Open Attribute, a simple way to attribute Creative Commons licensed works on the web

Open Attribute - Creative CommonsA big shoutout from New Media Rights to the entire team that has put together OpenAttribute

OpenAttribute simplifies the process of attributing an openly licensed piece of content, by providing a quick link where you can get an HTML or plain text attribution. Paste this code or plain text whereever you are reusing the Creative Commons licensed work, and you can have a properly formatted attribution.

I encourage you to go install this right away and start improving your attributions today!

Back in Barcelona at the Drumbeat Festival in November, I happened to be part of the small breakout group with Molly Kleinman and Jane Park that identified the continuing problem of proper attribution of openly licensed works as a huge barrier to everyday content reuse.

In the months following Drumbeat Festival, Molly Kleinman, Nathan Yergler, and and many others have built an amazing team of individuals who lent their skills and turned that idea into a practical, useful application.  This is another testament to the community and power of the open web, and I want to thank you all for building this useful application. 

This project is a great step for improving attribution for content reuse on the internet.


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For Promotional Use Only: Promo CDs freed for resale

By Thomas Yohannan


For Promotional Use Only – Not for Resale


For Promotional Use Only – Not for Resale.  If you’ve ever listened to a promotional CD or LP (yes, they still do exist), then you’ve probably seen that phrase stamped on the front label.  By stamping the phrase on promotional records, record companies believed that the copyright laws were being preserved.  Copyright holders have battled in court to try and limit  the scope of the ‘first sale doctrine,’ which gives us the right to resell the physical copies of albums we own(and books and other copyrighted works), so that it wouldn't apply to promotional records.

The ‘first sale doctrine’ says that once you buy a book or recording then you can do with it as you’d like as long as you don’t copy it.  For example, a CD can be lent, borrowed, sold or given as a gift to your beau.  Copyright holders despise this because it takes out all the economics of the recording after the initial sale.  It also creates competition through the secondary market.  Instead of having a multitude of buyers, there may only be one initial buyer who offers the product to others.  Libraries and their books would be illegal were it not for the first sale doctrine.  This is an ongoing debate.  In 2008, the courts upheld the first sale doctrine by saying that, based on the circumstances, promotional records are owned and not merely licensed out so recipients can do with them as they wish.  

This month, in the case of UMG (Universal Music Group) v. Augusto, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, CA ruled that the sale of promotional records does not violate copyright laws.  UMG filed a lawsuit against Troy Augusto in 2007.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohman took up his case and described the circumstances as such:


"Troy Augusto makes his living basically doing the age-old thing. He buys low and he sells high. He goes to Los Angeles-area record stores, he finds CDs that he recognizes as being collectable, valuable to a certain set of fans, picks those up and resells them on eBay for, he hopes, a profit. And it appears that major record labels — not just Universal — they object to certain promotional CDs being resold. For those auctions on eBay, the labels will send notices to eBay to try to stop those auctions. And Mr. Augusto has, to his credit, stood up for his rights and said, hey, I'm entitled to sell these. I own them. I bought them fair and square. You guys gave them away. The First Sale Doctrine ought to apply."


There does continue to be some confusion in the law where licensing intersects with software.  In September 2010, the same court ruled in Vernor v. Autodesk that software companies can restrict your ability to resell a program.  


That said, this case is a victory for resellers that restricts copyright right owners from simply slapping a notice on a work and trumping your rights to resell the physical copies of a work that you purchase under the first sale doctrine.


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Drumbeat San Diego organizing meeting tonight, January 12, 2011!

We're having an organizational meeting for Drumbeat San Diego tonight at the NMR offices.

Come and help us plan logistics and outreach for the next few weeks.  Also learn about, and shape the exciting sessions that will be at Drumbeat San Diego!

What: Drumbeat organizing meeting

Where: 3100 5th Ave Suite B, San Diego, CA 92103

When: January 12, 2011

For the latest on Drumbeat, including an updated agenda, see these links!



Invitation to Drumbeat San Diego

Also, attached below is a copy of a Drumbeat flyer you can share with groups and individuals who may be interested in participating.

Drumbeat poster.pdf2.57 MB

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No Hollywood Ending: Filmmaker James Kerwin on the Future of Independent Movie Production

Guest Blogi by Thomas Yohannan

The creation of an good independent film (an “indie”) is often seen as the height of originality and innovation in the film world.  While the artistry of a film may be well thought out, the business considerations, and logistics of its production, release, and distribution are areas that a filmmaker will often dread.  An article in the January issue of Knowledge@Wharton digs into the world of film production and distribution.  In an insightful interview with an independent filmmaker, James Kerwin, the concerns and future of the indie film industry are raised.  Check this article out for some insight into the future of independent film.

Read the whole article here:

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New Media Rights: Freedom of Expression must be respected in Wikileaks debate

New Media Rights joined the Electronic Frontier foundation and over 30 other groups in sending an open letter to U.S. lawmakers today, calling on government officials to respect freedom of expression in the debate over the whistle-blower website Wikileaks.

In the wake of Wikileaks' recent publications of U.S. diplomatic cables, some lawmakers have attacked newspapers' rights to report on the information in those documents. Other government officials have cast doubt on Americans' right to download, read, or discuss documents published by Wikileaks and even the news reporting based on those documents.

Rash legislation was proposed that could limit the free speech of news reporting organizations well beyond Wikileaks. In the open letter sent Wednesday, 30 groups, including New Media Rights, urged lawmakers to remember and respect constitutional rights as Congress continues to discuss the issues at stake.

An Open Letter to U.S. Government Officials Regarding Free Expression in the Wake of the Wikileaks Controversy
December 22, 2010

Dear Public Officials:

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from legal and free speech experts about the possible application of the Espionage Act to the recent publication of  secret documents by the whistle-blower website Wikileaks, as well as to traditional media  outlets, Internet companies, and others who have also distributed and reported on that information.  All seven witnesses cautioned against attempts to suppress free speech and
criticized the overwhelming secrecy that permeates the United States government.  We write to echo these concerns and applaud those who have spoken out against attempts to censor the Internet.  We urge caution against any legislation that could weaken the principles of free expression vital to a democratic society or hamper online freedoms.  
Unfortunately, some government officials have already attacked newspapers’ rights to report on the releases by Wikileaks. Other government actors have made official and unofficial statements casting doubt on the right of government employees and others to download, read, or even discuss documents published by Wikileaks or news reporting based on those documents.  Others have rashly proposed legislation that could limit the free speech of legitimate news reporting agencies well beyond Wikileaks.
These actions have created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty among the general public, leading them to question their rights with regard to the documents posted by Wikileaks. As you continue to discuss these critically important issues, we urge you to do so in a way that respects the constitutional rights of publishers and the public that have been recognized by the Supreme Court. Specifically:  
•  Publishers have a First Amendment right to print truthful political information free of prior restraint, as established in New York Times v. United States.
•  Publishers are strongly protected by the First Amendment against liability for publishing truthful political information that is lawfully obtained, even if the original disclosure of that information to the publisher was unlawful, under Bartnicki v. Vopper.
•  Internet users have a First Amendment right to receive information, as repeatedly endorsed by a series of Supreme Court cases, including Stanley v. Georgia.  
•  The public has a First Amendment right to voice opinions about government activities. This is core political speech, which receives the highest protection under the Constitution.
It will be especially critical for members of Congress to keep these rights in mind as they consider any future legislation that may impact freedom of expression.  In a free country, the government cannot and does not have unlimited power to determine what publishers can publish and what the public can read. As the robust public debate about Wikileaks continues, please make sure that it includes the rights of all involved.
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Arizona First Amendment Coalition
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Bob Barr, Former Congressman and Chairman, Liberty Guard, Inc.  
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights
Communication Is Your Right!
Courage to Resist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Feminists for Free Expression
First Amendment Coalition
Government Accountability Project
Liberty Coalition
Muslimah Writers Alliance
National Coalition Against Censorship  
New America Foundation
New Media Rights
Privacy Activism
Privacy International
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Privacy Times
Progressive Librarians Guild
Sunlight Foundation
Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University

wikileaks_open_letter_final.pdf90.7 KB

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New Media Rights 2010 List of Accomplishments

New Media Rights 2010 List of Accomplishments:

Here's a brief list of just some of our 2010 accomplishments.

  • We've helped hundreds of creators with one-to-one assistance with legal issues including copyright and online publishing questions.
  • We became a cooperating attorney with Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and helped many targets in predatory filesharing cases understand their digital rights.  We also helped many others who were referred for assistance with their digital rights.
  • Hosted a free film screening of 10 Tactics, a movie about how to use new media to enable global activism in October of 2010
  • Published "Social Media and the Law: Here Comes Everybody!" in the California Business Law Practitioner.
  • Helped unite diverse individuals locally to work on creative new media projects and build Drumbeat San Diego.  Registration is open for this February 5, 2011 event, so sign up today!


New Media Rights offers our services at no cost to ensure all those who create and share on the internet have access to legal help. 
We hope that you will acknowledge the value of our work and donate to us today!

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U.S. v. Warshak: Court protects email privacy under the 4th Amendment

By Thomas Yohannan


The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down an important decision that affords emails protection under the Fourth Amendment.  The amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.  In U.S. v Warshak, the court ruled that although an internet service provider (ISP) has access to private emails, the government must obtain a search warrant before it may seize and search such emails.  

The Sixth Circuit ruling also declares part of the Stored Communications Act (SCA) of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act unconstitutional.  18 U.S.C. 2703(b) allows the government to obtain email messages with less than a search warrant. The SCA has been widely criticized by the Digital Due Process coalition for allowing government access to emails without a search warrant.  


The issue that the court dealt with in this case was the expectation of privacy that is afforded to email hosted on a remote server.  The court said:


“Given the fundamental similarities between email and traditional forms of communication [like postal mail and telephone calls], it would defy common sense to afford emails lesser Fourth Amendment protection.... It follows that email requires strong protection under the Fourth Amendment; otherwise the Fourth Amendment would prove an ineffective guardian of private communication, an essential purpose it has long been recognized to serve....”


It was an important decision providing protections for internet users’ online privacy in the area of emails, and articulates that the Fourth Amendment provides important limitations to the government’s ability to access private lives of its citizens, and those limits extend online. Further, the decision may nudge Congressional onlookers to amend the SCA so that a search warrant is required. 

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Whistleblower legislation supported by New Media Rights passes in the Senate

New Media Rights joined the call for stronger whistleblower protection by supporting S. 372 over the last few months with our friends from the Government Accountability Project and numerous other public interest organizations.   Last Friday, the Senate unanimously approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 372), bringing us closer to achieving enhanced whistleblower protections than ever before. The House could vote on the bill as early as tomorrow. The letter included here encourages the House of Representatives to protect Whistleblowers and Taxpayers by passing this legislation.

As the debates surrounding the future of speech on the Internet continue, it is important to recognize the important role that whistleblowers play in exposing corruption, waste, and fraud in our governments and corporations.

To Help Pass Whistleblower Protections in the House of Representatives sign this petition.

An Open Letter to Members of the House of Representatives:

Ensure that the Bipartisan Reforms Long Supported by the House

Become Law This Year. Passing S. 372 Will Protect Both Whistleblowers and Taxpayers

               For the past two Congresses, the House of Representatives has passed, with strong bipartisan support, reform legislation that protects federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse.  This year, bipartisan support for these reforms advanced in the Senate, and late last week the Senate unanimously approved S. 372, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.   This legislation, which reflects a true compromise between Senate and House versions of whistleblower reform, must become law this year.

             In no time in our history is whistleblower reform more crucial: This country must address our growing federal debt and cannot afford to tolerate waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government.  With this crisis looming, we urge you to fulfill your commitments to taxpayers and pass S. 372.

                Protecting whistleblowers is a reform that has strong support across ideological lines.  The groups on this letter are united in this urgent request that federal employees, the foot soldiers in the war on waste, fraud and abuse, get the protections they deserve.  They must be able to fight back when they are fired, harassed or demoted in retaliation for their efforts to protect the public health and safety and taxpayer dollars.

               Unfortunately, under current law the Merit Systems Protection Board rules against 99% of whistleblowers who file suit to defend themselves against retaliation.  Fear of committing career suicide leads federal workers to become silent observers when they witness fraud, waste or abuse.  Congress can and must enact a whistleblower reform law that ensures that federal whistleblowers who are punished for speaking the truth have the tools they need to fight subsequent retaliation, and win.  Congress must significantly strengthen these protections, but time is running short.  Passage of the pending Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 372) must be a priority for the House in the lame duck.

              We know that whistleblowers save money.  Each year, whistleblower lawsuits under the False Claims Act save taxpayers nearly one billion dollars.  A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study of corporations globally found that employee disclosures were responsible for detection of more fraud than auditors, internal compliance officers , wand law enforcement combined.

             While S. 372 does not include every reform that our community has sought, it will dramatically improve the status quo—for whistleblowers and taxpayers.  Please do not delay in making this whistleblower protection legislation with strong bipartisan.   support law.  If you are serious about responding to American voters, reducing the debt, and ensuring the integrity of government, you will do all you can to make whistleblower reform a reality this year.


Affiliation of Christian Engineers

AFGE Council 238 (U.S. EPA AFGE Locals)

American Association of Law Libraries

American Civil Liberties Union

American Federation of Government Employees

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

Association of American Publishers

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now 8 (ACORN 8)

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO)

C-10 Research and Education Foundation

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest

CERES, the Center for Environmental Research and Education thru Synergy

Citizen Power

Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger

Colorado Clean Water Advocates

Concerned Citizens of Petersburg

CROP PLUS (Concerned Residents of Portland, NY + People Like Us)

Custom Employees Against Discrimination Association (CEADA)

DC Employment Justice Center

Delaware Action Group

Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO

Disaster Accountability Project

Energy Justice Network

Environmental Working Group

FAA Whistleblowers Alliance

Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association

Federation of American Scientists

Focus on Indiana

Food Not Bombs

Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Operations

Foundation for Global Community

Fund for Constitutional Government

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

Global Warming Education Network

Government Accountability Project

Green Party of Pennsylvania


Greenwich Citizens Committee, Inc.

Health Integrity Project

Help Abolish Legal Tyranny (HALT)

Help For Sewage Victims

Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings

Implode-Explode Heavy Industry, Inc.

International Association of Whistleblowers

International Medical Council on Vaccinations

Media Alliance



National Coalition of Organized Women

National Family Farm Coalition

National Forum On Judicial Accountability

National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc.

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

National Taxpayers Union

National Treasury Employees Union

New Media Rights

New Mexico Environmental Law Center

New Orleans Women's Shelter

Nuclear Watch South

OAK - Organizations Associating for the Kind of Change America Really Needs

OMB Watch

Oregon Wildlife Federation

PCP PRIDE (People Rising in Defense of Ecology)

POPULAR, Inc. - Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored    

Private Citizen, Inc.

Project On Government Oversight

Public Citizen

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Responsible Charge

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace  

Santa Monicans For Safe Drinking Water Coalition

Scientists for Indigenous People

Semmelweis Society International

Sustainable Energy and Economy Network

Tax Justice Network USA

Terra Foundation

Texas Campaign for the Environment

Texas Injured Workers

The Ecology Party of Florida

The Employment Law Group

The Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance

Trivalley Cares

Union of Concerned Scientists

Voices for Corporate Responsibility

Workplace Fairness

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New Media Rights Internships

See our current listings below

New Media Rights is a non-profit, public interest advocacy organization located in the Hillcrest / Banker's Hill area of San Diego, California.

We offer free legal assistance to people who share and create on the internet. We create how-to and legal guides to empower creators to understand and use their digital rights. We also offer a free equipment and public studio.

We need interns and volunteers with a variety of skills to get involved (law students, media/communications students, filmmakers, software developers, graphic artists, web developers, etc)

If you have any further questions about the internships posted or think you may have skills to contribute please give us a call at 619-591-8870 or email us at


Click here for legal internships

Click here for media and outreach internships

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Watching the Watchers: Is Recording Airport Security Illegal?

TSA recording laws

By now, it seems like everyone on the Internet has weighed-in on the TSA body scanners and pat downs. It hasn't taken long for videos and audio recordings of inappropriate TSA procedures secretly taken in security lines to begin leaking onto the internet. A big unanswered question for travelers right now is, "Can get in trouble for recording how the TSA is treating (or mistreating) me?"

As recently as November 20th, a San Diego man was arrested when he who consented to a strip search but didn't submit to the subsequent pat down. When security found out he had recorded his encounter with TSA with his iPhone, he was also charged with "illegally recording the San Diego Airport Authority" an alleged violation of of San Diego Airport Authority rule 7.14 (a). In addition to the charge, security confiscated his iPhone.

So the question seems more important than ever: can California travellers legally record how airport security treats them?

Federal law allows recording in most situations but local and state rules usually prohibit it

This isn't the first controversy surrounding recording airport security. In 2009, a fundraiser for a libertarian political organization was detained because he was carrying a cash box filled with $4,700 of political contributions. Using his iPhone, he secretly recorded his encounter with TSA where he believed his rights were violated. As of last year, he planned on using the recording as evidence to support a lawsuit against the TSA for unlawful detainment.

In a situation where who is at-fault becomes a game of "your word against theirs" a full recording would be the best kind of evidence to set the record straight quickly and easily. Cell phone and PDA technology allows that. The only problem is that even though Federal law has relatively lax guidelines for recording airport security, local California airport regulations place total prohibitions on recording for any reason.

For example, Section 7.14 of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Codes which governs safety and security in San Diego airports, has a very clear rule on all sound and video recording.

(a) No person shall take still, motion or sound motion pictures or voice recordings on the facilities and airports under the jurisdiction of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (the “Authority”) without written permission from the Authority’s Executive Director or his or her designee.

(b) Filming of X-ray equipment located on the facilities and airports under the jurisdiction of the Authority is strictly prohibited. Any person(s) caught filming such X-ray equipment may have their film confiscated.

The regulation is so broad, it doesn't simply restrict your ability to video record a TSA inspection; these rules, if enforced, would even prohibit tourists taking photographs of the airport art, parents taking pictures of their children about to get on a plane for the first time, video blogging, podcasting, recording dictation, etc.

Arguing that this local prohibition on recording at the airport is unconstitutional may not get you very far because of the precedent set in Supreme Court cases like International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc v Lee, 505 US 672 which held that "An airport terminal operated by a public authority is a non-public forum, and thus a ban on solicitation need only satisfy a reasonableness standard."

Said differently, the Supreme Court has ruled in 1992 that a public airport (the vast majority of airports normal travelers fly out of) is not a place where you have unlimited rights to free speech and expression under the constitution. Any Federal, state, or local law that takes away or limits your First Amendment rights simply has to be "reasonable" (have any common sense reason for existing) to be upheld as constitutional. So despite the common misconception that local regulations like San Diego's are unconstitutional and that "you have the right... to document what happens to you" in the airport, this is simply not the way the law works right now.

What may happen to you if you decide to record and get caught

Since it's clear that it's constitutional for the local rules to strictly prohibit recording for any reason, the better question to answer may be, "What will happen to me if do record airport security?" That's difficult to know. The full text of the San Diego  Airport Code is not publicly available to determine what the penalties may be.

Moreover, other than the November 20th incident in the beginning of the the article, we could only find one other example of the rule being enforced. Recently, another woman was ticketed in San Diego for videotaping the TSA screening process. In the woman's case, her camera was confiscated and she was given a citation and released from Harbor Police custody. No information is available on the cost of the ticket.

So what can happen to you if you decide to record airport security, get caught, and they decide to enforce the rule against you? The least that will happen is you'll get you'll get your camera taken away. The worst may even be full arrest.


You do not have a constitutional right to record inside of an airport if a state or local rule exists prohibiting it. These rules only seem to be enforced though when there's a reason why airport security is already upset at you (refusing to be searched, videotaping TSA monitors). In conclusion, try not to get anyone angry, and it will be less likely that you will get in trouble. Finally, it's understandable that it's difficult to find out about the state or local airport recording laws of everywhere you travel, so you may want simply to monitor news stories to see if anyone in the state has been ticketed for recording. If so, record at your own risk.

If you have any questions about your rights to record in public, feel free to contact New Media Rights at (619) 591-8870 or through email at ... New Media Rights is a free, non-profit legal clinic that counsels on copyright, trademark, and cyberlaw issues with a mission to empower citizen media.

Photo Credit: Notice of TSA Baggage Inspection by JohnRiv


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