INN – OMLN Legal Assistance Collaboration

Editor’s Note: In February of 2011, INN announced its virtual partnership with the Online Media Legal Network (OMLN). The following was provided by Assistant Director, Digital Media Law Project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Jeff Hermes to serve as a reminder of the services made available to INN member organizations.

To help our members find pro bono or low-cost legal help, the Investigative News Network has partnered with the Online Media Legal Network (OMLN) at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

OMLN is a legal assistance and referral service made up of law firms, law school clinics, in-house counsel, and individual lawyers throughout the United States willing to provide pro bono (free) and reduced-fee legal assistance to qualifying independent journalists and journalism ventures.  The network’s 200+ law firms and law school clinics in more than 40 states comprise nearly 7,000 lawyers with expertise in media law, intellectual property law, risk management, and business advice.  For more on the network, go to

OMLN is operated by lawyers with extensive backgrounds in law and journalism.  Their intake attorneys can help you identify your existing legal needs, anticipate future legal issues, and match you with a participating attorney in your area.  OMLN member attorneys have helped clients with matters such as:

  • business formation
  • non-profit governance and obtaining 501(c)(3) status
  • transactional assistance
  • trademark and copyright registration
  • licensing of intellectual property (including freelancer and syndication agreements)
  • fair use analysis
  • advertising, promotions and sweepstakes compliance
  • FTC regulation of online endorsements
  • drafting of website terms of service and privacy policies
  • preparation and submission of FOIA and state public records requests
  • acquisition of press credentials
  • pre-publication review
  • defense of reporters subpoenaed to disclose sources or research material
  • defense of content liability lawsuits (including both intellectual property infringement actions and traditional publication tort claims such as defamation and invasion of privacy)

All of the OMLN’s services are free for INN members, but you must meet certain eligibility qualifications to receive pro bono assistance from the member law firms.   A description of the criteria OMLN uses to assess financial eligibility is located on their network FAQ:

There are two ways to request legal assistance:

  • Fill out and return the OMLN Intake Form (if you have difficulty using the auto submit button, save the form and send it to the email address below); or
  • Email OMLN staff at and they will respond to your request.

Once you submit a request for assistance, OMLN staff will setup a personal consultation to walk you through your specific needs.  Please remember to identify yourself as an INN member in order to ensure that your request gets immediate attention.