Three legal considerations that didn't exist before the Internet

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, spoke with journalists Friday as part of a panel on the legal issues affecting journalists today.

Other panelists included John Hart, Dow Lohnes LLC, ONA general counsel, Ken Richieri, The New York Times general counsel, and Mark Stephens, a partner at Finers, Stephens, Innocent in the United Kingdom. The group discussed issues such as the attempt for a federal shield law in the U.S., descato laws in Latin America and the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s recent struggles over revealing the source of an anonymous comment during coverage of a high-profile law suit.

However, most papers are not regularly involved with lawsuits to that degree of severity and Dalglish has a few tips for the everyday journalist who is working in today’s internet-fueled news environment.

1. Even though copying and pasting content from another source is easy, don’t do it!

“That’s just wrong,” she said, when responding to an audience member. The session was not recorded, unlike most ONA10 sessions, in order to protect the anonymity of participants asking delicate legal questions.

With today’s internet age, stealing content takes less than a minute and fewer than a handful of mouse clicks. But the consequences are still the same, Dalglish said.

2. Clearly mark all of your work online.

“Be vigilant and look for your stuff,” Dalglish said.

She also recommended documenting everything that you work on that is published online. Keep a record of where you place it, who you send it to and when it is live.

3. Don’t let the speed of the internet entice you into losing your integrity.

“People think they have to feed the beast all the time,” she said. “I think that is the number one thing. You are under pressure to produce immediately, to produce frequently, but you still have to take the time and sit down before you write.”

Dalglish said she often has to warn her own staff to take time when producing content for the Internet to avoid things such as libel or defamation. With the urgency that didn’t exist before the Internet, she said reporters had more time to make sure they weren’t breaking any laws.