Content Regulation

Need to know how the "fair use" exception to copyright law works? Have you been told to take down something from your site for copyright reasons? Or, has someone else taken your work without permission?

Are you being threatened with revocation of a domain name? Do you need to know what the FCC and FTC are doing to regulate the Internet? (And remember, all of the topics in this guide are relevant to Internet journalism.)

Copyright law gives copyright protection to creative works at the moment of their creation. If someone uses a copyrighted work without permission, the copyright owner can sue for infringement. Journalists need to know both sides of this issue -- how to protect their own works, and how to use someone else's material without infringing their copyright.

Registering a work is simple, as are alternatives to traditional copyright such as Creative Commons. The "hot news doctrine" may also protect news creators and inhibit others.

The "fair use" of copyrighted works is an important concept for all content producers to know.

Many courts have agreed that a journalist who publishes only online can be a reporter for the purposes of shield laws, provided that he or she regularly gathers and disseminates news to the public.

Web sites may be able to protect the identity of anonymous posters, under developing laws or even shield laws.

Restraints on Internet speech are usually not tolerated by courts, although particular speech can often be restrained if it has already been adjudged as libelous.

Common questions

Doing so may expose you to liability under the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the portion of the federal law that prevents people from stripping copyright ownership information from protected works, according to a recent federal appellate ruling on the issue.

More topics:

Though copyright law has long protected writers from unwanted reproduction of their material, the Internet has made it simple to cut, paste and link with the click of a mouse. Lawsuits over shared headlines and links in recent years have driven this intensifying debate over the boundaries of the law. And no court has yet definitively set the limits.

Your liability for content posted to your site by third parties is not limited to defamation. Rather, if you publish the expressive works of others without their permission, you could be liable for copyright infringement.