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MLRC Institute

The MLRC Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit created in 1988 to sponsor and support First Amendment education and research projects.

The MLRC Institute is the 501(c)(3) charitable affiliate of the Media Law Resource Center, dedicated to educating journalists, students, and other members of the public about First Amendment and media law issues. 

Currently, the Institute is operating under a generous multi-year grant from the Knight Foundation to produce seminars on media law topics for journalists. The Institute travels around the country to present these sessions live to journalism organizations and at journalism conferences, as well as presenting sessions virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. Programs include the following: 

Libel and Invasion of Privacy 

In this workshop we will discuss how you can reduce your risk of being sued for defamation and invasion of privacy while still engaging in robust reporting. The workshop will cover what the plaintiff has to prove in a libel case, defenses that you might have under the First Amendment and common law, the differences in defending cases brought by public and private figures, and the effect of corrections, denials, implications of fact, and using anonymous sources. We’ll also talk about lawsuits based on the publication of truthful but embarrassing or private facts. 

Newsgathering Law 

A workshop focusing on what journalists can and cannot do when they go out to gather the news. The discussion will include the risks in trespassing and intruding on a subject’s property or person; using hidden cameras, drones, or wiretaps; lying to sources and subjects; breaking contracts and inducing sources to break their contracts; hacking or scraping online content; and publishing materials you’re not supposed to have. We will also address legal issues related to promising confidentiality to sources. 


When can you use an image that you find online? Are there legal risks to retweeting or embedding content? What does “fair use” really mean, anyway? In this session, we will review the basics of copyright law, including what is copyrightable, how to protect your own work product, and the conditions under which you can use the work of others. We’ll delve into the fair use of newsworthy material, the important difference between ideas and expression, and the critical distinction between what technology enables you to do and what the law allows you to do. 

Trustees and Officers

Mary Kate Tischler (Chair), WarnerMedia
Michael Berry, Ballard Spahr
Kate Bolger, Davis Wright Tremaine
Heather Dietrick, The Daily Beast
Ashley Messenger, NPR
Lynn Oberlander, Ballard Spahr
Rachel Strom, Davis Wright Tremaine
George Freeman, MLRC Executive Director