Robert A. Bertsche is devoted to protecting and strengthening his clients’ ability to communicate their content on a wide variety of platforms, including digital, interactive, print, electronic, and social media.
As a media and First Amendment lawyer with a national practice, Rob offers counseling and litigation services to clients throughout the United States including magazines, newspapers, book publishers, broadcasters, website operators, bloggers, filmmakers, and advertising and public relations agencies.
Rob’s media practice includes:
- Defending media clients in state and federal court against claims of libel, invasion of privacy, copyright and trademark infringement, commercial appropriation, and breach of contract, as well as related actions;
- Conducting prepublication and prebroadcast review for magazines, newspapers, websites, broadcasters, and advertisers;
- Advising artists, photographers, and writers on copyright and fair use law;
- Negotiating and drafting freelance and other media contracts;
- Conducting workplace trainings to help the media stay out of court;
- Prosecuting access challenges under federal and state law;
- Helping clients draft and enact policies relating to social media, confidential sources, ethics, blogging, and data privacy;
- Defending reporters against subpoenas seeking confidential sources or notes;
- Assessing website compliance with state and federal regulations; and
- Designing and drafting rules for sweepstakes, contests, and other promotions.
Rob’s clients range from the multinational publishing company to the solitary blogger, from the television talk-show host to the cartoonist, and from the documentary filmmaker to the publisher of a community newspaper. Much of Rob’s day-to-day work involves protecting his clients from litigation. As a former newspaper and magazine journalist, he is dedicated to helping journalists practice their craft aggressively and responsibly, without courting undue legal risk. He has conducted prepublication review of thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, as well as nonfiction books on politics, business, and ethics, as well as cooking. He has also served as legal counsel to documentary filmmakers.
Rob plays an active role in the journalism community. He serves on the Supreme Judicial Court’s Judiciary-Media Committee. He is treasurer, and a member of the Executive Committee, of the New England First Amendment Coalition. As outside general counsel to the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA), he established and continues to oversee an active legal hotline for the 400-plus community newspapers that are NENPA members. Since 2002, the New York-based American Society of Magazine Editors has selected Rob to provide its annual business and editorial law training for staff of print and online publications alike.
Rob has presented at conferences of the National Newspaper Association, Magazine Publishers Association, Alliance of Area Business Publishers, City and Regional Magazine Association, and New England Newspaper and Press Association. He has also served as an adjunct professor in communication and media law at Boston College and Tufts University and is a frequent guest speaker to journalism classes at Northeastern University, Emerson College, Boston University, and elsewhere. For more than 20 years, he has authored the annual survey of First Circuit libel law published by the New York-based Media Law Resource Center. He also writes an outline of Massachusetts public access law published by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
In his employment practice, Rob counsels employers on issues including terminations, sexual harassment, wage and hour laws, and independent contractor status. He has defended businesses in state and federal court and at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (including in public hearings), against a variety of employment-related claims. His annually updated survey of Massachusetts employment libel law is distributed nationwide by LexisNexis.
Rob was an associate, then partner, at the Boston law firm of Hill & Barlow for 13 years until its closing in 2003. Before attending law school, he worked as city editor of the daily Transcript-Telegram newspaper in Holyoke, Massachusetts, attended the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was a founding editor of New England Monthly magazine, which twice won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence.
- Harvard Law School, J.D., magna cum laude, 1989
- Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course, 1986
- Wesleyan University, B.A., magna cum laude, 1980
- New Hampshire
- New York
- United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
- United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
- United States Supreme Court
- Judiciary-Media Committee of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
- American Bar Association
- American Bar Foundation (Life Fellow)
- Boston Bar Association
- Copyright Society
- Massachusetts Bar Foundation (Oliver Wendell Holmes Fellow)
- National Newspaper Association
- AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated
- 2005-present: Listed in The Best Lawyers in America®, New England’s Best Lawyers, and Boston’s Best Lawyers (Woodward/White) in the fields of Communications Law, Media Law, First Amendment Law, and Litigation – First Amendment
- 2004-present: Recognized as a “Massachusetts Super Lawyer” in the area of First Amendment/Media/Advertising
- 2012: Named a top-rated intellectual property attorney by Martindale-Hubbell in American Legal Media’s publication of Top Rated Lawyers: Intellectual Property
- 2011: Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence, from Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts
- Media Law Resource Center
- New England First Amendment Coalition (treasurer)
- New England Newspaper and Press Association (outside general counsel)
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
- Author of Massachusetts chapter in MLRC 50-State Survey: Employment Libel and Privacy Law, 1999-present
- Author of Massachusetts chapter in MLRC 50-State Survey: Media Libel Law, 1999-present
RECENT ARTICLES & ALERTS
- April 2016: “12 Questions Skeptical Lawyers Might Have About Social Media,” Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
- January 2016: “Federal Law Would Bar ‘Gag Clauses’ Aimed at Consumer Reviews,” Client Alert
- December 2015: “The Case of the Vanishing Exhibit: A Defeat for Public Access or a Victory for Public Safety?,”Client Alert
- August 2014: “Tale of Junk Faxes, Wily Lawyers and Super Bowl Seasickness,” Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
- March 2013: “Discussing Slots in Private: Good Government or Violation of Law?,” Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
- May 2017: Speaker, “The Making of Silent U., and the Battle Against a State That Wanted to Keep it Quiet,” with Liz Canner, Astrea Media, National Association of Women Judges
- May 2017: Speaker, “How to Fight Impostor Websites, Phishing, Pharming, Vishing, and SMiShing,” and “Social Media: Tools for Controlling Employee (and Ex-Employee) Speech,” New England Corporate Counsel Association (NECCA) Conference
- February 2017: Panelist, “Protecting the Student Press: Legal Issues Facing Student Journalists,” and “The Next Four Years and the Press;” Speaker, “Defamation’s Back in Style,” NENPA Convention
- October 2016: Speaker, “Tips and Training to Keep Your Newspaper in Compliance with Changing Employment Law,” with Laurie Rubin, NENPA University Seminar
- October 2016: Speaker, “Media Law for Journalists: Newsgathering Torts,” Media Law Resource Center (MLRC) Institute
- October 2016: Speaker, “Tips for Staying Out of Legal Trouble: Common Issues in Defamation and the Invasion of Privacy,” New England First Amendment Institute (NEFAI)
- June 2016: Speaker, “The New Landscape of Media Law in the Digital Age,” The Alliance of Area Business Publishers Summer Conference
- December 2015: Panelist, “The Right to Be Forgotten: How Newspapers Should Handle Requests to Take Down What They’ve Reported,” Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association (MNPA) Annual Conference
- September 2015: Speaker, “The Reporter’s Legal Toolbox,” with Jeffrey J. Pyle and Asya Calixto, NENPA Training Workshop
- May 2015: Speaker, “Reporting from the Internet: Truth, Libel, Copyright, and Fair Use,” New England Scholastic Press Association (NESPA) Annual Conference
Robert A. Bertsche