Brusan Kellerring

Brusan Kellerring is an author from Bradford, New Hampshire. He enjoys learning about international law and especially enjoys aspects of maritime law. He has skills in client briefings, legal research, and document review.

The Rise and Fall of Gawker

Once a flagship model on the internet, Gawker ignited debates about celebrities, challenged societal norms, and trailblazed what could be said in the new world of digital media. Founded in 2002 by Nick Denton and Elizabeth Spiers, Gawker envisioned a new frontier for fearless journalism. Their stylistic journalism forced them into bankruptcy in 2016 with the infamous Hulk Hogan case. Up until 2016, with its sister sites Deadspin, Jezebel, Gizmodo (io9), and Kotaku, Gawker had its tentacles wrapped around the digital publishing industry. Gawker’s advocacy for free speech over the internet and mischievous articles kept web surfers from being bored. The first amendment was often under fire as Gawker made its impact on American media through its reckless journalism.  

As Gawker looked to industrialize the online gossip industry, early articles such as “Gawker Stalker Maps and Emily Gould” (2006-08) and Alex Balk’s article “Accused of Antisemitism” (2007), gave good examples of their satirical editorials. “Gawkers vs. Sarah Palin” provided a controversial area for Gawkers leakage of Palin’s unreleased book excerpts. Backed by publisher HarperCollins, Palin sued Gawker for leaking her book without her permission. Gawker lost the case when a federal judge ordered them to take down the posts.

Gawker’s assessment of journalism, implored writers to be innovative and creative through the idea of the utopian impulse. As described by Adrian Chen, a former writer for Gawker, the utopian impulse demonstrated Gawkers eagerness for its authors to be free and innovative. Through Gawker’s content-management system, the publish button was only a click away from either the success of a writer or their self-implosion. While the platform encouraged their journalists to be free, their aspirations drove the company into the ground. Through battling people such as Peter Thiel and Hulk Hogan, Gawker’s aspirations didn’t stand much of a chance.

Eccentric billionaire Peter Thiel, (cofounder of PayPal) became Gawker’s public enemy number one. Thiel was portrayed as being gay by Gawker’s articles which damaged Thiel’s character. Thiel and Gawker exchanged many punches through the years. The covert financer, made Gawker struggle at times with the number of lawsuits he imposed on Gawker for defamation. Thiel, in 2015, funded the popular Hulk Hogan case that involved the leakage of a sex tape causing questions about invasion of privacy and free speech. With financial backing from the billionaire, Hulk Hogan won his lawsuit against Gawker. Engulfed in $140 million dollars’ worth of damages the company posted for bankruptcy and was bought out.

Later through auction, Gawker was acquired by Univision Communications in 2016, for approximately $135 million. Fortunately, Gawkers sister companies remained unaffected. The articles of Jezebel, Gizmodo, Deadspin, and Kotaku don’t quite match Gawker’s intensity, but portrayed similar creative aspects. For example, Jezebel discusses celebrities, politics, and entertainment in a stylistic manner. Gizmodo has a sci-fi take on journalism and debates anything relating to tech or spaceflight. Deadspin deals a unique take on sports by providing topics such as “Drew Brees’ midlife crisis is right on time.” Providing unique articles about gaming and tech, Kotaku submerges its readers with creative articles such as “Genshin Impact Dev’s Rad AF ‘Urban RPG’ is Living in My Head Rent Free.”.

Gawker pushed the boundaries of free speech on the digital platform. In Nick Denton’s eyes, anything that was interesting validated an article. Denton illuminated his readers by pushing through articles no matter how controversial they were. He wanted everything to be a fair game in his empire.  Former Gawker editor Max Read categorized Gawkers life as “endlessly scrolling, eternally accessible record of prattle and wit and venom.” Built on young journalists who look to strike it big, Gawker feared no one and didn’t necessarily care if they hurt feelings. As Nick Denton stated in an interview with Joe Mullin of ArsTechnica, he would not change Gawker’s image one bit.

Recently Gawker has relaunched in 2021 with the Bustle Digital Group. Leah Finnegan, the new editor-in chief who originally worked for Gawker in their heyday envisions a fresh new start for the platform. Ms. Finnegan understands that the old platform got out of hand, and wants to get back to the funny bits. In an interview with NY Times Ben Smith, Ms. Finnegan stated that she wasn’t interested in ruining people’s lives, but would rather focus on satirical literary criticism. Through the creation of “Religious Guidelines”, authors now have much more direction when writing for Gawker.   

Gawker specialization in gossip, made it difficult to prosper when something was accidentally leaked. Nonetheless, the company helped popularize the early goings of the blogging scene. Under Leah Finnegan’s new management, a historic comeback attempt is looking promising. Even if the company looks at making fun of people, Ms. Finnegan intends on doing it in a professional manner.

Companies like Gawker forged a new industry and helped set the guidelines for freedom of speech on the internet. Through their satirical approach Gawker blazed a trail for companies such as BuzzFeed to take over the gossip market.  Gawker passed down a lot of qualities to the newly forming industry and created controversial journalism. With Ms. Finnegan’s advisement, Gawker looks at diversifying its platform to be more suitable for casual laughter from the audience instead of hurting people with defamation.  

Why are authors choosing Substack?

Have you ever had any interests in becoming an independent writer? Substack has become the premier advocate for independent writers. Founded by Chris Best in 2017, Substack captures an author’s dream of being independent by implementing very few restrictions. The online newsletters of Substack encourages readers to browse through author’s articles that includes topics such as culture, politics, and technology. Through Substack’s system, authors have the freedom to write as much as they desire or as little as they want. Substack at its core, makes life simpler for authors, because of the ability to work remotely. Not only is the ability to work remotely an advantage, authors are met with a WordPress like interface when they sign up with their email. Through the simplicity of the interface, writers are actively able to focus on their creativity and editorial skills. Working with this platform, authors often find themselves to be freer than working in the corporate publishing world. With no editors and time constraints outside of self-imposed ones, authors no longer need to look over their shoulders.

Why should an author choose Substack in the first place? With Substack, authors ultimately have the utmost capability in paving their legacy. Not only do authors have the control over their perception, they can choose their creativity level. One of the platform’s biggest selling points is their advocacy for authors to be free. While freedom is encouraged, guidelines have been put into place to prevent nude content, misinformation, hate speech and harassment posts from being uploaded. Outside of these few areas that are addressed in their guideline’s; writing content is mostly an open-game on Substack’s platform.

Substack isn’t just interested in newsletters, they have branched out to accommodate podcasts and various comic books. Media producers can easily find themselves at home with the vast selections of media content that the company offers. The addition of podcasts and comic books options entices authors to join the buttery smooth interface. The smooth interface also makes it easier for Substack to diversify their library. Through their interface, features such as leaderboards come into play to encourage authors and readers to stay active.

One of Substack’s most notable features is their leaderboard system that designates who the top writers are. The leaderboard challenges authors to get to the top slate if they choose by accommodating the authors with various perks from the company. Perks can potentially include more recognition or large financial contracts that are offered by Substack. The leaderboard also introduces a simplistic interface that not only show-cases an author’s work but also keeps the reader engaged by making new content easier to find. Substack believes that their leaderboard benefits both the reader and the author by implementing obtainable goals that can result in the success of the author. With the simplicity of the leaderboard, readers can easily find new content which keeps them motivated to come back.

Through the application of the leaderboard top notch writers can easily earn up to six figures from 4 the company. Substack doesn’t just give these types of figures to everybody however, authors need the experience and reputation to earn such figures. Danny Lavery a writer of Substack, shows us a great example of what the platform can offer to its top content creators. In 2021, Mr. Lavery signed a two-year contract with the company that was worth $430,000. From being a blog founder of The Toast, Substack has been able to take his writing career to the next level. Mr. Lavery’s audience includes 1,800 paying subscribers to a newsletter of his called the Shater Chatner.

The beauty of Substack is the financial freedom that it gives to its authors. Authors like Mr. Lavery, are able to choose whether they have an annual subscription for their newsletter. For example, Mr. Lavery sets his subscription rate at $50 a year. He also can choose to alter the subscription fee for his readers or not have one at all. While Mr. Lavery will make most of his $430,000 contract, fees are included so that Substack makes money off of his articles and subscriptions.

Dependent on how Substack’s contracts are written, the company may deduct anywhere from 10 to 15 percent off of the authors subscription income. From that point, credit card fees are taken into account when readers subscribe for the authors newsletter. After the credit card deduction fee and the subscription fee, authors are clear to harvest whatever the remaining income is. The key caveat for authors that are attached to Substack, is from having the ability to use paywall subscription at their leisure.

Since 2017, Substack has slowly grown into a prominent publishing enterprise. Though the COVID pandemic definitely helped bolster their popularity, Substack has equipped writers with a new foundation of freedom that very few publishing houses offer, especially corporate level companies. Substack’s insistence on the freedom of authors to be creative and the ability to adopt financial security entices authors to stay with their system. Authors who cherish the simplistic nature of working on their own have the capability of finding their niche with Substack. Most importantly as Substack exemplifies freedom, authors often have an opportunity to create their own media empire.

Should I write a Will? Well, now it just got easier!

Electronic wills (E-wills) are a good example of how more areas of digital media are being produced. Electronic wills provide a unique take on how wills are constructed.  E-wills are a new and improved way of making wills more accessible to the general public. Currently, only three states have passed the necessary laws to make E-wills available. These three states are Nevada, Indiana, and Arizona. Through using different interfaces, E-wills can offer a more imaginative approach when one decides to create a will. E-wills introduce more accessible functions to clients due to the ability of using a basic word document or even going more advanced and using an online template. With an E-will a lawyer’s presence isn’t always necessary compared to the physical copy. By providing clients with specific templates and accessible interfaces, E-wills change the landscape of remote legal work.

At their core, E-wills are essentially the same as a physical will. They need the testator (will maker) to sign the will and need at least two witnesses who do not benefit from the will to observe the signature. Similarly, to physical wills, E-Wills require a person to be over the age of 18 and require the signer to be sober at the time of the signing of the will. However, states may decide that different requirements are needed for E-wills to be filed properly.

Having passed the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the Uniform Electronic Wills Act (UEWA), Nevada, Arizona, and Indiana have energized the rise of this new will making format. UETA basically establishes the principle of legalizing electronic records and signatures. Through UETA, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act is legalized. In a simplistic manner, UEWA gives testators the capability of executing their wills legally. Both of these acts provide electronic accessibility to client’s who prefer their will to be digital. The UEWA Act essentially gives testators an ability to make probate courts give the electronic will a legal effect. Probate courts ultimately hold the jurisdiction over electronic wills.  

As many would imagine, the ability to go mobile creates an immediate advantage for those wanting to create an E-will. A popular use of E-wills can come in the format of estate planning. With the ease of convenience, E-wills provide estate planners with an exceptional ease of access to submit changes to their estate arrangements at their own time. The complexities of estate planning help E-wills become more popular because of the flexibility to work remotely and to ask for assistance when needed depending on the interface of the E-will. E-wills also make estate planning seem more user-friendly since a majority of people fear the estate planning process of their wills. This is why several companies such as Trust & Wills are becoming estate planning experts. They are able to provide assistance to E-will makers when needed and are able to introduce interactive formats.

Companies such as Trust & Wills,, and have increasingly become popular for E-will creation. Business owners are now looking at either integrating their businesses to offer E-will features or even completely abandon their previous company’s infrastructure in order to focus strictly on E-wills. Shaun Savage, owner of Trust & Wills, is a great example of this transitioning; he went from a movie streaming service called goShare, to a will service called Trust & Wills. Trust & Wills embellishes a new frontier to will making by providing interactive features to their clients.

Trust & Wills, displays a perfect example of how E-wills can make will making appealing. They give a time standard of approximately 10 minutes that is needed to make a will through their system. Trust & Wills also presents competitive prices for will making. This competitive pricing helps promote customizable wills, state specific wills, or wills relating specifically to couples. Trust & Wills opens up a new boundary for will designers. These interactive features that Trust & Wills gives to a client helps them add more value to their will. As noted by the Co-Founder of Trust & Wills, Mitch Mitchell, he expects that estate planning will only get easier from here. Mitch Mitchell stated this in an interview with Kirk Miller of InsideHook:

InsideHook: What was the genesis of Trust & Will?

Mitch Mitchell: The co-founders, who started Trust & Will in 2017, they were all in a transitional stage in life. They had assets, they had things to think about. And the idea was, why can you pretty much do anything online — mortgages, real estate, buying clothes — but not a will? Why isn’t this easier?

So, are you just online estate lawyers?

Mitch Mitchell: I was an estate planning attorney for a decade before joining. We have a small legal team, but we’re more of a software/tech company, not a law firm. What we do is narrowly tailored — right now, we have a will, trust and guardian product, and online there’s a guided interview to ask you what’s a good fit. We also offer access to lawyers; it’s an add-on benefit. We’re more like TurboTax for wills.

Why aren’t people just doing their wills online if it’s this simple (and cheaper)?

Mitch Mitchell: Coming from a private practice, I can say that a lot of people just don’t want to think about their own mortality at all. There are difficult questions you need to answer, especially if you have kids — who do you trust as a guardian if something goes wrong? It’s interesting, because the Covid pandemic did accelerate some of this thinking and encouraged people to not put it off. A stat we like to throw out is that 60% of Americans don’t have an estate plan — our idea is to make it easy for you.

Mitch Mitchell, interview by Kirk Miller, February 16, 2022 “Why you Should Get an E-Will, Even If You’re Young”, Trust & Wills, and have grown from the grounds up amongst the electronic will emergence. has easily become the leading online notary in the digital industry. Instead of wandering into a designated notary facility, being able to notarize your electronic will to make it official, allows for simplicity. The convenience function of E-wills makes companies such as blossom in the digital industry. empowers stylus users by integrating their interface to support mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones., originally founded by Dan Hanley, is another great example of how companies can create more exciting interfaces for their clients. hosted an intricate website that allowed a client to design your own will template. However, what’s important about is that they expanded the will making business and went mobile. Through their mobile application tablet and smartphone users were able to create their own wills with ease. Not only did present a great way for all users to create wills, but their mobile application also offered 24/7 customer support. You can find an example of’s mobile application here. Unfortunately, did get bought out by a life insurance company called Ethos planning in 2022. showed how accessible E-wills could be through establishing a mobile application and not just focusing on computer-based services.

E-wills, while still new, developed drastically over the last two years especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. E-wills are slowly becoming a household name and give enjoyment to those who want to make a will. While lawyers are often reluctant to accept them due to the challenges of embracing new technology and battling the old ages, E-wills will drastically sculpt a new legal practice. E-wills are not perfect by any means, especially when dealing with the potential likes of fraud or tampering. Clients are much less intimidated now from making wills because of the approachability of E-wills.   

Controlled Digital Lending and the Internet Archive

Introduction to Controlled Digital Lending

The dramatic changes that COVID-19 elicited amongst not only the general public, but also digital services, challenged the perception of products that are deemed accessible. COVID-19 adjusted the basic foundations of commerce in which social services, such as libraries, had to find new ways to approach the spectrum of becoming more accessible. The Hachette Book Group v. Internet Archive (2020) 1:20-cv-04160 is the first lawsuit that challenged the concept of libraries being able to transition physical books into digital format. Moreover, the Hachette Book Group v. Internet Archive (2020) 1:20-cv-04160 case also explores about how an actual library should function. Specifically, the Hachette Book Group Inc v. Internet Archive (2020) 1:20-cv-04160 case looks at the delicate nature of the Controlled Digital Lending program and its capability of transferring physical cultural artifacts into a digital library format.

What is Controlled Digital Lending?

So, one might ask, what exactly is the Controlled Digital Lending program? To start off, Controlled Digital Lending is intertwined within the copyright segments of law. The program is implemented by libraries, in which, libraries are allowed to loan print books to digital patrons in a lend like print fashion. Importantly, through the Controlled Digital Lending program, libraries should adopt an own-to-loan ratio even with digitalized books. Depending on how libraries implement the Controlled Digital Lending program, they may have more leeway on their products according to copyright law. Controlled Digital Lending importantly allows libraries to grow their e-section database of literature when needed.  

Controlled Digital Lending expands further from these simplistic concepts. Firstly, in order to digitize books, libraries must acquire the physical copies legitimately whether it’s obtained through a gift or a purchase.  Through this procurement, the owners of the printed works are compensated for their financial differences. The second component of Controlled Digital Lending is the shifting of physical copies to digitalized copies. The basics of format-shifting is to make content more accessible for either research or mobile functionality. Furthermore, Controlled Digital Lending Programs allows libraries to format their physical copies into digital copies in a controlled manner. Even with digitalized books, libraries must follow the own-to-loan ratio, in retrospect to the number of physical copies they legitimately acquired. In essence, Libraries, when using the Controlled Digital Lending Program, can only issue to customers, the number of legitimately acquired copies, even if it is of digital format. Thus, when libraries want to transfer their physical copies to a digital format, they must loan the exact number of digital copies that they acquired legitimately from their physical form. This becomes a challenge for digital library groups such as the Internet Archive, to legally maneuver through the minefields of copy right infringement. With being considered a library, the Internet Archive is protected by the fair use doctrine. However, here the challenges of digital library groups such as the Internet Archive, which resides as the defendant in the Hachette Book Group v. Internet Archive are affected by the controversies of whether or not they legitimately acquired digital copies of literature work.

What is the Internet Archive?

Starting in 2006, the Internet Archive has become an important advocate for digital media and digital publishing because it is an online library that focuses on bolstering free products that range anywhere from eBooks to music. They act as a non-profit library under the 501(c)(3) exemption. This exemption makes the Internet Archive a charitable organization, in which they do not promote their own self-interests. They’ve developed the slogan “one web page for every book published.” As a result of their slogan, the Internet Archive tries to preserve cultural artifacts especially in times of crises. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internet Archive sought to use the National Emergency Library method in their guidelines, as a way for digitalized materials, such as books, to become more accessible to the general public. The National Emergency Library was implemented by the Internet Archive to specifically improve the accessibility of books to researchers, teachers, and students, and so on. The program started on March 24, 2020 and ended on June 16, 2020 and disregarded the own-to-loan ratio of the Controlled Digital lending program. Through the National Emergency Library, the Internet Archive digitized approximately 1.4 million books according to Jill Lepore (2020). Through the change of the library’s guidelines, they were able to provide more accessibility to those in need. This action that the Internet Archive took, allows users to freely access the necessary books for those who aren’t able to afford them. However, the controversy becomes, whether or not the Internet Archive genuinely had the right to upload these works of literature, even though the Internet Archive was digitalizing literature for public accessibility.

Due to the transferring of documents to digital format through scanning, the Internet Archive was sued by the Hachette Book Group for copy right infringement and misconduct. The Hachette Book Group claimed that the Internet Archive created massive copyright infringement by publishing works without authorization or legitimately acquiring the physical copies of Hachette, Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, and Wiley’s fiction and nonfiction literature (Hachette book group members). The Hachette Book group claims this action of format shifting is done illegally and without permission.

How is the Hachette Book Group challenging the Internet Archive?

 The Hachette Book Group believes that the Internet Archive made them lose compensation over the illegally uploaded books. Hachette & company further questions the invented theory of Controlled Digital lending as to how the Internet Archive portrays it. Moreover, through this claim, the Hachette Book Group disregards the attempt of the Internet Archive to preserve cultural elements and considers the Internet Archive’s actions to be infringing upon the copyright act. The Hachette Book Group further claims that the Internet Archive exhausted its rights of the fair use doctrine with the implementation of the National Emergency Library, even though the fair use doctrine allows libraries to use portions of copyrighted literature without the permissions of the owner.

Following the claims about copyright infringement, the Hachette Book Group claims the Internet Archive is slandering the name of public libraries by misrepresenting the public through the means of how they acquire digital material. Little is still known about how the Internet Archive acquired their materials due to the case being a year old.  Furthermore, the Hachette Book Group views the Internet Archives actions as damaging the persona of public libraries and are exploiting publishers from their hard-earned money. While the Internet Archive does want people to buy the publishers books if they can, the Hachette Book Group are more worried about free riders. Through this theory, the Hachette Group argues that the Internet Archive is a creator of nothing and does not value the works of scholars. The Hachette Group further challenges the Internet Archive through their implemented National Emergency Library system. They complain that the Internet Archive change of policy towards the own-to-loan ratio, condoned the illegal acts of copyright infringement.

How the Internet Archive is responding to being sued:

In the Hachette Book Group, Inc. v. Internet Archive (2020) case no: 1:20-CV-04160-JGK, the Internet Archive responded to the Hachette Book Group by stating that were attempting to buy, collect, preserve, and share common cultural interests as any library does. The Internet Archive argues that they were backed by the funding of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and federal government institutions such as the Museum and Library Services. From this perspective, the Internet Archive also inclines that they are sheltered by the fair use doctrine.

Takeaways from the case:

The Hachette Book Group lobbied themselves as the group who was being harmed by the Internet Archive’s actions, suing the Archive for copyright infringement. The Internet Archive argues that its Controlled Digital Lending program allows for the format-shifting of physical copies to the digital format. The Archive further argues that they are helping to nurture those who cannot access public libraries during COVID. However, with the way the Internet Archive implemented the National Emergency Library, the Internet Archive was challenged by copyright infringement and became more vulnerable to piracy, even if they were format shifting for the greater good.

The Hachette Book Group Inc v. Internet Archive (2020) 1:20-cv-04160 case is still ongoing today. The case will challenge how Open Libraries, such as the Internet Archive, transfer their physical copies to digital material. The National Emergency Library ameliorated the need for publishers to take action against the Internet Archive for their supposed misconduct. However, most importantly, this case will provide a stare decisis on whether copyright law is more important to uphold than to promote the progress of making cultural artifacts such as literature, accessible as possible in times of need.