Steven D. Zansberg

Senior Counsel
Tel 303.376.2409
Fax 303.296.3956

For more than two decades, Steven D. Zansberg has represented media companies, online publishers, and individuals in defending claims based on content, fighting subpoenas, and seeking access to government information and proceedings. He represented the national news media in connection with coverage of the Aurora theater shooting case, the Oklahoma City bombing trials, and the Kobe Bryant rape prosecution. He secured access to public records related to the murder of JonBenét Ramsey and the shooting at Columbine High School. Steve also litigates copyright and trademark matters. Steve has also defended dozens of defamation and invasion of privacy cases in both state and federal courts across the nation. He has successfully briefed and argued appeals to the Colorado Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth and 10th Circuits.

Steve is an active leader in the national media law bar. He is a past Chair of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Communications Law, and has chaired several other committees within the ABA and the Media Law Resource Center. Steve also serves as the President of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, which educates about and promotes greater transparency in state and local governments.

Steve has taught media law and internet law at the University of Colorado and at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Steve was a freelance documentary producer at the public television station in San Francisco.

Steve was a partner at the highly regarded First Amendment boutique law firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, which merged with Ballard Spahr in October 2017.

Representative Experience

  • Successfully defended Westword weekly newspaper in a defamation action brought by the former head of Emergency Medicine at Denver’s Children’s Hospital. The plaintiff claimed that Westword defamed him in two articles that reported a woman’s allegations that he harassed her six years earlier. The court held that because the newspaper accurately reported the woman’s allegations, the challenged articles were substantially true.
  • Successfully defended the operator of an online news publication,, in obtaining dismissal under California’s anti-SLAPP statute of libel claims brought by Hollywood celebrity Andrew Keegan. The court found that Keegan could not show that the news report at issue, which discussed a government raid on his Venice, California-based church, was published with actual malice.
  • Successfully defended Clarity Digital Media Group, LLC, now known as AXS Digital Media Group, LLC, in obtaining an appellate decision affirming summary judgment on 75 copyright infringement claims brought by two photography licensing agencies. The claims were premised on celebrity photos that were posted to the website by paid third-party contributors. The 10th Circuit held that the photos had been “stored at the direction of users” of the website, so Clarity was immune from all copyright infringement claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
  • Successfully defended The Discovery Channel in a suit arising from an episode of the documentary TV program Homicide Hunter, which depicted the plaintiff’s involvement in a gang-related altercation that resulted in a 14-year-old’s death. The trial court dismissed all of the plaintiff’s defamation, emotional distress, and invasion of privacy claims, finding that the program was substantially true.
  • Successfully defended The Denver Post and its reporter in a libel case brought by a former City Council candidate based on a report that the candidate was “caught up in a plagiarism charge.” Colorado’s Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of all claims, ruling that the newspaper’s report was both substantially true and not defamatory.
  • Successfully represented A&E Television Networks in obtaining summary judgment on libel claims premised on the Gangland: Aryan Brotherhood program. On appeal, the 10th Circuit affirmed, ruling that calling the plaintiff a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang when he "merely conspired with the Brotherhood in a criminal enterprise" is not actionable because it is substantially true.

Professional Activities

ABA Forum on Communications Law, past Chair

Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, President

ABA Section on Torts, Trial and Insurance Practice, Media, Privacy and Defamation Law Committee, past Chair

Media Law Resource Center, State Legislative Committee, Co-Chair; Newsgathering Committee, past Co-Chair; and Internet Law Committee, member

Colorado Broadcasters Association, past Board of Directors

Media Law Reporter, Editorial Board

Sturm College of Law, University of Denver, Adjunct Professor

ACLU of Colorado, Legal Panel

Recognition & Accomplishments

Chambers USA, "Leader in the Field," First Amendment Litigation (Nationwide), 2019-2020

The Best Lawyers in America, First Amendment law, First Amendment litigation, media law, 2003-2021; "Lawyer of the Year," First Amendment Law (Denver), 2014, 2016, 2019, and 2021; Litigation - First Amendment (Denver), 2018, 2020

Colorado Super Lawyers, media & advertising, 2009-2010, 2012-2017

Law Week Colorado 2011 Lawyer of the Year, 2015 and 2018 Barrister's Best, and 2017 and 2019 "People's Choice" for Colorado's Best Communications/Media Law Lawyer

Recipient, Marquis' 2018 Alfred Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award

Colorado Press Association "Friend of the First," 2014

ACLU of Colorado "Sherman Award," 2009

Colorado Lawyers Committee Lawyer of the Year Award

Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent rating


"Colorado Town Council Violated State’s Open Meetings Law," MLRC MediaLawLetter, June 2020

"The (Unfinished) Ballad of Gunslinger/©Troll Richard Liebowitz," MLRC MediaLawLetter, August 2019

Co-author, "Recent Developments in Media, Privacy, Defamation, and Advertising Law," ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal, Spring 2019

"Colorado Adopts Anti-SLAPP Statute," MLRC MediaLawLetter, June 2019

Op-Ed guest columnist, "Law Day: Celebrate, and support a Free Press," The Gazette, May 1, 2019

"Colorado Opens Police Internal Affairs Files to the Public – Can Two States Spawn a National Trend?" MLRC MediaLawLetter, April 2019

"Counseling Your Clients on Fair Use of Others Works ... While Standing on One Foot," Communications Lawyer, Winter 2019

"Fair Use in Documentary Films: Two Helpful Rules of Thumb to Help You Navigate Copyright Gray Areas," Video & Filmmaker, August 2018

Co-author, "Mexican Journalist Seeking Asylum Finally Free From Detention," MLRC MediaLawLetter, July 2018

"Judge Tosses Libel Suit Based on Environmental Activists' Facebook Post," MLRC MediaLawLetter, June 2018 

"Colorado Supreme Court Holds There Is No Constitutional Protection for Public Access to Court Records," MLRC MediaLawLetter, June 2018

"Colorado Judge Unseals Psychiatric Expert Reports in Aurora Theater Shooting Case," Ballard Spahr alert, July 3, 2018 

Co-author, "Mexican Journalist Seeking Asylum is Granted New Hearing," MLRC MediaLawLetter, May 2018

Co-author, "Seventeen Journalism Organizations File Amicus Brief in Support of Mexican Journalist's Asylum Appeal," MLRC MediaLawLetter, March 2018

Co-author, "Media Coalition Gains Access to Sealed Warrant Materials in Las Vegas Mass Shooting," Ballard Spahr alert, January 30, 2018

Co-author, "Federal Judge Refuses to Close Courtroom During Trade Secret Trial Between Silicon Valley Titans," Ballard Spahr alert, January 22, 2018

Author, "California Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal Under Anti-SLAPP Statute of Defamation Claim Against Online Platform Hosting User-Generated Content," Ballard Spahr alert, December 13, 2017

"Recent High-profile Cases Highlight the Need for Greater Procedural Protections for Freedom of the Press," Communications Lawyer, Fall 2017 

"Internet Law,"ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal, Winter 2017

"The Myth of Police Officer Privacy," Communications Lawyer, Summer 2017

"July 4, 1966: Birth of the FOIA – A Look Back," Communications Lawyer, Winter 2016

"As Body-Worn Cameras Proliferate, States' Access Restrictions Defeat Their Purpose," Communications Lawyer, Fall 2016

"Cloud-Based Public Records Pose New Challenges for Access," Communications Lawyer, Winter 2015

"A Little Birdie Told Me, 'You're a Crook': Libel in the Twittersphere and Beyond," Communications Lawyer, March 2014

Co-editor, "What Is Your Exposure for Information Posted to Your Website, Blog, or Social Media Page by Third Parties?" in Internet Publishing: Perils and Practices, 2013

"Privacy Expectations in Online Social Media—An Emerging Generational Divide?" Communications Lawyer, November 2011

"Expanded Media Coverage in Colorado Courts," The Colorado Lawyer, September 2011

"Survey of Colorado Defamation and Related Claims Against the Media," Annual Media Libel & Related Law Survey

Speaking Engagements

Panelist, "Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society," El Paso County, Colorado Bar Association, Law Day event, May 7, 2019

Panelist, "Dude, That's My Idea! What to Do About Intellectual Property Theft?" National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Heartland EMMY Chapter, Denver Press Club, April 23, 2019

Featured guest, "Make No Law" podcast: Gag (discussing gag orders on trial participants), Legal Talk Network, April 18, 2019

Yale Law School (J.D. 1994)

Stanford University (B.A. 1982)



U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Ninth, and 10th Circuits

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

U.S. Supreme Court