Media Law and Digital Content

As the media industry undergoes rapid transformation, the evolving world of media law becomes ever more challenging to anyone who publishes or shares information. BakerHostetler’s media law legacy goes back nearly 100 years, giving us unparralleled experience that results in continued precedent-setting victories today.

Clients, ranging from newspapers and electronic media that publish nationally to digital providers whose information and potential for legal action go viral in seconds, turn to us to resolve the toughest cases in the field, including those on the cutting edge of adapting media and libel law to the realities of the online information age.

We use our experience to go beyond precedent in order to shape and advance the state of law for the long-term interests of the communications industry, winning hundreds of cases on summary judgment, at trial, or on appeal. We have represented world-class authors such as President Bill Clinton, and won copyright infringement and libel cases on behalf of novelist John Grisham, Barbara Bush, and other noted authors. We also succeeded in the seminal New York Times case that extended opinion protection to book reviews.

Our attorneys help clients navigate digital distribution as it creates new legal ramifications for copyright, privacy, intellectual property, and libel law, especially with the advent of social media, comments and other third-party content. For example, in Shirley Sherrod v. Andrew Breitbart, et al., we are defending a blogger accused of posting deceptively edited content online. We also are representing the defendant in a defamation action in one of the first cases to tackle the issue of reasonable expectation of privacy when a website repurposes and comments on photos posted on Facebook. We were among the first attorneys to question whether the special vernacular and content of the Internet should be governed by the same law that controls language in traditional media.

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The Internet offers our clients limitless opportunities to engage in e-commerce transactions and to distribute information and creative content. Our experienced team of lawyers also assists in developing Internet platforms and negotiating agreements for Internet sales and distribution, information services and computer games. We negotiate agreements for Internet content, service providers, and for the distribution of web-based content and programs. We regularly structure and negotiate linking, licensing, and service provider agreements.

Clients, including the major TV networks, newspapers and book publishers, benefit from our nationwide roster of media and intellectual property attorneys, many of whom have deeper appreciation of the issues due to their experience as former reporters and producers. We represent media clients in matters related to civil rights, news-gathering, reporter’s privilege, copyright and syndicated licensing, intellectual property, privacy, responding to subpoenas, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Our interdisciplinary approach also enables us to address transactions, intellectual property, First Amendment, regulatory, management/licensing, publication counseling, and employment issues.

Our national reputation and longstanding track record of successfully defending media in challenging cases often result in cases being abandoned or settled in favor of our clients. For over three decades, we have served as general counsel to the Society of Professional Journalists, the largest and oldest organization of journalists in the nation.

Families that own media businesses also turn to us for strategic counsel on issues of digital publishing and migrating traditional publishing companies to the digital world.

Our Media Mergers and Acquisitions team advises on a full range of transactional issues for a wide variety of companies that are focused on content and distribution, including some of the industry’s most prominent entertainment, news media, sports organizations, and financial sponsors.

Select Experience

  • Represented one of America’s most well-regarded and prominent diversified media companies, The E.W. Scripps Company, for several decades in First Amendment and intellectual property cases, including matters such as
    • Rasmussen v. Collier County Publishing Co., 946 So.2d 567 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App, 2006) (early summary judgment granted in matter against Florida newspaper alleging defamatory statements in more than 30 articles and affirmed on appeal).
    • Johnson v. E.W. Scripps Co., 29 Media L. Rep. 2593 (Ky. Cir. Ct. 2001) (directed verdict in jury trial for television station on defamation claim).
    • United Feature Syndicate, Inc. v. Internet Broadcasting, Ltd. et al., No. 1:00cv03595 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (preliminary and permanent injunctions enjoining defendants from cybersquatting and infringing client’s SNOOPY trademark in its domain names and e-mail service with an award of attorneys’ fees and costs as well as assignment of the infringing domain names).
  • Successfully defended The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. in a Second Circuit class action brought by an author alleging breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing of the foreign royalties provision of a publishing agreement.
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Experience

  • Represented one of America’s most well-regarded and prominent diversified media companies, The E.W. Scripps Company, for several decades in First Amendment and intellectual property cases, including matters such as
    • Rasmussen v. Collier County Publishing Co., 946 So.2d 567 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App, 2006) (early summary judgment granted in matter against Florida newspaper alleging defamatory statements in more than 30 articles and affirmed on appeal).
    • Johnson v. E.W. Scripps Co., 29 Media L. Rep. 2593 (Ky. Cir. Ct. 2001) (directed verdict in jury trial for television station on defamation claim).
    • United Feature Syndicate, Inc. v. Internet Broadcasting, Ltd. et al., No. 1:00cv03595 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (preliminary and permanent injunctions enjoining defendants from cybersquatting and infringing client’s SNOOPY trademark in its domain names and e-mail service with an award of attorneys’ fees and costs as well as assignment of the infringing domain names).
  • Successfully defended The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. in a Second Circuit class action brought by an author alleging breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing of the foreign royalties provision of a publishing agreement.
  • Counsel in multiple cases defending bloggers and others in District of Columbia libel actions, including the first case raising the District of Columbia’s anti-SLAPP statute (Strategic Law Against Public Participation), enacted in 2011 to protect libel defendants from the time and expense of defending against meritless claims.
  • Sweeney v. New York Times, USDC, ND OH, Case No. 1:00 CV 2942 (2004) obtained jury verdict in newspaper’s favor in libel action brought by a Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.
  • Young v. New Haven Advocate, 315 F.3d 256 (4th Cir. 2002) persuaded the Fourth Circuit to reject personal jurisdiction based solely on access to an Internet website in the first federal appellate court decision to address this critical issue and one that has become a leading authority on the subject.
  • El Dia, Inc. v. Rossello, 165 F.3d 106 (1st Cir. 1999) Represented largest newspaper in Puerto Rico in Section 1983 civil rights action against sitting governor and established key First Circuit precedent that government retaliation against the press’ exercise of First Amendment rights is actionable.
  • Moldea v. New York Times Co., 22 F.3d 310 (D.C. Cir. 1994) persuaded the D.C. Circuit to extend opinion protection to a book review at a time when the Supreme Court’s ruling in Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1 (1990) had unsettled this area of the law.
  • McFarlane v. Esquire Magazine, 1994 WL 510088 (D.D.C. 1994), aff’d, 74 F.3d 1296 (D.C. Cir. 1996) convinced federal courts in the District of Columbia to take an exacting view of the evidence needed to prove actual malice and to dismiss a case in which the plaintiff, a former senior government official, had failed to meet this heightened standard.
  • National Life Insurance Co. v. Phillips Publishing, Inc., 793 F. Supp. 627 (D. Md. 1992) convinced Maryland federal court to hold that, regardless of whether the challenged statements might be classified as commercial speech, a public-figure plaintiff must demonstrate in a defamation case that the defendant acted with actual malice.

Recognition

  • Chambers USA 2013 
    • One attorney ranked as a leader in the practice areas of First Amendment Litigation and Media and Entertainment
  • The Best Lawyers in America© 2014: Eight attorneys were selected by their peers for inclusion in the fields of First Amendment Litigation, Communications Law, and Media Law.

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IP Intelligence: Insight on Intellectual Property
Ninth Circuit Draws Fine Line Around Fine Art Resale Royalties
By Dennis O. Cohen
May 12, 2015
In a partial victory for artists such as Chuck Close and the Sam Francis Foundation—and for other visual artists who sold early works for rent money before establishing their name and value—the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week...
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IP Intelligence: Insight on Intellectual Property
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IP Intelligence: Insight on Intellectual Property
Jury Sees a Clear Line – Pharrell, Thicke Crossed It
By Andrew W. Alexander
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Pharrell Williams, famous for singing about how “Happy” he is, might be changing his tune these days. On March 10, a federal jury found him and fellow pop star Robin Thicke liable for copying Marvin Gaye’s popular song “Got to Give it Up,”...
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IP Intelligence: Insight on Intellectual Property
Coming Soon…the New .sucks gTLD: How Will It Affect You?
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To All Brand Owners: The arrival of a new generic top-level domain (gTLD) will require you to once again evaluate your brand strategies and trademark portfolios, particularly as they relate to the Internet. The Internet Corporation for...
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The Innovation Act of 2015: Congress Targets Patent ‘Trolls’ Again
March 26, 2015
On February 5, 2015, the House Judiciary Chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), flanked by a bipartisan group of his peers, reintroduced his “Innovation Act” (H.R. 9). The bill is the second time in as many years that the...
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