10 Questions for Ronald Coleman

Ron Coleman is legal counsel for the Media Bloggers Association, of which I am a charter member. He says a lot here, even though his answers are short. I especially wanted him to talk about the problems broadcasters face as they venture into the blogging world.

1. What kind of requests are you getting in your position as legal counsel for the MBA?

Mostly bloggers in trouble, or anticipating trouble, over something they’ve published — exactly what we’d expect.

2. Are the “rules” any different for bloggers than they are for mainstream media outlets as regards the web?

Nope.

3. Many broadcasters are stuck in a “can’t do it” position, largely because corporate lawyers are putting the brakes on creativity. Why is that the case when bloggers seem unencumbered by such? Why are bloggers more willing to push the envelope?

They are more likely to get away with things, both because they are considered by most people concerned to be less accountable, and because few people care what most bloggers do or say.

4. What’s the best advice you can give a television station general manager as he or she looks at innovating online? How do they approach corporate counsel, if at all?

I don’t think they can afford to be all that innovative! I’m also not that interested in their innovation, as an Internet user.

5. We’re beginning to see bloggers moving into jobs with mainstream media organizations. Have you given any of those people advice? What would it be?

I haven’t, and I can’t imagine what it would be!

6. Creative Commons is largely the friend of the blogging community, but it could be used by broadcasters as well. What’s your view of that?

It won’t happen. Their lawyers won’t let them.

7. What’s the best resource for legal information regarding publishing online?

Frankly, I think it’s ChillingEffects.org, although I disagree with much of their philosophy.

8. You have a unique perspective on the future of the law and web publishing. Look into your crystal ball for a minute and tell us what you see.

I think the major development in the last couple of years has been the cooption of new marginal players by Law.com. I’d like to see someone else invest the money to challenge them.

9. You are also in a unique position to perhaps influence change. If you could change or strengthen any laws in our new paradigm, what would they be?

The laws are fine, but there are too many judges out there without a good feel for intellectual property issues — and to a large extent they don’t understand free speech issues such as fair use and the parody defense. Big companies should not get a pass in litigation merely because they have made big investments in IP “properties,” but they do too often.

10. Finally, there are a lot of frightened people working in mainstream media jobs right now. There’s a great deal of uncertainty about tomorrow. As a guy who works in the media realm, what’s your advice to them?

Always network before you need the job!

And so I ask again the question of broadcasting corporations. Who runs the company, you or your lawyers? It’s perhaps one of the most important questions of the day, for the answer may well determine your fate in the world of Media 2.0.

Comments

  1. Carolyn Dunn says:

    I would be interested in comments from some of you on the rights of the individual web-writer – whether the rights the mainstream press has applies to these independent operations. I ask because I am in the process of starting up a website which will essentially act as a newsletter for the parents of my daughters’ school – in a nutshell, I attend the school advisory board meetings and then write up stories based on what is discussed and post them to the web. I also keep track of the school fundraisers and what they bring in and post that info to the site – the school is a private, catholic school.
    In discussing my plans with the principal, he was less than happy about it, and suggested that my diocese could "prevent me from using the school name" on my site. My question is, what rights do I have as a lone, independent quasi web-journalist? It’s important to note this is not a tabloid – there are no unsubstantiated, salacious stories or innuendo – all of the stories come from what I gather in open meetings and information sent home to parents from the administration. Obviously, if I am threatened with legal action, etc. that would pretty much shut me down, since I don’t have the money to defend that kind of thing, but what I want to know is, what rights do I have? Anybody out there with any thoughts?

    I used to work with Terry, by the way…

  2. find a new school…. or

    most catholic schools are hurting for $ and rely on parental willingness and involvement to get things done.

    it’s sad to hear when someone who sounds like they have good intentions is all but sent packing.

    i would approach other involved parents (male and female) who might regularly use the internet at work and such then take a number of those back to the principal and restate your case.

    what better way to stay connected to the happenings at your child’s school than to be able to do it at all hours?

    the potential for good is enormous.
    and you should be en-couraged not dis.

    if shot down, refer to my initial suggestion. it’s evident they don’t want the parents to know how things are going.

    good luck!

  3. Carolyn (Hi),

    There is no more rule-bound, command-and-control institution than the church. They’re just afraid. You can push back, but they can prevent you from attending the meetings, because it’s a private institution.

    They can’t prevent you from using the school name in reports about the school, for crying out loud. You could simply parody them, but what would that gain?

    They have the power to ban you, so tread carefully. As for legal action, forget about it. You could always go to the local media, LOL.

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