Our lawyers represent clients of all kinds, including traditional media, online publishers, corporations, higher education institutions and entities, and individuals on matters such as defamation, commercial disparagement, invasion of privacy, false advertising, right of access to information, licensing, vendor relationships, copyright, pre-publication/pre-broadcast review, free speech, censorship, social media, and freedom of religion.


Traditional media, publishing clients, and social media outlets turn to Hodgson Russ for pre-publication/pre-broadcast reviews, counseling clients regarding the parameters of acceptable reporting and broadcasting, and mitigating their potential liability exposure. We counsel those same clients when they receive retraction or correction requests, or subpoenas relating to their reporting and invoking issues surrounding protection of sources, shield laws, and anonymous speech. Hodgson Russ is proud to be a member of the Buffalo Broadcasters Association.

We also represent media clients across different platforms involving the sale of their companies, non-competition agreements, compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Communications Decency Act, and other federal and state laws, as well as on talent and staff contracts and union labor issues, website domains, advertising and other contractual disputes, and other aspects of the media business.

First Amendment Issues

Hodgson Russ has become a leader in vigorously defending higher education clients against claims involving the freedom of speech and association. We also advise our clients on related compliance and governance issues designed to prevent them from becoming the target of First Amendment litigation. Our experience has helped us understand the unique challenges faced by colleges, universities, and student governments in navigating these issues.

Our First Amendment litigators are also highly experienced in disputes involving First Amendment Civil Rights claims, rights of privacy and publicity, the rights of reporters under Shield Laws, and authors’ rights under statute and contract, counseling media outlets, defense against misappropriation and right of publicity claims. Related actions include litigating copyright and trademark cases.

Free speech challenges involve government action that intrudes upon free-speech rights such as restraints on publication, defamation, pre-publication and pre-broadcast review, invasion of privacy, and other torts such as infliction of emotional distress, fraud and misrepresentation, and tortious interference. These issues arise with respect to individuals and businesses, including the press. Our work includes advising school districts on the unique situations posed by student and employee free speech rights at school, in school newspapers, and on social media.

First Amendment litigation involving freedom of religion encompasses issues ranging from the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and separation of church and state issues arising from religious symbols on public property. We regularly advise clients on the intersection of religious rights with workplace mandates, and other aspects of the free exercise of religion. These include the right to religious speech in various public forums, from traditional public forums (e.g., sidewalks) to public institutions (e.g., educational facilities).

An emerging aspect of First Amendment practice are the digital technologies transforming the information landscape. First Amendment attorneys have experience in legal issues involving data protection and cybercrimes, responding to anonymous posters, and counseling on obligations under the Communications Decency Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, website user agreements (where we advise on terms of use and privacy policies), all forms of social media, compliance with international privacy protection laws, endorsement issues, content licensing, and cybersquatting.

Public Records

Drawing from its experience representing municipal entities, school districts, developers, and private citizens, Hodgson Russ is well versed in open meetings law matters, privacy rights including HIPAA and the New York Civil Rights Law, Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and related public records issues. We advise on protection of proprietary information submitted to public agencies, and the proper use of personnel information, as well as the proper use of executive sessions and application of attorney-client privilege to public records.

Corporate Counseling and Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Our corporate, employment, and intellectual property lawyers work together to protect and enforce our client’s intellectual property rights. We understand that our clients commit significant resources to developing their intellectual property and marketing their businesses. Whether it is protecting those rights during a business transaction, ensuring that employees understand their obligations, engaging in litigation to protect your investment, or helping clients respond to public relations issues, Hodgson Russ’s Media and First Amendment Practice offers the legal solutions your business needs.

Hodgson Russ has significant experience negotiating licensing agreements, royalty agreements, preparing and litigating trademark, copyright, and patent disputes, protecting client’s trade secrets, and litigating unfair competition claims. The firm regularly represents inventors, authors, artists, and entrepreneurs to protect their work.

Reputation Protection and Rescue

A client’s reputation is often its most valuable asset. Hodgson Russ routinely litigates defamation matters, whether they are prosecuting claims on behalf of individuals and corporations, or defending clients against such claims. Having been on both sides of these matters, Hodgson Russ understands the strengths and weaknesses of each case. We also understand that some of these disputes can instead be effectively addressed outside of the courtroom. We help our clients carefully navigate this process in a number of ways to identify the most effective response to potentially defamatory statements.  

In addition, the firm regularly counsels clients regarding how to respond to a reputational crisis. That advice includes responding to the press, partnering with public relations firms to manage the ongoing crisis, interfacing with insurers and other professionals necessary to address the event, and helping the client rebuild their reputation after the initial crisis has passed.

Advertising Law

An essential element in operating media today on any platform is understanding the complex regulatory structure governing advertisements, not only those set by governmental bodies, but also industry standards and platform specific (Facebook, Twitter, Google) requirements. Hodgson Russ can assist clients and their agencies on a diverse range of compliance issues, from state sweepstakes laws to the Dot Com Disclosure guidelines given by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). We pursue false claims by competitors, respond to FTC and State Attorney General investigations, defend against cease and desist letters, and help limit delays and liability by reviewing advertising copy and supporting evidence prior to new product launches or updating on-going campaigns.


News & Insights


  • From free speech to copyrighted images, here are some prominent court cases businesses need to know about (podcast)

    From free speech to copyrighted images, here are some prominent court cases businesses need to know about (podcast)

    With prominent court cases constantly in the news, it can be tricky to interpret how major court decisions involving the First Amendment impact businesses, individuals and the community. Aaron Saykin, partner, media and First Amendment practice leader at Hodgson Russ LLP, dives into this hot topic with Buffalo Business First Publisher John Tebeau, in the latest episode of the Thought Leaders in Law and Business podcast.

    In part 1 of this conversation, when these two were together for the podcast’s premiere episode, they tackled Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, one of the most frequently cited and complained about statutes in Washington, D.C., from both parties, according to Saykin. This time, in addition to continuing the conversation about free speech, they cover defamation of character and fair use of copyrighted images.

    “If you post something on a social media site — and you go into those terms and conditions — you are typically giving them a license to do certain things with that photo. It doesn't mean somebody else can come and take the photo and publish it somewhere else, and that's the vast majority of what you see cases on,” Saykin said. “But if you're an artist, I would be very careful of posting your copywritten work. Just by signing up and creating an account on that platform, you may be waiving a particular right.”

    Listen to this podcast episode to learn more about several big court cases, including:

    The “don’t say gay” statute in Florida (Disney v. DeSantis).The $787 million settlement Fox agreed to pay in the election defamation lawsuit (Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News).“A one-of-a-kind case” when Sarah Palin’s campaign was falsely linked to the 2011 mass shooting in Arizona (Sarah Palin v. The New York Times).The fair use defense involving copyrighted photographs taken of Prince in the 1980s (Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc., v. Goldsmith).

  • The latest on the Section 230 debate — and what it might mean for businesses (podcast)

    The latest on the Section 230 debate — and what it might mean for businesses (podcast)

    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is one of the most frequently cited and complained about statutes in Washington, D.C., from both parties, according to Aaron Saykin, partner, media and First Amendment practice leader at Hodgson Russ LLP.

    The law was enacted in the 1990s and it shields online platforms — like Google, Yelp, Twitter, Facebook — from legal liability for posts published by their users. “This was the advent of the internet,” Saykin said. “I think forward looking members of Congress said, ‘We don’t want to cripple this new platform —this new level of innovation — with defamation suits.’”

    In the premiere episode of the Thought Leaders in Law and Business podcast, presented by Hodgson Russ and The Business Journals, Saykin discusses this hot topic with host John Tebeau, publisher of Buffalo Business First.

    “The Supreme Court has said certain types of speech can be regulated and treated differently like commercial speech. There's a different level of scrutiny for that. Things that are lewd, there's certain jurisprudence that allows the regulation of that. But just political speech and regulating that based on the content is fraught with peril for the government,” Saykin said.

    Listen to this podcast episode to learn more about:

    Why Saykin changed his career path from an investigative television reporter to lawyer.Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — what it says, what it means, the benefits and the negatives.Exceptions to the law.The different reasons both parties want Section 230 changed.What the world might look like if the liability shield is repealed.

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Media & First Amendment / News & Insights