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Profs Help Bloggers Navigate the Law

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

From Maine to California, bloggers and other online contributors are being hauled into court as lawsuits relating to online publishing mount. News organizations have lawyers to train and protect their staff journalists. They are prepared to anticipate and guard against legal risk related to a host of possible claims, including libel, newsgathering transgressions, privacy violations, and copyright and trademark infringement.

But what can bloggers and other citizen contributors do to protect themselves against legal risk?

CUNY Prof. Geanne Rosenberg, in collaboration with professor and internationally known blogger Jeff Jarvis, is at work on the Top Ten Rules for Limiting Legal Risk. Rosenberg is a non-practicing lawyer and journalist who has written extensively about media and Internet law. Both Rosenberg and Jarvis are on faculty at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

This online training module for bloggers and other citizen journalists will offer, in addition to some clear rules and guidelines, in-depth information, training, and access to legal resources.

The Project is being supported in part by a $50,000 grant to CUNY from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and by resources from CUNY and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

In writing the module, Rosenberg will be consulting with lawyers from the nation’s leading organization of media lawyers — the Media Law Resource Center. She also will be collaborating with Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. The collaboration with Berkman is intended to help bring outstanding legal information and resources to citizen journalists.

The blogger legal risk module is being written and designed for a lay audience and is scheduled for completion this year.

In addition to helping online contributors avoid legal trouble by enabling them to more safely gather and publish newsworthy information, the module’s training will promote quality and accuracy in citizen journalist reporting and content.

“The Knight Foundation has identified a clear and growing need in the world of online journalism,” said Stephen B. Shepard, dean of the School. “We are pleased to partner with the Foundation to address this need.”