Experience and Expertise

James Chadwick began practicing in 1991. From the outset of his legal career, he has represented and advised news media (print, broadcast and online), book publishers, filmmakers, and other content creators and distributors. In addition, he has represented and wide array of technology and other businesses in intellectual property and commercial litigation (including copyright, trademark, and patent litigation), and has advised them on intellectual property, content distribution and licensing, and privacy matters.

Although his practice now focuses on advice and counselling, his assistance to his clients is informed by his extensive litigation experience, which includes federal and state jury and bench trials as well as his unbroken record of success in defending media clients against defamation, invasion of privacy, and similar tort claims by bringing dispositive motions.

Media and First Amendment Litigation

James has media clients in the litigation of innumerable cases, including matters that resulted in the following important First Amendment decisions:

VanderSloot v. Foundation for National Progress

In a defamation action by a billionaire Idaho businessman, James obtained summary judgment in favor of Mother Jones and a waiver of plaintiffs’ right to appeal.

Gilbert v. Sykes

Represented pro bono the plaintiff in a medical malpractice action, in connection with a cross-complaint against her by the physician she claimed had botched her plastic surgery and his medical center, in which they asserted that she had defamed them in online postings about her experiences. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court, granting an anti-SLAPP motion, dismissing the cross-complaint, and awarding costs to the client.

Sipple v. Foundation for National Progress

Defended Mother Jones Magazine in a defamation action brought by a prominent political campaign consultant. Motion to strike the complaint pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute was granted, the judgment was affirmed on appeal, and attorneys’ fees and costs were awarded to Mother Jones.

In re Willon

Represented television reporter and news director in a precedent-setting case regarding the application of the California Shield Law to investigations of alleged violations of court-imposed gag order. Judgment of contempt against the reporter and news director was reversed.

Montana v. San Jose Mercury News

Represented the San Jose Mercury News in a precedent-setting case establishing that a newspaper’s distribution of posters reproducing front pages prominently featuring a celebrity athlete was protected by the First Amendment and California law.

James v. San Jose Mercury News

Represented the San Jose Mercury News in an important case regarding the scope of the protection for opinion and the application of the actual malice doctrine under California law. Summary judgment for the newspaper was affirmed on appeal.

Access Litigation

James has pursued litigation under state and federal open records and open meetings laws on behalf of both media and individual clients. His work enforcing the public’s right to know includes a series of ground-breaking cases construing California’s recent laws promoting access to law enforcement information (SB 1421). Cases that have resulted in published decisions include the following:

Walnut Creek Police Officers Assn. v. City of Walnut Creek

The Court of Appeal affirmed that SB 1421 applies to records of incidents within its scope occurring prior to its effective date, ensuring that law enforcement agencies could not conceal historic records of police misconduct and use of force.

Sander v. State Bar of California

The California Supreme Court confirmed that California common law provides a right of public access that is not superseded by statutory law, and ensures that the public may seek access to records not governed by the state’s access laws.

Lissner v. U.S. Customs Service

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, holding that the Freedom of Information Act required disclosure of records related to the detention and arrest by U.S. Customs officials of two Hermosa Beach police officers.

San Jose Mercury News v. U.S. District Court

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a newspaper was entitled to intervene in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit brought by two female police officers, to seek access to a report of an investigation into their claims that had been introduced into evidence.

Other Representative Matters

Successfully defended the San Jose Mercury News in a copyright infringement action, obtaining a defense verdict based on fair use at trial, after the jury deliberated for 37 minutes.

Successfully defended Mother Jones (the Foundation for National Progress) in a defamation and intentional interference action, obtaining dismissal of all claims and an award of attorneys’ fees and costs to the client.

Successfully defended the San Jose Mercury News and the Santa Cruz Sentinel in multiple defamation actions, obtaining dismissal of the actions and awards of fees and costs to the client under the anti-SLAPP statute.

Quashed or obtained protective orders preventing the enforcement of subpoenas directed to numerous print and broadcast journalists.

Successfully defended the Wikimedia Foundation, operator of Wikipedia, in obtaining dismissal of defamation and related claims.

Obtained dismissal of unfair competition and related claims against an online content provider pursuant to the California anti-SLAPP statute, and an award of attorneys’ fees and costs to client. Judgment was affirmed on appeal, and the client was awarded fees and costs on appeal as well. Successfully enforced resulting judgment for fees and costs.

Obtained dismissal of copyright claims against an international entertainment client, as well as an award of sanctions against opposing counsel pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11.

Advice and Counselling

Pre-publication and Pre-broadcast Clearance: Review and risk mitigation prior to publication or broadcast of news, non-fiction, and fiction, including defamation, privacy, newsgathering, and intellectual property rights concerns.

Copyright and Digital Millennium Copyright Act Compliance: Counseling clients on copyright and DMCA compliance, including: Preparing and advising an online content distribution client on the comprehensive restructuring of its operations to comply with the DMCA safe harbors; preparing or reviewing and revising DMCA compliance procedures and related provisions of online terms of service; reviewing and advising clients on content licensing, software licensing, advertising, and online service agreements.

Intellectual Property Licensing: Copyright licensing and assignments, including the preparation, review, and negotiation of agreements with writers, artists, and independent content and software developers.

Advertising Compliance: Counseling clients on trademark and advertising issues, including nominative fair use, liability for third party advertising, comparative advertising, and trademark licensing.

Honors and Recognition

  • Best Lawyer in America, Best Lawyers, 2007-2021
  • Northern California Super Lawyers, San Francisco Magazine, 2007, 2010-2020
  • Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers, 2015-2017
  • Leading Media and Entertainment Lawyers, Chambers USA, 2006, 2008-2018
  • Top Rated Lawyer in Intellectual Property Law, Martindale-Hubbell, 2014
  • Top Rated Lawyer in Technology, American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell, 2013
  • Recognized, First Amendment Litigation & Counseling, Legal 500, 2009
  • James Madison Freedom of Information Award, Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, 2002, 2007, 2020


  • “No-Challenge Clauses in Patent Licenses,” BNA Insights, August 2, 2013
  • “Video Games Law Dealt Fatal Blow,” The Recorder, July 11, 2011
  • “The Law of Online Contracts,” Media Law Resource Center Bulletin “The Ins and Outs of Online Business,” March 2011
  • “Copyright Owners Have the Burden of Policing,” The National Law Journal, August 16, 2010
  • “Enjoining the World: Does the Internet Make Prior Restraints Impossible, Or Are They Easier Than Ever?” Media Law Resource Center Bulletin, June 2010
  • “FTC Behavioral Advertising Privacy Principles Extend Far Beyond Current Requirements,” Media Law Resource Center Bulletin, May 2008
  • “The Copyright Act’s Preemption of Right of Publicity Claims,” Communications Lawyer, July 2008
  • “Images of Fair Use: A Fair Use Jury Trial,” Communications Lawyer, January 3, 2007
  • “MLRC 50-State Survey: Media Privacy and Related Law,” Media Law Resource Center, 2005 (Contributor to California survey)
  • “Communications Decency Act: Libel Immunity Debate,” ABA TTIPS Media, Privacy & Defamation Law Committee Newsletter, Summer 2005, with Alison Norris
  • “Potential Media Liability for Publishing False or Misleading Advertisements,” ABA TTIPS Media, Privacy & Defamation Law Committee Newsletter, Summer 2004, with Chi-Chi Onyeagbako
  • “Single Publication Rule Governs Online Publications,” ABA TTIPS Media, Privacy & Defamation Law Committee Newsletter, Summer 2003, with Danielle Van Wert
  • “Internet Privacy: A Tale of Two Cookies,” ABA TTIPS Media, Privacy & Defamation Law Committee Newsletter,
  • Winter 2002, with Lan Hang
  • “Potential Liability on the Internet,” Santa Clara County Bar Association, 1995, with Edward P. Davis, Jr. and Judy Alexander
  • “Conflict in the Public Interest: Defamation and the Role of Content in the Wake of Dun & Bradstreet v. Greenmoss Builders,” 31 S. Clara L. Rev. 997 (1991)


  • “First Amendment Access and Trade Secrets,” a Chapter in Trade Secret Litigation and Protection in California, State Bar of California, 2011, updated 2014, with Guylyn Cummins and Jennifer Brockett
  • The Right to Know: A Guide to Public Access and Media Law, California News Publishers Association and First Amendment Coalition, 2007, with Roger Myers.

Speaking Engagements

  • Hastings Business Law Journal, Risky business: Consumer Data and the Law, U.C. Hastings College of the Law, March 15, 2018
  • ABA forum on Communications Law/ Federal Communications Bar Association, Representing Your Local Broadcaster – Does the Trump Administration’s Big Picture mean Wide-Ranging Problems for Journalists?, Las Vegas, Nevada, April 23, 2017
  • Media Law Resource Center, Media Law Conference: Hot Issues in Anti-SLAPP Law, September 21-23, 2016
  • Future of Privacy Forum, De-Identification Practice and Policy: Case Studies in Data De-Identification and Privacy, Ernst & Young, San Francisco, California, April 2016
  • Video Game Bar Association, Employees v. Contractors – It’s No Game! Cheats for Navigating Employment and IP issues in the Videogame Business, June 17, 2015
  • State Bar of California, Public Law Section: 2014 California Public Records and Open Meetings Conference, San Francisco, California, June 4, 2014
  • Federal Reserve’s Information Technology Law Work Group Training: Copyright and Fair Use, San Francisco, California, October 8, 2013
  • Digital Law Forum – Storm Clouds: Preventing and Managing Security Breaches, Kellogg Auditorium at Silicon Valley Bank, Santa Clara, California, January 30, 2013
  • Media Law Resource Center, Legal Frontiers in Digital Media 2012 – A conference on emerging legal issues surrounding digital publishing and content distribution, Stanford University, California, May 21-22, 2012 (social responsibility on the Internet)
  • Consulate General of Canada: Roundtable on Proposed Copyright Reform Legislation, San Francisco, California, February 17, 2012
  • Media Law Resource Center, London Conference on International Developments in Libel, Privacy, Newsgathering and New Media IP Law 2011, London, England, September 19-20, 2011 (copyright, privacy, and defamation issues relating to mobile applications)
  • Digital Law Forum – Online Business Boot-Up, Kellogg Auditorium at Silicon Valley Bank, July 13, 2011
  • American Bar Association, Forum on Communications Law, 15th Annual Conference: Are Prior Restraints Alive—From Gen. Noriega (20 years later) to Holden Caulfield and Wikileaks, Key Largo, Florida, January 28 – 30, 2010
  • Media Law Resource Center, London Conference on International Developments in Libel, Privacy, Newsgathering, and New Media Law 2009, London, England, October 1-2, 2009 (copyright issues relating to news aggregation)
  • Media Law Resource Center, Legal Frontiers in Digital Media 2009 – A conference on emerging legal issues surrounding digital publishing and content distribution, Stanford University, May 14-15, 2009
  • Digital Law Forum – A Closer Look at Viacom v. YouTube: Epic Struggle for Free Expression, East Palo Alto, November 6, 2008
  • First Amendment Coalition Annual Assembly: Workshop—Getting the Most Out of Court and County Files, University of California Berkeley, October 17-18, 2008
  • Practising Law Institute, Ninth Annual Institute of Privacy & Security Law, San Francisco, June 2-3, 2008 (Privacy issues in dealing with civil discovery requests and subpoenas)
  • Media Law Resource Center, Legal Frontiers in Digital Media 2008 – A conference on the emerging legal issues surrounding digital publishing and content distribution, Stanford University, May 15, 2008
  • First Amendment Coalition Annual Assembly: Privacy and Public Records, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication, October 26, 2007
  • American Bar Association, Intellectual Property Litigation Committee: Trying A Copyright Fair Use Case, ABA Annual Conference, San Francisco, August 10, 2007
  • National Association of Hispanic Journalists, 2007 Annual Conference: Don’t Wait for the Lawsuit—Blogs, Copyright, and Ethics in the Digital Age, San Jose, June 15, 2007
  • First Amendment Coalition Annual Assembly: Access to Meetings, University of California Berkeley, September 29-30, 2006
  • California Superior Court, Santa Clara County: Presentation to Judge of the Santa Clara Superior Court on Public Access to Court Records, San Jose, September, 2006
  • First Amendment Coalition Annual Assembly: Fundamentals of California Access Law, California State University, Fullerton, October 14-15, 2005
  • San Francisco Recorder, New Media Law Roundtable, San Francisco, 2002 (Legal challenges for online publishers and service providers, including copyright, DMCA, defamation, and privacy issues)


ABA Forum on Communications Law

First Amendment Coalition

Media Law Resource Center


J.D., Santa Clara University School of Law, 1991, summa cum laude

M.A., San Francisco State University 1985

B.A., University of California at Santa Cruz, 1979, cum laude



California Supreme Court

California State Superior Courts and Courts of Appeal

U.S. District Court for the Northern, Central, Eastern and Southern Districts of California

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