On Friday, BU held a conference called New Media and the Marketplace of Ideas, co-sponsored by COM and the School of Law, WBUR and a local law firm. Much of what was addressed was an effort to answer the question: How does communications law apply to the new media landscape?
For the most part, it seems like the answer is the same for citizen media and traditional journalism. It's just important to remember bloggers don't get any special privileges. So, as a reminder:
- Minors should be provided with parental consent forms if they are to be interviewed. This issue apparently comes up a lot with hyperlocal media because high school sports players and other students are often the focus of reports.
- CCTV is not responsible for content, so aside from basic editing, no staff member can interfere with the content of the blog. (See Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. This also holds users who comment on blog entries unaccountable unless the user comments themselves contain defamatory content.)
- Citizen journalists are held to the same standards of accuracy and professionalism as professional journalists. This means they can be held responsible for defamation, libel and all those types of violations.
So be careful when you're blogging, and heed the advice of one of the seasoned lawyers at the conference who reminded the audience that citizen journalists are not immune to the law: "As long as there are bloggers," he said, "there will be lawyers."