Godfrey & Kahn provides legal counsel to the news media both in Wisconsin and nationally, representing newspapers, magazines and the broadcast media.
Our clients include daily newspapers in Milwaukee and Madison as well as newspapers and television and radio stations throughout the state. Since 1985, the firm has maintained a legal hotline for members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. We also represent these associations as counsel.
Our media practice covers every aspect of media and First Amendment law. The firm's attorneys have represented clients in a wide range of matters including:
- Precedent-setting litigation over prior restraints, defamation and privacy
- Subpoenas and media access disputes
- Open records and open meeting disputes under both state and federal law
- Tax and antitrust challenges
- Challenges to independent contractor status and claims for employee benefits
- Copyright, trademark and domain name protection and infringement
- Book publishing and distribution, including author contracts and disputes
The counseling and litigation judgment of our attorneys has been battle-tested in the U.S. Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Courts. Whether working with Pulitzer Prize winners or recent newcomers to the profession, we apply the right resources and approach to advance the story and limit legal distractions and risks.
The firm offers a full range of legal services to its media clients. Of particular interest to broadcasters and publishers is the firm's extensive experience in intellectual property law, including copyright and trademark law, and all aspects of employment, labor and business law.
Access to Public Records and Meeting
Wisconsin's public records and open meeting laws, together with the federal Freedom of Information Act, provide journalists with important reporting tools and citizens with important rights.Our attorneys have both statewide and regional experience in obtaining access to records, meetings and court proceedings for their media clients, whether through negotiation or trial and appellate litigation.
Commercial Speech, Advertising and PRomotional Regulations
The print, broadcast and Internet media are subject to a host of state and federal regulations concerning advertising, employment, gambling and promotional contests. Violation of those rules can result in liability not only for the advertiser but for the station or newspaper as well. "Do not call" and CAN SPAM regulations restrict efforts to develop client relationships and sales revenue. We provide advice and guidance to the firm's media clients and their advertisers in all aspects of state and federal regulations.
Defamation and Privacy
We provide an aggressive defense for defamation and invasion of privacy claims against the print and broadcast media in both state and federal courts. However, effective legal representation in defamation requires more than just reacting to claims after a news story has been broadcast or published. Our attorneys provide comprehensive prepublication and prebroadcast review that can reduce potential legal liability while preserving the full scope and impact of a news story or investigative series.
Wisconsin does not have a statutory journalists' shield law, but our successful representation of one publication in a subpoena dispute led to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals' decision that today provides broad protection for reporters' rights. Still, responding to subpoenas presents a particular challenge to the state's news media. Whether the subpoena seeks a reporter's notes, outtakes of a broadcast interview or the identity of a source, journalists must protect their First Amendment rights. We regularly represent print and broadcast journalists in judicial and administrative proceedings in the defense of these rights.
Media Law and the Internet
The internet has enhanced communication for everyone, but this new medium presents the similar legal problems as traditional media. Email, websites, databases and blogs have their own unique legal issues. We represent service providers, electronic publishers and software manufacturers, both national and state, in addressing such issues
We regularly advise our media clients of their rights and responsibilities regarding political broadcasting, a fluid area in light of legislation such as the federal 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and current campaign finance reform efforts in Wisconsin. Especially during election seasons, broadcasters rely on our experience regarding political file requirements; reasonable access and equal opportunities rules; lowest unit rate and other political broadcasting laws. Godfrey & Kahn attorneys have direct experience and regular contacts with both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Election Commission.
Political Broadcasting 2008, Godfrey & Kahn and Wisconsin Broadcasters Association