Writer Office Hours: Legal đź“…

New Office Hour time this week: Join us from 2 pm - 3 pm PT / 5 pm - 6 pm ET

What legal questions do you have about publishing and growing on Substack? 

The Substack legal team, and your fellow writers, are here to help! 

Today we’re hosting Office Hours with two special guests: Tim and Mike from Substack’s legal team. 

Tim is a lawyer, writer, and currently the General Counsel at Substack. You can read more about him here. Mike is a lawyer in private practice (and Tim’s old law partner). Mike has worked with the Substack Defender program, helping writers with defamation and copyright liability matters, and represents a wide variety of creative sector clients. You can learn more about his practice here

They’ll be in the thread to answer writer legal questions for an hour. The rest of the Substack team and fellow writers are also here for you to answer general questions.

  • What do I do if I find someone copying or plagiarizing my work?
    Copyright law offers authors of original works broad protection against copying, including many (but not all) cases of plagiarism. Copyright enforcement in the courts isn’t likely to be a practical solution in most cases, but there are often other approaches, like takedown notices sent to content hosts under the DMCA, that can see individual offending items removed reasonably quickly and efficiently.
    To get started: Visit Substack’s Copyright Dispute Policy to learn about the DMCA process which implements this notice-and-takedown procedure.

  • Can I protect the confidentiality of my sources if I publish a controversial article? 
    It’s an awfully good question — the unfortunate kind of question that can only be answered with a lawyerly “maybe.” The First Amendment offers some protection against compelled disclosure of journalist’s sources, but just how much and in what circumstances is hotly contested and is treated differently in courts across the U.S. The vast majority of states also have reporter’s shield laws that provide more predictable protection but these vary from state to state, define the protected class of journalists in different ways, and will not necessarily be available when dealing with a federal subpoena (there is no federal reporter’s shield). If this kind of disclosure is a concern, it’s likely worth talking with a lawyer.
    To get started: Learn more at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Reporter’s Privilege Compendium.

  • Are you facing legal uncertainty or pressure because of your writing?
    Substack Defender offers legal support for writers ranging from legal review of stories before publishing and responses to cease-and-desist letters. Learn more.

Drop your questions in the thread and we’ll do our best to supercharge each other.

Our team will be in the thread today answering questions with you. Join us from 2 pm - 3 pm PT / 5 pm - 6 pm ET.

We’ll host Office Hours as usual again next week. Save it to your calendar so you don’t miss it.

Please be aware that these answers are general, and are NOT personal legal advice. Mike and Tim cannot give you personalized legal advice in this format. They can answer broad questions, but if you need specific advice about a particular situation, they cannot provide it in this format. They are ONLY offering general information about the law. By answering your question, they are NOT agreeing to represent you in any capacity.