Chapter 12: Law and Ethics: Producing and Disseminating News

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  1. Go to Creative Commons and search for 4–5 images that would be beneficial for you to use in your own multimedia project. Determine the type of licensing attached to each image and whether you could or should use them in relation to copyright infringement.
  2. Go to Creative Commons and decide if you have a photo from a news story you covered that you would submit for re-use. What type of licensing and access would you allow?
  3. Determine the copyright and reuse policies of the local newspaper, news site, or television station for a text story/article, a picture, or a video. Discuss what rights freelancers (or interns) might have in reproducing that material for a personal website or e-portfolio.
  4. Check out the comments policies of a local, a national, and an international news organization’s website and/or Facebook site. What is the policy regarding anonymity and registration for those that allow comments? Do any prevent comments on certain topics and what are the topics where comments are restricted or eliminated?
  5. Poynter Institute’s Regina McCombs has written a strong article arguing against use of music in news stories because of how it alters tone and context. Read her article at: How would you devise a policy regarding music use in multimedia stories?


Links to articles about ethics in online journalism

What are the ethics of online journalism?

Legal guide for bloggers

No one owns the news

Links to articles about plagiarism and copyright

Do-it-yourself copyright protection online

Google Video sued for copyright infringement

NYT Co.’s top lawyer doubts that aggregation is a copyright issue

Pinterest addresses copyright concerns

Google boots music blogs, claiming copyright fouls

If putting photos together in a top 10 list is fair use, what isn’t?

Journalists, fair use and free speech

Defining “fair use” for the digital age

Gawker and the Washington Post: A case study in fair use

Saving journalism from itself? Hot news, copyright fair use and news aggregation

What’s the law around aggregating news online? A Harvard Law report on the risks and the best practices

Is the AP suing an aggregator or a search engine in the Meltwater case?

Bloggers and other online publishers face increasing legal threats

Website admits copyright, “hot news” violations

Who owns the work—The Creative Commons alternative—Hot news

The Barclays case: Will “hot news” limit the right to aggregate news?

The future of the hot news misappropriation tort after Barclays Capital Inc. v.

Links to articles about combating online piracy

What journalists need to know about SOPA [Stop Online Piracy Act]

SOPA copyright bill draws fire

How the Stop Online Piracy Act could impact journalists

Legal and business advice for online publishers and bloggers

Links to articles about website comments policies

No comment
It’s time for news sites to stop allowing anonymous online comments.

Cleaning up comments
When readers spot offensive online comments on Gannett web sites, Pluck Media Solutions jumps into the fray.

Online comments: Dialogue or diatribe?

Maine paper to require verified names for online comments

A 5-minute framework for fostering better conversations in comments sections

People using pseudonyms post the highest-quality comments, Disqus says

5 lessons from how handled comments on Conlin sex abuse stories

New York Times overhauls comment system, grants privileges to trusted readers

Google, Disqus working on new article commenting systems

Assessing legal risks and guidelines for user comments

Ideas for how to make commenting systems work better

The writing on the wall: Why news organizations are turning to outside moderators for help with comments

The comment police
NPR says it’s pleased with the results of its decision to outsource the battle against offensive online comments.

Is Facebook the solution to the obnoxious comment plague?

Links to articles about libel, defamation, and reporters’ privilege

Introduction—Defamatory communication—Publication—Falsity

Reporters’ privilege

SPLC legal brief: Legal protections for journalists’ sources and information

Qualified privilege

What journalists need to know about libelous tweets

Debate about Crystal Cox blogging case misses a key legal point

The real danger in that bloggers-aren’t-journalists ruling

Crystal Cox, Oregon blogger, isn’t a journalist, concludes US court—Imposes $2.5 million judgment on her

Libel ruling provides protection for forums, not individual bloggers

What the Oregon blogger who lost a $2.5 million judgment should have done

Noonan v. Staples: “The most dangerous libel decision in decades”


Cenite, M., Detenber, B. H., Koh, A. W., Kim, A. L., & Soon, N. E. (2009). Doing the right thing online: a survey of bloggers’ ethical beliefs and practices. New Media & Society, pp. 575–597.

Copyright Basics. (2000, September). Retrieved October 20, 2004, from

Goldberg, K. (2009, March 25). A case to watch. Retrieved December 2, 2011, from

Isbell, K. (2010, September 30). The rise of the news aggregator: Legal implications and best practices. Retrieved 2011 from

McBride, K. (2010, February 19). Why plagiarism continues and what writers, editors can do about it. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from

Moos, J. (2011, November 10). Questions over Romenesko’s attributions spur changes in writing, editing. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from

Shafer, J. (2010, February 17). The plagiarist’s dirty dozen excuses. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from

Shepard, A. (2011, Summer). Online comments: Dialogue or diatribe? Retrieved December 2, 2011, from

Thompkins, A. (2006, August 24). Story behind the picture: Who owns JonBenet Photos? Retrieved October 7, 2011, from