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Bloggers have rights, too : Congressman John Conyers

Representative John Conyers published a commentary on ZDNet this afternoon entitled ‘Bloggers have rights, too.’

This may not be directly tied to professional marketing blogs. But the First Amendment protection afforded bloggers may mean lawyers publishing blogs will not be subject to the same ethics rules governing advertising, including law firm Web sites. Will Hornsby, of the ABA, will be covering that with me in the coming week.

Plus Congressman Conyers makes some powerful and compelling points. Below are highlights that frankly makes me appreciate the rights we have as Americans and proud that I am spearheading an organization that is giving American’s leading lawyers personal publishing platforms to communicate with the public.

  • The Internet has proved to be the greatest advancement in our ability to disseminate news and information since the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in 1450.
  • Bloggers have already broken several major stories, including those that led to the resignation of a Virginia congressman, a shake-up at CBS news over the ’60 Minutes’ Bush National Guard story, the firing of a CNN executive over remarks criticizing the U.S. military, and the White House granting Jeff Gannon inappropriate access to White House daily press briefings.
  • It is incumbent on the Federal Election Commission (campaign finance laws), legislatures, and the courts(legal privileges accorded to journalists to protect confidential sources) to ensure free speech rights are protected for Internet-based media.
  • Congressman Conyers, with 13 colleagues, recently wrote a letter along urging the FEC to apply the press exemption to the Internet, and Sen. Harry Reid has introduced legislation to this effect.
  • Bloggers have shown they warrant First Amendment protection for several reasons.
  • Bloggers have become widely accepted as legitimate news gatherers and disseminators. 32 million Americans are currently turning to blogs for their information. Bloggers were granted press passes to both the Democratic and Republican national conventions and the White House recently approved the first blog press pass.
  • Bloggers should be classified as journalists and given First Amendment protections based on the function they perform, not the form of their transmissions. Properly understood, the First Amendment applies to all those who report with journalistic integrity–offline or online.
  • We operate in an environment where major conglomerates dominate the nation’s airwaves and print media. Whenever a potential story criticizing a powerful political figure or corporate parent is squelched, questions are raised concerning the independence of the mainstream news media. Bloggers, by contrast, are not subject to these same constraints or concerns, and have shown their independence over and over.

In further support of his position, Congressman Conyers cites no one less than Thomas Jefferson who said:

The basis of our government being the opinion of people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.

Congressman Conyers concludes with what I have been pitching for 8 years:

In Jefferson’s era, print newspapers revolutionized the way the country read and processed the news. Today we stand on the precipice of a new media revolution with the advent of the Internet.

Now, that’s great stuff.

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