Legal Assistance Network for Online Journalists

The Online Media Legal Network (OMLN) is a network of law firms, law school clinics, in-house counsel, and individual lawyers throughout the United States willing to provide pro bono legal assistance to qualifying online journalism ventures and other digital media creators.

As noted here,

The idea for OMLN came out of CMLP’s work over the last 3 years helping online journalists understand their legal rights and responsibilities. During this time period, we’ve published and updated our legal guide and legal threats database, blogged on topics of interest to online publishers, partnered with like-minded organizations on a variety of educational projects, and filed amicus briefs in cases with significant implications for online speech. While we are proud of the impact we’ve made and the success of the CMLP website, we also recognize that many online journalists and bloggers need more than generally applicable legal information—they need their own lawyers to tackle their own individualized legal issues.

There’s already an impressive array of law firms and legal clinics that are part of the initiative, and I’ve encouraged lawyers I know of in the US who are experts in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) to consider signing up to this network.

The model of OMLN is a powerful idea that can be adapted for use in other countries as well. One significant challenge, if one were to think of adapting this for Sri Lanka, would be to find lawyers willing and able to take on pro bono cases for bloggers and online journalists.

In the past, I’ve called for the creation of a Sri Lankan Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) type outfit to monitor practices and policies of ISPs in Sri Lanka, using tools like “Switzerland”. It could mature into an entity that provided education on web security, undertook pro-rights / pro-consumer Public Interest Litigation and also provide bloggers with legal protection and advice.

With bloggers increasingly interrogating the status quo even when traditional print and electronic media cannot, or will not, the hate and harm directed against them will continue to grow. From growing plagiarism to the recognition of the rights of bloggers, from increasing censorship of online content to implications of such policies for bloggers, the need for bloggers to access legal help is not just limited to the US.

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