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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Bloggers and the Law: Two Online Legal Guides

BuzzMachine founder and proprietor Jeff Jarvis posted two links February 1, 2008, that should be of great benefit to bloggers. Wrote Jarvis:

My colleague at CUNY, Prof. Geanne Rosenberg, has just put up an online course for bloggers and media practitioners of any stripe with the 10 things you need to know to stay out of court.
Jarvis also noted that, "For a graduate-level course with lots of in-depth details, the amazing Berkman [Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School] is, at the same time, putting online a legal guide with information on such topics as setting up a publishing business."

Thanks, Jeff. That's why I try to read you daily. There's always something of value.

If you want to read Jeff's entire post, see "For bloggers: A stay-out-of-jail card."

By the way, as a litigation paralegal since 1991 and a former freedom of information officer, newsletter publisher and image journalist, I always think about the legal implications of what I write. I also follow changes in the law, especially as it relates to Internet publishing, copyrights and fair use.

In fact, I'm currently taking advantage of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's OpenCourseWare offering Introduction to Copyright Law through video lectures. According to the course description:

This course is an introduction to copyright law and American law in general. Topics covered include: structure of federal law; basics of legal research; legal citations; how to use LexisNexis®; the 1976 Copyright Act; copyright as applied to music, computers, broadcasting, and education; fair use; Napster®, Grokster®, and Peer-to-Peer file-sharing; Library Access to Music Project; The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act; DVDs and encryption; software licensing; the GNU® General Public License and free software.
I'm fairly familiar with the "structure of federal law; basics of legal research; legal citations; how to use LexisNexis®; the 1976 Copyright Act; copyright as applied to music." I use LexisNexis almost daily for legal research in my day job.

I learned the foundation of the U.S. legal system, legal research, etc. at Roosevelt University in Chicago and in continuing legal education course and through continuous independent reading and research. It has served me well. The key is not knowing everything about the law, but how to research what you don't know and how to analyze it.

As an independent blogger, it is imperative that you be prepared if an intimidating, legal complaint is served on you for something you wrote. If you know something about the law, it won't seem so intimidating.

Finally, I recommend free, non-credit courses such as that offered by MIT, Stanford and a number of other universities as a means to become familiar with the law, if you are unfamiliar with it, and don't want to formally go to into law or paralegal studies.

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