September 2010 Archives

Online Anonymity Continues to Challenge Courts, Plaintiffs

In spring and summer of 2010, courts around the country issued rulings on whether websites must reveal the identities of anonymous commenters in response to subpoenas, adding to the growing jurisprudence on an evolving legal problem. Meanwhile, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling might limit First Amendment protection for anonymous online speech that can be considered "commercial speech."

In Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the U.S. Supreme Court will address whether the First Amendment bars the state of California from restricting the sale of violent video games to minors. This year’s Silha Lecturer, Paul Smith, will argue on behalf of the video game dealers’ group in that case. Smith’s lecture, titled “Not Child’s Play: The Misguided Effort to Regulate Violent Video Games” will take place on Monday, Oct. 18, 2010.

Robinson Joins Campaign; Critics Claim Conflict of Interest

After 20 years at Fox affiliate KMSP (Fox 9), Twin Cities news anchor Robyne Robinson announced her retirement from broadcast journalism on May 11, 2010, shortly before being named gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza’s running mate for lieutenant governor on May 27. The timing of Robinson’s departure, as well as Fox 9’s decision to allow her to remain on the air briefly without acknowledging the offer from the Entenza campaign, prompted criticism of both Robinson and her employer over a potential conflict of interest.

GLBT Magazine Walks Perilous Ethical Line by 'Outing' Pastor

A Twin Cities magazine’s “outing” of a controversial anti-gay rights pastor in June 2010 focused national attention on the issue of whether, when, and how the news media should report on hypocrisy among outspoken critics of gay rights.

A Reporter, a General, and the Ethics of Covering the War

In the wake of a controversial article in Rolling Stone that led to the dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a debate emerged within the journalistic community about the unofficial rules that bind beat reporters, and the potential chilling effect the scandal may have on media coverage of the military.

On May 31, 2010, the Commonwealth of Virginia and James Madison University's (JMU) student newspaper reached a settlement in a six-week dispute over access to hundreds of photos of a campus riot in April. Using a search warrant, the Commonwealth's Attorney had seized the photos in a raid on April 16.

Two bloggers whose inflammatory posts landed them in legal trouble have found little relief from federal prosecutors or courts.

In a decision that could have sweeping implications for copyright law, a federal judge in New York ruled on June 23, 2010 in favor of Google, which owns YouTube, dismissing a $1 billion lawsuit in which the film and television company Viacom alleged widespread copyright infringement by the popular video-sharing website.

News Media Seek Legal Tools to Protect Original Content

Battle Lines Drawn in 'Hot News' and Copyright Lawsuits

Legal battles continue between traditional news producers and online sources like blogs and so-called news aggregators, which take original content and republish it without payment or attribution to the original source. Copyright law—and particularly "hot news" claims—have been at the forefront of the issue.

Online Anonymity Continues to Challenge Courts, Plaintiffs

In spring and summer of 2010, courts around the country issued rulings on whether websites must reveal the identities of anonymous commenters in response to subpoenas, adding to the growing jurisprudence on an evolving legal problem. Meanwhile, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling might limit First Amendment protection for anonymous online speech that can be considered "commercial speech."

On August 10, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act, meant to protect U.S. writers and speakers against “libel tourism,” a practice whereby libel plaintiffs sue Americans—and often win large damages—in countries with weaker speech protection laws than those of the United States.

Appeals Court Narrows, Upholds Subpoena for Film Outtakes

On July 16, 2010, a federal appeals court limited a subpoena for 600 hours of raw footage from a documentary about an international lawsuit between Chevron Corp. and Ecuadorian citizens who allege the oil company is responsible for environmental contamination.

The Supreme Court of Canada handed down two rulings in May and June of 2010 that could have a significant impact on newsgathering there.

Transparency Advocates Protest SEC's New FOIA Exemption

A provision in the financial regulatory reform act drew criticism over the charge that it unnecessarily exempts Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) information and records from federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The expulsion of four reporters from the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, along with two court rulings related to detainees and the hearings being conducted there--all of which occurred in the summer of 2010--highlighted the strained relationship between the Pentagon and U.S. media over coverage of the controversial base.

As efforts continued in the Gulf of Mexico to stanch the worst oil spill in U.S. history, news organizations accused British Petroleum (BP) of denying access to news agencies attempting to document the disaster.

On June 21, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that the federal government may constitutionally block speech and other forms of advocacy supporting foreign groups that have been labeled terrorist, even if the support is directed toward the groups' humanitarian or peaceful activities.

Scalia Concurs, but Criticizes Majority for 'Opaque' Opinion

On June 17, 2010, the Supreme Court handed down Ontario v. Quon, in which it unanimously declined to articulate a clear rule governing Fourth Amendment expectations of privacy in work-issued electronic communication devices, instead narrowly holding that a particular employee's rights were not violated.

Kagan Confirmed; Provides Few Hints on Media Law Views

The summer of 2010 once again included the nomination and confirmation of a new U.S. Supreme Court justice. But like Justice Sonia Sotomayor's ascent to the Court in the summer of 2009, the proceedings involving Justice Elena Kagan provided fodder for ample news coverage but little more than hints about her position on issues of media law.

WikiLeaks' Document Dump Sparks Debate

Anti-Secrecy Agenda Raises Concerns for Safety, Security

The website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of classified U.S. military documents on the Internet on July 25, 2010, igniting a debate about leaks, law, ethics, journalism, and national security on the digital frontier.

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