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Law for Media Startups – New Entrepreneurship Guide

For immediate release
March 4, 2015
Contact: Jan Schaffer

J-Lab Partners with CUNY to Create E-Guide

Washington, D.C.“Law for Media Startups,” a new resource for entrepreneurs launching news ventures and educators teaching students how to do it, was published today by CUNY’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.

The 12-chapter web guide was written by Jan Schaffer, J-Lab executive director, and Jeff Kosseff, media lawyer for Covington & Burling LLP law firm in Washington, D.C. The Tow-Knight Center supported the research, writing and production as part of its suite of entrepreneurial journalism resources.

“This guide goes beyond traditional First Amendment law to address every-day issues news entrepreneurs confront,” Schaffer said. “From native advertising to labor law and fair use, it supplies what I found missing for my students.”

“Every day, innovators are developing new ways to deliver news and content to consumers,” Kosseff said. “I hope this guide helps them identify the legal issues that they should be considering as they build their business models.”

Small digital news startups are facing a range of legal issues as they set up their business operations, gather and report the news, protect their content, and market and support their news ventures. They need to know classic First Amendment law – and much more. This guide offers an introduction to many of those issues, from hiring freelancers and establishing organizational structures, to native advertising and marketing, to maintaining privacy policies and dealing with libel accusations. It seeks to help jumpstart the launch of news ventures and help entrepreneurs know when to seek professional legal help.

“The news ecosystem of the future will be made up of enterprises of many sizes, shapes, and forms, including journalistic startups that need help with their businesses and the law” said Jeff Jarvis, Director of the Tow-Knight Center. “Jan Schaffer and Jeff Kosseff provide an invaluable guide to help them recognize legal pitfalls. It complements other research from Tow-Knight on a variety of business practices.”

Jeff Kosseff is a communications and privacy attorney in Covington & Burling’s Washington, D.C. office, where he represents and advises media and technology companies. He is co-chair of the Media Law Resource Center’s legislative affairs committee. He clerked for Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. He is an adjunct professor of communications law at American University, where he teaches in its MA in Media Entrepreneurship program. Before becoming a lawyer, Kosseff was a journalist for The Oregonian and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and recipient of the George Polk Award for national reporting.

Jan Schaffer is executive director of J-Lab, an incubator for news entrepreneurs and innovators, and Entrepreneur in Residence at American University’s School of Communication, where she also teaches in its MA in Media Entrepreneurship program. She launched J-Lab in 2002 to help newsrooms use digital technologies to engage people in public issues. It has funded 100 news startups and pilot collaboration projects and it has commissioned and developed a series of online journalism resources that include Launching a Nonprofit News Site, Top Ten Rules for Limited Legal Risk and The Journalist’s Guide to Open Government. As the federal court reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, she was part of a team awarded the Pulitzer Gold Medal for Public Service for a series of stories that won freedom for a man wrongly convicted of five murders and led to the civil rights convictions of six Philadelphia homicide detectives.

The “Law for Media Startups” guide also invites media lawyers around the country to contribute information on state-specific laws that apply to news entrepreneurs, following the guide’s template for laws in Virginia.

J-Lab is a journalism catalyst that has provided funding and resources for news startups. It has funded 100 startups and pilot projects since 2005.

The Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism offers educational programs, supports research, and sponsors events to foster sustainable business models for quality journalism. It is part of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, and funded by The Tow Foundation and The Knight Foundation.

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