October 2009 Archives

Weinberger v. Maplewood Review

A Maplewood, Minn. newspaper reporter must divulge the names of anonymous sources used in a story about a fired high-school football coach, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-2 decision. The case is Weinberger v. Maplewood Review, No. C7-01-2021 (Minn. Sept. 11, 2003).

Dastar v. Fox

The Supreme Court ruled this summer that the Lanham Act does not prevent the uncredited copying of an uncopyrighted work (see Dastar v. Fox, 123 S. Ct. 2041(2003)). In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court ruled that Dastar's copying, editing and redistribution of tapes of a television documentary first aired in 1949 did not constitute an infringement under the Lanham Act. The Court's rationale was based on the fact that Dastar was the originator of the actual materials it sold, and used tapes in the public domain to create its product. Fox's copyright on the original materials had expired in 1977, placing the documentary in the public domain. Fox reacquired the television rights in 1988.

Dastar v. Fox

The Supreme Court ruled this summer that the Lanham Act does not prevent the uncredited copying of an uncopyrighted work (see Dastar v. Fox, 123 S. Ct. 2041(2003)). In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court ruled that Dastar's copying, editing and redistribution of tapes of a television documentary first aired in 1949 did not constitute an infringement under the Lanham Act. The Court's rationale was based on the fact that Dastar was the originator of the actual materials it sold, and used tapes in the public domain to create its product. Fox's copyright on the original materials had expired in 1977, placing the documentary in the public domain. Fox reacquired the television rights in 1988.

Humorist Sued for Trademark Infringement

ETW Corporation v. Jireh Publishing, Inc.

Rick Rush's painting commemorating Tiger Woods' first Masters victory at Augusta did not violate the athlete's trademark rights under the Lanham Act, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals (6th Cir.). Two of the three judges on the panel issued their opinion in September 2003. The court further ruled that Woods' right of publicity was not compromised by the creation and distribution of the painting. Woods' ETW Corporation had filed suit against Jireh Publishing, Inc. for using the golfer's image without permission in a painting featuring other professional golfers and the two caddies from his first Masters win, which Jireh reproduced and sold to the public.

Moseley v. V Secret Catalogue Inc.

The U. S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in March that a Kentucky sex shop once called "Victor's Little Secret" did not infringe upon the trademark of lingerie retailer Victoria's Secret, reversing an earlier ruling by the Sixth Circuit. See Moseley v. V Secret Catalogue Inc., 537 U.S. 418 (2003). Victor and Cathy Moseley named their Elizabethtown, Ky., retail store "Victor's Secret" in 1998. In an advertisement for its grand opening, the store promoted "Intimate Lingerie for every woman;" "Romantic Lighting;" "Lycra Dresses;" "Pagers;" and "Adult Novelties/Gifts." An individual who saw the ad believed that the store's name used a well-known company's trademark to sell "unwholesome, tawdry merchandise" and notified Victoria's Secret of the existence of the Elizabethtown store. In response to a request from Victoria's Secret that the owners refrain from using the similar-sounding name, the Moseleys then changed the store name to "Victor's Little Secret." Victoria's Secret was not satisfied with the change, however, and filed a complaint with the federal District Court in Kentucky.

Nike v. Kasky

Nike will pay $1.5 million to the Fair Labor Association, a workers' rights group, after settling a five-year-old case regarding the truth of the shoe company's advertisements and statements regarding its overseas manufacturing plants. The case raised issues about the extent of protection the Constitution provides to political statements made as a part of commercial speech.

Virginia v. Black

Eleven years after its landmark hate-speech decision in R.A.V. v. St. Paul, 112 S.Ct. 2538 (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court last spring upheld a Virginia law criminalizing the burning of crosses with the intent to intimidate. The case, Virginia v. Black, 123 S.Ct. 1536 (2003), was decided April 7, 2003, in a plurality opinion by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

California Governor Gray Davis Signs Anti-Spam Bill

Intel v. Hamidi

Intel v. Hamidi, 30 Cal. 4th 1342 (2003), arose from actions taken by on Kourosh Kenneth Hamidi, who had worked for Intel as an engineer until 1995, when he was fired. Hamidi then created an organization called FACE-Intel (Former and Current Employees of Intel) and posted a Web site posting claims of Intel's alleged mistreatment of its employees. In addition, Hamidi sent six mass e-mails using Intel's electronic mail system, reaching as many as 35,000 employees with each mailing. The e-mails were critical of Intel, and of the company's business practices, and warned current employees that these practices could harm their careers, urging them to leave Intel and work elsewhere. Hamidi offered to remove from his mailing list any employee who asked him to, and complied with any requests he received.

Batzel v. Smith

The U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Cir.) in June ruled that a provision in the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) may shield moderators of Internet listservs and operators of websites from liability for disseminating defamatory postings created by others. (See Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018 (9th Cir. 2003)).

Putnam Pit v. City of Cookeville

On August 20, 2003, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Guy Cole, Jr. ruled in Putnam Pit v. City of Cookeville, No. 01-6599 (2003) that Geoffrey Davidian's First Amendment rights have not been violated by the City of Cookeville, affirming the earlier judgment of a federal district court jury.

United States v. Jarrett

The United States Court of Appeals (4th Cir.) ruled that an anonymous person who hacked into another individual's computer and turned that individual into authorities for possessing child pornography did not act as an agent of the government. The case, U.S. v. Jarrett, 338 F.3d 339 (4tth Cir. 2003), reversed a district court ruling that the anonymous person, identified by the Associated Press as a physician in Turkey who treated victims of child abuse, had acted as an agent of the government.

A.A. v. New Jersey

U.S. Circuit Judge Dolores K. Sloviter ruled that there is a compelling state interest in posting the address of convicted sex offenders on the Internet, overriding their privacy interest. The case, A.A. v. New Jersey, U.S. App. LEXIS 16853 (2003), considered Megan's Law, a statute that requires the address and other information about sex offenders to be released to the community in which they live. Sloviter cited an earlier case, Paul P. v. Farmer, 227 F.3d 98 (3rd. Cir. 2000), quoting, " Megan's Law's fundamental purpose . . . is public disclosure." (Emphasis in the original.)

Minneapolis Librarians Reach Settlement

In August 2003, the City of Minneapolis settled a lawsuit brought by a dozen of its public librarians who alleged that workplace exposure to Internet pornography made the city's downtown library a hostile workplace. Since 1997, when the library began offering computers with Internet access to its patrons, the computers allegedly became a "magnet" for users who sought images "displaying virtually every kind of human sexual conduct," according to the suit which was filed in federal district court in Minneapolis on March 24, 2003, in an effort to stop patrons from viewing explicit Web sites in an area where the librarians, as well as the public, would be exposed to the images. At times, librarians who asked the computer users to refrain from viewing obscene sites were met with threats, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

United States v. American Library Association

In June, a divided Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a federal law that, in exchange for federal funding for Internet access, requires public libraries to install Internet filtering software to protect minors from pornography.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota violated the Minnesota Open Meeting Law (OML) and the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (GDPA) when it secretly interviewed candidates to fill the post of university president. (See Star Tribune Co. v. University of Minnesota Board of Regents, 667 N.W.2d 447 (Minn. App. 2003).) The court of appeals affirmed a district court ruling that the Regents violated these laws and must disclose data on the candidates.

Transcripts Unsealed in Terrorist Case

In early June 2003, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Marilyn Clark agreed to unseal previously secret transcripts of bail hearings for Mohammed El-Atriss, who admittedly provided fake ID cards to two of the 19 hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

A California appeals court ruled in late June that sealing documents in civil lawsuits "requires more than a mere agreement of the parties." The decision in Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 2 Cal.Rptr.3d 484 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2003)), involved disclosure of the terms of a settlement agreement between two movie companies, Universal City Studios and Unity Pictures Corp., in litigation brought by Unity Pictures to rescind an allegedly fraudulent clause in the settlement.

A divided federal Court of Appeals (D.C. Cir.) panel ruled this summer that exemptions to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allow the government to withhold the names of detainees taken into custody following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

United States v. Reynolds

Recently declassified government documents were at the heart of a request to reopen a 1953 U.S. Supreme Court case involving the crash of an Air Force plane that killed nine people, four of them civilians. The families of three of the deceased men petitioned the high court for a writ of coram nobis, that is, to correct a judgment it made that was later found to turn on an error of fact. That case is United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1 (1953). Because the case was decided during the Cold War, legal scholars cite it as setting the precedent that gives the executive branch the power to withhold information from the judiciary when national security could be compromised. The case was invoked in arguments in both the Pentagon Papers and Watergate trials.

The Laci Peterson Murder Trial

Stanislaus County (Calif.) Superior Court Judge Al Girolami has banned cameras and recording devices from the preliminary hearing of murder suspect Scott Peterson. The Aug. 18, 2003, ruling does not bar reporters from the courtroom, but forbids any sort of broadcast, tape recording or still photography of the proceedings.

Courtroom Television Network, LLC. v. State of New York

In July 2003, the Supreme Court for New York County, a trial court, ruled against Court TV's challenge to the constitutionality of the New York state law barring television cameras from trial courts. (See Courtroom Television Network, LLC. v. State of New York, 2003 WL 21787909 (N.Y. Sup. 2003).)

Government Requests Closure of Deportation Hearing

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in early August 2003 asked immigration Judge Robert Newberry to close the Detroit deportation hearing of a Syrian man with alleged ties to al-Qaeda.

United States v. Moussaoui

The case of United States v. Moussaoui, in the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, began with a question: Can the civilian court system handle a highly sensitive, national security case and emerge with its tradition of transparency and public access intact?

United States v. American Library Association

In June, a divided Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a federal law that, in exchange for federal funding for Internet access, requires public libraries to install Internet filtering software to protect minors from pornography.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota violated the Minnesota Open Meeting Law (OML) and the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (GDPA) when it secretly interviewed candidates to fill the post of university president. (See Star Tribune Co. v. University of Minnesota Board of Regents, 667 N.W.2d 447 (Minn. App. 2003).) The court of appeals affirmed a district court ruling that the Regents violated these laws and must disclose data on the candidates.

Transcripts Unsealed in Terrorist Case

In early June 2003, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Marilyn Clark agreed to unseal previously secret transcripts of bail hearings for Mohammed El-Atriss, who admittedly provided fake ID cards to two of the 19 hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Transcripts Unsealed in Terrorist Case

In early June 2003, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Marilyn Clark agreed to unseal previously secret transcripts of bail hearings for Mohammed El-Atriss, who admittedly provided fake ID cards to two of the 19 hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.


A California appeals court ruled in late June that sealing documents in civil lawsuits "requires more than a mere agreement of the parties." The decision in Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 2 Cal.Rptr.3d 484 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2003)), involved disclosure of the terms of a settlement agreement between two movie companies, Universal City Studios and Unity Pictures Corp., in litigation brought by Unity Pictures to rescind an allegedly fraudulent clause in the settlement.

A divided federal Court of Appeals (D.C. Cir.) panel ruled this summer that exemptions to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allow the government to withhold the names of detainees taken into custody following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

United States v. Reynolds

Recently declassified government documents were at the heart of a request to reopen a 1953 U.S. Supreme Court case involving the crash of an Air Force plane that killed nine people, four of them civilians. The families of three of the deceased men petitioned the high court for a writ of coram nobis, that is, to correct a judgment it made that was later found to turn on an error of fact. That case is United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1 (1953). Because the case was decided during the Cold War, legal scholars cite it as setting the precedent that gives the executive branch the power to withhold information from the judiciary when national security could be compromised. The case was invoked in arguments in both the Pentagon Papers and Watergate trials.

The Laci Peterson Murder Trial

Stanislaus County (Calif.) Superior Court Judge Al Girolami has banned cameras and recording devices from the preliminary hearing of murder suspect Scott Peterson. The Aug. 18, 2003, ruling does not bar reporters from the courtroom, but forbids any sort of broadcast, tape recording or still photography of the proceedings.

Courtroom Television Network, LLC. v. State of New York

In July 2003, the Supreme Court for New York County, a trial court, ruled against Court TV's challenge to the constitutionality of the New York state law barring television cameras from trial courts. (See Courtroom Television Network, LLC. v. State of New York, 2003 WL 21787909 (N.Y. Sup. 2003).)

Government Requests Closure of Deportation Hearing

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in early August 2003 asked immigration Judge Robert Newberry to close the Detroit deportation hearing of a Syrian man with alleged ties to al-Qaeda.


United States v. Moussaoui

The case of United States v. Moussaoui, in the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, began with a question: Can the civilian court system handle a highly sensitive, national security case and emerge with its tradition of transparency and public access intact?

For the first time in the history of the Silha Center, the Center drafted and filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in August in a case that will be argued before the United States Supreme Court this December. The brief was written by Silha Center Director Jane Kirtley with the assistance of Silha Fellow Doug Peters and Silha Research Assistant Thomas Corbett. The brief is available on the Silha Center's Web site under "Resources" at www.silha.umn.edu.

Local Journalists Discuss Commitment to Objectivity

LIn a forum event titled “Without Fear or Favor: Objectivity Revisited,” journalists, scholars and members of the public met at Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) UBS Forum in downtown St. Paul on February 26 to discuss one of journalism’s most challenging topics: objectivity.

One year after Michael Gallucci was exposed as an anonymous and often-incendiary commentator on a Web site hosted by a New Jersey Internet service provider (“ISP”) with ties to 14 newspapers in the state, the former Teaneck, N.J., councilman filed a lawsuit in a Superior Court of New Jersey. The complaint, dated Feb. 5, 2007, claimed that the ISP’s release of his identifying information was unlawful under New Jersey law and in breach of the user agreement entered into by Gallucci when he first subscribed to the service provided by New Jersey-Online, LLC (“NJ.com”).

On March 26, 2007, a Lancaster County, Penn. coroner faced charges of unlawfully using a computer and conspiring with local reporters to gain access to confidential police information. Following an opportunity to hear testimony from some of the reporters who used County Coroner Dr. G. Gary Kirchner’s password to access a restricted county Web site, Manheim (Penn.) Magisterial District Judge John Winters ordered Kirchner to stand trial on felony charges brought by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office on Feb. 5, 2007.

Silha Forum Examines Media Coverage of Tragedies

Linda Walker, the mother of the late Dru Sjodin, a University of North Dakota college student murdered in 2003, joined members of the media and the executive director of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation at the Silha Spring Forum, “When Tragedy Strikes, What is the Media’s Role?” The forum, which was co-sponsored by the Minnesota Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the national SPJ, was held on April 24, 2007 at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center. It was scheduled to coincide with Ethics Week 2007, a week-long event sponsored by the SPJ to raise awareness of the media’s responsibility to minimize harm while reporting the news.

The two largest newspapers in Minnesota are embroiled in litigation after the former publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press Paul Anthony “Par” Ridder left the Press to take the same job at the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune in March 2007. The Press filed its 13-count complaint in Ramsey County District Court on April 12, 2007, and prevailed on its first motion seeking access to computers used by Ridder and other Tribune employees on April 20.

Rexvelations that former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald gave the subject of one of his articles $2000 has caused controversy within the journalism community. Eichenwald’s award-winning December 2005 piece focused on the trials and tribulations of Justin Berry, a young man who had extensive involvement in the child pornography industry. The original piece garnered significant attention when it was first released because of Eichenwald’s involvement with Berry, as the reporter helped Berry complete drug rehab and to break away from his previous life. However, neither The Times nor Eichenwald disclosed the payment until March 2007, and the disclosure sparked renewed controversy about Eichenwald’s article, a possible defamation suit by Eichenwald, and prompted a note from The Times’ public editor responding to the criticism. It is against the policy of The Times and most other media organizations to pay sources or subjects of stories.

Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Andres Martinez resigned on March 22, 2007, saying the newspaper overreacted to a “perception of a conflict of interest.”

A week-long scandal that ended in the firing of radio personality Don Imus prompted a wide-ranging debate about whether journalists and reporters who frequented his show condoned outrageous behavior in order to be part of an elite media “in crowd.”

Jay Forman, author of an article about fishing for monkeys off Florida’s Lois Key that was published on Slate.com in June 2001, has changed his story for a third time, saying he made it all up.

In April 2007, The Toledo (Oh.) Blade announced that one of its former photographers had altered 79 of the 947 photos he had submitted, 58 of which the paper published before discovering the alterations. The Blade investigated all of the photos Allan Detrich had submitted since Jan. 1, 2007 after being tipped off that a front page photo of a team of baseball players had been changed when photos taken by other photographers all showed a pair of legs behind a sign which were absent from Detrich’s photo.

Boston Globe Suspends Reporter Accused of Plagiarism

Shortly after allegations surfaced on the Internet that veteran sportswriter Ron Borges had plagiarized passages of another reporter’s work in his weekly football column, The Boston Globe suspended Borges without pay for two months and barred the reporter from appearing on television and radio broadcasts during his suspension.

CBS News Producer Fired over “Omission”

A CBS News producer was fired after it was discovered that a segment she had written for the “Katie Couric’s Notebook” video blog was largely copied from a Wall Street Journal column.

In March 2007, Presiding Missouri Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Breckenridge overturned a district court order that had required two newspapers to remove articles from their Web sites and prevented them from publishing further information about a confidential attorney-client memo they had obtained regarding the Kansas City ( Mo.) Board of Public Utilities (BPU). In her four-paragraph order, Breckenridge said that the lower court’s restraining order “causes irreparable harm to [the newspapers] from which they have no adequate remedy by appeal.” State v. The Honorable Kelly J. Moorhouse, WD 68104 (Mo. Ct. App. 2007).

Charges have been dropped against a journalist arrested for photographing voters in 2004. James S. Henry, a journalist, lawyer and author from Sag Harbor, N.Y., was chased, tackled, arrested and charged with three misdemeanors following the incident: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest without violence and unlawful solicitation of voters, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Charges have been dropped against a journalist arrested for photographing voters in 2004. James S. Henry, a journalist, lawyer and author from Sag Harbor, N.Y., was chased, tackled, arrested and charged with three misdemeanors following the incident: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest without violence and unlawful solicitation of voters, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held in March 2007 that the media and public have no First Amendment right to attend a Massachusetts show-cause hearing in Eagle-Tribune Publishing Co. v. Clerk-Magistrate of the Lawrence Division of the District Court Dept., Mass., No. SJC-09665 (Mass. 2007).

A federal judge has prohibited the mayor of Toledo from barring a radio reporter from city news conferences. U.S. District Judge James Carr ruled in favor of Kevin Milliken and his radio station WSPD-AM, a talk station in Toledo, in their suit alleging Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and his spokesman Brian Schwartz engaged in discriminatory practices and violated Milliken’s constitutional rights by prohibiting him from attending news conferences. Carr originally issued a temporary restraining order against Finkbeiner’s actions on Jan. 16, 2007, and later made the order permanent on January 31 in Citicasters Co. v. Carleton Finkbeiner, 07-CV-00117 (W.D. Ohio 2007).

United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia has vetoed a government prosecution proposal that he said would have effectively walled off the public from the espionage trial of two former lobbyists.

Days before the United States was to conduct “combatant status review tribunals” to determine whether prisoners being held at detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were properly classified as “enemy combatants,” the Pentagon announced that reporters would be barred from the hearings. The announcement was made on March 6, 2007, three days before the hearings were scheduled to begin for 14 detainees who were transferred from secret CIA-operated prisons in September 2006.

A consortium of media organizations in Minnesota has petitioned the state Supreme Court for increased electronic access to trials in its state courts. The petition was filed as part of “Sunshine Week,” an effort led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors since 2002 to raise public awareness about the importance of open government. As the Bulletin went to press, the Supreme Court had not yet responded to the petition.

The California Supreme Court has permitted one claim in an invasion of privacy suit to proceed against a college professor who allegedly misrepresented herself to the plaintiff’s former foster mother in order to acquire information about the plaintiff. The Court denied the defendants’ motion to strike the suit entirely in February 2007, and remanded it to the lower court for further proceedings to determine whether the defendant’s alleged actions constitute highly offensive conduct that would give rise to tort liability for intrusion.

In a March 2007 decision, the Iowa Supreme Court allowed a defamation action against a newspaper to proceed despite finding the allegedly libelous statements to be true. Justice Jerry Larson’s opinion for the Court in Stevens v. Iowa Newspapers, Inc., 2007 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 34 (Iowa 2007) explicitly recognized “defamation-by-implication” actions in the state, permitting a suit by former The (Ames) Tribune columnist Todd Stevens to continue to trial.

In a disappointing decision for criminal libel law opponents, the United States Court of Appeals (Tenth Circuit) in Denver declined to rule on the constitutionality of Colorado’s criminal libel law in an opinion handed down in April 2007, Mink v. Suthers, 2007 WL 1113951 (10th Cir. Apr. 16, 2007)(formerly titled Mink v. Salazar, 344 F. Supp. 2d 1231 (D. Colo. 2004)).

Rome II Proceedings Could Decide Venue for Suits

Efforts by the European Union to facilitate civil litigation between citizens of different member states were frustrated by proposed regulations that would require EU countries to apply the law of other member states when resolving legal claims against the press. In January 2007, the latest proposals considered by the EU’s parliamentary body drew pleas from publishers and journalists to exclude the media from the regulations.

French Editor wins Lawsuit over Publication of Cartoons

On March 22, 2007, Phillipe Val, editor of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebodo, was acquitted of charges brought against him in a Paris court by Muslim groups for publishing cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in his paper. According to Agence France Press (AFP), the Paris Grand Mosque and the Union of Islamic Organisations sued Val for “publicly offending a group of persons on the basis of their religion.”

Danish Editor wins Free Press Award

Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten who was at the center of the 2005 controversy over his newspaper’s publication of a controversial series of political cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, has been honored with an award from the Danish Free Press Society.

International Roundup

Egyptian Blogger Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

A former Egyptian law student was sentenced to four years in jail after being found guilty of inciting hatred of Islam and insulting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in articles that the student posted online under an assumed name. The sentence drew criticism and concern from around the world.

A state district judge in Blue Earth County, Minn. has ordered a reporter for The (Mankato) Free Press to disclose his notes about a telephone conversation he had with a man during a police standoff that ended in the man’s death and the wounding of two police officers. The Free Press published a story the day after the incident including information received during the telephone conversation, and the county attorney subpoenaed The Press and all the notes of its reporter, Dan Nienaber, who spoke with Skjervold. Judge Norb Smith denied The Press’ motion to quash the subpoena on Feb. 13, 2007, and the paper has decided to appeal the ruling.

In February 2007, The New York Times declined an invitation offering their reporter Alex Berenson an opportunity to explain his role in what Senior District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein described as a “conspiracy” to defy a protective order in a recently-settled class action lawsuit that was, at the time of the alleged conspiracy, pending before United States District Court for Eastern New York.

Washington State Enacts Reporter Shield Law

In February 2007, the Washington state House of Representatives unanimously (with two lawmakers not voting) passed a shield law granting reporters an absolute privilege for protecting confidential sources, and in March, the state’s Senate followed suit with a 41-7 vote (with one lawmaker not voting) on a similar version of the law. By mid-April, the House agreed to changes in the bill made by the Senate to narrow its definition of “news media” and sent the bill on to Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), who signed the bill into law on April 27.

Joshua Wolf served the lengthiest prison term of any American journalist for refusing to comply with a subpoena

In the days following the April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, media outlets scrambled to cover the event from every possible angle. One, NBC, found itself part of the story when the network received a package from shooter Seung-Hui Cho, apparently mailed mid-spree.

In the most recent segment of a 10-year legal battle, the full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled May 1, 2007 that the First Amendment does not protect Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) from liability for disclosing an illegally recorded audiotape.

On May 5, 2007, the Washington News Council released a report based on an unusual independent investigation into the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review’s controversial coverage of a local redevelopment project between 1994 and 2005. The report was critical of the paper on a number of issues. But it also prompted criticism of the news council itself.

BBC Report: Network Should be More ‘Impartial’

Apology Issued to Queen for Misrepresentation

In a report released on June 18, 2007, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) concluded that it had broken its own guidelines for avoiding bias, and “must become more impartial.” The report, entitled “From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel: safeguarding impartiality in the 21st century” took more than a year to complete. It can be viewed online at www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/research/impartiality.html.

Two local television news reporters have been disciplined for personal relationships they developed with sources they were covering, raising questions about the ethics of such relationships, their disclosure, and the appropriate punishment.

A June 2007 settlement between embattled college newspaper adviser Karen Bosley and her college returned her to teaching journalism classes and handed her $90,000.

California court rules school district violated student columnist’s First Amendment rights

A California state appeals court ruled May 21, 2007 that a school district violated a student’s First Amendment rights in its reaction to controversial editorials published in a high school newspaper.

In a June 25, 2007 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said that public school officials do not offend the First Amendment rights of their students when they seek to “restrict student expression that they reasonably regard as promoting illegal drug use.”

In a contentious 5 to 4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 25, 2007 that the First Amendment protects a Wisconsin right-to-life group’s ability to broadcast issue advertisements naming political candidates in the days and weeks leading up to an election.

A Chinese journalist currently serving a 10-year prison term for disseminating state secrets has joined a U.S. lawsuit that accuses Internet company Yahoo! Inc. of assisting Chinese authorities with abuses of human rights.

International concern over the treatment of journalists in Uzbekistan has intensified following the imprisonment and recent sentencing of two Uzbek journalists, Umida Niyazova and Gulbakhor Turayeva. Both women reported on events in Andijan in 2005, when Uzbek government forces reportedly killed hundreds at an anti-government protest.

The captors of BBC reporter Alan Johnston released him to Hamas officials July 4, 2007, 114 days after he was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has refused to reconsider its ruling against the Boston Herald that upheld an award of more than $2 million to a defamed judge.

Novel Media Suit Alleges Illinois Supreme Court Libel Ruling Violates Civil Rights

A small Chicago-area newspaper and a former columnist have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that his position and influence in the state court system has denied them a fair chance to appeal a $4 million libel judgment.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Iraqi government recently increased restrictions on reporters and photographers, leading some journalists to question whether the changes were motivated by political pressure to hide gruesome images from the public.

The Montana Supreme Court ruled in May 2007 that the Cut Bank Pioneer Press had standing to enforce the state’s open meeting laws, and ordered the Cut Bank School District to turn over discipline records related to a 2005 incident.

In a move toward government secrecy in the United Kingdom, the British House of Commons approved an exemption for Parliament from the nation’s Freedom of Information law in May 2007.

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled June 22, 2007 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must turn over the addresses of individuals who received disaster relief funds in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The U.S. Marshals Service released 230 pages of documents to the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American on June 13, 2007, nearly three years after the newspaper made its original Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The documents describe the results of an internal investigation into an April 2004 incident where a marshal forced two journalists to erase audio tape recordings of a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Update: BALCO Leaker's Plea Deal Rejected

The lawyer who admitted leaking grand jury testimony about athlete steroid use to the San Francisco Chronicle was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison July 12, 2007. The judge had rejected an earlier plea agreement that allowed for a two-year maximum sentence as too lenient.

Roundup: State Lawmakers Consider Privilege Statutes

Supporters advocate shield law in Massachusetts

Journalists and First Amendment experts testified in support of a proposed reporter shield law at a June 12, 2007 hearing of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

The latest iteration of a federal reporter shield law, introduced in both the House and Senate, has gained support from media organizations, media advocates and Democrat and Republican lawmakers, but has critics and opponents both in the Bush administration and big business.

Attorney Robert Corn-Revere will deliver the 22nd Annual Silha Lecture on Monday, Oct. 1, 2007. His lecture, “The Kids are All Right: Violent Media, Free Expression, and the Drive to Regulate,” will examine the conflict between the First Amendment and government controls over media content that reaches children at a time when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress are poised to consider new regulations on violence on television.

Pressure from Washington D.C. over their role in contributing to obesity in children has driven food companies to create new, stricter rules on advertising.

FCC Releases Report on Television Violence; Critics Challenge Conclusions and Recommendations on Various Grounds

A long-awaited Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report, released April 25, 2007, said that research shows a connection between television violence and children’s aggressive behavior, and recommended that Congress act to limit how much violence children are exposed to on television.

A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York overturned a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indecency ruling against Fox Television, finding that the Commission’s new policy against one-time, unscripted use of expletives is “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act.

2007 Silha Lecture Focuses on Media Violence Regulation

Attempts to legislate violence on television and video games are likely to continue, even though “the kids are all right,” according to the 2007 Silha Lecturer.

Cartoons Cause Community Controversy Across the Country

In September and October 2007, cartoons in one city newspaper and three student newspapers were called offensive for their content and messages.

Mohammed Cartoons Draw International Ire

The publication of cartoons featuring the Muslim prophet Mohammed led to death threats against a cartoonist and editor in Sweden and landed several journalists in Algerian court.

FEMA Holds Press Conference ... for Itself

A press conference the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) held on Oct. 23, 2007 praising its own response to the wildfires in Southern California lacked a key attendee: the press.

News Consultant Linked to Bogus Interviews

A frequently-cited expert source on terrorism and national security and former consultant to ABC News was discredited after interviews with a host of high-profile figures he had contributed to a French political magazine were proven to be fakes.

The scandal surrounding Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest and guilty plea on disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport restroom led some to raise ethics questions about media coverage of politicians’ personal lives.

Ramsey County (Minn.) Judge David C. Higgs ruled Sept. 18, 2007 that publisher Par Ridder must leave the Minneapolis Star Tribune for one year. The ruling denounced Ridder’s actions and called his attitude “cavalier.”

Music Industry Wins First Internet Piracy Case

Single Mother Will Appeal $222,000 Verdict

A jury levied a $222,000 fine against a Brainerd, Minn. woman on Oct. 5, 2007 in the first-ever trial over the downloading and sharing of copyrighted music. However, some say the high-priced verdict is unlikely to discourage more downloading.

Artists Challenge Copyright Extension Law

A recent decision in the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals may have provided a reprieve for artists, musical conductors, and educators affected by two federal statutes passed in the 1990s which extended copyright protection to works formerly in the public domain and resulted in hefty rental fees.

International Roundup: China, Burma, Zimbabwe, Iran

Chinese Research Assistant Zhao Yan Released from Chinese Prison

Zhao Yan, a Chinese research assistant for The New York Times, was released from prison in China in September 2007 after serving three years for a fraud conviction.

The media’s relationship with the government in Russia remains uneasy. In August 2007, Russian authorities made new strides in the investigation into Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s death, but critics say such developments are illusory and that the mastermind behind the contract killing will never be identified by the government. Russian authorities also detained a journalist in September 2007 on charges of extorting money from a government official, a claim the journalist’s newspaper denies.

China promised foreign journalists more freedom to report this year in the prelude to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but recent reports issued by human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International conclude that these promises remain largely unfulfilled.

Police in New Castle, Pa. seized a computer and several recording devices from the New Castle News on July 25, 2007, saying they were used to record telephone conversations illegally with two local public officials.

Lawyers for Time magazine said they will contest a $106 million libel judgment handed down by Indonesia’s highest court to former dictator Suharto Aug. 31, 2007.

Privilege Protects Publishing False Information in the Public Interest

The British Court of Appeal for England and Wales extended qualified protection from libel suits for the authors and publishers of books on Oct. 11, 2007, ruling that they enjoy a qualified privilege so long as they act responsibly. The ruling may make it more difficult for libel tourists to win defamation suits in England.

British libel laws that favor plaintiffs led one publisher to destroy unsold copies of a book about terrorism financing and to ask librarians to pull it from shelves despite the authors’ complaints that “libel tourism” will chill important scholarship.

An Illinois community newspaper and the state high court’s chief justice struck a settlement agreement Oct. 10, 2007 over a libel suit, under which the newspaper apologized, agreed to drop a federal civil rights suit it had filed, and will pay a reduced award of $3 million to the judge.

Ohio Supreme Court Recognizes False Light Claim

A dispute between neighbors led the Ohio Supreme Court to recognize the tort of false light invasion of privacy June 6, 2007. The 6 to 2 decision in Welling v. Weinfeld, 866 N.E.2d 1051 (Ohio 2007), called media concerns “overblown” and argued the pervasiveness of the Internet makes privacy protections increasingly important.

The U.S. military detained Associated Press (AP) photographer Ayad M. Abd Ali Oct. 3, 2007, and held him handcuffed and blindfolded for 40 minutes after he was found filming the aftermath of a car bomb attack in Baghdad.

Truth of ‘Baghdad Diarist’ Stories Challenged

The New Republic has said it stands behind most of the claims made by its “Baghdad Diarist,” an American soldier in Iraq writing under a pseudonym, despite a proven mistake, military denials, and criticism from conservative bloggers.

Cable Companies Fined for Airing Paid-for Punditry

Armstrong Williams’ Programs Continue to Raise Controversy

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed fines totaling $76,000 against two cable companies for failing to disclose that segments they aired featuring conservative pundit Armstrong Williams had been sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

For the first time ever, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed fines against a cable television company for failing to disclose to viewers that segments it aired as news were actually produced by corporations. Some commentators have said the fines may signal a broader crackdown.

Lawsuit Says the Public Entity’s Restrictive Practices Are Unconstitutional

The Illinois Press Association (IPA) filed a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) on Nov. 1, 2007 over new rules that limit access for photographers at the Illinois High School state football tournament and limit the use of the images from state sports tournament events.

News organizations are battling for the ability to report independently and objectively as major sporting events have sought tighter control over coverage and placed limits on news gathering.

Seminar Materials Included NSA-Approved, Edited Versions of Stories

The National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly hosted “off-the-record” seminars for journalists between 2002 and 2004 to limit intelligence leaks and to caution reporters about revealing information about the agency’s electronic surveillance work.

New CIA Rules for FOIA Fees Give Bloggers a Price Break

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) announced effective July 18, 2007 that when processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, it would redefine the term “news media” to include bloggers.

Two States Propose Changes to Access to Prisons for Media

Prison officials in California and Rhode Island have proposed new regulations that would significantly alter the news media’s access to prison inmates in their respective states. California officials have proposed easing restrictions, but Rhode Island might make its prison access rules more rigid.

A federal appeals court ruled on Sept. 4, 2007, that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) may refuse to grant public access to briefings it gave to President Johnson over 40 years ago.

The (Bridgeport) Connecticut Post has defended itself against criticism for publishing personal information about 18 jurors and alternates in a story about a high profile murder case in the region. The information appeared in a Sept. 9, 2007 front page graphic that showed 18 empty chairs with the name, occupation, and hometown of the jurors written on them.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act (H.R. 2128) Oct. 22, 2007, despite a lukewarm reception from federal judges and prosecutors at a September 27 committee hearing.

Minnesota Considers Cameras in Trial Courtrooms

The Minnesota Supreme Court Advisory Committee on General Rules of Practice considered a proposal to improve electronic media access to courtrooms at two meetings this fall. A coalition of media organizations, including the Minnesota Newspaper Association, Broadcasters Association, and Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), petitioned the state Supreme Court in March 2007 asking for a change in the rule.

California’s highest court ruled Aug. 27, 2007 that public employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their annual salaries, limiting two lower court decisions that had raised questions about whether salary information was public.

Alternative Weekly Allegedly Published Sherriff’s Home Address

The founders of The Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly newspaper, were arrested Oct. 18, 2007 for publishing a story about an ongoing grand jury investigation.

Judge Rules Reporters Need not Testify in Murder Case

A State Supreme Court judge in Brooklyn, N.Y. ruled on Sept. 12, 2007, that two newspaper reporters will not be compelled to testify in a murder case against the parents of the victim.

On Oct. 16, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Free Flow of Information Act, a bill that would establish for the first time a federal privilege for reporters and their confidential sources.

Two federal district judges have ordered six journalists to disclose their confidential government sources in Dr. Steven J. Hatfill’s federal Privacy Act lawsuit against the government.

Forum Addresses Ethics Questions for Online Journalism

Standards of ethics in the emerging realm of online journalism was the topic of a forum held at Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) UBS Forum in downtown St. Paul on Feb. 25, 2008.

On Dec. 20, 2007, the British Office of Communications (Ofcom) fined television station Channel 4 one and a half million pounds for phone-in competitions that were conducted unfairly.

At White House Behest, New York Times Withholds Story

Newspaper Knew About Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Security Concerns for Three Years

The New York Times reported in a Nov. 18, 2007 story about U.S. efforts to aid Pakistan nuclear arms security that some details of the story had been held for more than three years at the request of the Bush administration.

As news organizations seek innovative ways to boost slumping advertising revenue, journalists and commentators have spoken out when they believe the new advertising and content sponsorship plans cross ethical lines.

New York Times McCain Story Draws Criticism, Support

An article about Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) relationship with a female lobbyist published in The New York Times on February 21 prompted an immediate backlash from the McCain campaign and media commentators who raised questions about the Times’ ethics and its use of confidential sources.

Plagiarism problems plagued a variety of media in the fall and winter of 2007 and 2008, raising similar ethical dilemmas for cartoonists, romance novelists, and sex columnists and their editors.

Recent allegations of plagiarism and fabrication leveled against journalism school scholars by students have ignited heated debate in the news industry over the definition of plagiarism and appropriate punishments for such transgressions.

New York High Court Rules in Libel Tourism Case

State Legislators Consider Bill that would Increase Protections for New York Authors

The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled Dec. 20, 2007 that author Rachel Ehrenfeld could not continue her suit seeking to enjoin enforcement of a 2004 British libel judgment against her. But a month later, New York legislators introduced a bill that would effectively overrule the court’s decision and provide increased protections for New York authors.

U.S. District Court Rules against Funeral Protesters

A federal district court ruling in October fueled a debate about whether restricting protestors from picketing at funerals violates the First Amendment.

Police Say New Rules Not Related to Convention; Critics Disagree

The St. Paul, Minn. Police Department has adopted new guidelines for investigating and gathering information on protest groups.

New State Legislation Protects Dead Celebrities' Rights

On Oct. 10, 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law 2007 Cal. Stat. ch 439, otherwise known as the “Dead Celebrities Bill.” The new law broadens California’s existing protections for the right to publicity, a legal principle that allows a person whose identity has commercial value to control the manner in which the person’s name or image is marketed.

In December 2007, a federal district court judge in Los Angeles held a Web site that facilitates the online downloading and exchange of copyrighted movies, television shows, and music liable for copyright infringement in a suit brought by six member studios of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

On Jan. 25, 2008, a Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s grant of summary judgment in a libel suit filed by a professor and former dean at St. Cloud State University, finding in favor of the university’s student newspaper, the University Chronicle.

Internal, External Challenges at Colorado State, Loyola

The Colorado State University (CSU) student newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Collegian, faced challenges in September 2007 for a controversial editorial and in January 2008 for a proposed buyout by Gannett.

Yahoo, Chinese Journalists' Families Settle Suit

Web Corporation Executives Lambasted by Congress

Censorship of the Internet in China continues to stir controversy and provoke legal challenges from free speech advocates.

Afghan Journalism Student Faces Death Sentence for Downloading Document

A 23-year-old Afghan journalism student was sentenced to death Jan. 22, 2008 for downloading a document from an Iranian Web site that questions the role of women in Islam.

In Midst of Crisis, Musharraf Cracks Down on the Press

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s crackdown on domestic and foreign journalists following the imposition of a state of emergency in Pakistan in fall 2007 has showed no signs of abating even during the Feb. 18, 2008 parliamentary elections that resulted in a resounding defeat for Musharraf’s party at the polls.

Associated Press (AP) photographer Bilal Hussein, held without charges by the U.S. military for over 20 months, received his first criminal hearing before an Iraqi investigative magistrate on Dec. 9, 2007 in Baghdad.

Kidnappings, Killings Continue; Danger Highest for Iraqis

Nearly five years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched in 2003, journalists continue to face dangerous reporting conditions in Iraq. On the heels of reports from free press advocacy groups in early 2008 concluding that Iraq remains the deadliest place in the world for journalists, two CBS News reporters were kidnapped in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Feb. 10, 2008.

Kucinich Loses Battles to be Included in Debates

One hour before a Jan. 15, 2008 Las Vegas debate featuring presidential candidates from the Democratic Party, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that MSNBC is free to bar Ohio Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) from participating. The ruling vacated a temporary restraining order issued earlier that day by a Clark County District Court that said MSNBC must either cancel the broadcast or allow Kucinich to participate.

Moveon.org Eventually Paid More for its Controversial Petraeus Ad

The New York Times came under fire in September 2007 after printing a controversial Moveon.org advertisement at a reduced rate.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled Oct. 4, 2007 that the state cannot punish political candidates for making false statements about their opponents unless the false statements are also defamatory.

New Rule Follows 2007 Supreme Court Decision

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued a new rule Nov. 20, 2007 allowing corporations and labor unions to broadcast issue advertisements naming political candidates in the days immediately proceeding elections. The FEC’s decision allows the groups to make some “electioneering communications” previously prohibited by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002.

Temporary Compromise Reached On Cable Regulation

An effort by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin to increase his agency’s regulatory power over cable television was turned back in November by strong opposition from fellow commissioners bolstered by cable industry lobbyists.

In a 3-2 vote along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved new media ownership rules on Dec. 18, 2007 that would allow more newspaper-broadcast combinations in the largest cities.

Rules Restricting Photographers Draw Criticism

New Measures Proposed by Department of Interior, New York City

Filmmakers and photojournalists said new rules proposed in 2007 by both the U.S. Department of the Interior and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting might hamper press freedom and stifle speech.

News reports on sealed case files and court records have shed light on how many documents are kept from public view, and led officials in some jurisdictions to reconsider when and how such information is sealed.

Minnesota Advisory Committee Resists Cameras in Courts

What had seemed to be cautious support for rule changes that would allow increased electronic media access to Minnesota courtrooms faded quickly in the face of critical testimony from local prosecutors, defense attorneys, and victims’ advocates at a January hearing before the Minnesota Supreme Court Advisory Committee on General Rules of Practice.

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 15, 2008 that an Indiana prisoner on death row can continue a suit seeking to overturn a U.S. Bureau of Prisons rule that bars all face-to-face media interviews with death row inmates.

President Signs, then Rewrites, OPEN Government Act

President George W. Bush signed the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National (OPEN) Government Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110-175, 121 Stat. 2524, on Dec. 31, 2007. The new law makes several procedural changes to the 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Reporter Shield Law Update

Utah High Court Creates Privilege; Hawaii Considers Bill; Federal Effort Slows

A new rule adopted by the Utah Supreme Court and bills under consideration in Hawaii and the U.S. Senate offer protection to journalists and their confidential sources from compelled disclosure, but some say they leave lingering questions about exactly how, and to whom, they will be applied.

St. Paul (Minn.) police secretly seized a reporter’s cellular phone records from his service provider in June 2007 in an apparent effort to find out who gave the reporter an arrest report. The reporter obtained the arrest report, a public document, from a confidential source after police refused to turn it over, saying it was confidential.

Reporters for The Free Press of Mankato, Minn. do not have to turn over unpublished notes to police because the county attorney seeking the notes failed to prove a specific injustice could only be avoided through disclosure of the notes, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 24, 2007.

Reporters Fight Federal Subpoenas

Locy Faces Fines, Risen Subpoenaed Over Sources for CIA Book

Former USA Today reporter Toni Locy faces fines escalating to $5,000 per day for refusing to divulge the identity of confidential sources. Locy, currently a journalism professor at West Virginia University, used confidential sources in reporting on the still-unsolved anthrax attacks in 2001 that left five people dead.

Web Site Fights Off Federal Injunction

Following two weeks of intense scrutiny and widespread condemnation from media and free speech advocates, a federal judge on Feb. 29, 2008 reversed an order aimed at blocking all access to a Web site devoted to the unauthorized publishing of government and corporate documents.

According to Edward Wasserman, rather than strive to act independently, journalists should find the “ethically permissible” conflicts of interest among contemporary journalism’s necessary dependencies and obligations.

The Court of Appeal for Northern Ireland overturned a £25,000 jury award March 10, 2008 for a Belfast restaurant owner who claimed he had been defamed by an unflattering restaurant review in the Irish News. The three-justice panel held that the trial court failed to properly instruct the jury on the defense of “fair comment” and ordered a new trial.

Daily Nebraskan Clashes with Governor’s Office

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s office considered banning Daily Nebraskan reporters from his press conferences and excluding the student newspaper from a media e-mail list after it revealed in an April 3, 2008 story that a convicted murderer participating in a work-release program is a tour guide at the governor’s mansion.

AP Photographer Freed in Iraq after Two Years

Iraqi Associated Press (AP) photographer Bilal Hussein was released by American military officials on April 14, 2008 after two years of imprisonment for allegedly working with insurgents in Iraq.

Controversy has flared during the prelude to the 2008 Beijing Olympic games as free press advocacy groups have criticized China’s human rights record on media and free speech restrictions. Meanwhile many Chinese have spoken out against international media coverage they have called biased and unfair.

On March 17, 2008, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a Minnesota federal district judge’s ruling that a Minnesota law banning minors from renting or purchasing violent video games is unconstitutional.

Federal Court Decisions Add Uncertainty to Internet Law

Communications Decency Act and Fair Housing Rules Clash in 7th, 9th Circuits

Two spring 2008 cases asked federal courts to interpret a law designed to limit the liability for Internet service providers when their users engage in prohibited speech online in the context of federal fair housing standards. The key difference in the contrasting decisions appears to be the degree to which the different Web sites actively seek particular information from users.

A Los Angeles Times story published in March 2008 that purported to have new information about a 1994 attack that helped launch a bloody bicoastal war among high-profile rappers was found to be based on faked FBI documents and questionable sources, embarrassing the newspaper as it retracted and apologized for the story.

Media Critics Lambaste Networks for Lax Standards, Limited Response

An April 20, 2008 New York Times story revealed that the Pentagon encouraged so-called military analysts to put a positive spin on news coverage of the Iraq war. The story said that the retired military officers trumpeted administration talking points in appearances on network and cable news broadcasts and op-ed pieces in major newspapers in exchange for access to high-level military officers and Bush administration officials.

The Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) accepted Major League Baseball’s credential agreement April 8, 2008 after nearly six weeks of negotiations concerning game photos and video clips posted on the Internet.

Federal ‘Sunshine’ Laws Move Closer to Passage

Two “sunshine” bills designed to make federal courts more open to the public by providing for cameras in courtrooms and reducing the number of sealed cases and settlements continued their journey through Congress when the Senate Committee on the Judiciary approved both bills on March 6, 2008.

Federal Privilege Question is Facing a Crossroads

Is there any institution the American public loves to hate more than the news media? Depending on your point of view, the institutional press is either irredeemably liberal or cravenly conservative, a toothless watchdog or a godless traitor, willing to do anything to sell newspapers or raise viewership ratings. News consumers marvel at the media’s fixation on the latest peccadilloes of a drunken starlet or a straying senator at the sacrifice of stories that “matter.” Anyone who has been the object of media attention “knows” that reporters are sloppy, arrogant, imprecise, agenda-driven, fixated on the negative, and, of course, biased. How could they be anything else, when no minimum education requirements, no licensing system, no mandatory ethics code, no disciplinary body can be used to keep the incompetents and undesirables out? And that’s just the mainstream media. What about those bloggers – the infamous geeks in pajamas, spreading rumors throughout the Internet and railing at anything and everything in cozy anonymity from their shadowy basement lairs, accountable to no one?

Silha Fall Forum will Address FCC Cross-Ownership Rules

On Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008, the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law will present a special Fall Forum addressing media cross-ownership featuring Rosemary Harold, Deputy Chief of the Media Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Drechsel Named Silha Visiting Fellow

The Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law has announced that it will welcome Silha Visiting Fellow Professor Robert Drechsel for the fall 2008 semester.

Who is a journalist? What is “responsible journalism?” How do media law and ethics intersect? Is self-regulation effective – or even possible – in the digital age? Siobhain Butterworth, readers’ editor for The Guardian in London, will consider these and other questions when she presents the 2008 Silha Lecture, “Raise Your Hand if You’re a Journalist: Does Responsible Reporting Need a Legal Defense?” on Oct. 6, 2008, at Cowles Auditorium at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Washington Post Reporter Loses Job over Blog

Washington Post staff writer lost his job in April 2008 after he revealed he was also writing for an unrelated sports blog. Commentators have said the episode was the latest example of a growing problem facing mainstream media outlets regarding employee-published online content.

New York Law Protects Authors from Libel Tourists

New York Governor David Paterson signed a bill April 30, 2008 that grants statewide protection to writers and publishers convicted of libel in foreign courts.

Two California high school principals threatened their school newspapers after they disagreed with students’ editorial choices in spring 2008. Meanwhile, the California legislature passed a bill that would provide greater protection for journalism teachers, but budget issues stalled the bill at the Governor’s desk.

A federal appeals court ruled May 29, 2008 that school officials did not violate a Burlington, Conn. high school student’s First Amendment rights in denying her the position of class secretary after a she posted a personal blog entry calling school administrators “douchebags” and encouraging readers to voice their displeasure with them.

A May 5, 2008 ruling by Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California placed a permanent injunction on file sharing Web site TorrentSpy, and awarded the plaintiff motion picture studios statutory damages of $110,970,000 – or $30,000 each for 3,699 infringements – plus court costs.

The Associated Press’ (AP) most recent attempt to protect its news content from online copyright infringement created an uproar in the blogosphere.

Colleges and universities reported a surge in copyright infringement notices from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in spring 2008 amid increasing criticism of the association’s methods of attacking online piracy. Meanwhile, Congress reauthorized a law that will require colleges and universities to take action to prevent students from engaging in illegal file sharing and punish those who do.

Social Networking Web Site Sued over Sexual Assaults, Suicides

The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled May 16, 2008 that a federal law shielded the Web site MySpace from liability for the sexual assault of a Texas girl who met the man who assaulted her via the popular social networking site.

Russian authorities have brought charges against several men in connection with the October 2006 murder of revered journalist Anna Politkovskaya, while her killer is said to be hiding in Western Europe and an investigation into the organization of the suspected contract killing is ongoing.

Roundup: Russian Media Feel Pressure from Kremlin

Claims of increasing media censorship in Russia have focused on the impromptu closing of a newspaper that often lampooned political leadership, the June 2008 “extremism” conviction of two journalists, and accusations of a television talk show “blacklist” – all of which were said to be politically motivated.

China Pressured to Lift Blocks on Media Center Internet Service

Journalists and free press advocates criticized organizers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics when it became apparent a few days before the games were set to begin that some Web sites were blocked on the Internet service provided to members of the media. Organizers later allowed better access.

No Decision Yet; 16 of 19 Committee Members Disfavor Cameras

The Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments July 1, 2008 from an advisory committee and a number of proponents and detractors of a proposed change in the state’s rules that would make it possible for news media cameras to gain access to the state’s district courtrooms.

In the lead-up to the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minn. and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver, groups planning to demonstrate at the events were unsuccessful in their lawsuits challenging parade routes and public demonstration zones that they argued unfairly restricted their rights to be seen and heard.

Court Unanimously Rejects Limits on Duplicate FOIA Suits

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 12, 2008 that the government may not reject Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for federal agency documents on the ground that another party has already unsuccessfully sued for the same documents.

For the second time in two terms, a 5 to 4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold Act, because it violated the First Amendment.

Secrecy, Subpoena in R. Kelly Trial

The child pornography trial of R&B star R. Kelly drew media attention not just for its high profile subject and the salacious nature of the charges, but because it involved issues that are high on the list of media law concerns: trial secrecy and the subpoena of a journalist.

UK Journalist Complies with ‘Production Order’

A British freelance journalist’s fight to prevent police from seizing his notes about a terrorism suspect ended when the High Court ordered him to hand over copies of his notes, audio tapes, and computer records on June 26.

Judge Quashes Subpoenas to 15 Pennsylvania Reporters

On July 17, 2008, a Pennsylvania judge threw out subpoenas issued to 15 journalists summoned to testify at a closed hearing to investigate alleged leaks in the grand jury probe of a casino owner.

Hawaii Enacts 36th State Shield Law

Hawaii’s governor signed a bill into law on July 2, 2008 that prevents government officials from forcing journalists to divulge anonymous sources except under certain circumstances.

Hatfill Suit Settled, Reporter Locy's Fate Still Unclear

A settlement in Steven Hatfill’s Privacy Act suit against the government means former USA Today reporter Toni Locy may no longer be subject to a civil contempt order that included fines of up to $5,000 per day.

Washington Times Reporter Gertz Not Forced to Testify

A federal judge who had subpoenaed a Washington Times reporter as part of an investigation into a leak of grand jury testimony opted not to force him to reveal his confidential sources on July 24, 2008, but the reporter now faces a subpoena from a federal grand jury.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill May 15, 2008 that would overturn rules adopted in December 2007 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to loosen media cross-ownership restrictions.

On July 21, 2008, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s imposition of a record-setting fine against CBS Corp. for its broadcast of the infamous 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show “wardrobe malfunction.”

Despite intense opposition based on “as much passion and emotion as reason,” a lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) argued that the recent decision to relax the 32-year-old ban on joint ownership of media outlets would improve news coverage through the combination of resources at the Silha Fall Forum Oct. 23, 2008.

2008 Silha Lecturer Says Media Organizations Need Ombuds

Silha Lecturer Siobhain Butterworth was introduced as “a member of an endangered species.” As readers’ editor, or internal ombudsman, for The Guardian newspaper in London, Butterworth is among a shrinking group of editors whose primary responsibility is to address reader complaints, clarifications, and corrections in the daily newspaper and online.

A documentary film about radical Islam that was distributed to approximately 28 million homes as a DVD insert in about 70 newspapers and through direct mail sparked controversy over the film’s content as well as the political motives behind its targeted distribution.

Record Fine for BBC over Phone-in Scams

On July 30, 2008, the British Office of Communications (Ofcom) announced that a record 400,000 British pounds in fines had been levied against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in connection with phone-in competition violations that occurred on various programs on the network from 2005 to 2007.

Texas Weekly Folds after Plagiarism Accusation

A small Texas weekly newspaper shut down in August 2008 after plagiarizing dozens of stories from publications such as online magazine Slate and USA Today.

It began early Sunday morning, Sept. 7, 2008, when somebody searched the archives of the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and clicked on an old article from the Chicago Tribune about a company called UAL’s 2002 bankruptcy filing. Within 36 hours, the archived story about United Airlines’ parent company had been aggregated by Google News, picked up by a private financial news company in Florida, and distributed to stock traders on Wall Street by Bloomberg, sending the embattled airline company’s stock into a free fall.

The Florida Supreme Court declined to recognize the tort of false light invasion of privacy on Oct. 23, 2008 in a unanimous opinion that held the tort’s chilling effect on protected speech outweighed its potential to create a new remedy for a narrow class of wrongs.

International Libel Roundup

Senegalese Court Imprisons Publisher for Libel

A Senegalese court sentenced a newspaper publisher to three years in prison for including “false reports” in an article claiming the president and his son had stolen government funds.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on September 27 that would change federal law to prohibit U.S. enforcement of certain foreign defamation judgments. The legislation moved on to the Senate on September 29. The bill is designed to protect Americans from “libel tourism,” a type of forum shopping in which plaintiffs choose to file libel suits in foreign jurisdictions that are more likely to produce a favorable result for them.

Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds $3.5 Million Libel Verdict

A mid-level Pennsylvania appeals court upheld a $3.5 million libel verdict against a Pennsylvania newspaper Sept. 18, 2008, ruling that it negligently defamed a businessman and one of his companies.

In the fallout from a conflict between Quinnipiac University officials and student journalists over posting breaking news stories on the Internet, members of The Quinnipiac Chronicle staff left to form the Quad News, an independent online publication.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled Sept. 2, 2008 that students have a right to protest by wearing black armbands to school, calling a 40-year-old landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on the same issue “dispositive.”

Federal police arrested a blogger on Aug. 27, 2008 for streaming nine songs from “Chinese Democracy,” an as-yet unreleased album from the band Guns N’ Roses, on the Internet. He has plead not guilty to the charges.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Aug. 20, 2008 that copyright owners must determine whether online content makes fair use of a copyright before demanding a host Web site remove the content.

YouTube Bans Videos that ‘Incite Violence’

Popular video sharing Web site YouTube adopted a policy banning videos “intended to incite violence or encourage dangerous, illegal activities” on Sept. 11, 2008, several months after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) pressured the site and its owner, Google, to remove content he said was “designed to incite violence against America and Americans or that show graphic violence against American troops and others.”

A federal judge in Boston ruled Aug. 19, 2008 that three Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students can publicly discuss the findings of a research project that explains how to manipulate the state’s electronic payment system for transit fares. The ruling lifted a temporary restraining order, granted ten days earlier, that prevented the students from presenting their project at the DEFCON 16 computer security and hacker conference in Las Vegas on August 10.

Anti-government protests in Thailand in September 2008 resulted in a declaration of a state of emergency by Thailand’s prime minister on Sept. 2, 2008. Although the declaration placed restrictions on media content, the refusal by army commander Anupong Paochinda to enforce the state of emergency made the restrictions on the mainstream media largely theoretical.

The Malaysian government released the editor of a news Web site who was detained under a national security law for criticizing Islam after a court ruled his detention was illegal.

Despite intense opposition based on “as much passion and emotion as reason,” a lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) argued that the recent decision to relax the 32-year-old ban on joint ownership of media outlets would improve news coverage through the combination of resources at the Silha Fall Forum Oct. 23, 2008.

A gag order meant to halt a California newspaper from reporting on its own trial lasted 10 days before a state appeals court ordered it vacated, saying the trial court “cannot possibly justify the censorship imposed.”

City officials in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, have refused to release information about federal payments made to homeowners whose dwellings were damaged by floods during the summer of 2008, according to a story in the Aug. 31, 2008 Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned on Sept. 4, 2008 and began a 4-month jail sentence on October 29 after the release of text messages exchanged between himself and a staffer led Kilpatrick to plead guilty to perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

Roundup: Government E-mails as Public Records

Several state and federal cases in the summer and fall of 2008 underscored the need to define the parameters of public access policies and retention procedures regarding government employee e-mails. (For more on the role of new technology in public records, see “Detroit Newspapers Sue for Release of Text Messages in Mayoral Sex Scandal” on page 20 of this issue of the Silha Bulletin.)

Detainee Abuse Photos Ordered Released

The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 22, 2008 that the Department of Defense cannot withhold 21 photographs depicting abusive treatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan under the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. section 552.

New Jersey Shield Law Protects Author of Trump Biography

A New Jersey appellate court ruled on Oct. 24, 2008 that a former New York Times reporter who wrote a book about Donald Trump does not have to reveal the identity of his confidential sources. The decision reversed a lower court’s ruling on a discovery request by Trump in his ongoing defamation suit against Timothy O’Brien.

Court Throws Out Locy Contempt Order

The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit threw out a contempt order against former USA Today reporter Toni Locy on November 17, several months after the lawsuit in which she was called to testify was settled out of court.

Illinois Paper Cites Shield Law, Refuses to Expose Anonymous Commenters

On Aug. 8, 2008, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert S. Mueller apologized to the executive editors of The Washington Post and The New York Times for obtaining the telephone records of some of the newspapers’ reporters in 2004 without following special procedures required by the Department of Justice.

Pennsylvania High Court Upholds ‘Absolute’ Shield Law

Pennsylvania’s highest court refused to adopt a “crime-fraud exception” to the state’s statutory shield law Sept. 24, 2008, holding that the statute’s “unambiguous” text provides an absolute shield for reporters to protect the identity of confidential sources.

A U.S. District Court judge in Michigan ordered Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter to reveal the identity of confidential sources Aug. 28, 2008, holding there is no constitutional or common law testimonial privilege for journalists in the 6th Circuit. The lawsuit, in which neither the reporter nor the newspaper is a party, alleges that the Department of Justice violated the federal Privacy Act when unnamed officials leaked information to the Free Press concerning a botched 2003 terrorism trial.

In the days before the presidential election on Nov. 4, 2008, some media critics suggested the press might be too eager to call the election in favor of Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), but others said that coverage reflected reality rather than partisan bias.

On Oct. 15, 2008 a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of a Minnesota law requiring anyone not voting or registering to vote on election day to remain 100 feet away from the building where voting is being conducted.

Later, the Coleman campaign also barred The UpTake from a press conference on November 11 and a campaign event featuring former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The Minnesota Independent reported that bloggers from MinnPost.com and Minnesota Democrats Exposed were admitted to those events.

Questions Raised over Preparations and Policies Regarding Media

NBC News producers and a Rwandan prosecutor apparently joined forces for a series of surprise confrontations at Goucher College in Baltimore where a man they said was involved in the 1994 mass killings in Rwanda was working as a professor.

Citing Impartiality, BBC Refuses to Air Gaza Aid Appeal

The BBC announced Jan. 22, 2009 that it would not broadcast a video appeal from a group of British charities on behalf of the civilian victims of recent fighting in Gaza. The announcement was met with immediate criticism and protest from citizens, members of Parliament, and other media outlets.

Lobbyist Settles with New York Times over McCain Story

Iseman Says Paper Lied about Apology and Retraction

A lobbyist whose relationship with former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was the focus of a Feb. 21, 2008 New York Times story settled her defamation lawsuit against the newspaper on Feb. 19, 2009. Following the settlement, Washington lobbyist Vicki Iseman claimed that the Times violated the spirit of their agreement through a statement published on its Web site and lied about whether it apologized for its story during the settlement negotiations. The Times disagreed.

Pentagon Criticized for Mixing PR and Propaganda

Efforts by the U.S. military to merge “public affairs” information operations with those aimed at propaganda have drawn criticism from NATO allies in Afghanistan as well as the Defense Department’s Inspector General.

FCC, Other Agencies also Investigating

The first of three federal agencies scheduled to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the use of retired military officers as independent analysts on television news programs reported in January 2009 that it found “insufficient evidence” to support allegations that the Defense Department violated federal law.

High School Editors Face off with Principals

The student newspaper at Faribault High School in Faribault, Minn. returned to the presses in February 2009 after a fight over prior review resulted in the school’s superintendent suspending publication and students turning to the local newspaper and the Internet as alternative means of publishing.

New California Law to Protect School Journalism Advisers

As of Jan. 1, 2009, a new California law offers journalism advisors and other school employees increased protection from retaliatory administrative action for material published by their students.

Criminal Libel Charges in Colorado, Wisconsin

Authorities in Colorado and Wisconsin have charged three people with criminal libel in separate incidents all involving the Internet. The charges concern commentators who argue that it is constitutionally impermissible to criminalize speech.

A new bill aimed at protecting American journalists, writers, and publishers from defamation judgments in foreign jurisdictions with less stringent speech protections was introduced in the United States Senate on Feb. 17, 2009.

The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, ruled Nov. 12, 2008 that the “fair report privilege” does not extend to fair and accurate reports of a complaint filed by a debtor’s trustee in a bankruptcy case, at least until there has been “judicial review” of the complaint.

1st Circuit Rules Truth Not Always a Defense to Libel

On Feb. 13, 2009, the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston held that truth may no longer be a defense to libel in lawsuits brought by private figure plaintiffs under Massachusetts law if the allegedly libelous statement was published by a defendant acting out of “ill will.”

A blogger who was arrested and charged by federal agents with illegally streaming nine tracks from the then-forthcoming Guns N’ Roses album “Chinese Democracy” pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of copyright infringement as part of a deal with prosecutors. He is scheduled for sentencing on March 17, 2009.

Music Industry to Abandon Mass Copyright Lawsuits

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced that it will reduce its use of lawsuits to combat illegal online music sharing, and will instead cooperate with Internet service providers (ISPs) to stop the transfer of copyrighted works, a Dec. 19, 2008 story in The Wall Street Journal reported.

The creator of a popular poster featuring President Barack Obama filed a lawsuit in federal district court in New York City on Feb. 9, 2009 against The Associated Press (AP), asking the judge to issue a declaration that he did not infringe the AP’s copyright for a photograph that inspired the poster. On March 11, 2009, the AP filed an answer and countersuit.

A U.S. District Court judge in Boston authorized a live Internet video stream of oral arguments in a widely followed file-sharing lawsuit in January 2009, but the plaintiff recording companies seeking to prevent the webcast have appealed the order to the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

On Feb. 17, 2009, a federal judge refused to dismiss The Associated Press’s (AP) claim that the AP can assert an ownership interest in “hot news” against a competing online service.

Plaintiffs in several defamation lawsuits are seeking court orders to identify anonymous Internet users, raising First Amendment concerns regarding the protections afforded to anonymous communicators on the Internet.

Media Locked Out of Gaza Conflict

Israel banned journalists from entering Gaza during its military operations there in December and January, drawing outcry from international press organizations and the United Nations (U.N.). The Israel Supreme Court ruled against the ban on Jan. 25, 2009.

Although Iraq remains the deadliest country in the world for journalists, the total number of reporters killed in Iraq in 2008 dropped significantly from the record numbers of deaths in the preceding two years, in part reflecting a decline in Western media presence there.

On Feb. 19, 2009, a jury unanimously acquitted three men accused of helping to organize the 2006 killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. The presiding judge ordered the case reopened and press freedom advocates are demanding a renewed and vigorous investigation.

A former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst said the agency’s warrantless surveillance program monitored American news organizations and domestic communications, contrary to assertions by the Bush administration that the program targeted only communications between U.S. residents and suspected terrorists overseas.

FERPA Expanded; Critics Call New Rules 'Irrational'

The United States Department of Education released a 54-page document on Dec. 9, 2008 that detailed several modifications to the enforcement of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The new rules, which went into effect on January 8, essentially expand the definition of what constitutes a confidential “education record” under federal privacy standards.

As President George W. Bush prepared to make way for his successor, Barack Obama, on Jan. 20, 2009, a trio of lawsuits filed by watchdog groups concerned with the preservation of Bush administration records continued to wind their way through federal courts in Washington.

After nearly two years of debate and competing reports from an advisory committee, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered Feb. 12, 2009 that current procedures governing electronic media coverage in the state’s courtrooms should be retained until a pilot project and concurrent study can be completed.

The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 5, 2009 that the privacy interests of Guantanamo Bay detainees and their families who were the subject of investigations of prisoner abuse outweigh the public interest in their personal information being released to The Associated Press (AP).

Federal shield bills have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that would limit the federal government’s power to subpoena journalists. News organizations and press freedom advocates are optimistic about the chances that a shield bill creating a privilege will become law.

A federal magistrate judge in Nevada held that “the plain language” of the state’s reporter shield law confers an “absolute privilege,” protecting a reporter from disclosing sources and other newsgathering information in a Jan. 30, 2009 ruling.

The battle over confidential sources between former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino and Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter shifted from First Amendment freedoms to Fifth Amendment protections after Ashenfelter refused to answer questions at a Dec. 31, 2008 deposition, citing the right against compelled self-incrimination.

President Barack Obama took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009 and the next day renewed his promise of a new era of open government and public accountability. But despite several new executive orders and policy changes, the administration’s continuation of some of Washington’s traditional secretive practices has already drawn the criticism of open-government advocates.

At a March 25 Silha Spring Forum, Stephen Cribari, a criminal and constitutional law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said an ever-changing digital landscape has raised questions about constitutional interpretation. “Do we have to adjust the way we live to the Constitution, or do we need to adjust the Constitution to the way that we live our lives in an increasingly technological time?” Cribari asked.

As media coverage of an imminent swine flu pandemic raised concerns around the world, about 80 community members, journalists, journalism students, and professors gathered to discuss health news reporting at a spring ethics forum and town hall meeting titled “Fever Pitch: Does Health News Reporting Leave Consumers Out in the Cold?”

The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied a petition for rehearing en banc brought by the office supply company Staples March 18, leaving in place a panel decision that permitted the plaintiff to continue a defamation lawsuit even though the allegedly defamatory statements are true.

Two prominent April 2009 Los Angeles Times advertisements which were designed to look like news stories raised questions about whether the newspaper was blurring the lines between advertising and news content in response to declining revenue.

Did Financial Journalists Misjudge the Economic Downturn?

As commentators continue to explore the sources of the economic downturn in the United States, critics of financial news reporters as well as business journalists themselves are saying little was done to predict the current problem.

Texas Enacts Shield Law

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a journalist’s shield bill into law on May 13, 2009, making Texas the 36th state, as well as the District of Columbia, to adopt a statutory testimonial privilege for reporters.

A U.S. District Court Judge in Michigan ruled April 21, 2009 that Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter could refuse to answer questions about confidential sources based on the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self incrimination.

St. Paul officials continue to face fallout from the September 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC).

Freelance Journalist Initially Given Eight Years for Espionage

Two American journalists arrested by North Korean border guards on March 17, 2009 will be put on trial June 4 for entering the country illegally and committing “hostile acts.” Limited news and information about the journalists’ situation and the lack of direct diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea have exacerbated the situation.

Minnesota Legislature Toys with Secrecy Measures

The Minnesota House of Representatives recognized Sunshine Week 2009 with a unanimous resolution affirming constitutional rights to “freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” but media law commentators questioned the depth of that conviction, pointing to actions designed to increase secrecy earlier in the session.

On April 10, 2009, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) returned a digital memory card to a radio reporter after confiscating it while the reporter interviewed a veteran at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) filed a declaratory judgment action in state court Dec. 5, 2008 asserting exclusive ownership of all pictures, video, and written accounts of the Wisconsin high school athletic events it organizes.

1st Circuit Blocks Live Webcast of File-Sharing Trial

The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overruled a Massachusetts federal district judge April 16, 2009 and barred live webcasting of a prominent file-sharing lawsuit brought by several record companies against a Boston University graduate student.

Obama's Policies Promote Openness; Some Secrecy Persists

Barely three months into its first term, the Obama administration continued its trend toward an increasingly open federal government by announcing new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies and the release of previously unavailable photos and memoranda from the Justice Department regarding treatment of terrorism suspects. However, the President also showed signs that his promise “to usher in a new era of open Government” had its limitations, as he later announced plans to block the release of the detainee photos.

Court Vacates ‘Wardrobe Malfunction’ Fine, Remands Case to 3rd Circuit

An Exclusive Report from the Silha Center

As Minnesota’s experiment with cameras in the courtroom during the Coleman-Franken recount trial drew to a close on March 12, 2009 after 34 days of testimony, news outlets across the country had produced thousands of stories about the fight between Norm Coleman and Al Franken over Minnesota’s empty Senate seat. Many of the stories included pictures of the three judges conferring or the lawyers hunched over stacks of documents. Some included footage of the wood-paneled chamber, packed full of lawyers, judges, and reporters. But only a handful mentioned the cameras or discussed the wisdom of allowing them in trial courts.

Winter 2008 PDF

Spring 2008 PDF

Summer 2008 PDF

Russia's Supreme Court overturned the acquittals of three men accused of involvement in the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya on June 25, 2009, ordering a retrial. Meanwhile, the kidnapping and murder of another prominent human rights activist and journalist in Chechnya on July 15 showed that the country remains treacherous for reporters challenging authority.

White House Press Corps Resists Background Briefings

The Obama administration is facing criticism from White House correspondents and their news organizations for its practices in the White House briefing room, including the continued use of background briefings, or selective off-the-record meetings held with reporters, and Obama's decision to select and notify in advance some reporters before he calls on them in press conferences.

A hacker accessed the e-mail account of a Twitter employee and forwarded detailed company information found there to at least two blogs, the technology Web site TechCrunch reported on July 14, 2009.

Media Mogul Denies Paying to Settle Suits

In early July 2009, an ethical controversy led Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth to cancel plans for a series of "salons" underwritten by lobbyists willing to pay as much as $250,000 for private, off-the-record access to lawmakers and journalists, saying that The Post's business side misrepresented the newspaper's intent in hosting the events.

With the close of another school year, several high school magazines and yearbooks around the country raised the ire of school administrators over their content and the conduct of their staff.

Judge Blocks Publication of Salinger Spinoff Book

A federal district judge prevented publication of a book promoted as a sequel to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (Catcher), finding it bears too many similarities to the classic novel without providing sufficient critique or parody. Fredrik Colting, a Swedish author writing under the pen name John David California, had sought to publish 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye (60 Years)in the United States.

Separate juries in Minneapolis and Boston assessed statutory damages totaling over $2.5 million against people accused of illegally downloading and sharing music in the first two file-sharing copyright cases to go to trial.

A federal judge in Minnesota ruled on April 28, 2009 that CBS does not have to pay to use the names and statistics of National Football League players in its fantasy football league because the information is in the public domain.

In July 2009, a federal judge in Los Angeles threw out a criminal case against a Missouri woman convicted of computer fraud stemming from a 2006 hoax on the Web site MySpace targeting a teenage girl, who later committed suicide.

Judge also Acquits Blogger Accused of Soliciting Violence against Juror

In June 2009, one British court upheld a print journalist's request to keep her sources secret, while another court refused to grant an injunction that would have prevented the unmasking of an anonymous blogger.

The Supreme Court of Ireland has unanimously upheld the right of two Irish Times journalists to refuse to appear before a government tribunal and reveal their source for a 2006 report on a government corruption investigation.

No Special First Amendment Right of Access for Members of the Media

An extensive and ongoing investigation by The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch has reported that the nation's biggest athletic programs interpret a federal law meant to guard students' privacy in widely different ways. The newspaper's findings have sparked a debate over a statute that has long created obstacles for journalists reporting on public higher education institutions.

Some Agencies Seek Public Input on More Openness

The Obama administration continued to fight the release of some Bush-era classified detainee treatment materials, while releasing redacted versions of others in response to FOIA requests. In the meantime, federal courts faced decisions about whether certain materials involved in terrorism trials should be made public.

A California judge ruled on July 15, 2009 that a student photojournalist who witnessed a murder on a San Francisco street is covered by California's reporter shield law and does not have to turn his photos over to police.

Blogger Cannot Claim New Jersey Shield Law

In a case of first impression, a New Jersey trial court judge ruled June 30, 2009 that a blogger and online commenter who was sued for defamation could not claim the state's journalist shield law to protect the confidential sources she used as a basis for publishing allegedly defamatory statements about a corporation.

New Justice Expresses Support for Cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court

Subpoenas involving anonymous online speakers are testing the limits of the journalist's privilege and state shield laws, while courts across the country continue to develop standards for when anonymous speakers should be unmasked.

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