So you read about those bloggers who wrote about Apple, and Apple sued them and insisted they reveal their sources? Apart from this being a rather nasty way of treating their own fans, the courtcase raises questions about the legal status of blogs:

In court papers Apple suggests that the people who run the sites ñ PowerPage, Apple Insider, and Think Secret, aren’t “legitimate members of the press” and therefore it has the right to subpoena information that will reveal which Apple employees violated their confidentiality agreements.

Normally journalists would be protected under the First Amendment and therefore don’t have to reveal their sources.

Which of course relates to that funny video I mentioned the other day. While I mostly agree with Torill that blogging’s not really (or at least not necessarily) about journalism at all (damn, I can’t find this one post where she discusses that particular misconception wonderfully) it’s clear that there are some legal consequences of how blogs are defined that might affect many of us. I don’t know law well enough to know if this particular debate can be transferred to a Norwegian context. (Do you? Leave a comment!)

Well. I don’t really usually reveal secrets of any kind on my blog. At least I try not to 😉 (Thanks to Trond for emailing me this)

18 thoughts on “blogs and law

  1. torill

    This the one you were looking for?

  2. Lars

    Der finst eit par spennande norske paragrafar p dette omrÂdet:
    Paragraf 125 i straffeprosessloven
    Paragraf 209a i Lov om rettergangsmÂten for tvistemÂl (mest relevant her)
    Her stÂr  lesa:
    “Redakt¯ren av et trykt skrift kan nekte  svare p sp¯rsmÂl om hvem som er forfatter til en artikkel eller melding i skriftet eller hjemmelsmann for opplysninger i det. Det samme gjelder sp¯rsmÂl om hvem som er hjemmelsmann for andre opplysninger som er betrodd redakt¯ren til bruk i hans virksomhet.
    Samme rett som redakt¯ren har andre som har fÂtt kjennskap til forfatteren eller hjemmelsmannen gjennom sitt arbeid for vedkommende forlag, redaksjon, pressebyr eller trykkeri.”

    Sidan er tilf¯yd:

    “Bestemmelsene i paragrafen her gjelder tilsvarende for kringkastingssjef og kringkastingsmedarbeider.”

    Alts trykt presse og kringkasting. Ikkje noko anna. Eller?

    (Brief translation: Norwegian law protects the right of an editor of the printed press to not disclose her sources. The protection has been extended to editors in broadcasting, but not yet to editors of online media).

  3. HÂkon

    You can of course ask similar questions about similar issues in Norway, but you should probably sart by asking about the legislation in Norway. IANAL, but I think the relevant part of the law is the Criminal Procedure Act, Part III, Chapter 10, Section 125 (or “straffeprosesslovens ß125” if you read Norwegian.

    http://www.lovdata.no/all/tl-19810522-025-014.html#125

    I guess the first problem regarding blogs would be the reference to the editor of a printed publication (or the director of an broadcasting agency). I’m tempted to backtrack to the ISSN discussion. 😉

  4. Jill

    Yes, exactly that post, Torill! This pinpoints it beautifully: “Now, pay attention to the pigeonholes: Communication is the big box. Journalism is a little one that fits inside the big box. Blogging is a box that is smaller than communication, but bigger than journalism. Concept-wise it is comparable to television(ing) and radio(ing), and a lot of different genres of recording and reporting from the world of facts and fantasy fit within each of these boxes.”

    Thanks, Lars and HÂkon! Btw, Lars’s comment was hidden until after HÂkon posted his comment, because Lars’s went into moderation because my blog didn’t recognise his combination of name, email and IP, whereas HÂkons’s has been whitelisted. And Lars is a journalist, though Not A Lawyer, so that would be why he has those laws at his fingertips.

    Interesting.

    Do you think we should make those laws count for bloggers? Which bloggers, though?

  5. Jill

    Mymarkup.net notes that in Sweden bloggers can apply for an utgivningsbevis which might give them similar rights as newspapers? However, you can’t accept comments, and you have to pay a rather large, non-refundable fee to apply.

  6. Lars

    These laws are part of a greater legal framework working out the details and
    implications of the constitution’s paragraph 100 (Freedom of expression). As well
    as giving editors certain privileges, they detail the legal responsibilities of
    editors. The addition of broadcast media (fairly recent, I think) implies that
    the law was intended to be media-neutral. Going back to the early days of the
    printed press, newspaper were hardly that different from what personal web
    publishing is today. The editor usually wrote most of the articles in a newspaper.
    Personally, I see no reason why this legal framework shouldn’t apply to bloggers,
    as long as the responsibilities also apply (for instance, it is illegal to not
    inform or inform incorrectly about the identity of the editor of a publication,
    and the editor is personally legally responsible for all content).
    Actually, the Norwegian Editors’ Association (Norsk Redakt¯rforening) have a special
    label you can apply for that certifies that your site is edited in accordance
    with the agreed-upon legal and ethical standards of the printed press. It would
    be interesting to see a blog apply for one of those, and I would assume such a
    blog could call upon the protections of the law.

    (Pardon the line breaks. Your coment box dissappears under your right-hand column)

  7. Martin GL

    This is actually pretty surprising (to me, anyway): we don’t need a better definition of this newborn, unruly concept of blogging. That’s pretty clear, because blogging is a medium.

    The law attempts to define journalism by defining the only medium that journalism used to take place in, and expands media-definitions as media evolves from paper into radio and tv. That is clearly no longer sufficient, because printing costs approach zero. We need to get platonic. What we need is a good legal definition of journalism in itself. I would have instinctively thought it was the other way around.

    But what is it that journalists do, exactly? Despite having worked as an occasional freelance journalist for a few years, I’m stumped. Anyone out there with better press credentials than me? Is there a standardised definition?

  8. torill

    Note from above: it’s not allowed to keep the identity of the editor hidden. That means you can’t juridically define your blog as a journalistic product and be anonymous at the same time. This frees the blog provider from their responsibility for protecting you: either you are anonymous and not under the protection of the law, or you are public, your own editor, and responsible for your own work. This neatly disconnects the responsibility of the medium provider from the responsibility of the content provider.

  9. Alvaro

    I am afraid I have to disagree with Martin GL. Blogging is not a medium. It is a format. The same way as in radio (where the similarities are strong) or TV, you have a medium (radio or TV Station) and different formats: magazines, news programs, soaps etc.
    In that sense it is the provider of the blog format the responsible entity in front of the law.

  10. torill

    Alvaro, I don’t agree. We can’t say that the Internet is one medium, and a blog is a format, because the Internet and the computer adapts itself too easily to too many media. Is television or radio no longer a medium, but just a format of the computer when it is digitalised? The Computer demands new awareness of media and new definitions, not just adaption of concepts from traditional media theory.

    And what about local radio, where several different radios share the same bandwidth? The person who owns the sender is not responsible for what the editor of the different radios choose to say. They may refuse to renew the contract if they disagree, same as a printer can refuse to print a paper, but if they start editing the programs that is a breach of the contract between the provider of bandwidth and the editor of the radio using and paying for it.

  11. Martin GL

    I’m not quite sure I understand the distinction, Alvaro. Do you mean to say that blogging implies a certain kind of content? What’s the difference between a format and a genre?

    (Sorry, I’m new to media theory)

    If you ARE implying content is specific in blogs, then I’m not sure I’m entirely on your side.

    Blogs are generally used to publish certain kinds of contents, but in theory they could be (and in practice, are) used to publish everything from novels to short stories to poetry to journalistic material to essays to diaries to link commentary to the sort of viciously hybrid-genre material that seems to be the most prolific.

    Isn’t this the definition of a medium: something that can contain all different types of contents?

    Furthermore: do you mean that, in my case, Blogger is legally responsible for what I write?

    A more specific word for what blogs are would be very useful in my master thesis, so I’d be grateful if you could help me.

  12. Alvaro

    Jill, I somehow disagree with you and followed up on this post but I have not installed a trackback system in my blog and therefore I use this space to let you know.

  13. Alvaro

    Sorry, Martin I overlooked your comment just a minute ago. I have posted on this and I have dared to come with a definition of format. It is my own I have to test it with my colleagues: a format is a formal and content set of conventions created within a medium to rhetorically address a certain audience.

    So trying to answer you: a format is both a formal, aesthetical object with a particular content. You probably agree with me that a television game implies a specific type of content and form.
    By the way, based on Jill’s definition for Routledge Encyclopaedia of Narrative I have tried my own definition of blogging which I posted for a while in a Spanish collective metablog called bitacaras.org
    I should probably translated to English.

  14. Alvaro

    I think I was too fast when affirming something very contentious in my earlier comment. Therefore I want to correct myself: “In that sense would it be the provider of the blog format the responsible entity in front of the law?”.
    Yeah. It sounds much wiser 🙂
    And another new one: is Internet the Medium? most probably, and not the software provider.

  15. Lars

    Following the catchphrase “many-to-many”, and taking into account the interconnectedness of blogs, it might make sense to call the “blogosphere” as a whole (or maybe identifiable clusters of it) the Medium, instead of any individual blog. The software is (in this layman’s not very humble opinion) the technology and the Internet is, well, just a place. But the “blogosphere” can’t have an editor, so it would be difficult to apply any traditional legal definition of journalism to it.

  16. i1277

    A Torill says, reducing the internet to one medium doesn’t work very well. The internet is a networked container that can hold any number of media. Games, instant messaging software, podcasts, email, p2p-applications, forums, blogs, wikis… Pinpointing borders is hard but these examples offer very different modes of communication compared to say, different radio formats.

  17. Elisabeth

    What happens when the traditional media print stories they have received from blogs? The news executive of CNN, Eason Jordan, walked off his job after a blogger published Jordan¥s controversial comments on the killing of Journalists in Iraq by the American army in his blog. Traditional newspapers picked up the story and published it. Doesn¥t that make the blogger responsible at all?

    I don¥t know much about Norwegian legislation, but in the US, the Association of Cyberjournalists have made a code of ethics for bloggers cyberjournalist.net/news/000215.php, and the
    Harvard Law Department had a conference on blogging, credibility and journalism ealier this year, some of its findings are presented at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/webcred/.

    Whether it is a format or a medium, the blogger still publish his/her thoughts to a global audience, and as we have already experience, it can have profound consequenses.

  18. Alvaro

    I agree with Torill in that Internet is not a medium. But I think I still have good reasons to hold that blogging is a format and not a medium. These of course are tentative categories and I am just thinking out loud and with you. The format category is inspired and based in old media, but I don’t see any wrong in using or adapting some categories from the past if they era useful and fruitful, Torill.
    And to i1277 I must say that I am using radio as an illustration only, as an example to make myself more explicit and to give more resonance to my argument. I agree that the blogging activity is unique and remarkably social in its networking capabilities.
    I actually like Lars contribution to the discussion very much and would like to adopt it myself when he says that : “Following the catchphrase ìmany-to-manyî, and taking into account the interconnectedness of blogs, it might make sense to call the ìblogosphereî as a whole (or maybe identifiable clusters of it) the Medium, instead of any individual blog.

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