fortunately, online  publishers that allow their users to post this type of content can protect themselves from  copyright infringement claims under the DMCA by establishing effective “notice‐and‐takedown”  procedures, promptly removing content when a copyright owner sends notification that  material is infringing in cases where the online publisher did not have knowledge that the  material in question is infringing.    The DMCA gives online service providers, like the hosting service and other website  operators, an incentive to take down infringing material when someone sends a notice  complaining about it, but also enables the user to send a “counter‐notice” to get the material  put back up. Such situations may arise when a user of an internet service provider finds its  content to be the target of a DMCA takedown notice sent to, for example, a hosting provider  complaining that the user is posting copyright infringing material and asking the hosting  provider to remove or disable access to it. Less commonly, a user might post something in user  comments on another blog or website that elicits a takedown notice.    

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

Online publishers should consider implementing these procedures and taking the  administrative steps required to enjoy safe‐harbor protection. They are not legally required to  do so, but it may help them avoid copyright infringement liability. The three main things an  online publisher needs to do to take advantage of the safe‐harbor provisions are (1) designate a  copyright agent to receive takedown notices; (2) adopt and communicate to users an effective  "copyright infringement policy"; and (3) properly comply with takedown notices when received.     There are two safe‐harbor provisions that potentially apply to online publishing  activities:    The first safe‐harbor provision, under section 512(c), relates to materials posted to a blog or  website at the direction of a user. This could include a file (e.g., a photograph, a film clip, an  audio file) that a user posts to a comment section on the site or to a forum thread. Under this  safe‐harbor, the administrator of a website or other service will not be held liable for money  damages for infringing content posted "at the direction of a user," so long as the administrator:    (1) does not have actual knowledge that there is infringing content on the servers, or know  any surrounding facts that would make the infringing use apparent;  (2) does not receive any financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity if it  has the ability to control such activity; and  (3) acts expeditiously to remove or disable access to the infringing material upon obtaining  knowledge or awareness that the material is infringing or upon receiving a properly  drafted notice of infringement.    The second safe‐harbor provision, under section 512(d), relates to links to other online  material located elsewhere. This safe‐harbor provision states that an online service provider  will not be held liability for money damages “for infringement of copyright by reason of the  provider referring or linking users to an online location containing infringing material or  infringing activity, by using information location tools, including a directory, index, reference,  pointer, or hypertext link.” If a website links to material without knowing that it infringed  copyright, the language of this section appears to relieve the online publisher of liability so long  as the online publisher:    (1) does not have actual knowledge that the material is infringing, or know any surrounding  facts that would make the infringement apparent  (2) does not receive any financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity if it  has the ability to control such activity; and 

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

(3) acts expeditiously to remove or disable access to the infringing material (such as by  taking away the link) upon obtaining knowledge or awareness that the material is  infringing or upon receiving a properly drafted notice of infringement.    These safe‐harbor provisions could be valuable protections for online publishers, but in  order to take advantage of them, website operators and administrators must meet the  administrative requirements. Note however, the existence of the safe‐harbor provisions does  not imply that an online publisher will be held liable for copyright infringement if it opts not to  use the safe‐harbors. Rather, liability will depend on the independent principles of direct and  secondary infringement.    Administrative Requirements for Section 512 Safe‐Harbor Protection    There are a few additional administrative steps that an online publisher must take to enjoy the  benefits of the safe‐harbor provisions.           1. Designate a Copyright Agent to Receive DMCA Takedown Notices     The U.S. Copyright Office maintains a list of designated agents to receive notices of  claimed copyright infringement. This list enables copyright owners who believe that their work  is being infringed to send complaints or "takedown notices" to internet service providers  hosting or linking to the disputed material. An online publisher will need to designate an agent,  which can be the website administrator or someone else who agrees to do it, in order to take  advantage of the DMCA safe‐harbor provisions. To do this, the publisher files an Interim  Designation with the United States Copyright Office, along with an $105 filing fee.        2. Adopt and Communicate to Users a Copyright Infringement Policy.     In order to qualify for the safe‐harbor protections, the online publisher must also  publish a statement on the website giving notice to users of the DMCA agent's contact  information and policies regarding copyright infringement and the consequences of repeated  infringing activity. The notice can be a part of the website's terms of use or some other notice  displayed prominently on the site. The statement should explain that the online publisher will  respond expeditiously to notices of claimed copyright infringement and terminate users or  account holders who are "repeat infringers."     Websites may also want to include a statement detailing the proper form for a notice of  claimed infringement, which must include: 
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

  (1) a physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of  the infringed copyright;  (2) identification of the copyrighted work or works claimed to have been infringed;  (3) identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of  infringing activity and that is to be removed;  (4) information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the  complaining party (e.g., the address, telephone number, or email address);  (5) a statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material is  not authorized by the copyright owner; and  (6) a statement that information in the complaint is accurate and that the complaining  party is authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner.    17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(B) states that if a complaining party does not substantially comply with  these requirements, its notice will not serve as "actual notice" for the purpose of Section 512.  The website’s policy statement should also include a statement explaining the procedure for  users of the site to make a counter‐notification.        3. Properly Comply with A Notice of Claimed Infringement When Received     Online publishers may from time to time receive a notice of claimed infringement from  a copyright owner, alleging that content on the site infringes the holder's copyright. Such a  notice must comply with the form outlined above. If the copyright notification substantially  meets these formal requirements, in order to qualify for the safe‐harbor, the online publisher is  required to:    (1) expeditiously remove or disable access to the material that is claimed to be infringing  (there is little guidance on what counts as "expeditious");  (2) notify its user or subscriber that the material has been removed so that they may file a  counter‐notice should they wish (the online publisher is not required to notify the user  before removing the material);  (3) if proper counter‐notice is provided, notify the copyright holder and provide a copy of  that counter‐notice; and  (4) if proper counter‐notice is provided and if the copyright holder does not file suit within  10 business days, restore the removed material.    Additional Legal Considerations   
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

The DMCA gets a great deal of attention in discussions of online speech, especially in  technical circles. But it is important to remember that other legal issues may also affect online  publishing activities. The DMCA safe‐harbor provisions apply only to claims of copyright  infringement. They do not apply to trademark infringement claims, defamation claims, or  claims alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, to name just a few of the possibilities. This  means that an online publisher cannot insulate itself from liability on one of these other claims  simply by "expeditiously removing" the disputed content. In many situations, online publishers  may be protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act for publishing the  statements of its users.     Not Every Threatening Letter is a DMCA Takedown Notice    Website and blog operators get cease‐and‐desist letters based on non‐copyright claims  with some frequency. Not every threatening letter is a DMCA takedown notice. A website  administrator should look at the precise allegations and legal claims made in the letter and  evaluate what next steps need to be taken. It is not sufficient, for example, to conclude that a  cease‐and‐desist letter relating to defamation or trade secrets law is somehow "defective" and  should be ignored because it has not met the formal requirements for a notice of claimed  copyright infringement under section 512. This could potentially exacerbate a delicate  situation.     The confusion may also work in reverse. There may be times when an online publisher  receives a DMCA takedown notice for material that is technically not eligible for safe‐harbor  treatment, such as material posted by the online publisher itself. If it satisfies the complaining  person that the material is taken down, and there is no serious objection, the online publisher  should consider doing so.    Procedure For Filing a Counter‐Notice    The DMCA notice‐and‐takedown procedures also provide protection from a wrongful  claim of copyright infringement. The DMCA requires a service provider to notify its user  promptly when it removes any content because of a takedown notice, and the user has the  right to submit a counter‐notice asking that the material be put back up. There is no specific  time limit for submitting a counter‐notice, but the user should not delay unreasonably in doing  so. If it receives a counter‐notice, the online service provider is required to replace the disputed  content unless the complaining party sues the user within fourteen business days of the  counter‐notice. (A service provider may replace the disputed material after ten business days if 

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

the complaining party has not filed a lawsuit, but it is required to replace it within fourteen  business days.)    Before the user sends a counter‐notice, she should consider carefully whether she is in  fact infringing the complaining party's copyright. There are two reasons to consider this  carefully. First, the counter‐notice requires that the user state, under penalty of perjury, that  you have a good faith belief that her material was wrongly removed. Second, if the complaining  party has a good infringement claim, sending a counter‐notice may trigger a lawsuit. If the user  is not prepared to stand up in a lawsuit, she should think twice about firing back a counter‐ notice. That said, copyright owners sometimes send bogus takedown notices that have no basis  in law or fact, which are meant solely to intimidate the target. A prompt counter‐notice can  make these empty threats go away for good.    Some common bases for sending a counter‐notice are that the complaining party does  not own copyright in the work in question ‐‐ either because it is not covered by copyright or  because someone else owns the copyright to it ‐‐ and that the use of the copyrighted work is a  fair use. Users should be extra careful when relying on a claim of fair use to justify sending a  counter‐notice. Determining whether something is a fair use often requires a complex, fact‐ specific analysis, and even expensive copyright lawyers have difficulty predicting what a court  will say about fair use ahead of time. If you believe fair use might protect your client, you  should examine the four fair use factors carefully and consider contacting an intellectual  property attorney.    To work effectively, a counter‐notice must contain the following items:    (1) the user’s physical or electronic signature;  (2) the user’s name, address, and phone number;  (3) identification of the material and its location before it was removed;  (4) a statement under penalty of perjury that the material was removed by mistake or  misidentification;  (5) the user’s consent to the jurisdiction of a federal court in the district where you live (if  you are in the U.S.), or your consent to the jurisdiction of a federal court in the district  where your service provider is located (if you are not in the U.S.); and  (6) the user’s consent to accept service of process from the party who submitted the  takedown notice.    17 U.S.C. § 512(g)(3).    
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

If the user is not a U.S. resident, she must consent to the jurisdiction of a U.S. court in  her counter‐notice. If the user will never come to the United States and has no assets here,  then this may not be a significant concession because a plaintiff would not be able to enforce a  judgment against her in the U.S. Nevertheless, a plaintiff might be able to convince a court in  the user’s country to enforce a foreign (U.S.) judgment. In any event, sending a counter‐notice  makes non‐U.S. residents give up a powerful argument they would otherwise have ‐‐ namely,  that a U.S. court does not have the authority to render a judgment against them. For these  reasons, non‐U.S. residents may not want to send a counter‐notice unless they are willing to  fight a copyright infringement claim in the U.S.    Section 512(f) of the DMCA creates liability for knowingly making false claims in a DMCA  takedown notice or counter‐notice. See 17 U.S.C. § 512(f). If the user claims in a counter‐notice  that the content does not infringe the complaining party's copyrighted work while knowing this  to be false, then the copyright owner can win damages from the user, including court costs and  attorneys' fees stemming from the wrongful counter‐notice. Note, however, that this provision  also works against a person or company sending a wrongful takedown notice. In recent years,  the targets of wrongful takedowns have fought back and won damages and favorable  settlements from individuals and companies sending bogus takedown notices. For instance, in  Online Policy Group v. Diebold, Inc., 337 F. Supp. 2d 1195 (N.D. Cal. 2004), two students and  their ISP sued voting machine manufacturer Diebold after it tried to use DMCA takedown  notices to disable access to Internet postings of the company's leaked internal email archive.  The court granted summary judgment to the students and ISP on their claim, finding that  portions of the email archive were so clearly subject to the fair use defense that "[n]o  reasonable copyright holder could have believed that [they] were protected by copyright."  According to the EFF, Diebold subsequently agreed to pay $125,000 in damages and fees to  settle the lawsuit. Someone who has sent a baseless takedown notice may be more inclined to  back off if they are reminded about section 512(f) of the DMCA, in addition to receiving a  counter‐notice.     Recent Cases    Viacom Int’l Inc. v. YouTube, Inc., No. 07 Civ. 2103, (S.D.N.Y. June 23, 2010).    This case affirmed the safe‐harbor provisions for online service providers who provide  “storage at the direction of a user” under DMCA § 512(c), so long as the online service provider  complies with the administrative requirements. The defendant YouTube operates a website  that allows users to upload video files free of charge. These video files are copied and  formatted by YouTube’s computer systems and made available for viewing on the website.  
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Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?   

Viacom claimed that thousands of videos on YouTube contained Viacom’s copyrighted works  without authorization and that YouTube had knowledge of infringing activity.       The court held that YouTube had designated an agent to receive copyright infringement  notices. It was also “uncontroverted that when YouTube was given the notices, it removed the  material. It is thus protected ‘from liability for all monetary relief for direct, vicarious and  contributory infringement’ subject to the specific provisions of the DMCA.” Viacom at *23.      Perfect 10, Inc. v. Google, Inc., No. 09 Civ. 9484, (C.D. Cal. July 26, 2010).      This recent case underscored the requirement that a copyright holder must submit an  adequate takedown notice to constitute notice of copyright infringement. Google provides  Blogger, a service that allows account holders to create their own blogs hosted on Google’s  servers. Account holders may display images on their blogs either by using hyperlinks to  content hosted on other servers, or by uploading images onto Google’s servers. Google has a  DMCA notification policy for the service and requires complaints to be sent to Google’s  designated agent. Blogger accounts are terminated if Google determines that three DMCA  notices of infringement were valid    Among the takedown notices sent by Perfect 10 to Google were those that generally  consisted of a cover letter, a spreadsheet, and a hard drive or DVD containing electronic files.  The spreadsheets did not identify the infringing URLs, but merely the top‐level URL for the  entire website, “evidently expecting Google to comb through hundreds of nested electronic  folders containing over 70,000 distinct files, including raw image files . . . and screen shots of  Google search results, in order to find which link was allegedly infringing.” Google at *15. The  spreadsheets also did not identify the copyrighted work that was allegedly infringed, instead  requiring Google to search through a separate electronic folder containing more than 15,000  images in order to identify the copyrighted work that was infringed.     The court ruled that these notices were defective because “they do not contain all of  the required information in a single written communication.” Citing Perfect 10, Inc. v. CCBill LLC,  488 F.3d 1102, 1113 (9th Cir. 2007), the court stressed that “[t]he DMCA notification procedures  place the burden of policing copyright infringement –identifying the potentially infringing  material and adequately documenting infringement—squarely on the owners of the copyright.”  These notices that Perfect 10 submitted to Google would impermissibly “shift a substantial  burden from the copyright owner to the provider.” Google at *17.  

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  You’re starting a new media company.  What comes first, strategy or structure?    Logic would argue:  first agree to the strategy – and then build the organization to enable  delivery.  Not so fast.    What if the structure turns out to be incapable or feeble in supporting and accommodating the  business plan?  Then your strategy might fail and the business slips and fails to gain traction.    Let me say a few introductory words about the different business structures available.  You  need to choose a form of business, and you need outside financing.  Your choices are: (1) a  Public‐Owned Corporation, (2) a Limited Liability Corporation of “LLC”, (3) a Low‐Profit Limited  Liability Company or “L3C,” (4) a Non‐Profit Business, (5) a partnership or (6) a sole  proprietorship.      Publicly‐Owned Company    At the outset let’s dismiss the idea of forming a publicly‐owned corporation.  Under state and  federal law, an entrepreneur will find a corporation to be a strait‐jacket.  You are required to  maximize profits for the shareholders, pay out profits in exact proportion to percentage of  ownership, and subjugate the interests and needs of employees, communities and societal  concerns.  Corporate governance and taxation policies are rigid and inflexible.  I was general  counsel for 24 years with a media company that went public in 2003, and for the next 5 years I  spent 2 hours on Sarbanes‐Oxley federal compliance issues for each 1 hour of newsroom legal  work.  For an industry that is fading and changing, I strongly doubt that you want to be saddled  with a public‐owned corporation from start‐up.  Corporations are already the source of many  problems in the economy.    Limited Liability Company     Next we have a Limited Liability Company, or “LLC”?  The idea of a LLC took hold 20 years ago  and swept across the nation.  An LLC is a hybrid.  It combines the best features of a partnership  with the best features of a corporation.  It is a flexible business tool.  Taxation is flexible,  because you can choose between being taxed like a partnership (with flow‐through directly to  the owners) or like a corporation.  Operations can be flexible too: you can write an Operating  Agreement that overrides many rules of corporate governance.  For instance, your Operating  Agreement can say that a 5% ownership would receive 50% of the profits.  You can’t do that  with a corporation.    Low‐Profit Limited Liability Company   
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STARTING AN INDEPENDENT NEWS ORGANIZATION  BUSINESS LAW AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS  PAUL KRITZER 

 

Your next alternative is something new, and it’s called a “Low‐Profit Limited Liability Company,”  or “L3C”.  This is the next step of business hybrid.  Vermont was the first state to adopt a law  authorizing L3C, and it did so only 2 years ago.  A handful states, including Michigan, Illinois,  and Montana have followed.  About a dozen other states are considering L3C legislation.  And  some states, including my home state of Wisconsin, have rejected the concept.     The L3C combines best features of a Limited Liability Company and the best features of a Non‐ Profit Business.  To be a L3C, your business’ primary purpose must be a societal goal – and not a  profit goal.  With a L3C, you are allowed to make a profit, and you are allowed to pay dividends  to your investors.  Plus a L3C has a unique feature:  your investors can include private  foundations ‐ which make contributions through grants, loans or debt.    Under the federal tax code, private foundations must give away 5% of their assets every year.   Under normal circumstances, private foundations get no money back from their gifts.  They  invest for societal reasons.  They are aiming for a different type of bottom line, a societal  bottom line.  But what if a private foundation can make an investment in a hybrid L3C and get  some money back, through dividends or redemption?  This pay‐back would stretch their  charitable dollars, they would have more to give, and their influence on societal causes would  be enhanced.    So a L3C business is designed to receive funds from a new source ‐‐ grants or loans from private  foundations.  Keep in mind that a L3C’s primary mission is not to maximize profits; it is to  pursue a societal interest, and the production of a profit is incidental and secondary.  A private  foundation can invest in a L3C, get some money back, enhance its societal mission and stay  within the non‐profit rules of the IRS.      When it invests in a L3C, a private foundation expects it may be an investment with high risk  and lower‐than‐normal pay‐out.  This benefits the L3C, which is also allowed to seek  investments from the open market which would demand a lower risk and higher pay‐out.  The  Wall Street people call these “traunches.”  A L3C can have several layers or traunches or  investors. Each traunche can have a lesser degree of risk and higher pay‐out.     So the L3C has the special feature that it can receive investments from private foundations, and  it can re‐pay the foundation with dividends.  But to accept the L3C model, the business owner  must announce that the primary purpose of his company is a societal goal and profits are a  secondary after‐thought.      Because of the IRS rules concerning non‐profits, private foundation funds rarely seek to support  corporations or LLCs.  But they can be used to initiate and support L3Cs – to the mutual benefit  of the private foundation and the L3C.    Non‐Profit Business   
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Our fourth option is a tax‐free, non‐profit entity.  That would be like PBS, Window to the World  (owner of public television and radio stations in Chicago) or stateline.org.      Support for non‐profits – in the absence of significant advertising ‐ comes from grants (from  corporations, private foundations, government agencies), membership dues, subscriptions and  retail sales of merchandise.  Your non‐profit business will be fine … so long as you keep the fund  grantors happy and they decide to keep the funding tap open.  But, as we know, funds from  corporations, private foundations and government agencies get cut or deleted in tight times,  upon administration changes or sometimes for no good reason at all.      For example, the one of best newsgathering organizations on activities in state capitols in the  past decade was stateline.org, which was incubated and generously supported by the Pew  Charitable Trusts.  But recently Pew said ten years of support was enough, its key managers  were shuffled elsewhere and stateline.org’s umbilical cord to funding was cut. Membership  dues and merchandise sales aren’t enough to float the boat.        I’m not going to say much about partnerships and sole proprietorships except this:  they  leave you naked.  Unless you are incorporated, you don’t have protection for your personal  assets from legal liability.  If you are in a business where you are throwing inflammatory words  around and people are threatening to sue you for libel, invasion of privacy or copyright  infringement on a frequent basis, you definitely need legal protection for your personal assets.      Let me say just a few more words about the L3C structure.       First, it’s just 2 years since Vermont authorized L3Cs, and only a few states have  followed suit.  But you can form a L3C company in Vermont for just $100 and then operate it in  your home state.      Second, the IRS and Treasury Department haven’t formally blessed the arrangement.   That makes the private foundation people nervous.  But the L3C legislation in each state was  carefully drafted to comply with the IRS rules.        So far I haven’t heard of a new media company being formed as a L3C.  We are looking  for a pioneer.  There’s  a lot of private foundation money just waiting for you.      With that thought, let’s draw on the collective wisdom of our panel members.   

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  Even frivolous lawsuits dismissed at a relatively early stage of the litigation can be expensive to  defend, and the cost skyrockets the longer the litigation continues, particularly if judgment is  rendered against you. While most lawsuits never get to trial, if you lack the money to carry out  a vigorous defense, the only option available to you may be to settle (perhaps even to take  down the allegedly offending content or even your entire site) regardless of the merits of your  defense.    For these reasons, it is important to assess whether your online activities are covered by your  existing homeowners or renters insurance. If your activities are not covered, it might be worth  getting media liability insurance, even if such policies initially appear to be prohibitively  expensive. Alternatively, if your online activities are part of an existing business, you may be  able to add coverage to your business insurance policy through an add‐on rider. Consult your  insurance agent for costs and details.    Here are a list of steps to take when evaluating your insurance coverage needs:       1. Carefully review your existing insurance policies to see if claims related to your online  activities are covered (e.g., claims for libel, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement). Review  the section on Homeowners and Renters Insurance Coverage in this guide for help in making  this determination.       2. If your current insurance policies don't cover you, consider switching to another carrier that  will provide coverage. See the section on Evaluating Homeowners and Renters Insurance  Policies for guidance.       3. Consider whether your state's law excludes coverage for your specific activities.  This is  especially important if you make any money from your online activities. See the section on  Insurance Exclusions for Business Pursuits for information.       4. If your state excludes coverage for business pursuits and you make sufficient money from  your site to be excluded, carefully weigh whether the income you receive is worth the loss in  coverage.       5. Consider whether media liability insurance might be a better option (for many, it may be  prohibitively expensive, but the coverage can be quite comprehensive). See the section on  Media Liability Insurance for help.     
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MEDIA LIABILITY INSURANCE  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT 

 

 

LAUNCHING A WEBSITE FOR NEWS ORGANIZATIONS  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT    There are two key documents or statements that all websites should post before (or at least  soon after) going "live" on the Internet. First, your site's terms of use govern your relationship  with users, allowing you to set boundaries of acceptable behavior by your users and potentially  limiting your liability. Second, you should create a privacy policy, which informs your users of  your practices relating to private information and helps you avoid liability under a complex  array of federal and state privacy laws. The following sections address these two important  documents in greater detail and provide examples that you can follow in creating your own  terms of use and privacy policy.     As a website or blog operator, there are some basic steps to consider that will reduce your legal  risks. One is creating terms of use/service and a privacy policy for your site or blog, which will  help you structure your relationship with your users and let them know what your practices are  regarding personal information.    The second is taking steps to bring your site within the "safe‐harbor" provisions of the Digital  Millennium Copyright Act, which can help you avoid liability for linking to other sites containing  copyright infringing material and for hosting copyright infringing material posted by your users.     Terms of use (or "terms of service" or "terms and conditions") generally are a statement placed  on an easily visible place on a website that governs the relationship between the site and its  users or visitors. Users explicitly agree to the terms when they sign up for an account and,  depending on how you write the terms, visitors may implicitly agree to them when they use the  site.    Why Is It a Good Idea to Have Terms of Use?    Terms of use help you put your users on notice of what you consider to be an acceptable use of  your site and what you do not. They enable you to reserve the right to deny access to users  who engage in objectionable conduct and to remove content that you find offensive or that  may subject you to liability from third parties. It also gives you an opportunity to put language  up on your website that may help protect you in the event of a lawsuit.    Terms of use are especially important if your website gives out accounts because they help  specify the mechanics of how the account system will work. But keep in mind that terms of use  can also apply to visitors merely browsing the website or posting comments (assuming you  allow comments without an account, which many do not).    Terms of use are also useful in dealing with user‐generated content. When a user creates a  comment (or any other original expression) and posts it to your website, the user owns the  copyright to that comment. Absent an agreement or license (see the Allowing Others to Use 
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Your Work section for details), you could be held liable for copyright infringement for editing or  changing the comment. By posting terms of use on your website, however, you can specify (and  make clear to users) that you will have a license to edit, change, and remove all content posted  to the website. These provisions in the terms of use give you effective control of user‐ generated content on your site, even if users own the copyright to that content.  What Should You Include in Terms of Use?    As discussed above, terms of use should set out the ground rules for your site. Here are some  key items you should consider including in your terms:    • terms about creating and accessing accounts;    • a disclaimer of affiliation and/or responsibility for material posted or linked to the  website;    • guidelines for acceptable user‐generated content, such as:    Content may not be illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, infringing of intellectual  property rights, invasive of privacy or otherwise injurious or objectionable.     • a reservation of your copyright and trademark rights or information about a Creative  Commons or other collaborative licensing arrangement under which the content on the  site is licensed;    • a provision conditioning the posting of user‐generated content on the grant of a license to  the website to use and alter the content of the posting, such as:    • By posting or contributing content using these Services, you are granting [name of your  website] a non‐exclusive, royalty‐free, perpetual, and worldwide license to use your  content in connection with the operation of the Services, including, without limitation,  the license rights to copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform,  reproduce, edit, translate and reformat your content, and/or to incorporate it into a  collective work.     • a provision or provisions reserving your right to terminate or restrict access to a user's  account, and to delete any content posted through it;    • a provision prohibiting the impersonation of another person (the point here is to stop a  user from misleading others about their identity, not necessarily to prohibit anonymous  or pseudonymous speech);    • provisions relating to inter‐user relations, such as clauses prohibiting on‐site and offline  harassment; and   
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  A privacy policy is a statement placed in an easily visible place on a website informing users  about how the website deals with users' personal information. Privacy policies generally explain  whether and how users' information will be shared with third parties, including parent  companies or subsidiaries. It frequently explains whether and how the website uses cookies.    Why Is It a Good Idea to Have a Privacy Policy?    Privacy policies let people know what you will do with information that they provide when  registering with your website, as well as information that gets logged while they browse. A  privacy policy allows users to find out what you do with their private information and enables  them to adapt their conduct accordingly. Beyond that, a privacy policy will help you avoid  liability under a complex array of state and federal laws dealing with users' private information.  What Should You Include in a Privacy Policy?    A well‐crafted privacy policy should include the following items (although the particular items  included may depend upon the nature of your website):    • a statement explaining what kind of information you collect about your users, how you  use it, and with whom (if anyone) you intend to share it;    • a statement disclosing whether and how you use cookies and/or other tracking software;    • a statement reminding users that data is collected through a server access log when a  user browses, reads, or downloads information from the site;    • a statement reminding users that the website operators may have to disclose user  information in response to warrants, subpoenas, or other valid legal process;    • a description of the process through which users can request changes to any of the  personally identifying information collected and/or stored (you can provide an email  address for notifying the website operator of changes);    • an opt‐out procedure for users to request that their information not be shared with third  parties, or that their contact information not be used to send unsolicited correspondence  (again, this can be done with an email address);    • a description of the process through which the website operator will notify users of  changes to the privacy policy;   
7   

a provision linking users and visitors to your copyright infringement policy ‐‐ for an  example of this kind of policy, see the CMLP's Digital Millennium Copyright Act Policy, and  for details see the Protecting Yourself Against Copyright Claims Based on User Content  page. 

 

  Another important aspect of a privacy policy is what it says about minors. If your site targets or  knowingly collects information from children under age thirteen, it must comply with the  Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. For more information about how to comply with the  Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, please see COPPA.org's compliance page. If you do not  plan to collect information from minors, you should consider adding a statement to your  privacy policy saying:    This website's content is intended for adults and we will not knowingly collect personal  information from children under 13 years of age. If you are a parent or legal guardian of  a child under age 13 who you believe has submitted personal information to this site,  please contact us immediately.     There are also rules about collecting medical information and information about criminal  records. Unless it is important to the purpose of your website, you should not gather this type  of information. If you plan to gather this type of information, you should consult a lawyer about  your data collection strategy.    What Should You Avoid?    It is common to see the following statement in website privacy policies: "[Name of website] will  not collect any personal information about you except when you specifically and knowingly  provide such information." While this kind of statement may sound reassuring for your users, it  is not true in most cases. When a user visits a website, he or she provides personal information  to the website operator simply by virtue of browsing, reading, and downloading material. This  information includes IP address, user configuration settings, and what website referred the user  to the site, among other things. It is better to tell users that this type of information is being  collected automatically on standard web server access logs.      

a statement identifying the effective date of the policy. 

8   

 

 

A START‐UP INDEPENDENT NEWS ORGANIZATION’S GUIDE TO CONTRIBUTION AGREEMENTS     F. RICHARD RIMER  Troutman Sanders LLP  Atlanta  T: 404.885.3380  F: 404.962.6831  E: richard.rimer@troutmansanders.com     Contribution Agreements are a centuries‐old idea.  From the time that the printing press  made distribution of the written word viable, there has been a need to solidify the relationship  between publisher and author‐‐ those that have the means to distribute materials and those  that create the material to be distributed.  Contributor Agreements rose to fill this need.      Contributor Agreements typically address issues such as what the publisher can do with  a given work, how the author will be compensated, how the materials will be delivered, what  quality of work is acceptable, what warranties the author will provide, and so forth.  Publishers  often have a standard form agreement containing the terms acceptable to it.  The terms chosen  should highlight the issues the publisher finds most important and represent the policies the  publisher has chosen to adopt.  Whether a publisher will consent to negotiating the standard  terms depends upon the quality of the author and/or material submitted.    Of course technology did not stop at the printing press.  Every new technology or  medium creates a different set of issues for publishers and authors to consider.  Perhaps no  technology has altered the landscape more than the advent of the Internet.  This technology  has decreased the price of publishing while increasing the speed, breadth and depth of  distribution.  Further, this technology has allowed various types of media to be intertwined as  never before.  As a result, many jurisdictions have passed laws targeted specifically at materials  distributed via the Internet.      Just as the Internet has altered the distribution of works, the legal relationship between  those who create and those who control the distribution of material has likewise been  impacted.  This is a reality that most independent news organizations experience on a daily  basis.  Additionally, the Internet’s reliance on speed and relaxed relationships has influenced  the environment.  This article examines Contribution Agreements as used by independent  online news organizations, including a review of common provisions.     Pre‐publication conduct    Just as important as any provision contained in a Contribution Agreement are the  policies and procedures news organizations establish with respect to both submissions and  potential claims.  Regarding submissions, does the organization require a written agreement, 
9   

 

and if so, is it a lengthy, one‐sided document or something concise containing only necessary  provisions?  These issues are the focus of the remaining sections of this paper.    Publishers need to also decide how they will handle any potential legal disputes.   Policies concerning the timing of notice to insurance carriers, retaining counsel and  communicating with the contributor could provide protection to the publisher.  Further,  policies regarding when and how submitted work is reviewed for any potential legal issues may  provide additional protection.    Grant of Rights/ Reserved Rights    Perhaps the most important legal provision to consider is what rights the author is  granting to the publisher versus those rights being reserved by the author.  Historically these  rights featured the language(s) covered, the territory of publication, the forms of publication  allowed and subsidiary rights.  While these provisions are still important to print publishers,  online publications often have different objectives.      The rights granted to publishers in older technologies are often limited in terms of  language and territory.  This limitation was available to authors in these formats as distribution  via paper allowed authors to more easily govern what territories and in what languages a  publisher distributed an article or book.  The same is not true with digital distributions.   Accordingly, these terms are commonly removed or minimized.      On the other hand, the forms of publication and subsidiary rights have taken on a  greater importance.  While agreements regarding paper‐based technology often stress the type  of print media (e.g., newspaper or magazine, hardcover or paperback, etc.) and occasionally  discussed various non‐print media (e.g., audio books), agreements covering digital media focus  heavily on availability in different types of media.  These provisions may cover distribution via  Internet, CDs, interactive software, archival systems and multimedia projects.  Similarly, the  focus on subsidiary rights has expanded.  While rights to create compilations have always been  common, digital agreements need to be much more complete.  First, the publisher would want  rights granted in both paper and electronic compilations.  The publisher would also want rights  in not only the current technology, but also via technology “hereafter developed” (i.e., future  technology).  It is important to be careful when describing future technology as courts will  typically read these rights narrowly.  Accordingly, it is recommended that you carefully review  the placement of this right in the contract and avoid terms used to describe specific technology  now in existence (e.g., “World Wide Web”).      While the need for speed and the preference for informal relationships has created an  environment in which shorter agreements are preferred, these terms are critical.  A news  organization should carefully decide what media it plans to use to distribute information and  tailor its Contributor Agreement to meet these needs.  Author’s Representations and Warranties   
10   

 

  Publishers can be found liable for copyright infringement even if they were not aware of  the infringement and took corrective measures once notified.  Accordingly, many publishers  seek some comfort that materials submitted by an author do not infringe another’s work.  This  is especially true in an electronic environment in which copying requires only a few key strokes  and the authors may be relatively unknown to the publisher.  While a superior form of  protection for a publisher is to seek indemnity from the author, this is often either worthless or  unreasonable in these arrangements.  One of the better remaining options is to seek a  representation from authors that the works are not infringing, thus lowering the likely  judgment if the publisher is found liable.      Publishers should not blindly accept these representations from authors.  It is  recommended that Publishers perform at least some due diligence to make sure the submission  does not obviously infringe a work.  In the context of a news organization, there should be a  cross‐check against the publisher’s own memory of similar stories and possibly use of a search  engine to see if the submission is substantially similar to any existing articles.      The Digital Millennium Copyright Act  (DMCA) offers an advantage to online publishers  that may not be available to publishers using other media.  Title II of the DMCA  creates a safe  harbor for online service providers (OSP) against copyright liability.  This Title, commonly  referred to as the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, or OCILLA, requires  that the OSP not have actual knowledge that it has published infringing material or be aware of  facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent and that it act expeditiously to  remove the purported infringing material upon receiving notice from copyright owners or their  agents.  There are other requirements, such as the naming of a designated agent to receive  complaints from copyright owners, but these additional obligations are likely well worth the  liability protection afforded.    Publishing decisions      Speed obviously plays an important role in online news.  It is common for submissions to  contain errors, both grammatical and factual.  Accordingly, it is important that publishers gain  the right to edit the submission as necessary.  This could include amending the title and moving  the placement of the story on the web page as it becomes more or less relevant.  Financial Terms      News organizations vary widely as to whether authors are paid, and if so, how much.   Typical methods of payment include a one‐time fee negotiated prior to submission, share of  advertising revenues or a payment per use.  While there is no specific right answer as to  whether or how a publisher should compensate authors, these terms should be carefully set  forth in the agreement.    Future Works    
11   

 

  Publishers should consider whether it wants rights with respect to future works by the  author.  These rights can either be in the form of options on future articles written or even in  the form of a non‐compete agreement.        This provision was much more common in older media.  While these rights are not quite as  valued in the online community, they may occasionally be important and should not be  forgotten.    Jurisdiction      In most agreements the choice of law or choice of forum provisions primarily serve  either as an assurance that a well‐regarded jurist will hear any issues or as an aid to one party in  that any actions will be brought in a nearby venue.  While these factors may be present in  Contribution Agreements, the parties need to also be mindful of the differences in the basic  elements of copyright law from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  For example, many foreign countries  recognize an author’s “moral rights” in a work, and also do not recognize grants of rights which  do not exist at the time that the agreement was entered into.  It is recommended that the  author consent to jurisdiction in the United States and consent to application of US law.  Summary      Independent news organizations that frequently use materials from outside providers  need to prepare a standard form Contribution Agreement.  This form should be concise, and  only contain the provisions necessary to allow the organization to use the materials submitted  as reasonably anticipated.  While each organization will have different needs, a basic grant of  rights to the publisher, a simple warranty from the author and a choice of law provision should  be included.     

12   

 

 

           

PROTECTING YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: TRADEMARK AND COPYRIGHT BASICS    DOUG KENYON  HUNTON & WILLIAMS LLP  RALEIGH  T: (919) 899‐3076  F: (919) 833‐6352  E: dkenyon@hunton.com     

13   

Legal Entity / Liability Considerations for a New Media Company

Brett Lockwood Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP 404-815-3674 blockwood@sgrlaw.com

Potential Sources of Liability for Publishing Business

  Defamation

  Infringements

  Contractual

breaches with applicable statutes

  Negligence

  Non-compliance

Having an Entity Helps to Manage Liability, But . . .

 

Does not eliminate liability

 

Still need to minimize exposure in publishing and business activities

 

Use contractual liability limitations when possible

 

Make sure to use third party content or intellectual property with permission or under fair use

 

Be aware of compliance tripwires – such as taxes, licenses, sweepstakes, CAN-SPAM, Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and privacy / data issues, among others

Entities Covered

  Sole

Proprietorships   Corporations   Limited Liability Companies other entity forms to consider:

  Some

  Non-profit

corporations   Partnerships,

Requirements for Legal Existence

Sole Proprietorship: No filing required and is usually very informal.

Corporation: Must file Articles of Incorporation and be formally “organized”.

LLC: Must file Articles of Organization and have an Operating Agreement.

Principal Statutory Sources

  Various

state business entity statutes

  In

Georgia: Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Title 14, Corporations, Partnerships and Associations

Basic Documents – Sole Proprietorships

 

No filing required for entity because a sole proprietorship is not a distinct legal entity

 

Is more akin to an alter ago of its owners

 

Because of this, it also has most liability exposure

 

Many proprietorships will file a trade name registration sometimes called a d/b/a or DBA)

Basic Documents -- Corporations

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles of Incorporation Bylaws Organizational Minutes Subscription Agreement/Investment Letter Stock Certificates Shareholders Agreement (optional but typical)

Typical Provisions of Basic Corporation Documents

Articles of Incorporation   Name of Corporation   Principal place of business   Registered agent and address   Number, classes and rights of shares   Limits on director liability   Consideration of other interests

Typical Provisions of Basic Corporation Documents (cont’d)

Bylaws   Meeting and Notice Requirements   Directors and Officers   Limits on Authority of Officers and   Directors

Typical Provisions of Basic Corporation Documents (cont’d)

Organizational Minutes   Approve initial directors, officers, approve incorporator’s actions, accept share subscriptions, authorize bank accounts, approve form of share certificate and Bylaws

Typical Provisions of Basic Corporation Documents (cont’d)

Subscription Agreement/Investment Letter

• •

• •

Specifies share consideration Confirmation that subscriber is able to bear risk of investment Legend requirement General transfer restrictions

Typical Provisions of Basic Corporation Documents (cont’d)

Shareholders Agreement* • Restrictions on transferability • Rights of first refusal • Options to buy or sell other shareholders’ shares • Agreements about management

* Optional

Basic Documents -- Limited Liability Companies

  Articles

of Organization   Operating Agreement   Minutes*   Certificates*

* Optional

Typical Provisions of Basic LLC Documents

Articles of Organization

Must specify name

Usually specify whether member or manager managed

Typical Provisions of Basic LLC Documents (cont’d)

Operating Agreement

Hybrid between Bylaws and Shareholders Agreement

• Designates limits on authority

• Designates managers

Ancillary Entity Related Documents

  Federal

Tax ID number   State Sales Tax ID number   Business licenses   “S” corporation election   Check the box election – For LLCs

If Any Questions

Brett Lockwood blockwood@sgrlaw.com 404-815-3674 www.sgrlaw.com

Blogs: www.techrazorblog.com www.ocanadablog.com

 

A START‐UP INDEPENDENT NEWS ORGANIZATION’S GUIDE TO CONTRIBUTION AGREEMENTS     F. RICHARD RIMER  Troutman Sanders LLP  Atlanta  T: 404.885.3380  F: 404.962.6831  E: richard.rimer@troutmansanders.com     Contribution Agreements are a centuries‐old idea.  From the time that the printing press  made distribution of the written word viable, there has been a need to solidify the relationship  between publisher and author‐‐ those that have the means to distribute materials and those  that create the material to be distributed.  Contributor Agreements rose to fill this need.      Contributor Agreements typically address issues such as what the publisher can do with  a given work, how the author will be compensated, how the materials will be delivered, what  quality of work is acceptable, what warranties the author will provide, and so forth.  Publishers  often have a standard form agreement containing the terms acceptable to it.  The terms chosen  should highlight the issues the publisher finds most important and represent the policies the  publisher has chosen to adopt.  Whether a publisher will consent to negotiating the standard  terms depends upon the quality of the author and/or material submitted.    Of course technology did not stop at the printing press.  Every new technology or  medium creates a different set of issues for publishers and authors to consider.  Perhaps no  technology has altered the landscape more than the advent of the Internet.  This technology  has decreased the price of publishing while increasing the speed, breadth and depth of  distribution.  Further, this technology has allowed various types of media to be intertwined as  never before.  As a result, many jurisdictions have passed laws targeted specifically at materials  distributed via the Internet.      Just as the Internet has altered the distribution of works, the legal relationship between  those who create and those who control the distribution of material has likewise been  impacted.  This is a reality that most independent news organizations experience on a daily  basis.  Additionally, the Internet’s reliance on speed and relaxed relationships has influenced  the environment.  This article examines Contribution Agreements as used by independent  online news organizations, including a review of common provisions.     Pre‐publication conduct    Just as important as any provision contained in a Contribution Agreement are the  policies and procedures news organizations establish with respect to both submissions and  potential claims.  Regarding submissions, does the organization require a written agreement,  and if so, is it a lengthy, one‐sided document or something concise containing only necessary  provisions?  These issues are the focus of the remaining sections of this paper. 
1   

 

  Publishers need to also decide how they will handle any potential legal disputes.   Policies concerning the timing of notice to insurance carriers, retaining counsel and  communicating with the contributor could provide protection to the publisher.  Further,  policies regarding when and how submitted work is reviewed for any potential legal issues may  provide additional protection.    Grant of Rights/ Reserved Rights    Perhaps the most important legal provision to consider is what rights the author is  granting to the publisher versus those rights being reserved by the author.  Historically these  rights featured the language(s) covered, the territory of publication, the forms of publication  allowed and subsidiary rights.  While these provisions are still important to print publishers,  online publications often have different objectives.      The rights granted to publishers in older technologies are often limited in terms of  language and territory.  This limitation was available to authors in these formats as distribution  via paper allowed authors to more easily govern what territories and in what languages a  publisher distributed an article or book.  The same is not true with digital distributions.   Accordingly, these terms are commonly removed or minimized.      On the other hand, the forms of publication and subsidiary rights have taken on a  greater importance.  While agreements regarding paper‐based technology often stress the type  of print media (e.g., newspaper or magazine, hardcover or paperback, etc.) and occasionally  discussed various non‐print media (e.g., audio books), agreements covering digital media focus  heavily on availability in different types of media.  These provisions may cover distribution via  Internet, CDs, interactive software, archival systems and multimedia projects.  Similarly, the  focus on subsidiary rights has expanded.  While rights to create compilations have always been  common, digital agreements need to be much more complete.  First, the publisher would want  rights granted in both paper and electronic compilations.  The publisher would also want rights  in not only the current technology, but also via technology “hereafter developed” (i.e., future  technology).  It is important to be careful when describing future technology as courts will  typically read these rights narrowly.  Accordingly, it is recommended that you carefully review  the placement of this right in the contract and avoid terms used to describe specific technology  now in existence (e.g., “World Wide Web”).      While the need for speed and the preference for informal relationships has created an  environment in which shorter agreements are preferred, these terms are critical.  A news  organization should carefully decide what media it plans to use to distribute information and  tailor its Contributor Agreement to meet these needs.  Author’s Representations and Warranties      Publishers can be found liable for copyright infringement even if they were not aware of  the infringement and took corrective measures once notified.  Accordingly, many publishers  seek some comfort that materials submitted by an author do not infringe another’s work.  This 
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is especially true in an electronic environment in which copying requires only a few key strokes  and the authors may be relatively unknown to the publisher.  While a superior form of  protection for a publisher is to seek indemnity from the author, this is often either worthless or  unreasonable in these arrangements.  One of the better remaining options is to seek a  representation from authors that the works are not infringing, thus lowering the likely  judgment if the publisher is found liable.      Publishers should not blindly accept these representations from authors.  It is  recommended that Publishers perform at least some due diligence to make sure the submission  does not obviously infringe a work.  In the context of a news organization, there should be a  cross‐check against the publisher’s own memory of similar stories and possibly use of a search  engine to see if the submission is substantially similar to any existing articles.      The Digital Millennium Copyright Act  (DMCA) offers an advantage to online publishers  that may not be available to publishers using other media.  Title II of the DMCA  creates a safe  harbor for online service providers (OSP) against copyright liability.  This Title, commonly  referred to as the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, or OCILLA, requires  that the OSP not have actual knowledge that it has published infringing material or be aware of  facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent and that it act expeditiously to  remove the purported infringing material upon receiving notice from copyright owners or their  agents.  There are other requirements, such as the naming of a designated agent to receive  complaints from copyright owners, but these additional obligations are likely well worth the  liability protection afforded.    Publishing decisions      Speed obviously plays an important role in online news.  It is common for submissions to  contain errors, both grammatical and factual.  Accordingly, it is important that publishers gain  the right to edit the submission as necessary.  This could include amending the title and moving  the placement of the story on the web page as it becomes more or less relevant.  Financial Terms      News organizations vary widely as to whether authors are paid, and if so, how much.   Typical methods of payment include a one‐time fee negotiated prior to submission, share of  advertising revenues or a payment per use.  While there is no specific right answer as to  whether or how a publisher should compensate authors, these terms should be carefully set  forth in the agreement.    Future Works       Publishers should consider whether it wants rights with respect to future works by the  author.  These rights can either be in the form of options on future articles written or even in  the form of a non‐compete agreement.     
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  This provision was much more common in older media.  While these rights are not quite as  valued in the online community, they may occasionally be important and should not be  forgotten.    Jurisdiction      In most agreements the choice of law or choice of forum provisions primarily serve  either as an assurance that a well‐regarded jurist will hear any issues or as an aid to one party in  that any actions will be brought in a nearby venue.  While these factors may be present in  Contribution Agreements, the parties need to also be mindful of the differences in the basic  elements of copyright law from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  For example, many foreign countries  recognize an author’s “moral rights” in a work, and also do not recognize grants of rights which  do not exist at the time that the agreement was entered into.  It is recommended that the  author consent to jurisdiction in the United States and consent to application of US law.  Summary      Independent news organizations that frequently use materials from outside providers  need to prepare a standard form Contribution Agreement.  This form should be concise, and  only contain the provisions necessary to allow the organization to use the materials submitted  as reasonably anticipated.  While each organization will have different needs, a basic grant of  rights to the publisher, a simple warranty from the author and a choice of law provision should  be included.       

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  Even frivolous lawsuits dismissed at a relatively early stage of the litigation can be expensive to  defend, and the cost skyrockets the longer the litigation continues, particularly if judgment is  rendered against you. While most lawsuits never get to trial, if you lack the money to carry out  a vigorous defense, the only option available to you may be to settle (perhaps even to take  down the allegedly offending content or even your entire site) regardless of the merits of your  defense.    For these reasons, it is important to assess whether your online activities are covered by your  existing homeowners or renters insurance. If your activities are not covered, it might be worth  getting media liability insurance, even if such policies initially appear to be prohibitively  expensive. Alternatively, if your online activities are part of an existing business, you may be  able to add coverage to your business insurance policy through an add‐on rider. Consult your  insurance agent for costs and details.    Here are a list of steps to take when evaluating your insurance coverage needs:       1. Carefully review your existing insurance policies to see if claims related to your online  activities are covered (e.g., claims for libel, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement). Review  the section on Homeowners and Renters Insurance Coverage in this guide for help in making  this determination.       2. If your current insurance policies don't cover you, consider switching to another carrier that  will provide coverage. See the section on Evaluating Homeowners and Renters Insurance  Policies for guidance.       3. Consider whether your state's law excludes coverage for your specific activities.  This is  especially important if you make any money from your online activities. See the section on  Insurance Exclusions for Business Pursuits for information.       4. If your state excludes coverage for business pursuits and you make sufficient money from  your site to be excluded, carefully weigh whether the income you receive is worth the loss in  coverage.       5. Consider whether media liability insurance might be a better option (for many, it may be  prohibitively expensive, but the coverage can be quite comprehensive). See the section on  Media Liability Insurance for help.       
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OTHER CONSIDERATIONS WHEN LAUNCHING AN ONLINE PUBLISHING VENTURE  CITIZEN MEDIA LAW PROJECT    MEDIA LIABILITY INSURANCE 

 

TERMS OF USE AND PRIVACY POLICY    There are two key documents or statements that all websites should post before (or at least  soon after) going "live" on the Internet. First, your site's terms of use govern your relationship  with users, allowing you to set boundaries of acceptable behavior by your users and potentially  limiting your liability. Second, you should create a privacy policy, which informs your users of  your practices relating to private information and helps you avoid liability under a complex  array of federal and state privacy laws. The following sections address these two important  documents in greater detail and provide examples that you can follow in creating your own  terms of use and privacy policy.     As a website or blog operator, there are some basic steps to consider that will reduce your legal  risks. One is creating terms of use/service and a privacy policy for your site or blog, which will  help you structure your relationship with your users and let them know what your practices are  regarding personal information.    The second is taking steps to bring your site within the "safe‐harbor" provisions of the Digital  Millennium Copyright Act, which can help you avoid liability for linking to other sites containing  copyright infringing material and for hosting copyright infringing material posted by your users.     Terms of use (or "terms of service" or "terms and conditions") generally are a statement placed  on an easily visible place on a website that governs the relationship between the site and its  users or visitors. Users explicitly agree to the terms when they sign up for an account and,  depending on how you write the terms, visitors may implicitly agree to them when they use the  site.    Why Is It a Good Idea to Have Terms of Use?    Terms of use help you put your users on notice of what you consider to be an acceptable use of  your site and what you do not. They enable you to reserve the right to deny access to users  who engage in objectionable conduct and to remove content that you find offensive or that  may subject you to liability from third parties. It also gives you an opportunity to put language  up on your website that may help protect you in the event of a lawsuit.    Terms of use are especially important if your website gives out accounts because they help  specify the mechanics of how the account system will work. But keep in mind that terms of use  can also apply to visitors merely browsing the website or posting comments (assuming you  allow comments without an account, which many do not).    Terms of use are also useful in dealing with user‐generated content. When a user creates a  comment (or any other original expression) and posts it to your website, the user owns the  copyright to that comment. Absent an agreement or license (see the Allowing Others to Use  Your Work section for details), you could be held liable for copyright infringement for editing or  changing the comment. By posting terms of use on your website, however, you can specify (and 
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make clear to users) that you will have a license to edit, change, and remove all content posted  to the website. These provisions in the terms of use give you effective control of user‐ generated content on your site, even if users own the copyright to that content.  What Should You Include in Terms of Use?    As discussed above, terms of use should set out the ground rules for your site. Here are some  key items you should consider including in your terms:    • terms about creating and accessing accounts;    • a disclaimer of affiliation and/or responsibility for material posted or linked to the  website;    • guidelines for acceptable user‐generated content, such as:    Content may not be illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, infringing of intellectual  property rights, invasive of privacy or otherwise injurious or objectionable.     • a reservation of your copyright and trademark rights or information about a Creative  Commons or other collaborative licensing arrangement under which the content on the  site is licensed;    • a provision conditioning the posting of user‐generated content on the grant of a license to  the website to use and alter the content of the posting, such as:    • By posting or contributing content using these Services, you are granting [name of your  website] a non‐exclusive, royalty‐free, perpetual, and worldwide license to use your  content in connection with the operation of the Services, including, without limitation,  the license rights to copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform,  reproduce, edit, translate and reformat your content, and/or to incorporate it into a  collective work.     • a provision or provisions reserving your right to terminate or restrict access to a user's  account, and to delete any content posted through it;    • a provision prohibiting the impersonation of another person (the point here is to stop a  user from misleading others about their identity, not necessarily to prohibit anonymous  or pseudonymous speech);    • provisions relating to inter‐user relations, such as clauses prohibiting on‐site and offline  harassment; and    • a provision linking users and visitors to your copyright infringement policy ‐‐ for an  example of this kind of policy, see the CMLP's Digital Millennium Copyright Act Policy, and 
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  A privacy policy is a statement placed in an easily visible place on a website informing users  about how the website deals with users' personal information. Privacy policies generally explain  whether and how users' information will be shared with third parties, including parent  companies or subsidiaries. It frequently explains whether and how the website uses cookies.    Why Is It a Good Idea to Have a Privacy Policy?    Privacy policies let people know what you will do with information that they provide when  registering with your website, as well as information that gets logged while they browse. A  privacy policy allows users to find out what you do with their private information and enables  them to adapt their conduct accordingly. Beyond that, a privacy policy will help you avoid  liability under a complex array of state and federal laws dealing with users' private information.  What Should You Include in a Privacy Policy?    A well‐crafted privacy policy should include the following items (although the particular items  included may depend upon the nature of your website):    • a statement explaining what kind of information you collect about your users, how you  use it, and with whom (if anyone) you intend to share it;    • a statement disclosing whether and how you use cookies and/or other tracking software;    • a statement reminding users that data is collected through a server access log when a  user browses, reads, or downloads information from the site;    • a statement reminding users that the website operators may have to disclose user  information in response to warrants, subpoenas, or other valid legal process;    • a description of the process through which users can request changes to any of the  personally identifying information collected and/or stored (you can provide an email  address for notifying the website operator of changes);    • an opt‐out procedure for users to request that their information not be shared with third  parties, or that their contact information not be used to send unsolicited correspondence  (again, this can be done with an email address);    • a description of the process through which the website operator will notify users of  changes to the privacy policy;    • a statement identifying the effective date of the policy.   
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for details see the Protecting Yourself Against Copyright Claims Based on User Content  page. 

 

Another important aspect of a privacy policy is what it says about minors. If your site targets or  knowingly collects information from children under age thirteen, it must comply with the  Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. For more information about how to comply with the  Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, please see COPPA.org's compliance page. If you do not  plan to collect information from minors, you should consider adding a statement to your  privacy policy saying:    This website's content is intended for adults and we will not knowingly collect personal  information from children under 13 years of age. If you are a parent or legal guardian of  a child under age 13 who you believe has submitted personal information to this site,  please contact us immediately.     There are also rules about collecting medical information and information about criminal  records. Unless it is important to the purpose of your website, you should not gather this type  of information. If you plan to gather this type of information, you should consult a lawyer about  your data collection strategy.    What Should You Avoid?    It is common to see the following statement in website privacy policies: "[Name of website] will  not collect any personal information about you except when you specifically and knowingly  provide such information." While this kind of statement may sound reassuring for your users, it  is not true in most cases. When a user visits a website, he or she provides personal information  to the website operator simply by virtue of browsing, reading, and downloading material. This  information includes IP address, user configuration settings, and what website referred the user  to the site, among other things. It is better to tell users that this type of information is being  collected automatically on standard web server access logs.        

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THE NEWSPAPER REVITALIZATION ACT    In March 2009, United States Senator Benjamin Cardin (D‐MD) introduced legislation  that would allow newspapers to become nonprofit organizations in what he described as "an  effort to help the faltering [newspaper] industry survive."    The proposed “Newspaper Revitalization Act of 2009,” S. 673, would allow "newspapers  for general circulation" to operate as nonprofits under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal  Revenue Code, similar to public broadcasting.  Under the bill, newspaper nonprofits would not  be allowed to make political endorsements, but would be allowed to report on all issues,  including political campaigns. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt and  contributions to support coverage or operations could be tax deductible.     According to Cardin's press release:   The measure is targeted to preserve local newspapers serving communities and not  large newspaper conglomerates. Because newspaper profits have been falling in recent  years, no substantial loss of federal revenue is expected.   "We are losing our newspaper industry," said Senator Cardin. "The economy has caused  an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation  and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the  nation and for our democracy.  "While we have lots of news sources, we rely on newspapers for in‐depth reporting that  follows important issues, records events and exposes misdeeds. In fact, most if not all  sources of journalistic information ‐ from radio to television to the Internet ‐ gathers  their news from newspaper reporters who cover the news on a daily basis and know  their communities. It is in the interest of our nation and good governance that we  ensure they survive."    The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. A companion bill  introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D‐NY), H.R. 3602, is pending in the House Committee on  Ways and Means. 
 

Protecting Your Intellectual Property: Trademark and Copyright Basics

Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society & Kennesaw State University’s Center for Sustainable Journalism

Kennesaw State University September 25, 2010
Douglas W. Kenyon John Gary Maynard, III

Agenda
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Trademarks Overview
What is a trademark? What does a trademark do? Are trademarks different from other Intellectual Property? What are the different types of marks? How are Trademark rights established in the U.S.? When can one file a U.S. Trademark Application? Why file with the PTO? What makes a “good” mark? What do we (your attorneys) need to file a trademark application with the PTO? What does the PTO do with the application? Once I have a mark, what do I do to protect it? How do I maintain a trademark registration?

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Agenda
  Copyrights Overview
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What is a Copyright? What can qualify for copyright protection? What rights does a copyright owner have? Are facts protectible as a copyright? Who owns the copyright? Must one register a copyright?

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What is a Trademark?

What is a Trademark?
Any word, phrase, symbol, design or combination thereof that distinguishes goods and/or services of one source from those of other sources

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What Does a Trademark Do?

What Does a Trademark Do?
Legally, a trademark serves two purposes: (i) identifies goods or services as coming from a single, albeit anonymous, source (ii) identifies goods or services as having a known quality

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Trademarks are different than other Intellectual Property

Trademarks are different than other Intellectual Property
A patent confers on the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling the patented invention for the life of the patent. Copyrights provide certain exclusive rights (reproduction, distribution, etc.) to the author or owner of an original work of authorship that has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Trade Secrets are any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in a business and, because it is unknown to others, gives the business a competitive advantage.

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Types of Marks

Types of Marks:
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Trademark - A mark used by a seller to identify its goods and distinguish them from others. Service Mark - A mark used by a seller to identify its services and distinguish them from others. Certification Mark - A mark used in connection with goods and services to certify various facts about them, for example quality or ingredients or approval by a certifying organization. Collective Mark - A mark used to identify a cooperative, association, club, union or other group. Trade Dress - The packaging, labeling and overall appearance of a product. Trade Name - The name of a business, as opposed to the name of a specific product or service. Slogan or Tagline - A phrase used in connection with a product or service. Domain Name - The Uniform Resource Locator (“URL”) for a Website on the Internet that must be registered with organizations authorized to register and maintain domain names.

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Establishing Trademark Rights in the U.S. How are Trademark Rights established in the United States?
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The U.S. is a “use based” as opposed to a “file based” country. Using a mark in interstate commerce to identify goods or services will create common law rights. Registration provides great benefits to the owner of a registered mark, but registration is not mandatory. Marks may be registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) or with a particular State.

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Basis for Filing an Application to Register a Mark When can one file a U.S. trademark application?
(i) Use in commerce in the U.S. or between the U.S. and a foreign country (“use” application). (ii) Bona-fide intent to use the mark in the future (“intent-touse” or “ITU” application).

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Benefits of U.S. Trademark Registration Why file with the PTO?
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May prevent others from registering or using a confusingly similar mark. Nationwide constructive notice of registrant’s claim to the mark. Legal presumption that the registered mark is valid. Right to use federal registration notice ®. Right to sue for infringement in Federal District Court and obtain injunctive relief (which can include destruction of infringing articles and corrective advertising) and damages, as well as treble damages and attorneys’ fees in exceptional cases. For “famous” marks, the right to sue others for dilution of the distinctive nature of the mark (“tarnishment” or “blurring”).

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Choosing a Trademark
“The Hierarchy Of Marks”
Descriptive Suggestive Arbitrary/Fanciful

Generic

POTATO CHIPS

YELLOW PAGES

COPPERTONE

APPLE / CLOROX

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Trademark Selection - Distinctiveness of Marks
“The Hierarchy Of Marks”
Descriptive Suggestive Arbitrary/Fanciful

Generic

POTATO CHIPS
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YELLOW PAGES

COPPERTONE

APPLE / CLOROX

Generic: The generic name of a product or service has no trademark significance and cannot be protected or registered. Example: The mark POTATO CHIPS used to identify potato chips.

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Trademark Selection - Distinctiveness of Marks
Descriptive Suggestive Arbitrary/Fanciful

Generic

POTATO CHIPS

YELLOW PAGES

COPPERTONE

APPLE / CLOROX

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Descriptive: Marks describing the purpose, function, or a characteristic of a product or service cannot be protected without having acquired an association with the owner’s goods in the mind of the public (“secondary meaning”), which is typically established by long continuous use of the mark and/or significant advertising.

Example: The mark YELLOW PAGES used to identify the yellow pages.
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Trademark Selection - Distinctiveness of Marks
Descriptive Suggestive Arbitrary/Fanciful

Generic

POTATO CHIPS

YELLOW PAGES

COPPERTONE

APPLE / CLOROX

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Suggestive: Marks merely suggesting some quality or characteristic of a product or service are generally inherently distinctive and therefore registrable (most of the time).

Example: The mark COPPERTONE used to identify sun tan lotion.

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Trademark Selection - Distinctiveness of Marks
Descriptive Suggestive Arbitrary/Fanciful

Generic

POTATO CHIPS
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YELLOW PAGES

COPPERTONE

APPLE / CLOROX

Arbitrary: Marks that comprise words or symbols used in common language but when used with the products or services at issue neither suggest nor describe a quality or characteristic of the product or service are protectable and registrable as inherently distinctive marks. Example: The mark APPLE used to identify computers.
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Trademark Selection - Distinctiveness of Marks
Descriptive Suggestive

Generic

Arbitrary/Fanciful

POTATO CHIPS
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YELLOW PAGES

COPPERTONE

APPLE / CLOROX

Fanciful: Marks that consist of words that have been invented (“coined”) or are out of common usage are inherently distinctive and therefore protectable and registrable. Example: The mark CLOROX used to identify bleach.

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Trademark Selection - Recommendations
What makes a “good” mark?
Make every effort to develop fanciful and arbitrary marks. Suggestive marks are better than descriptive marks. Avoid descriptive or generic marks. Avoid use of terms in or as marks that have specific meanings in the relevant industry that would render the mark descriptive or suggestive. Avoid marks which may create a negative impression in the relevant market (NOVA, used by General Motors as a trademark for automobiles, means “won’t go” in Spanish!) Avoid using terms commonly used in the relevant market (in the U.S., for example, AMERICAN, NATIONAL, GENERAL, ETC.). Terms with no connection to the goods or services to be identified make good marks (for example, SAUSAGE Brand Shampoo). Unique or “coined” marks consisting of new words and/or symbols are best.

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Trademark Application Preparation

What do we (your attorneys) need to file a trademark application with the PTO?
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Use-Based Application   Identification of the owner   Identification of goods or services   Date of first use   Drawing   Specimen
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For goods: tags, labels, packages or containers that prominently display the mark or digital photographs of the mark on the items. For services: advertising, marketing materials, promotional materials, or brochures which prominently display the mark in connection with the services.

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Intent-to-Use Application   Identification of the owner   Identification of goods or services   Drawing
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Trademark Application Processing by the USPTO
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What does the PTO do with the application?

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Upon filing, the application is reviewed for completeness and assigned to an Examining Attorney. Within 3 to 6 months, the Examining Attorney reviews the application and if issues or questions arise, the Examining Attorney will issue an Office Action. Applicant has 6 months to respond to an Office Action. Once the Examining Attorney is satisfied that the mark in the application may function as a trademark, and is available for registration, the mark is published for opposition in the USPTO’s Official Gazette. Upon publication, third parties with an interest have 30 days to oppose registration of the mark. If there is no opposition to a use-based application, then the USPTO will issue a Certificate of Registration for the mark. If there is no opposition to an ITU application, then the USPTO will issue a Notice of Allowance. Applicant then has 6 months (with extensions up to 3 years) to use the mark in commerce and file a Statement of Use. Provided the Statement of Use is accepted by the USPTO, the mark is registered and a Certificate of Registration issues.
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Rules of Trademark Usage

Once I have a mark, what do I do to protect it?
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Use and encourage others to use the mark as an adjective, never as a noun or verb. Always use a generic noun or the word “brand” with the mark. Never pluralize the mark. Use words or symbols as marks to identify the source of a product or service - not what a product or service is or does. Use the mark in the same manner throughout your company: same color, same type style and font, same or similar location on corporate literature. Continually examine the quality and nature of any licensees’ or affiliates’ product or service associated with the mark.

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Rules of Trademark Usage

Once I have a mark, what do I do to protect it?
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Continually search competitor’s marks for similarity to yours. Educate all company employees, contractors, consultants and vendors to report all inconsistencies of use or suspicions of similar uses by competitors. Educate customers regarding the uniqueness of the mark and its symbolic status in regard to your company’s products or services. Federally registered marks should be identified by the registration symbol “®”; unregistered trademarks and service marks should be identified by “TM” and “SM”. When the mark consists of text, use bold, all capital letters or a special typeface or any combination to set the mark apart, particularly when used in headings or titles.
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Protecting Your Trademarks

How do I maintain a trademark registration?
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Maintain Registrations Affidavit of Use and Incontestibility
Filed between the fifth and sixth year of registration 10 years after Registration Every 10 years thereafter

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Combined Declaration of Use and Application for Renewal

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Monitor the trademark for infringement Where applicable, use watching services Employ in-house programs and standards to identify potential infringement

Avoid genericide Use licenses where appropriate

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Copyrights

©
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Copyright Law

What is a Copyright?
A U.S. copyright protects original works of authorship which have been fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

What does this mean?
For example, a song has multiple copyrights: (i) the lyrics; (ii) the score or sheet music; (iii) the sound recording.

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A Copyright Protects

What can qualify for copyright protection?

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literary works
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sculptural works computer programs motion pictures sound recordings architectural works

musical works dramatic works pantomime and choreographic works pictorial and graphic works

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Copyright Owner May Control What rights does a copyright owner have?
The exclusive right to control:
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reproduction distribution adaptation public display public performance

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Idea v. Expression Dichotomy Are facts protectible as a copyright?
No – facts and ideas are not protected.
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The format for a television series v. the series itself Idea for a World War II novel v. the novel itself Facts v. arrangement of those facts

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Copyright Ownership Who owns the copyright?
The author.

Who is the Author?
The person who actually created the work.
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Employee/scope of employment Independent contractor Works for hire

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Copyright Points to Remember Must one register a copyright?
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Not mandatory, but failure to do so may limit your rights. Affords certain benefits
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Prerequisite to filing suit Statutory damages and attorney’s fees

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Simple and inexpensive

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