US bloggers set for journalistic shield
A US bill that would shield journalists, including bloggers, from revealing their sources has cleared the House Judiciary Committee, an important stage in becoming law. There is already legislation in the UK which protects journalists and bloggers.
The US Free Flow of Information Act protects journalistic sources generally, but does include several exceptions regarding terrorism, national security, imminent death and trade secret leaks.
...There were concerns that the initial version of the bill would apply to all bloggers – but now the definition of a journalist has been narrowed.
The modified bill which passed the committee on 2nd August included a provision that limits its protections to those who make "financial gain or livelihood" from their journalism.
This essentially means that most individual bloggers, who may make a small income from Google adverts, seem unlikely to get protection – though this will depend on how broadly the courts interpret "financial gain".
The US Society of Professional Journalists pushed to keep the definition as broad as possible. A spokesman said: "While it's important to distinguish responsible journalists from casual bloggers, the more narrow the language defining who is a journalist, the less impact the bill will have."
...In supporting the bill, the Newspaper Association of America, said: "The journalist is becoming the first stop, rather than the last resort, for civil litigants and prosecutors attempting to obtain the identity of confidential sources."
...In the UK, the Contempt of Court Act 1981 protects journalists and uses language that is likely to extend this protection to bloggers. It states: "No court may require a person to disclose, nor is any person guilty of contempt of court for refusing to disclose, the source of information contained in a publication for which he is responsible, unless it be established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime."