From the Legal Hotline (1-877-NEWS-LAW)

From the Legal Hotline (1-877-NEWS-LAW)

Q. Correct me if I’m wrong but in regard to Marsy’s Law, it is my understanding that if the name is provided to us by the family it’s OK to use it. This happened to us when we had the bank shooting. Over the course of a week we were able to finally get an ID on the non-employee who had been murdered. We went with the name.

So, does Marsy’s Law apply to reporters? In other words, if we receive the names of victims of crime – can we publish them without the police backing that up? And if police don’t release the names – is it ok for us – say, if the family releases the names to us?

A.Yes, if the name is provided by the victim’s family, you should be able to report it.
Marsy’s Law (section 5) gives crime victims the right to prevent their personally identifiable information from being released in public records. I interpret it as only restricting disclosure by the government. Here, the informant’s name has already been disclosed by the family. Also, it is received from the victim’s family as opposed to victim information contained in a government agency record (police report, etc.).

Q. Our website has a copyright notice on the bottom of every page, however, we don’t have any of that info in our print editions. Is there a straightforward way to place a notice in our printed copies of the sanctity of our own content? Any forms, etc. that should be submitted to particular agencies?
I am not sure when we dropped that verbiage but we should reinstitute.

A.We reached out to Jim McGuire at Thomas LoCicero law firm, who is expert in this area. Jim says you should be able to include a copyright notice on your print editions just as you do on your website.

An author or publisher owns the copyright in a work from the time the work is created. That means a paper owns the copyright in its publication (whether online or on paper) from its inception. But owning a copyright is different from registering a copyright.

As Jim explains, the primary benefit of registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office is that it gives the owner the right to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Without registration, the publisher owns the copyright, can include a copyright notice on the publication, and can demand that others not copy the material, but cannot actually file a lawsuit to enforce the copyright.

Right now, you are probably using the copyright notice on your website without actually registering the copyright in each online edition of the paper. You can certainly take the same approach with the print edition.

Q.A quick opinion question. I am hearing that other newspapers are charging out-of-market rates for legal ads in the county they publish. Can this be done legally?

A. They can only charge their “minimum commercial rate” which is usually the lowest one on the rate card. It’s a bit subjective from paper to paper but if a paper has been charging a particular legal rate it should apply that consistently, client to client. The applicable law is 50.061(3) entitled “Amounts Chargeable.”

Q. Our publisher would like you to look over our rules for a weekly newspaper contest that features a number clue in the paper that the reader finds and emails in to be included in a drawing. The is a weekly drawing where the winner wins a prize as well as a year-end drawing of all entries for a grand prize. Newspaper employees are not eligible.

A. There are a few potential issues here. (This may seem like overkill but these “small” drawings can become problematic if not done properly.)

First, the paper will want to avoid structuring the drawing such that it results in an illegal “lottery.”

A lottery is defined as a promotion that contains the following three elements: chance, prize and consideration. To avoid structuring an illegal lottery, a promoter must remove one of the elements—which is typically either chance or consideration as most promoters want to award a prize.

In this case, the focus is on removal of consideration—must the consumer expend something of tangible value or effort to enter or play?

Any purchase requirement for the consumer to find the out-of-sync page number to enter the drawing will be “consideration” and could result in an illegal lottery.

If there is a no-purchase alternative, it must be structured such that the chance of winning is the same as that under the payment alternative and the non-payment alternative is not significantly more burdensome than paying to enter. In addition, the alternate method must be “universally available” to the people who are in the general entry pool governed by the drawing.

Second, if the promotion is legal, the next step is to see if any registration is required. In Florida, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Consumer Services regulates game promotions (connected to a consumer product or service) offering prizes totaling more than $5,000. For such promotions, the promoter must file complete final rules and financial security with the Division seven days prior to commencement.

Also, the material terms of the rules must be published in all advertising copy. Even small-scale promotions should be accompanied by a set of official rules. They should include basic info. such as a statement that no purchase is necessary; relevant dates (starting date, entry deadline, date of drawing), description of how to enter (including the no purchase or alternative method of entry); eligibility limits (minimum age, residency requirements, affiliation with sponsor, etc.); prize description, approximate retail value and any restrictions, odds of winning; and identity of the sponsor.

If you want to move forward, I suggest you run this by a legal expert in this area I know who can help you avoid pitfalls, and is very reasonable in terms of cost.

Q. We are changing up our print days beginning next week. We will be printing Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. Our current print days are Wednesday/Friday/Saturday.

The question is on legals that span the transition weeks. Most need to be published two consecutive weeks, most often Wednesday and then the following Wednesday, etc.

Since our days are changing, if a legal is in print Wed.– should the second run be on the Tuesday or Thursday of the next week? Same question for legals in the Friday issue.

A.As you note, many legals are published once during “each week” for “2 consecutive weeks.” Here is an example for notices of action in foreclosure actions:

(c) Notices of action in foreclosure proceedings as defined in s. 702.09 shall be published once during each week for 2 consecutive weeks (two publications being sufficient) in some newspaper published in the county where the court is located.

I would think as long as the second publication occurs “once” during the following (i.e., consecutive) week of the first publication, you will have met the requirement. So, either day should be ok.