News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Law

June 15, 2010

NYT/Pulse iPad app flap: Legal, branding, technical controversy

Last week a controversy erupted between Apple Computer and the New York Times over a slick, popular iPad newsreader app. Pulse is a nice-looking, easy-to-use RSS feed reader on steroids, and it sells for $3.99. And it was one of the top-selling iPad apps.

...When it was available, that is. NY Times lawyers complained to Apple that Pulse violated their copyright. On June 8, as Kara Swisher of All Things D reported, Apple removed Pulse from the App Store for a few hours. The app was reinstated quickly—but as of today Pulse is no longer available in the App Store. It’s unknown when Pulse was most recently yanked from the App Store, or whether the removal is permanent this time.

This flap highlights the need for news organizations and other content publishers to understand RSS feeds: What it means to make your content available via RSS, and the pros/cons of restricting RSS syndication or access…

In the past week, lawyers, app developers, and journalists have been discussing whether the Pulse controversy means the New York Times has declared war on feed readers. The Citizen Media Law Project voiced skepticism on that front.

The June 13 episode of the This Week In Law podcast features a great roundup of views on the copyright and other legal aspects involved. It’s must-listen material for anyone in the news or publishing business who wants to understand the opportunities, pitfalls, and tradeoffs of RSS syndication.

July 06, 2010

News (and Newsrooms) in the Networking Age

If you’re trying to wrap your head around the transformation of the media industry, a good place to start might be the idea of “perestroika”—the old Soviet term that described the dramatic restructuring of its most mature institutions. That, in fact, is the theme for an industry gathering in Philadelphia later this month that explores the transformation of computing, communications, business, and society in the Network Age, while asking the question: After everything is connected, “what’s next?”

The July 29-30 Supernova forum, co-hosted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is produced by Kevin Werbach, a former FCC technology official and organizer of the PC Forum with Esther Dyson. Technologists, entrepreneurs, business executives, investors, and policymakers will come together to discuss three overarching themes.—evolving digital infrastructure and platforms, models for networked business innovation, and transforming or replacing established institutions.

Tech policy forum participants include White House official Beth Noveck, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, Google’s Washington counsel Richard Whitt and BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis. And other participants will also lead discussion at afternoon unconferences and “challenge sessions.”

Check out the agenda and register here.

If, on the other hand, you’re just trying to figure out the restructuring of your own newsroom, the gathering for you might be the International Newsroom Summit in London, Sept. 8-9.

Speakers and attendees include many European newspaper publishers, but Editor & Publisher reports The New York Time’s Arthur Sulzberger Jr., will be on the program, along with top Washington Post newsroom exec Raju Narisetti.

The key question: what does the new generation newsroom look like, and how does it operate? Discussions are around topics like newsroom synergies, smartphone publishing, innovative storytelling and paid content.  Register here.

September 10, 2010

Upcoming events: Community news in Chicago, media law in Atlanta and Web 2.0 in New York

Three notable events come up later this month - from an intimate get-together for community news publishers to the crowds in the sprawling halls of Web 2.0 Expo, with a meeting of media legal minds in between.

(HT to Webb Media Group)

June 07, 2011

New legal guide for digital journalists

This week, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press published its Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide—a resource for anyone who is disseminating news online…

The main topics covered are:

  • Newsgathering. Rules for open records and meetings, court access, and access to events or places.
  • Protecting and defending your work. How to protect sources, fight subpoenas, and what to do if you’re threatened with a libel lawsuit libel.
  • Understanding the law. Basic internet regulation, how to protect a domain name, copyright and trademark law, fair use, and more.

You can select a state to view additional content in the guide related to that state.

So far this guide can be viewed only via your web browser—but it’s the kind of content that would make an excellent downloadable app for on-the-spot reference.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

March 14, 2012

Federal court backs fair use, punishes copyright troll

The principle of fair use just got a significant legal boost. Last week a federal judge ordered the controversial firm Righthaven to forfeit all of the copyrights it had been enforcing on behalf of publishers…

In their detailed analysis of the decision, the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted: “The judgment—part of the nuisance lawsuit avalanche started by copyright troll RighthavenDemocratic Underground did not infringe the copyright in a Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper article when a user of the online political forum posted a five-sentence excerpt, with a link back to the newspaper’s website.

“Judge Roger Hunt’s judgment confirms that an online forum is not liable for its users’ posts, even if it was not protected by the safe harbors of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s notice and takedown provisions. The decision also clarifies that a common practice on the Internet—excerpting a few sentences and linking to interesting articles elsewhere—is a fair use, not an infringement of copyright.”

Previously, MediaNews Group entered into a deal with Righthaven that allowed Righthaven to sue infringers of content from the Denver Post and other MNG papers, and the two organizations would share the proceeds. Last summer, when Digital First took over management of MNG papers, CEO John Paton severed ties with Righthaven—calling it a “dumb idea.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

August 09, 2012

Review: RCFP “first aid” app for journalists

Recently the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press launched a free “first aid” mobile app to give reporters in the field immediate access to legal resources, especially when encountering obstacles to newsgathering or access. Here are some reasons why anyone who commits acts of journalism should have it on their smartphone—and what news publishers can learn from this type of publishing project…

This app is basically an e-book which you download as an app and customize with information specific to your state—and which RCFP periodically updates with fresh information. For resource guides where information changes often, this is probably a better approach than publishing a traditional e-book, and certainly much more mobile-friendly (and user-friendly) than publishing in pdf or print format.

The app covers these six legal topic areas:

  • Newsgathering
  • Court access
  • Public meetings
  • Public records
  • Confidential sources
  • Libel


When you first download this app, select all the states where you do reporting. For instance, if you report even occasionally from one or more neighboring states—and especially if you cover courts, where venue changes can carry local cases into another state’s courts—it’s a good idea to select all the states you may be reporting from. You can add or remove states from your list at any time.

With state customization, when you access relevant sections of this guide to get answers you’ll see a short overview of the topic at hand followed by state subheadings with additional info, including citations for relevant state laws. This can be helpful if you need to, say, press for access to a closed meeting that should be public. Knowing which law to cite can help persuade an official barring the door who may not be as familiar with legal requirements.

You can also search the text of the app’s content.

The RCFP app also has also a “hotline” feature, where you can place a call or send an e-mail to RCFP for immediate legal answers and assistance. And soon this app will connect journalists to RCFP’s new hotlines for both the Republican National Convention (Aug. 27-30, Tampa, FL) and Democratic National Convention (Sept. 4-6, Charlotte, NC). Presumably the app will also add convention-specific content as well.

This guide is a great example of how to deploy a useful mobile resource that communicates a body of knowledge and actionable tips. There are some opportunities for improvement, of course.

First of all, it would be helpful if users could create text, voice, photo, or video annotations to relevant pages in their copy of their apps, and then have the option of saving them offline, sending them to others, or sharing them back to RCFP. This could enrich the body of knowledge RCFP has amassed, and also provide useful feedback and case studies to further improve and promote this app.

Also this app could (and probably should) also be implemented as a mobile web app—a mobile-friendly interactive web site that can be viewed through a browser on a mobile device. This would offer the significant benefits of search visibility and direct linkability.

For instance, imagine that a reporter who never heard of this app is unexpectedly forbidden access to a courtroom. She would probably call her editor, or reach out to colleagues or social media, or quickly search Google for fast answers and options. If all this content was available on the web, the Google search would deliver relevant pages—perhaps even state-specific info from RCFP, since Google mobile search results are inherently weighted by location.

Similarly, if this apps content was simultaneously deployed via a mobile-friendly website (and if both versions were served from the same content management system to keep them synchronized), the reporter’s editor, colleagues, or social media contacts could send her a direct link to the relevant information. She then could view this in the web browser of her phone, tablet, netbook, or laptop without having to download or install anything. These pages also could advertise and facilitate the download of the mobile app.

A joint downloadable/web app deployment would enable another possibly popular and useful feature: the ability to share links to relevant pages of app content via e-mail, text message, social media, and more.

Still, making all this information available first as a freestanding downloadable app is useful, since you might easily end up reporting from a location that lacks good (or any) wifi or cell signal.

Community publishers might consider this app not just as a useful resource for their own reporters and community members, but also as an example of how to deploy a mobile-friendly resource for your community.

For instance, if your news venue often covers topics such as the school system or harassment by local law enforcement, a mobile guide that offers current context, law/regulations, resources (including phone numbers and e-mail addresses), tips and advice, and your recent or important coverage could prove quite popular with community members. This approach might help promote your news brand—and perhaps also provide new direct or indirect revenue options.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.