WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - January 5, 2010) - The Online News Association (ONA), the world's largest membership of digital journalists, today announced a partnership with the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society to bring its new Online Media Legal Network (OMLN) to its members.

Staffed by lawyers with extensive backgrounds in intellectual property and media law, OMLN (www.omln.org) provides independent journalists access to high-quality free and reduced-fee legal work, qualifying them for assistance, helping them identify their legal needs and matching them with participating attorneys.

OMLN's network comprises more than 30 law firms, representing nearly 7,000 lawyers, as well as law school clinics, in-house counsel and individual lawyers across the country interested in helping online journalism ventures and other digital media creators.

"Any journalist who is building a digital media business, tackling issues of copyright on their website, writing up freelance contracts or facing a libel suit knows how critical -- and costly -- expert legal counsel can be," said ONA Executive Director Jane McDonnell. "With OMLN, our members have a fast track to a legal safety net."

OMLN's services range from forming and governing a business, copyright licensing and fair use, freelancer agreements, access to government information, pre-publication review of content and representation in litigation.

Individuals, non-profits and independent, for-profit journalism organizations are eligible for the free services if they meet OMLN financial criteria. Reduced-fee services may be available for those who don't qualify for free help. (At this time the network can only assist with questions involving U.S. law, but it hopes to expand services in the future.)

If you are an ONA member and would like to take advantage of this benefit, visit the Legal Resources page under Member Resources on Journalists.org. There you will find several options, including directions to download a "legal check-up" survey and to contact the OMLN staff for a one-on-one consultation about your specific needs. Not an ONA member? Join here.

"Many independent online publishers lack the expertise and financial resources to protect themselves," said David Ardia, Director of the Citizen Media Law Project. "It's easy to imagine how one threatening letter can close down an important avenue of reporting or one lawsuit could shut down a promising journalism site. We created OMLN to make sure that doesn't happen -- and to help build a vibrant online media environment."

OMLN is funded in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. For more information on the Citizen Media Law Project, go to http://www.citmedialaw.org.

The Citizen Media Law Project is jointly affiliated with Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, a research center funded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development, and the Center for Citizen Media, an initiative to enhance and expand grassroots media. CMLP provides assistance, training, research and other resources for individuals and organizations involved in online and citizen media.

The Online News Association is the world's largest association of online journalists. ONA's mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, bloggers, technologists, photographers and others who produce news for the Internet or other digital delivery systems, as well as academic members and others interested in the development of online journalism. ONA also hosts the annual Online News Association annual conference and administers the Online Journalism Awards.

Contact Information: For more information, contact: Jane McDonnell Executive Director Online News Association Sherry Skalko Editor, Journalists.org