Category Archives: law

VIDEO: FOI tips from Matt Burgess

In a guest post for OJB, Anna Noble interviews FOI expert Matt Burgess.

In just 4 years Matt Burgess has already built up an impressive reputation in the media industry. The founder of FOI directory, a site which covers FOI policy, curates the best FOI stories, and provides directories of FOI emails, and the author of a book on the subject, his journalistic career has ranged from a local press agency and a crowdsourcing project to specialist publishing, and now technology bible Wired. Continue reading

Audio copyright: Audioboom vs Soundcloud (Audioboom wins)

soundcloud vs audioboom logo

Earlier this week Nieman Labs reported on audio hosting service SoundCloud‘s ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach to content containing copyrighted material:

“If your content contains any copyrighted material to which you haven’t secured the rights — even if you have a valid fair use claim — SoundCloud may take it down at any time.”

The story came from a podcast hosted – you guessed it – on SoundCloud (also embedded below). It suggested that even if you are adhering to local laws, laws in other countries may trump those. An appeal under US fair use exemptions brought this response from SoundCloud: Continue reading

Curation vs aggregation, and why news organisations can’t be ‘the next LinkedIn’

“We are not a magazine company,” he exclaims, unprompted. “We are a media company with a portfolio.”  “We want to build the next LinkedIn, the next Gilt [a US commerce site], the next Facebook,”

M Scott Havens, senior vice president of digital, Time Inc

What does it mean to be a platform? Time Inc’s M Scott Havens is the latest to express a desire to move into the platform industry, telling The Guardian:

“We want to build the next LinkedIn, the next Gilt [a US commerce site], the next Facebook,”

Platforms came up at the BBC ‘Revival of Local Journalism‘ event last week too. Why weren’t regional newspaper publishers doing more to become ‘platforms’ for their local communities? Continue reading

Causing offence on social media – the best overview yet

Susanna Rustin has written one of the best overviews I’ve yet seen of the growing number of legal cases involving individuals being put in jail for being ‘offensive’ – vital reading if you’re interested in media freedom and media law, given the obvious implications for journalism.

The key law here is the Communications Act 2003, specifically Section 127, which I’ve written about previously in 7 laws journalists now need to know.

Rustin summarises a number of cases where individuals have been prosecuted and jailed under the Act, and focuses in particular on two recent cases relating to social media updates posted following the stabbing of a school teacher.

“The cases of [Jack] Newsome and [Robert] Riley are different. They did not target or menace individuals, and lawyers and human rights campaigners have this week raised concerns about their being jailed for causing offence.”

Former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer, provides some useful legal context and raises his own concerns around how “too many prosecutions for these kinds of offences can have the effect of chilling free speech”:

“There always used to be a protected space, so you could say things in private you could not say in public. With social media there is no protected space, and that’s what there needs to be a debate about. The notions around place and reaction just don’t work with social media. You could have a situation where two people in their living room make remarks to each other for which they would never be arrested, but if they make these remarks by email, they could be, as the legislation covers any public electronic communication system.”

Read the article in full here.

FAQ: Social media and media freedom

More questions from a student as part of the ongoing FAQ series. This time it’s about the role of social media in ‘media freedom’, competition between social media and mainstream media, and credibility of citizen journalists…

1. What effects do you think social media, like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, have had on media freedom?

Given that media freedom is largely about the legal and political framework in which organisations operate, I’d say social media has had very little effect. An analogy would be asking what effect hammers have had on builders’ freedoms: it’s another tool which they can use, but whether they use it and how depends on what happens to them if they do. Continue reading

Test your online journalism law: 5 – witness to a fatal beating

Every day this week I have been publishing an example of a legal dilemma that might face a journalism student (why? Read my previous post on students being publishers, and the responsibilities that come with that). I can’t promise a ‘right answer’ at the end of the week – but I hope you can comment on what a student publisher might do – and why.

Case 5: Your friend witnesses a fatal beating

This isn’t a particularly nice story. Your source tells you that last night she saw a man being beaten so badly that he died afterwards.

You ask questions about where the attack took place, the victim, the attackers, and what was said and done during the attack.

You decide to write a story from what she has told you.

The questions

  1. What are the legal issues here – and what tests need to be met for them to be an issue?
  2. What defence(s) could you mount?
  3. How likely is it that legal action would result?
  4. Would you publish – and why?

Test your online journalism law: 3 – magistrate criticises police

Every day this week I am publishing an example of a legal dilemma that a journalism student might face (why? Read my previous post on students being publishers, and the responsibilities that come with that). I can’t promise a ‘right answer’ at the end of the week – but I hope you can comment on what a student publisher might do – and why.

Case 3: Judge criticises heavy handed police

Here’s another true story. You are attending magistrate’s court in your search for stories. One case related to a breach of bail conditions.

As the defendant hadn’t reported to a police station as required, seven police officers went to his house to find out why. 

The magistrate questioned why it had taken so many police.

“Clearly there is no crime in Heretown if so many police could be spared.”

The defendant was put on an electronic tag instead.

You decide to write a story along the lines of ‘magistrate criticises police’ against the background of the case.

The questions

  1. What are the legal issues here – and what tests need to be met for them to be an issue?
  2. Would you publish – and why?

‘Answers’ and discussion in the comments