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Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, formed 15-years ago to protect freedom of expression on the Internet, has come up with an EFF Legal Guide for Bloggers.

"Freedom of speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy," the guide says, "and Internet bullies shouldn't use the law to stifle legitimate free expression."

The document cautions that it's no substitute for specific legal advice from a lawyer, but does provide an introduction to legal liability and freedom of expression issues for bloggers... and not a bad intro for beginning journalism students.

Among other issues, the guide includes Frequently Asked Question answers concerning Intellectual Property, Privacy, Defamation, Media Access to records and meetings and Reporter's Privilege.

The latter section confronts the question "Are bloggers journalists?" -- with a quick answer of "sometimes" -- and explains when that's important: The answer could determine whether a blogger is covered by state reporter's shield laws, retraction statutes, fee waivers for Freedom on Information Act requests, and even campaign finance laws.

"If you are engaged in journalism, your chosen medium of expression should not make a difference," the EFF says. "The freedom of the press applies to every sort of publication that affords a vehicle of information and opinion, whether online or offline."

While the EFF guide can be printed, don't miss the online version's valuable links to court cases, examples and organizations, including the Reporter's Committee on Freedom of the Press. For example, here's RCFP's section on reporter's privilege laws in Tennessee, including the state's Shield Law, and a collection of laws governing tape recording of telephone conversations. (Tennessee does not require all parties in the conversation to give consent to taping, but some states do.)

The guide provides links to organizations from the relatively new Committee to Protect Bloggers and Media Bloggers Association to the older Media Law Resource Center and Society of Professional Journalists.

(Campus bloggers also might want to look at FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus.)

9:20:12 AM    comment []

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