Congress Fights Bush To Protect Bloggers’ Rights, But Excludes Non-Commercial Bloggers

Aug 2nd, 2007 | By | Category: Citizen Media, Podcasting Law

A congressional panel voted yesterday, against the Bush administration’s wishes, to shield journalists, including advertising-supported bloggers, vloggers and podcasters, from having to reveal their confidential sources in many situations.

The vote is the latest in an ongoing battle over the status of bloggers and other Internet media pioneers, and whether they should be given the same legal protection as journalists. Some, like the Bush administration and Apple, have fought blogger’s rights, arguing that they weren’t journalists and shouldn’t be afforded the same protection.

By a voice vote, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved the Free Flow of Information Act. The proposed version of the act offers protection for a wider set of people than earlier versions.

“Today, we are reclaiming one of the most fundamental principles enshrined by the founding fathers in the First Amendment of the Constitution,” Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) said before the vote.

Does Advertising Make You A Journalist?

The bill excludes casual bloggers from protections, stipulating that the protections apply only to those who derive “financial gain or livelihood” from their journalistic activity. While this part of the bill could prove controversial to anyone that blogs as a hobby, it would include people that get income from things like AdSense.

The bill defines the practice of journalism as “gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.”

“To extend the shield beyond (those who gain financial benefit) would create an avenue for virtually anyone to avoid compelled testimony by simply creating a blog that contains the information in question,” which is not the bill’s intent, Boucher said.

The Bush administration has fought the protections for online writers, arguing that they are so broad that they could endanger national security.

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