A free, legal guide for podcasters

One of the questions we get all the time is: “how do I know what’s legal and illegal when I’m podcasting?” It’s one of those questions that can make a lawyer cringe, because you either 1) spend the rest of the cocktail party trying to give a decent answer or 2) you have to say it’s too complicated and the person should hire a lawyer.

So, a better answer: check out the hot-off-the-press Podcasting Legal Guide — not legal advice, exactly, but a wonderful text with answers to most questions, prepared through a joint initiative of Creative Commons (especially their terrific GC, Mia Garlick) and the law clinics at the Stanford Center for Internet & Society and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

Maturation of blogging

This morning, we are hosting an eminent group of academics here at Harvard Law School for a symposium on blogging and legal scholarship. Prof. Paul Caron is leading off right now. You can tune in to the webcast, if you are not local to Cambridge. (If you needed any further incentive to watch, Prof. Michael Froomkin promises to announce a new project just after 11:00 a.m.)

Meanwhile, a Maine blogger has been sued for $1 million for blog posts critical of the advertising campaign of a state agency in Maine. The Boston Globe reports: “Warren Kremer Paino Advertising LLC, an agency hired by the Maine Department of Tourism, filed suit in US District Court in Maine last week, alleging the blogger, Lance Dutson of Searsmont, Maine, outside Camden, violated the agency’s copyright and defamed the agency in blog entries self-published at www.mainewebreport.com.” My view is that a lawsuit of this sort should have to clear a very high bar before a court awards damages to the design firm, especially where the core discussion is a matter of political speech in which a citizen is commenting on the activities of a state agency of his home state.

And, today, we are releasing a brand-new blogs server at Harvard Law, running a new instantiation of WordPress. It reminds me of the heady days when Dave Winer, back in Christmas Break 2002, first joined us at the Berkman Center and pulled us all into this business as the pied piper of citizen-generated media here at Harvard. Core to Dave’s blogging initiative here was to put up the first-ever community blogs server at a university.

I am reminded of an article that the Harvard Gazette published back in 2003, in the early days of the initiative. I think it’s safe, now, to say that this blogging initiative has been a big, maybe even unqualified, success — with several hundred members of the Harvard community blogging, whether on our server or otherwise; a vibrant group whose (completely open set of) members still meet every Thursday night at the Berkman Center; the first series of podcasts and extensions of that tradition; and so forth. Come a long way, since then, with lots of great people picking up the legacy and extending it, like all those working on Global Voices. Thanks, Dave.