Bloggers Could Get The Same Protections As Journalists, As Long As They're In It For The Money

from the splitting-hairs dept

There have been a number of cases in which it’s been argued that bloggers and other independent writers don’t deserve the same legal protection as “real” journalists, with a notable example being Apple’s lawsuits to force some sites to reveal their sources of some leaked product info. While Apple won the first round, an appeals court overturned the decision, saying that state shield laws (which protect journalists from such suits) are “intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news,” regardless of whether the person doing the gathering and dissemination is called a journalist or something else. A Congressional committee has now approved a federal shield law that would protect anyone who gets “financial gain or livelihood” from their journalistic pursuits, regardless of affiliation. If the measure’s approved and signed into law (which seems unlikely given the Bush administration’s opposition to it), it would extend protection to bloggers, so long as they were trying to make money from their online efforts. Obviously that’s a pretty wide standard, and one that most bloggers could easily live up to by getting some form of advertising, or at least attempting to get some, on their sites. Some legislators say it’s far too broad, but a bigger question would seem to be why financial gain is the sole criteria. Certainly there are plenty of people who write blogs or create other online media in a professional or moneymaking capacity, but there are plenty of others who aren’t in it for the money. Just because someone isn’t looking to make money from their online work shouldn’t automatically mean they don’t deserve the protection of shield laws.

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Bloggers Could Get The Same Protections As Journalists, As Long As They're In It For The Money”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Trerro says:

Shohat, while it’s true that many blogs simply repeat news from other sources, or link to it and discuss it, that is not by any means true of all of them. It’s hardly a ‘rare case’ for a story to appear on a blog first (or only), especially if it’s something that the mainstream news is hesitant to pick up – especially since 90% of the mainstream news is Reuters + AP – if those 2 companies don’t approve, it’s probably not getting far.
News blogging serves 2 purposes, and yes, one of the them is to just discuss already published news, but the other is indeed original news, and it’s not at all rare to see it.

Making ‘financial gain’ the reason for protection is pretty silly, but at least it’s an easy standard to live up to. Running a blog and don’t want to advertise or take donations? Slap a really tiny donate link that only appears in the corner of your ‘about me’ page, and you’re good to go. 🙂

It sucks that Bush would veto something that basically simply ensures freedom of the press, but to say the least, constitutional rights aren’t something the Bush administration is a fan of (gitmo, shipping interrogations overseas, warantless wiretapping and net monitoring, etc, etc.)

Mark (user link) says:

More muddled thinking

Ok, let’s say this becomes an accepted concept. I’m a professional journalist, and I blog. Except I don’t get money for my blog. So where does that leave me? Do I have to prove the comments I make in my blog are to make money, or just writing for the hell of it? This seems remarkably like the Python ‘is this the right room for an argument’ sketch, where the one guy says,’I might be arguing in my spare time…’.
Shohat’s idea that Bloggers just rehash other sources is a generalisation that isn’t supported by proper investigation.

Enrico Suarve says:

As always its about the money

So what exactly happens with a paper that’s losing money (not an uncommon circumstance these days)

Do they lose their press rights?

And since when did the bill of rights only protect people who are making money from their endeavours? Freedom of the press is one of the checks and balances included in the consitution for the purposes of oversight (in this case the publics oversight)

At the time of its writing the press was the only real way of getting information into the public domain at large – I honestly beleive that if Jefferson and his boys were around today it would state something more along the lines of protecting ‘peoples sources when the news is to be placed in the public domain’

America takes yet another step towards the all encompassing alter of the dollar – kneel or be audited

Overcast says:

Well – look at it this way.

Buy a small amount of stock in the companies where you advertise or the companies who advertise on their site.

Then – you do have a vested interest in that business.

Plus, if nothing else you can say you are writing it ‘For your Livelihood’ – since communications is key in any business, you are simply honing your skills used for business. Educational… leading to increasing your livelihood.

After a quick peek at it…

(2) COVERED PERSON- The term `covered person’ means a person engaged in journalism and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.

(3) DOCUMENT- The term `document’ means writings, recordings, and photographs, as those terms are defined by Federal Rule of Evidence 1001 (28 U.S.C. App.).

(4) FEDERAL ENTITY- The term `Federal entity’ means an entity or employee of the judicial or executive branch or an administrative agency of the Federal Government with the power to issue a subpoena or issue other compulsory process.

(5) JOURNALISM- The term `journalism’ means the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.

We can all be considered ‘affiliates’ in any event. Seems like it protects regardless of possible income.

bewilderedbeast (profile) says:


Everything I say can be held against me in a court of law and by my employer.

The truth is, whether you are online making statements or on the street corner playing town-crier, our communications have direct and real financial impacts. A journalist who blogs for free is no less developing their professional craft than any blogger or any other unpaid writer. If the economic litmus test is financial impact, then it’s a no-brainer: protection via shield laws will apply to all.

I worry more about what they aren’t telling us: is there something in the latest TSA bill they know will negate this? Are there further plans to quash even more civil liberties than have already be seriously restricted or just plain vanished? OR is this all just smoke and mirrors to get through another legislative session appearing to watch out for our interests while pocketing millions in lobbying perks?

Black and White says:

Frankly, no matter what means of communication is used, free speach should be covered so should responsability for libel and slander if the source is unfounded.

All of our freedoms have a cost and limits when they infinge on the rights of others. you have thr freedom to say whatever you want but be aware that there may be a price to be paid if you are in the wrong.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...