Reporters Committee launches new Digital Journalist's Legal Guide

Press Release | June 6, 2011

An interactive reference to the myriad legal issues specifically facing reporters who are working online has joined the library of free, online media law guides available on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website.

The Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide is designed to assist anyone who is disseminating news online, from an independent blogger to a reporter for a major media outlet, as well as media lawyers active in this area.

Topic areas include:

  • Gathering News and Getting Information, such as rules for open records and meetings, access to courts, and newsgathering right of access to events/places.
  • Protecting and Defending Your Work, explaining what to do to protect sources and fight subpoenas, steps to take if there’s a threat or actual lawsuit libel, and how to handle invasion of privacy concerns.
  • Knowing the Legal Restrictions which covers understanding basic Internet regulation and how to protect a domain name, and copyright and trademark law covering both original work and “fair use” of other materials.

Each subject area is divided into easy-to-access sections with quick background on that area of the law, answers to common questions, and links to additional topics within that subject, related news items from around the Web, and legal analysis from Reporters Committee publications.

In addition to its original material written specifically for digital media, the Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide is completely integrated with the reference materials already on the Reporters Committee website including the Federal and State Open Government Guides, The First Amendment Handbook, and The Reporters Privilege Compendium. The guide will be constantly updated as new publications, cases and questions arise.

“The Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide continues the expansion of Reporters Committee legal resources to serve the increasing number of journalists whose work appears online. It is unique not only in the scope of topics covered, but also in its nationwide reach,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “And as the law inevitably evolves so, too, will this resource.”

Founded in 1970 to combat an increase in subpoenas seeking reporters' confidential sources, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to more than 2,000 working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee sets up special event reporters' hotlines, is a party in amicus briefs and statements of support, and it offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists year-round. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.