Briefs & Comments

  • June 22, 2016

    In testimony prepared for the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Bruce Brown tells lawmakers that the time has come to enact a federal anti-SLAPP law.

  • June 15, 2016

    Jesse Friedman was denied access to witness statements provided to local law enforcement under the confidential source exemption in New York's Freedom of Information Law. The Reporters Committee and 19 media organizations argued that the Second Department of the Appellate Division erred in concluding that non-testifying witness statements are categorically exempt under FOIL. Not only are blanket exemptions contrary to FOIL, but the holding below is contrary to those of the other Departments in the Appellate Division and the United States Supreme Court. Access to witness statements is also crucially important for the press to keep the public informed about the activities of law enforcement agencies, which counsels against a blanket exemption for such statements. 

  • June 13, 2016

    The Reporters Committee submitted administrative comments to the Department of Labor recommending that it modify its Privacy Act routine uses so that OGIS can better fulfill its statutory duties under FOIA. 

  • June 10, 2016

    This federal Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, case arises out of the refusal of the FBI, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice to release records requested by Freedom of the Press Foundation regarding the FBI’s use of national security letters (“NSLs”) and exigent letters to obtain the toll billing records of journalists. The Reporters Committee, joined by 37 media organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of Freedom of the Press Foundation's opposition to the Government's motion for summary judgment to emphasize the critical importance to the press and the public of access to information about the manner in which the FBI seeks to use legal process to obtain the toll billing records of reporters and news organizations.

  • June 7, 2016

    Two animal protection organizations and a woman arrested while documenting events at an agricultural site from a public road have challenged Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-112, known as an "ag-gag" statute, as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The statute criminalizes recording images and sounds of agricultural production facilities without the facility owner's express consent. The Reporters Committee, joined by 17 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Amici explain that journalists and other organizations have a long history of improving food safety by exposing violations in agriculture productions. Utah's "ag-gag" statute interferes with the First Amendment rights of those continuing to inform the public about food safety, the treatment of animals, and environmental concerns.

  • May 31, 2016

    Dr. Edward Tobinick sued Dr. Steven Novella for unfair competition, trade libel, and libel per se in federal court after Novella published two online articles about what Novella believed were Tobinick's unproven practice of treating Alzheimer's disease and strokes with the drug Embrel. Tobinick also sued Novella under the Lanham Act for the same publications. The Reporters Committee, with 24 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit arguing the District Court properly dismissed Tobinick's state claims under the California anti-SLAPP statute and federal claims under the Lanham Act. The brief asserts the District Court correctly applied the California anti-SLAPP statute in federal court because the statute does not conflict with the federal rules and is a substantive protection, not a procedural rule.

  • May 27, 2016

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to Sen. John Thune raising concerns about his committee's request from Facebook for information regarding its Trending Topics feature.

  • May 11, 2016

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press asked Minnesota lawmakers to amend right-of-publicity legislation, called the PRINCE Act, to provide safeguards for constitutional rights. In its letter, the Reporters Committee urged Minnesota legislature to explicitly avoid regulating any form of political, artistic or other socially relevant expression by limiting themselves to commercial products that imply an endorsement or other connection to the individual.

  • May 6, 2016

    The Reporters Committee and others filed a brief in support of a newspaper's request for review to the South Carolina Supreme Court, in a case that turns on what is required to show "actual malice" on the part of a journalist. 

  • May 4, 2016

    The ACLU of Southern California and Electronic Frontier Foundation are suing Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the City of Los Angeles under California\'s Public Records Act for records generated by the law enforcement agency's use of automated license plate readers. This case concerns whether information collected by police using "automated license plate readers" - high-speed cameras that automatically scan and record the license plate numbers and time, date and location of every passing vehicle without suspicion of criminal activity - constitute law enforcement "records of . . . investigations" that are permanently exempt from disclosure. We argued that the agencies proposed a definition of "records of . . . investigations" that would expand the exemption beyond recognition.

  • April 28, 2016

    The Reporters Committee and other news organizations submitted comments to the Canadian Office of the Privacy Commissioner, urging it not to consider adopting a "right to be forgotten" as part of its privacy program.

  • April 18, 2016

    Former NFL fullback James (Jim) Brown claims Electronic Arts violated his right of publicity after including his biographical and statistical information in Madden NFL, a video game that allows users to simulate NFL games and play as their favorite NFL players. The Reporters Committee, with eight other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in the California Court of Appeal arguing that the First Amendment shields EA's limited use of Brown's likeness in a constitutionally protected video game because it contains speech on matters of public interest and does not survive strict scrutiny as a content-based restriction. Brown's claims are also barred under California's public affairs exemption and applicable case law. Amici further contend EA's speech must be protected to prevent chilling effects on speech and encourage the news industry to continue evolving as technology advances.

  • March 30, 2016

    After media organizations received copies of a police shooting video because the federal district court would not stay its order pending appeal, the City of Gardena appealed to the Ninth Circuit, arguing that in such cases a stay should be automatic. In our amicus brief, we argued that the current standard for imposing a stay was sufficient; no stay should be allowed if the party cannot show there is an irreparable injury that is more important than the public interest at stake. The public interest in seeing exactly what happened in a police shooting, particularly where police paid a settlement with the express purpose of keeping the video secret, is overwhelming in this case, the brief argued.

  • March 22, 2016

    Courthouse News Service (CNS) has asked the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to grant a motion for summary judgment in a case CNS filed against the Ventura County Superior Court over policies the court instituted that delay access to newly filed civil complaints. As part of its business model, CNS has a team of reporters that regularly review and report on complaints the day they are filed. CNS’s ability to inform the public about important judicial actions is hindered when its reporters cannot access complaints in a timely manner. The Reporters Committee and 12 other media organizations, writing in support of CNS's motion for summary judgment, argued that a First Amendment right of access attaches to civil complaints immediately upon the document’s submission to the court. Additionally, the Reporters Committee stressed that timeliness is a fundamental element of newsworthiness.

  • February 26, 2016

    Two college basketball players assert that T3Media violated their rights of publicity after T3Media operated, with the approval of the NCAA, Paya.com, a website that allowed members of the public to view and purchase non-exclusive licenses to photographs copyrighted by the NCAA. In the amicus brief, which 22 organizations joined, the Reporters Committee argued that T3Media’s use of the photographs constituted speech fully protected by the First Amendment. Accordingly, we asserted that the Plaintiffs could not restrict the dissemination of the photographs without showing a narrowly tailored compelling state interest — a standard they could not satisfy by asserting publicity rights. The brief further argued that the right of publicity is best viewed as a doctrine designed to prevent the unauthorized use of an individual’s name or likeness in connection with the advertisement of a product, and is not designed to restrict the dissemination of noncommercial speech.