Content Regulation

This section covers government attempts to regulate certain kinds of content, from the Federal Communications Commission's regulation of broadcasting (specifically indecency) to legislative attempts to "rein in" the Internet. It also covers copyright law, and the use of copyrighted works is regulated by law.

PETA v. Stein

August 11, 2017

The Reporters Committee and 25 media organizations filed an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit in support of a group of plaintiffs challenging North Carolina's "ag gag" statute. N.C. Gen. Stat. 99A-2 creates a civil cause of action by an employer against (1) an employee who enters a nonpublic area of the employer's premises for a reason other than a bona fide intent of seeking or holding employment or doing business and captures or removes information or records images or sounds; (2) any person who places an unattended camera or surveillance device on the employer's premises; or (3) any person who intentionally directs, assists, or induces an individual to violate the act. The Middle District of North Carolina dismissed plaintiffs' case for lack of standing, and plaintiffs appealed.

Letter to Sen. Thune on Facebook inquiry

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.

American Educational Research Association, Inc. v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc.

February 11, 2016

Education associations brought an action in federal court in D.C. for injunctive relief against Public.Resource.Org ("Public Resource") for copyright infringement after Public Resource posted a copy of the 1999 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (“1999 Standards”) on its website. The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in Public Resource\'s favor on February 11, 2016. In the brief, the Reporters Committee argued that copyright law should not be used to restrict access to "the law." Doing so hinders journalists' ability to inform the public about important laws that affect many aspects of American life. Additionally, the Reporters Committee argued that the public and news media have a First Amendment right to communicate the contents of the 1999 Standards -- a right that copyright law cannot be used to overcome because the standards constitute an "idea," a category of information copyright law does not protect.

American Society for Testing and Materials v. Public.Resource.Org

January 11, 2016

ASTM and other standard development organizations sued for copyright infringement after the web site posted standards that had been incorporated into state and federal laws, but were copyrighted and developed by the plaintiffs. In an amicus brief in support of dismissal of the claim before the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the Reporters Committee argued that the practice of charging citizens to view standards incorporated by reference raised First Amendment concerns, and that the First Amendment’s structural role in promoting informed debate and the news media’s ability to check governmental power is limited when access to such information is restricted.

A dancing baby redefines DMCA orders

An appellate court's decision to require fair use considerations before ordering copyright takedowns may help and hurt journalists
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Jennevieve Fong

image from Youtube video

A video that featured a baby dancing to a Prince song led to a decision that copyright holders must consider whether an infringement is a "fair use."

The recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Cir.) to require copyright owners to consider "fair uses" of their work before requesting takedowns may be a double-edged sword for journalists and bloggers who work with online content.

"Dancing Baby" decision on fair use considerations may help and hurt journalists

Jennevieve Fong | Content Regulation | News | September 30, 2015
September 30, 2015

The recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Cir.) to require copyright owners to consider "fair uses" of their work before requesting takedowns may be a double-edged sword for journalists and bloggers who work with online content.

Press association urges president to acknowledge openness, accountability at summit

Kimberly Chow | Content Regulation | News | April 9, 2015
April 9, 2015

The Reporters Committee has forwarded a letter of Inter American Press Association president Gustavo Mohme to Secretary of State John Kerry regarding the 7th Summit of the Americas to be held this week, calling for a declaration that reaffirms a commitment to freedom of expression and access to information.

The IAPA letter calls on President Obama and the other leaders participating in the summit to bear in mind that freedom of expression and of the press is a fundamental human right essential to the functioning of democracy. Public transparency and an environment that empowers diverse ideas are cornerstones of democratic societies, the letter explains.

Clearing the past

E.U.'s "Right To Be Forgotten" gives Google increased editorial obligations
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Danielle Keeton-Olsen

Google's E.U. sites warn users that their searches might be missing results.

One of the most powerful and prominent Internet companies must shoulder a new responsibility: increased editorial control.

Within the European Union, Google and other search engines now must make thousands of decisions to remove links that would appear in searches of individuals’ names.

The mandate upon search engines comes from an E.U. Court of Justice decision that enforces a “right to be forgotten” for its citizens.

Baseball fans, podcasts, and the First Amendment

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This article first appeared in Full Court Press, a blog on sports and the First Amendment by Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP. Used with permission.

By Nathan E. Siegel

A winning image goes viral, a photographer goes unpaid

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Latara Appleby

When I was in college and working for the University of Kentucky student newspaper, I was lucky enough to photograph two NCAA Final Four games and one National Championship.

In March 2012, I drove to New Orleans with three journalism comrades for the big game. The men’s basketball team had been a heavy favorite going into the tournament. As another photographer had told me in an earlier round, it was ours to lose.

Before we left for New Orleans, two of the newspaper’s staff advisers told me, more or less, that quite a bit of ad revenue was contingent on the photo I got of the team celebrating after a win. They reminded me that if the team won, those photos would be used repeatedly for years down the road.