Bush for Bloggers (if not vice versa)

David Ardia writes,

  In one of his last executive actions of the year, President Bush signed into law the “OPEN Government Act of 2007” on December 31, 2007. The Senate unanimously passed the reform bill earlier in December, and it passed the House of Representatives by voice vote on December 18. The Associated Press is reporting that Bush signed the bill without comment.

  As I explained in a post on the Citizen Media Law Project’s blog two weeks ago, the legislation substantially reforms the Freedom of Information Act and expands the definition of who is a “representative of the news media” under FOIA. This change would significantly benefit bloggers and non-traditional journalists by making them eligible for reduced processing and duplication fees that are available to “representatives of the news media.”…

  The full text of the OPEN Government Act of 2007 is available here. The press release announcing the President’s signing is available on the White House website.

JD Lasica adds,

  Who knew something so forward-looking could come out of this Congress and this president?

Some questions follow.

For example, will this help with existing or future shield laws?

2 comments

  1. Paul Ding’s avatar

    Doc, you might want to ACTUALLY READ THE LAW. It doesn’t say what Ardia says it does.

    You have to be *employed* by a news organization. Freelancers who have a contract with a news organization count, or those who regularly are published by a news organization, but newshawks and bloggers who publish themselves – such as Matt Drudge – don’t qualify.

    Freedom of the press has always been limited to those who could afford to buy one. The web has changed that – but the government’s recognition of news people has traditionally been limited to those employed by companies that have 2nd class postage permits, or broadcast licenses. It appears that is NOT going to change with this law.

    The first amendment doesn’t grant freedom of expression to just people who engage in it as an occupation; recognition of legitimate journalists as a special class is equally repulsive as recognition of certain churches as legitimate religions.

  2. David Ardia’s avatar

    Paul,

    I think you are misreading the new law. The OPEN Government Act of 2007 amends section 552(a)(4)(ii) of FOIA by adding the following language: “[T]he term ‘a representative of the news media’ means any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience.”

    You do not need to be employed by a news organization to be considered a “representative of the news media.” If you gather information, use your editorial skills, and publish your work — whether its on a blog or in a newspaper — you are covered.

    As to freelance journalists, who might not otherwise be covered because they do not personally distribute their work to an audience, the new law makes clear that a “freelance journalist shall be regarded as working for a news-media entity if the journalist can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that entity, whether or not the journalist is actually employed by the entity.”

    You can read the entire Act here: http://www.citmedialaw.org/sites/citmedialaw.org/files/OPEN%20Government%20Act%20of%202007%20(s.2488).pdf

    I couldn’t agree with you more that the First Amendment doesn’t grant freedom of expression only to people who engage in it as an occupation. The OPEN Government Act of 2007 is an important first step in enshrining this protection. I hope this expansive language can serve as a model for other laws, especially the much needed federal shield law (as Doc noted).

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