Roger L. Simon

Some Bloggers More Equal Than Others

… or so we can assume from the following Washington Internet Daily report on the new Senator Lugar ‘Shield Law’ today. (The WID is subscription only and normally I honor that, but I thought this was of particular interest to blog readers and writers.)

Blogging Business or ‘Media Entity’ Covered by Shield — Lugar Aide

Bloggers that “act more like businesses” or media entites will have “some sort of coverage” under Sen. Lugar’s (R-Ind.) media shield bill, a Lugar spokeswoman told us Wed. Lugar told the Inter American Press Assn. this week his Free Flow of Information Act (S-1419) would “probably not” apply to bloggers, Editor & Publisher reported.

The clarification of Lugar’s position adds confusion to earlier statements from sponsors of the House companion bill (HR-3323). Reps Pence (R-Ind.) and Boucher (D-Va) have said separately their bill wouldn’t apply to bloggers, because such a provision would “potentially open it up to everyone” (WID July 21 p3). Lugar’s spokeswoman said she wasn’t sure “if this a difference of interpretation” or just a semantic difference, but there “seems to be a gray area here.”

The key difference for bloggers covered by S-1419 is the regularity of their writing activity and feasibility of their blogs as businesses, Luugar’s spokeswoman said. The term “electronic” in the bills is loose enough to include online material, but the “periodical” requirement distinguishes between “something that is updated continuously” and “more random, nonsystematic” entries, she said. The latter is considered more typical of bloggers, “in the perjorative sense.” The Newspaper Assn. of America also said the distinction turns on whether a blog is considered a “periodical.” Blogs that include ad space could also be considered media entities, the spokeswoman said, but she declined to name specific blogs that would be covered, such as Gawker Media’s stable of blogs or D. C. journalist Josh Marshall’s TalkingPointsMemo.come, which provides his whole livelihood.”

Pajamas Media personnel are actively discussing our position on this potentially dangerous legislation. Although PJM will certainly be in a position to argue that we are a “blogging business,” the restrictive and technologically backward-looking nature of this proposal has disturbing implications for the “free flow” of ideas – the very words that are ballyhooed in the title of Senator Lugar’s bill.

UPDATE: Sorry about the comments difficulties. Dr. Johnson will repair soon.