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April 14, 2014, 11:42 a.m.
LINK: www.dmlp.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Caroline O'Donovan   |   April 14, 2014

digital-media-law-project-dmlp-cmlpWhat are the biggest legal issues affecting online news organizations, large and small? One group that has a unique perspective on that question is Harvard’s Digital Media Law Project, which for more than four years has run the Online Media Legal Network, which provides pro bono or low-cost legal services to digital publishers.

In a new report out today, DMLP’s Jeff Hermes and Andy Sellars look at the 500-plus cases they’ve handled and try to determine some trends in the legal questions they’re being asked — around issues like contract negotiations, corporate law issues, intellectual property, other types of litigation, risk management, and news gathering. Here’s a summary of some of their main findings:

Those who have sought help from the OMLN overwhelmingly create their own original content, rather than aggregate the content of others. Many also provide support services to other journalists, platforms for users to talk to one another, or tools to access primary source information.

While some clients report on niche issues, many more are focused on reporting news of general interest, either to the public at large or local audiences. Non-profit clients show a greater focus on reporting on social issues such as health and education than for-profit or individual clients.

OMLN clients show significant evidence of forward planning. They are more often proactive than reactive to legal issues, frequently seeking assistance with intellectual property, content liability, and corporate questions before crises occur.

Individual clients not employed by an organization, and those clients who reported on businesses or to consumer audiences, sought help defending against legal threats more often than other clients. This indicates a particular need for greater litigation assistance among these categories.

The advice sought by OMLN clients with regard to intellectual property matters shows a near-perfect balance between protecting their own content and using the content of others

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