Bloggers back in Senate shield law proposal

You may recall I posted last month about how a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee amendment to legislation creating a federal “reporters privilege” appeared to require that a person work for the mainstream media, thereby excluding most bloggers. Now it appears the committee will do a near complete reversal.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) and Arlen Specter (D.-Pa.) both announced yesterday an agreement with the White House over national security concerns the White Houses said the “Free Flow of Information Act” raised. The last paragraph of the Senators’ press release noted that the new version of the bill “revisits the change made to the definition of journalist in the September 24 Manager’s Amendment by removing the requirement that the journalist be a salaried employee or independent contractor for a media organization. This should permit freelance authors to be covered, and it also provides the potential for journalists publishing on blogs to be covered as well.”

Although I have been unable to locate a copy of the revisions online, reports indicate that the focus returns to the type of activity a person is engaged in, not who employs them. The WaPo reported the language of the new version applies to those with the “primary intent . . . to disseminate to the public news” if they had that intent from the “inception of the newsgathering process.” That is a test at least three federal courts of appeals have used to determine who can invoke the privilege and was part of an amendment Sen. Specter offered on the Senate floor in late July 2008 to the version of the bill introduced in the last Congressional session.

The 2008 version of the bill with this language died in the Senate. Maybe the compromise with the White House bodes better for the bill with the reported changes. Still, even this version would differ from the one approved by the House and any version that becomes law would apply only to federal authorities, not state and local ones.

UPDATE: The Citizen Media Law Project blog has the new language.

And it occurred to me that there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing — writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology.

Simon Dumenco, “A Blogger is Just a Writer with a Cooler Name”

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