Q: Does including “in my opinion” protect me from a libel or defamation suit? A: Including the phrase “in my opinion” — for example, “In my opinion, the coach is a cheater” — does not create an automatic shield to libel. Neither does simply reprinting what someone else has said by saying something like, “‘The coach is a… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Does including “in my opinion” protect me from a libel or defamation suit?
Q: Our college TV station recently covered auditions for our college's dance team. The student editor was unaware that the song playing in the background of the video was copyrighted when she created the video. The piece is edited with several cuts and you don’t ever hear a full song played. Can we air the… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Can we use a video clip that had a copyrighted song playing in the background?
Q: What information does the Clery Act give me access to? A: Any college or university that accepts federal funding is required to notify the campus community when certain crimes are reported. Every school must keep an annual statistical report, a daily crime log, and make "timely reports" to the community when certain crimes are reported that… Continue reading Ask SPLC: What information does the Clery Act give me access to?
Q: Can we use unpublished photos on our news site or in our yearbook or reprint photos that were taken by a student who has since graduated? A: Unless there was a specific agreement between the former staff members and the publication stating otherwise, the former students retain the copyright to any work they created… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Can we use unpublished photos from a student who graduated?
Q: I’m the editor of my public community college newspaper. We are called a club or organization, not a free press. We have been censored by being told what topics we can write about. Our adviser frequently kills stories because he says the quality is poor, even though I and my section editors have cleared it… Continue reading Ask SPLC: How can a public Community College paper stand up to censorship?
Q: Do private school students have any recourse when their free speech rights are stripped? A: Options for fighting private school censorship can vary significantly from school to school. As you are probably already aware, you don't have First Amendment protection from censorship in private schools, so you have to look elsewhere. Reminder: The First Amendment only protects… Continue reading Ask SPLC: What can private school students do when they’re censored?
Theft of free-distribution newspapers by those who object to the newspaper's content is a frequent problem for the college student media. Although the SPLC believes that newspaper thieves can be prosecuted in most jurisdictions under existing theft laws, in 1994 Maryland became the first state to pass a law explicitly criminalizing the taking of free newspapers.
Q: We compiled a collage of screenshots from student’s instagram photos. The accounts are public. Is it legal for us to publish that collage? A: Assuming the photos are individually recognizable — that is, the subjects can be seen, for example, and you’ve used enough of the original photo that people would recognize it as the individual work… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Can we use screenshots from a public Instagram account?
Q. We want to use soap opera titles, such as "Days of our Lives," to head our yearbook sections. Any problems? A. This question has many popular variants. For example, can we use book titles (Dr. Seuss's "Oh, the Places You'll Go" is a perennial favorite) as our yearbook theme? Can we use movie titles… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Can we use the title of a show as a headline or yearbook theme?
Q. Can I use copyrighted material (online or otherwise) as long as I properly credit the source? A. Simply giving credit (for example, "Photo courtesy of The New York Times") usually isn't enough. Unless you can make a fair use argument or unless you're certain that material is not protected by copyright (for example, works… Continue reading Ask SPLC: Can I use copyrighted material as long as I credit the source?