Last week we launched the first sections of the Citizen Media Law Project’s Legal Guide. The guide is intended for
use by citizen media creators with or without formal legal training, as
well as others with an interest in these issues, and addresses the legal issues that you may encounter as
you gather information and publish your work online. You can read the press release here.

The Legal Guide, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,
covers the 15 most populous U.S. states and the District of Columbia
and will focus on the wide range of legal issues online publishers are
likely to face, including risks associated with publication, such as defamation and privacy torts; intellectual property; access to government information; newsgathering; and general legal issues involved in setting up a business.

For last week’s launch we started where we think most of you would likely start, with sections on

  • Forming a Business and Getting Online,
    which covers the practical issues to consider in deciding how to carry
    on your online publishing activities, including forming a for-profit
    and nonprofit business entity, choosing an online platform, and dealing
    with critical legal issues relating to the mechanics of online
    publishing.
  • Dealing with Online Legal Risks,
    which covers managing your site and reducing your legal risks, finding
    insurance, finding legal help, and responding to the different kinds of
    legal threats you may face as a result of your online publishing
    activities.

You can search the Legal Guide,
browse by state, or simply navigate through it like a book. Because of
its enormous scope, we can’t create this legal guide alone. We need
your help
to keep the information accurate and up to date. If you see something
we’ve missed or gotten wrong, please let us know by using our contact form.

The Legal Guide follows the successful launch in November of the Citizen Media Law Project’s Legal Threats Database, an interactive compendium of legal threats directed at online speech.  The database contains lawsuits, subpoenas, and other types of legal threats from 37 states and 11 countries.  These threats range from copyright infringement lawsuits filed against bloggers to cease and desist letters claiming defamation sent to MySpace users.  Visitors to the Citizen Media Law Project can input new threat entries, comment on existing threats, and search the database in a number of ways, including by location, legal claim, publication medium, and content type.

Throughout the spring, we will roll out a new section (or two) of the Legal Guide each
month. If you would like to stay abreast of new material in the guide, please sign up for our weekly newsletter, the Citizen Media Law
Brief
.