The attorneys in our Media and Entertainment Law Group have played a leading role in many of the most significant First Amendment cases in recent years. We help clients across platforms and industries navigate some of the law’s most challenging issues—during the editing process and in court.


The 2017 merger between Ballard Spahr and Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz (LSKS)—the preeminent First Amendment litigation and media law boutique in the United States—established a powerhouse practice that represents the biggest and most prominent names in the industry. Two years later, the team expanded again with the addition of a prominent group of entertainment lawyers from the Leopold Petrich & Smith firm in Los Angeles.

Ballard Spahr has been named national Law Firm of the Year for both Media Law and Copyright Law in the U.S. News & World Report-Best Lawyers rankings for 2019 in recognition of outstanding performance in these areas. These honors are a testament to the skill and commitment of our lawyers and to the depth and breadth of our team.

Our clients range from local freelance journalists to international news and entertainment companies, and our experience spans both traditional and new media. We advise broadcasters, internet companies, interactive media, newspapers, studios, entertainment and advertising firms, directors and producers, sports teams, authors, filmmakers, and public interest organizations. Simply put, we work with anyone who creates content.

Our attorneys are at the forefront of advising clients about legal issues surrounding the latest technology for gathering and publishing news and information. We counsel media companies on newsgathering issues and work closely with colleagues in our nationally recognized Intellectual Property Department to protect our clients' rights in their content, copyrights, trademarks, and patents.

The firm's practice depth—coupled with our awareness of clients' businesses and goals—allows us to provide counsel across a wide range of legal areas. We advise leading media and entertainment clients on antitrust and unfair competition, securities litigation, reorganization and restructuring, and diversity and inclusion.

We have media lawyers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles—the nation's media hubs—as well as critical media markets, including Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. With media lawyers from coast to coast, we can respond quickly to complex legal issues and assist clients with media and entertainment law matters wherever they might arise.

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We have been involved in most of the leading media cases in the past two decades involving defamation, invasion of privacy, and rights of publicity, including the U.S. Supreme Court cases Bartnicki v. Vopper, Masson v. The New Yorker Magazine, and Harte-Hanks v. Connaughton. We have tried defamation and privacy cases in jurisdictions throughout the country.

The cases we defend arise out of every kind of content—from news reports, books, and periodicals to movies, music, and television to all forms of new media.

The firm has been engaged by virtually every major media company and has been appointed by leading media insurance companies to defend scores of smaller media businesses around the country in libel, privacy, and publicity cases. Every day, members of our team are engaged in trial litigation and appellate proceedings in state and federal courts.

We have successfully defended clients against SLAPP suits across the country. And in protecting our clients’ right to speak freely, we have persuaded courts to award attorneys’ fees to our clients under state anti-SLAPP laws.

Because we understand how to build a case and win at trial, we are regularly engaged to help clients avoid litigation through pre-publication and pre-broadcast counseling. Our lawyers serve as newsroom counsel to press clients and we staff 24/7 legal hotlines so our clients have access to legal advice—on deadline—in any time zone.

Our litigators have represented the media in many of the nation's most significant First Amendment cases. Our experience includes:

  • Representing a nonprofit advocacy organization in multiple lawsuits challenging its ability to monitor hate groups in the United States
  • Successfully defeated a defamation action brought against CBS News by a West Virginia pharmacist over an award-winning series of reports on the opioid crisis
  • Defended The New York Times in a defamation lawsuit brought by a prominent cancer researcher at the Ohio State University
  • Defended NBCUniversal in a defamation suit brought by George Zimmerman, the man acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin
  • Succeeded in reversing a jury verdict against the estate of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in a case brought by Jesse Ventura following the publication of Kyle's best-selling book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
  • Defeated a SLAPP lawsuit brought by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson against a small nonprofit that posted an online petition urging then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney not to accept Mr. Adelson's campaign donations

To view additional representive experience, click here.

Our attorneys lead the fight for government transparency. We help media clients secure access to public records, court documents, and proceedings—under public records statutes as well as the First Amendment. We have litigated landmark cases ensuring the public’s right to access government and court records and to preserve the press’s ability to cover high-stakes litigation and significant criminal prosecutions.

Our attorneys have authored or contributed to numerous articles and primers for reporters and their employers on the law of access, including reports for the Media Law Resource Center and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the seminal treatise in this area, Newsgathering and the Law. Our lawyers also serve as leaders in organizations dedicated to promoting transparency in government.

The public information we have helped media clients to access includes:

  • Securing a court order in CNN's favor in FOIA litigation directing the FBI to release sealed portions of fired FBI Director James Comey's memos of his discussions with President Donald Trump
  • Fighting for release of records, on behalf of the Washington Post in a FOIA lawsuit, of an Inspector General's interviews documenting fraud, waste and abuse in the reconstruction of Afghanistan
  • Sealed documents in the civil suit against Bill Cosby alleging sexual assault, which prompted the government to reopen the criminal investigation of him
  • Emails and other records of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election
  • The docket, pleadings, and other records in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, as well as body camera footage and information related to the police investigation of the Las Vegas mass shooting
  • The names and identifying information of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as the records of the habeas corpus proceedings those detainees have filed in U.S. courts the Military Commissions held at Guantanamo Bay
  • Previously sealed portions of the trial and appellate records in the first September 11-related prosecution, United States v. Moussaoui
  • FBI files on the civil rights photographer who was paid to spy on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

To view additional representive experience, click here.

We counsel clients and litigate extensively in areas of law involving government regulation of commercial, political, and journalistic speech.

Our attorneys are regularly called upon to speak nationally and at international conferences to advance the cause of free expression. Members of the team have provided expert opinions on the American law of free expression in Canadian and Irish courts. In addition, we have provided counsel on laws and proposed legislation affecting the press throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Our work in this area includes:

  • Representing a coalition of Maryland newspapers challenging the constitutionality of a statute that imposes obligations on websites that publish political advertising
  • Defending the press against unconstitutional prior restraints when litigants and government officials have tried to block broadcasts and publications
  • Winning the release—on behalf of The Washington Post—of records related to the Pentagon's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction's investigation into contractor fraud
  • Representing broadcasters in litigation over government policies that punish the dissemination of purportedly "indecent" content in print and over the airwaves
  • Successfully challenging judicial orders that attempt to silence trial participants
  • Advising corporate clients on the risks associated with promotion and marketing activities such as telephone, email, fax, and direct-mail solicitations, and sponsorship and licensing agreements, all of which are subject to government regulation
  • Representing public interest organizations in connection with efforts to block public demonstrations and enjoin boycotts.

To view additional representive experience, click here.

Entertainment companies, news organizations, studios, publishers, major industrial companies, and a wide range of other rightholders and defendants turn to Ballard Spahr for intellectual property litigation.

We counsel clients on the licensing and use of others' copyrighted works and trademarks and help clients secure, safeguard, and license their own IP assets. We are nationally known for our knowledge of fair use and our lawyers routinely provide clearance services to major studios, producers, news organizations, their insurance carriers, and others.

We also work with clients, in the United States and abroad, to license content and trademarks for use around the globe and to protect those rights in international jurisdictions. Our lawyers have supervised the litigation of trademark disputes in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Pacific Rim, and the Americas.

Our intellectual property work includes:

  • Obtained dismissal of a lawsuit against ABC claiming that it had infringed an organization’s trademark in the title of its video series
  • Defeating attempts to enjoin distribution of allegedly infringing films, television and internet programming, news reports, and a variety of goods and services
  • Handling precedent-setting litigation involving the application of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and issues surrounding intellectual property rights in digital media
  • Establishing precedents in the area of trademark dilution and contributory trademark infringement and pursuing trademark infringement claims against a party conducting "ambush" marketing at major sporting events
  • Defending major manufacturing companies against claims asserting the infringement of software, training materials, and other copyrightable assets
  • Litigating cases arising from claims of idea theft and halting the infringement of countless copyrights and trademarks

To view additional representive experience, click here.

We stand at the forefront of the legal issues surrounding the latest tools, technologies, and techniques used for newsgathering and digital storytelling. Our work includes:

  • Counseling clients on developments in data journalism, such as algorithmic publishing, and cutting-edge devices, including sensor technology
  • Advising media on state and federal laws that might limit digital newsgathering, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
  • Representing a coalition of two dozen media companies—including The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC News, NBCUniversal, TEGNA, Sinclair Broadcasting, and Scripps Media—before the FAA and Congress in the development of drone journalism laws and policies
  • Counseling on the use of encryption for source protection and confidential communications
  • Advising clients on how established claims may arise in emerging areas of media law, such as libel in social media, trade secret injunctions, and DMCA anti-circumvention claims
  • Advising on data privacy laws—including those that protect personal information, trade secrets, and other confidential material—as well as laws governing the privacy of computer, voicemail, and other electronic information storage systems
  • Counseling clients who report on national security issues and whose newsgathering touches on other sensitive areas of the law

To view additional representive experience, click here.

Reporters, editors, filmmakers, and others who gather and disseminate news and information increasingly receive subpoenas in criminal investigations and civil disputes. Whether seeking the identity of confidential sources, copies of outtakes, or a journalist's notes, these subpoenas undermine important First Amendment principles—including the integrity of an independent press—and compromise business relationships and public perceptions of privacy and reliability.

When clients are served with subpoenas, they know they can count on us for fast, reliable counsel backed by decades of experience. Our work includes:

  • Successfully represented a Vermont television station quashing a subpoena in the first case under the State's new reporter's shield law
  • Represented the Associated Press in connection with a federal investigation into leaks of national security information and the revelation that the Department of Justice had secretly seized AP's phone records
  • Represented journalists called to testify in the investigation and prosecution of White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby
  • Defended reporters who were subpoenaed for their confidential sources in lawsuits brought against the federal government by Wen Ho Lee and Steven Hatfill
  • Represented a television network subpoenaed to produce outtakes in court martial proceedings arising out of the deaths of civilians in Iraq
  • Advised clients on subpoenas seeking identifying information about anonymous online posters

Members of our team have written the leading treatise Newsgathering and the Law and numerous scholarly articles on the subject of the reporter's privilege, and have advocated the passage of shield law legislation before state and federal legislatures. We have helped lead the charge that spurred the Department of Justice to strengthen federal guidelines for obtaining search warrants and subpoenas to reporters, allowing them to provide greater protection for their confidential sources.

To view additional representive experience, click here.