The House of Representatives has amended the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 to include provisions to protect bloggers from being required to divulge their sources under certain situations in the same way as journalists. Instead of requiring journalists to be tied to a news organization, the bill now defines "journalism" to focus more on the function of the job: "the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public."
Introduced last week by Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA), the bill is meant to offer a federal version of reporter "shield" laws that are in place in some 32 states in the US. Legislation at state level has struggled in the past to determine exactly how to define journalism, with bloggers who don't often write for traditional news organizations finding themselves in a murky gray area. However, in 2006, a California court ruled in favor of two rumor sites (often considered "blogs")—AppleInsider and Powerpage—after they divulged details about unreleased Apple products. The ruling concluded that there was no relevant legal distinction between journalistic blogging and journalism when it came to the shield law.
The Free Flow of Information Act was reworked after its introduction with the specific intent of including bloggers under the broader definition of journalism. According to a section-by-section analysis of the bill, "The act would apply to web logs ('blogs') that engage in journalism." Although the law is not likely meant to include every person who writes on the Internet, it doesn't create a litmus test for what constitutes "engaging in journalism."
Under the wording of the bill, journalists are protected from divulging their sources for news stories except in cases where there is imminent harm to national security, imminent death or significant bodily harm involved, a trade secret "of significant value in violation of State or Federal law," individually identifiable health information, and in instances where "nondisclosure of the information would be contrary to the public interest."
The bill will likely be met with some resistance from some companies that are constantly in the spotlight—such as Apple, who has targeted bloggers in the past—but it's being supported heavily by press associations such as the Newspaper Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters, and the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press. "The bill is a carefully constructed measure which will provide a broad new and much needed privilege for reporters to refrain from revealing confidential sources," said Boucher in a statement. "Given the broad bipartisan support this measure enjoys, I am optimistic that it will be reported by the Judiciary Committee and passed by the House this year." Source