Columbia Journalism Review teaches copyright, privacy, and defamation basics in legal primer series

Many journalists have an arm’s length relationship with the law. Unless they are a legal beat writer, reporters seek to avoid the legal realm during their career. This is partly because if a journalist is involved in litigation, it usually finds itself on the right side of the “v.” defending against a lawsuit.

But becoming familiar with some legal concepts could reduce the risk of having to deal with the financial burdens and frustrations of fighting a suit down the road.

Jonathan Peters (@jonathanwpeters), a media law attorney and the Columbia Journalism Review’s press freedom correspondent, recently published an informative three-part series outlining some common legal principles journalists should to know. In a simple, easy-to-understand format, Peters walks journalists through some legal concepts and provides quick answers for commonly asked questions.

In part one of the trifecta, called “Can I use that?,” Peters explains copyright law, including how copyrights are obtained and what constitutes fair use. In his second article, “Can I do that?,” the author explores recording and privacy concerns journalists often confront. And finally, Peters caps off his series with “Can I say that?,” which details the ins and outs of defamation.

I recommend the articles for both journalists and lawyers alike to gain insight into fundamental media law topics in a comprehensive and digestible manner.


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