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: congress, first amendment, politics

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  1. identicon
    Trerro, 1 Aug 2007 @ 10:58pm

    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.)

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