TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Don’t take “no” for a public-records answer — and don’t take “copyright,” either

On occasion, people in positions of public authority know "just enough law to be dangerous" -- not enough to actually get the answer right, but enough to convince themselves that they have, because the answer has lots of authoritative-sounding words in it.This is the story of one such occasion.Recently, the SPLC attorney hotline received what started out as an unremarkable call from a college journalist whose request to a government agency for public records was denied.

“Where can I get celebrity photos on the Internet?” Today, there’s one more answer.

In the everything's-free, share-and-share-alike culture of the Web, it often comes as a surprise and a disappointment to students that celebrity photos on news organizations' websites are valuable copyright-protected property.Students want to talk and write about Rihanna and Li'l Wayne and (for some unearthly reason) Kim Kardashian, and they need illustrations to accompany their stories.

Marking a tragic anniversary: News organizations can find free-to-use 9/11 images with a little creative searching

America is approaching a grim anniversary that is no cause for celebration -- 10 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 -- and many journalistic organizations, including campus ones, will be looking for the right images from the tragedy to accompany their coverage.This is an excellent reminder that, while journalists should always assume that material they find online is copyright-protected property and may not be indiscriminately reused, the Internet does offer some copyright-safe refuges.The first is material created by federal government employees as part of their employment.

Back to School Checklist: Evaluating your staff’s ‘media-law radar’

For better or worse, knowledge of the law continues to be an ever-growing part of the skill set required of all journalists, including students.One fairly quick -- and mostly painless/sometimes entertaining -- way to check how much your students/staff know about media law as they head back to the newsroom is to direct them to the SPLC's Test Your Knowledge of Student Media Law quiz series.

Are the SEC’s S&M copyright rules pre-empted by federal law?

The Attorney General of Tennessee recently opined that the SEC was within its rights to limit media access to college sporting events to those news organizations who were willing to sign away large sections of their intellectual property rights as part of a credentialing scheme.It’s a neat idea, and I’m sure it would be expedient for the SEC if the world really did work that way, but I’m afraid the Attorney General’s opinion raises more copyright questions than it answers—not the least of those questions being whether the SEC’s credentialing scheme is actually preempted by federal copyright law.Preemption is a doctrine that says, when there’s a disagreement between state laws and federal laws, the federal law wins.