IPcentral Weblog
  The DACA Blog

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Geoffrey Stone on a National Shield Law
(previous | next)

University of Chicago Professor Geoffrey Stone, one of America's leading experts on First Amendment law, has an editorial in today's New York Times calling for the passage of a federal journalist-source priviledge law, or "shield law." Such a law would, in Stone's words, "protect journalists from compelled disclosure of their sources' confidential communications in the same way psychiatrists and lawyers are protected."

Prof. Stone notes that 49 states already have such a shield law and that 13 of those states provide journalist-source confidentiality absolutely. In the 36 other states the right is qualified but still provides a great deal of protection. Stone argues that the same protections need to be granted at the federal level because:

A strong and effective journalist-source privilege is essential to a robust and independent press and to a well-functioning democratic society. It is in society's interest to encourage those who possess information of significant public value to convey it to the public, but without a journalist-source privilege, such communication will often be chilled because sources fear retribution, embarrassment or just plain getting "involved." ... A serious journalist-source privilege is imperative to the national interest. It should be high on the list of Congress's priorities for 2007.

I strongly agree with Prof. Stone on the importance of a federal shield law. But his editorial ignores the most difficult question in this debate: Who, exactly, counts as a "qualified" or "serious" journalist these days? In a world of user-generated content--in which every man, woman and child can be a one-person publisher or broadcaster--where would a federal shield law draw the line? The last thing I want is the government drawing up a formal list of "qualified" media organizations. On the other hand, should anyone who posts anything online qualify? I can see problems with that model.

Perhaps the best option is for the government not to try to create a bright-line test for who exactly qualifies as a journalist or news organization, but rather include generic language in the bill about the need for the party seeking protection to show that they took steps to gather and report news that they source confidentiality was essential to building that story.

I'm just thinking out loud here. I find this to be a very interesting and important issue and would love to hear what others think.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 2:10 PM | Free Speech

Share |

Link to this Entry | Printer-Friendly

Post a Comment:

Blog Main
RSS Feed  
Recent Posts
  EFF-PFF Amicus Brief in Schwarzenegger v. EMA Supreme Court Videogame Violence Case
New OECD Study Finds That Improved IPR Protections Benefit Developing Countries
Hubris, Cowardice, File-sharing, and TechDirt
iPhones, DRM, and Doom-Mongers
"Rogue Archivist" Carl Malamud On How to Fix Gov2.0
Coping with Information Overload: Thoughts on Hamlet's BlackBerry by William Powers
How Many Times Has Michael "Dr. Doom" Copps Forecast an Internet Apocalypse?
Google / Verizon Proposal May Be Important Compromise, But Regulatory Trajectory Concerns Many
Two Schools of Internet Pessimism
GAO: Wireless Prices Plummeting; Public Knowledge: We Must Regulate!
Archives by Month
  September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
  - (see all)
Archives by Topic
  - A La Carte
- Add category
- Advertising & Marketing
- Antitrust & Competition Policy
- Appleplectics
- Books & Book Reviews
- Broadband
- Cable
- Campaign Finance Law
- Capitalism
- Capitol Hill
- China
- Commons
- Communications
- Copyright
- Cutting the Video Cord
- Cyber-Security
- Digital Americas
- Digital Europe
- Digital Europe 2006
- Digital TV
- E-commerce
- e-Government & Transparency
- Economics
- Education
- Electricity
- Energy
- Events
- Exaflood
- Free Speech
- Gambling
- General
- Generic Rant
- Global Innovation
- Googlephobia
- Googlephobia
- Human Capital
- Innovation
- Intermediary Deputization & Section 230
- Internet
- Internet Governance
- Internet TV
- Interoperability
- IP
- Local Franchising
- Mass Media
- Media Regulation
- Monetary Policy
- Municipal Ownership
- Net Neutrality
- Neutrality
- Non-PFF Podcasts
- Ongoing Series
- Online Safety & Parental Controls
- Open Source
- PFF Podcasts
- Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism
- Privacy
- Privacy Solutions
- Regulation
- Search
- Security
- Software
- Space
- Spectrum
- Sports
- State Policy
- Supreme Court
- Taxes
- The FCC
- The FTC
- The News Frontier
- Think Tanks
- Trade
- Trademark
- Universal Service
- Video Games & Virtual Worlds
- VoIP
- What We're Reading
- Wireless
- Wireline
Archives by Author
PFF Blogosphere Archives
We welcome comments by email - look for a link to the author's email address in the byline of each post. Please let us know if we may publish your remarks.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation