February 22, 2005 | By Donna Wentworth

Legal Clarity for Bloggers

There are two laudable legislative efforts in the works that could help clarify that online journalists are entitled to the same rights and privileges as traditional print journalists.

The first is the national OPEN Government Act (S.394), introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and co-sponsor Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vt.). It's aimed at reforming the law to make it easier for journalists and others to access government documents -- and as the ACLU points out, that includes implementing "news media status rules that recognize the reality of freelance journalists and the Internet."

The second is a bill [PDF] that's just been introduced in the Maryland House of Delegates. The bill, HB 1140, would make it crystal clear that the state's strong shield law applies to bloggers:

The provisions in this section apply to any person who: (I) is, or has been, employed by the news media in any news gathering or news disseminating capacity; OR (II) [...] gathers or disseminates news or information to the public through a weblog.

Bravo. We can't imagine that we've ever needed this kind of legislation more than we do now.

For more details on the OPEN Government Act, see Sen. Cornyn's remarks from the floor and additional analysis from Robert Ambrogi at the Media Law Blog.

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