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Media Bloggers Association Launches Education, Legal Advisory and Liability Insurance Program for Bloggers

September 19, 2008

The Media Bloggers Association (“MBA”) announced today that it has launched a comprehensive program to provide bloggers access to the same sort of legal and financial resources long available to traditional media organizations including BlogInsure, a first of its kind liability insurance program for bloggers which provides coverage for all forms of defamation, invasion of privacy and copyright infringement or similar allegations arising out of blogging activities.

The cornerstone of the new program is an online course in media law developed by the Media Bloggers Association in partnership with The Poynter Institute’s News University. The course, Online Media Law: The Basics for Bloggers and Other Online Publishers, was co-authored by David Ardia of the Citizen Media Law Project, which is jointly affiliated with Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Center for Citizen Media and Geanne Rosenberg of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism and Baruch College. Scott Swift of Media/Professional Insurance created an assessment to evaluate the student’s understanding of the material.

“The past few years have seen unprecedented changes in the media landscape,” said Robert Cox, co-Founder and President of the Media Bloggers Association. “From a handful of bloggers in 2000 to tens of millions today, bloggers have been granted full press credentials, broken major news stories, and dethroned high-profile politicians and media figures. With that success has come greater scrutiny and the inevitable rise in legal threats facing bloggers,” said Cox. “In this new environment, blogger access to education, training, legal advisory services and liability insurance is critical to the sustainability of a strong and vibrant citizen media.”

Because the MBA believes so strongly that all bloggers should take this course, it is made available at no charge and, although the course is an integral part of the new MBA membership application process, bloggers are not required to join the MBA to take the course. Payment of annual dues for MBA membership is not requested until after the course has been completed and bloggers may opt-out of the application process at any time.

After completing the exam, bloggers will be asked to take a course assessment; this exam is a prerequisite for individuals interested in joining the Media Bloggers Association so those wishing to join must opt to report their test scores to the MBA. It is also the basis for the significant discount on liability insurance available to bloggers through the BlogInsure program.

By joining the Media Bloggers Association, individuals have the exclusive opportunity to purchase liability insurance for bloggers through Media/Professional Insurance, a business unit of the Select Markets Division of AXIS Insurance. Insurance will cover costs and damages for claims of defamation, copyright infringement and privacy violation. Media/Professional Insurance, the largest underwriter of media liability insurance in the world, has offered media liability coverage for publishers and broadcasters since 1979, protecting against claims of defamation and infringement.

“As a leader with over 30 years experience protecting free-speech, it is a natural progression to offer coverage for emerging media such as blogs,” according to Leib Dodell, Chairman of Media/Professional Insurance. “Affordable, readily available and easily accessible coverage was critical in our development of the program. Our web-based format allows those interested in BlogInsure to apply, pay for, and get coverage at the click of a button.”

Insured bloggers will have access to a new legal hotline beta program. Through the hotline, MBA Members who purchase insurance will, for a limited time only, have access to a web extranet through which they may submit queries and get answers to legal questions before problems arise. The hotline was created and is operated by the law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, and overseen by Sonnenschein partner Blaine Kimrey. Sonnenschein is widely regarded as one of the top media defense firms in the United States. This program may be continued beyond the beta period depending on initial results.

Uninsured MBA Members facing legal threats will still have access to the MBA’s extensive network of media liability attorneys around the United States, a program that has helped bloggers in hundreds of cases since 2004. Through the MBA Legal Referral program, MBA members are referred to a lawyer specializing in media law who can provide an evaluation of risks and costs associated with specific allegations and offer some general advice regarding how to respond to allegations of defamation, copyright infringement, and privacy violation. The primary purpose of this program is to rapidly match bloggers with lawyers with specific expertise in the types of allegations commonly arising out of blogging. There is no guarantee legal assistance will be available for a specific case; it is provided on a “best efforts” basis only. This program is not an offer to cover legal fees, related costs or judgments; it is not intended to be a substitute for liability insurance.

Bloggers wishing to join the Media Bloggers Association can visit the MBA web site at www.mediabloggers.org and click the “Membership” link. Membership dues are $25.00 annually.

About Media Bloggers Association

The Media Bloggers Association (www.mediabloggers.org) is a nonpartisan non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting and educating its members; supporting the development of “blogging” or “citizen journalism” as a distinct form of media; and helping to extend the power of the press, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails, to every citizen. Since 2004, the MBA has provided legal assistance to hundreds of bloggers, provided media credentials for bloggers to cover major events ranging from Presidential debates to the Super Bowl and sponsored a wide variety of education initiatives.

About Media/Professional Insurance

Media/Professional Insurance (www.mediaprof.com), based in Kansas City, Mo., is the nation’s largest provider of media liability insurance and a leading provider of cyberspace liability and miscellaneous professional liability insurance. M/PI is a business unit of the Select Markets Division of AXIS Insurance.

About News University

News University (www.newsu.org) is the e-learning home for more than 82,000 journalists, educators and students in 200 countries around the world. NewsU offers more than 65 focused, interactive courses that appeal to journalists at all levels of experience and in all types of media. Many courses take just an hour or two to complete and most are free. NewsU is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The program is a project of The Poynter Institute, a leader in journalism training. Each year, Poynter conducts seminars in leadership and management; reporting, writing and editing; broadcast and online; ethics and diversity; and visual journalism.

About Citizen Media Law Project

The Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) is jointly affiliated with Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Center for Citizen Media. The CMLP provides legal assistance, training, and resources for individuals and organizations involved in online and citizen media.

About City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism

The City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism is a publicly supported graduate school of journalism. CUNY’s Baruch College offers journalism education to undergraduate students. CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism and Baruch College are both located in Manhattan.

About Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP

Founded in 1906, Sonnenschein (www.sonnenschein.com) has approximately 700 lawyers and other professionals in 13 U.S. cities and Brussels, and a global reach throughout the Americas, Asia and the Middle East. The firm serves the legal and public interest needs of many of the world’s best known and most admired businesses, nonprofits and individuals. The firm is widely regarded as one of the top media defense firms in the United States.




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