Archive for the ‘UK Libel Law’ Category

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 25, 2008

Category: Christ..., UK Libel Law

As Matt Warman notes under comments over at D-Notice, this issue highlighted in detail yesterday by Unity is in need of a ‘quick guide’, so I’m using his interim version here as an introduction…

In a nutshell, a long running mismanagement and industrial relations saga involving legal shenanigans, enforced contract changes, now up to 30 Industrial Tribunals and the loss over 2 years of a 200 year old chain of bookshops after a takeover that should have rejuvenated it.

Dave had reported the story in 75 posts, and has been Cease and Desisted – in the middle of the Lambeth Conference where he is very busy as Artist in Residence, just as the bookshop chain is being placed in bankruptcy in USA; it is a UK company.

Abstruse management saga becomes freedom of speech issue in middle of 3 weeks when press attention is focused on Lambeth Conference.

Cue shitstorm. Hopefully.

… and then sending you here for more.

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 11, 2008

Category: UK Libel Law

Craig is being bullied by lawyers again, and could do with your support.

No doubt there’ll be plenty more over the weekend.

UPDATE – Meanwhile…

Unity – Source for the gander: Whatever you might personally think of the underlying issues, there is no doubt that David has, in blogging terms, handled the story correctly… And, on that basis alone, I personally feel that we all, as bloggers, should be supporting David and Harry’s Place, much as we’ve supported other bloggers when they’ve faced the threat of vexatious legal action. But – as you might expect from me – there’s a little more to be said…

UPDATE (12 Jul) – Back to Craig Murray and his recent hassle from paper-pushing bullies:

Unity – Murray faces more legal bullying: To appreciate the full scope of what Schillings are trying to do here, you need to read the letter that was sent to Craig and his publishers, which was marked ‘Not For Publication’ – Craig has it on his blog in PDF format, but to make life easier for everyone, here’s the full text of the letter…

Click, read and share.

It’s not the first time that Schillings have played this game. Their top-secret threats are so very special that they’re protected by copyright even. Bless ’em. Bless ’em dry.

My copy of the letter appears below the fold at the ‘Usmanov’ blog* (woo-hoo! chase me!) because I miss the love that Schillings used to send my way. Repeat it in a post of your own if you’re feeling frisky, but do be aware that there may be a legal risk, even from these clowns.

(Psst! Don’t expect a lot of noise about this from ‘bloggers’ who themselves have become fond of secret threats and intimidation.)

[*UPDATE – Location changed. I forgot that I’m sharing server space with innocent bystanders, and Schillings have a record of knocking off a few civilians to the left and right of their intended target(s). Of course, I’m not suggesting for a second that any of their clients could be accused of anything like that….]

Posted by Tim Ireland at July 4, 2008

Category: UK Libel Law

I’ve had my differences* with some of the peeps over at Harry’s Place, too (over bullying and bullshit under comments if you can believe that) but I’ll stand with them over this:

Ministry of Truth – Harry’s Place threatened with legal action: Now, as I see it and on the basis of the material in these articles, especially the screenshot in the original post, then as long as the allegation is not that Harry’s Place mistranslated the contention passage then the BMI has no cause for genuine complaint against anyone but Al Jazeera. Not only that, but any dispute over exactly what was said could be readily cleared up if Al Jazeera were simply to give an explanation for why the article was retrospectively altered. Either it made a mistake, that David responded to in good faith, in which case [it] should say so, allowing him to amend his remarks accordingly, or it got the original report right only then to cave in and make changes under some sort of pressure. In neither scenario is litigation justified or warranted against HP as any issue that BMI might have over the text published by Al Jazeera is with Al Jazeera itself – or it should be and would be were it not for our berzerker libel laws.

Please be warned that linking to the original article at Harry’s Place makes you a potential target of legal threats.

UPDATE – Here’s a useful round-up of events from Melanie Philips.

(*I’ve just had a quick read-through of the relevant article from 2005 – i.e. long before Dale, Staines etc. declared themselves to be the fathers and rulers of the blogosphere – and I’ve noticed some startling parallels, but now’s not the time. I’ll link it later.)

1. Joseph Obi is on the warpath.

The attack on Louise Redvers is particularly appalling… and actionable. Sadly, The Obi One has yet to reveal what he’s really angry about (i.e. what triggered this greatly delayed outburst).

2. Thank you, Gordon.

(That is what you’re fishing for, yes? Next time, try to take the lead before you’re backed into a corner, eh?)

3. Independent – Clive Stafford Smith: Why has the Government forsaken Binyam Mohamed?: Why would the British Government refuse to disclose this kind of critical information? Here, we are left to speculate, since they won’t give an explanation. Sadly, the most likely reason is that there is much more evidence that they would rather remained hidden – such as proof of systematic British co-operation in the US rendition process.

If you’d like a hint as to the most likely outcome, here it is; Jack Straw still holds a cabinet position.

4. BBC – Blair ‘to devote life to faith’: Former prime minister Tony Blair has promised to “spend the rest of my life” uniting the world’s religions

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Oh, do excuse me. That’s unforgivably rude. I should kn*…. Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

5. Emptywheel – George Bush Authorized the Leak of Valerie Wilson’s Identity: Scottie McC doesn’t know it yet. But that’s basically what he revealed this morning on the Today Show…

See also: Scott McClellan on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Oh, and Matthew Norman’s description of Bush as an “an arrogant, self-deceiving fantasist” reminded me of this little item.

6. LayScience and Septicisle on the recent Standpoint nonsense.

(Speaking of right-wing magazines, someone has a tough job ahead of them.)

7. I had four beers last night, and I’m seriously considering breaking my curfew on Saturday night so I can see a movie with the missus.

I’m a bad boy…. but you ain’t seen nothing yet:

8. Manticore. Monday.

SPECIAL BONUS LINK: An incredible timesaver for 98% of the remaining* regular contributors to Iain Dale’s website. (*Most of the sensible people have grown tried of being ignored, censored, abused by anonymous cowards or told to “piss off” by the great man himself.)

Posted by Tim Ireland at May 28, 2008

Category: George W. Bush, The Political Weblog Movement, UK Libel Law, Updates

1. Nadine Dorries is telling porkies again. Oh, and did everyone watch the sun come up this morning? It came as a hell of a surprise, let me tell you.

2. Richard Bartholomew offers an excellent post on UK libel law here.

3. When greedy meets sneaky with a big dash of cheeky.

Mark Steel made me laugh with this; “But here is the best part. The “difficulties” raised by this complex and sensitive issue have been investigated by the politicians themselves, and one of the measures they’ve decided on is that all MPs should receive an automatic annual allowance of 23K for their second home. So no doubt some of them will now yell: “That’s not fair, now the others get a bonus but we were swiping that much already.””

4. Not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips since the 16th, but I did almost forget about my curfew last night. My only excuse is that, unlike some people, I don’t have an electronic tag to remind me that i should be home before 9pm.

5. Operation Manticore: With you shortly. I’ve worked out a way to allow newcomers and outsiders to join in, but dealing with a total shit like George W. Bush means that (a) a lot of SH! is required and (b) there are many Is to dot and Ts to cross.

UPDATE – Make that six:

BorisWatch – Boris, Dean Godson, Andrew Gilligan and, er, the Routemaster bus?
BorisWatch – This Think Tank Is A Powerful Vehicle

Posted by Tim Ireland at May 20, 2008

Category: UK Libel Law

Libel tourism is the new hotness and our milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

UK libel law is also making life increasingly difficult for those of us who like to speak our minds via Teh Interwebs.

These are, to my mind, the two aspects of UK libel law that deserve the most immediate attention from the folks online, but if you think that there are others that are of a higher priority (or even more likely to bend with the wind), then now is the time to speak up on your own blog or under comments:

The Demon Almost-Precedent: the Legacy of Laurence Godfrey

The roots go a wee bit deeper and it’s not as set in stone as some people would have you think, but since Demon settled over the Laurence Godfrey libel case eight years ago, it has been generally accepted that ISPs and other providers of web hosting services can under UK law be sued for libel over material transmitted through a largely automated carrier service.

Things are different in the US; Section 230 protects the providers of carrier services and instead puts the legal onus on the true publishers; those who consciously present, arrange, edit, coordinate or create content for publication (e.g. the submitters of comments, the authors of blogs, the editors of portals, etc.)

But here in the UK, the people who own the transmitter are publishers from the moment of transmission.

From that moment, the only defence left to them is one of ‘innocent dissemination’… and this is why the ‘notice and takedown’ method works so well; a lawyer gives notice, the ISP panics, takedown follows.

You can still be held legally responsible for what you submit to websites (under your control or the control of others)… however, thanks to Godfrey v. Demon Internet Limited, you can be neatly bypassed at any time by someone who wants to remove what you’ve published but cannot or will not challenge it in court.

The Bastard Duke of Brunswick

Again, we come back to that moment of transmission, except this time it doesn’t stop there; each time a web page is reloaded in this country, that’s counted as a fresh transmission, and therefore a fresh publication.

This concept was first introduced to law over a 150 years ago by the Bastard Duke of Brunswick a man who once boasted that, if it weren’t for his great wealth, he would have been in an insane asylum

Instead, he decided to roam free and infect our legal system with his special brand of crazy.

(This, in my view, is what makes him a bit of a bastard… but please feel free to use the title ‘Batshit Duke of Brunswick’ if you prefer it. In fact, you can say almost anything you like about him now that he’s dead.)

In 1998, the law on limitation periods for civil claims in the UK was described as “needlessly complex, outdated and, in some respects, unfair”. A few years later, limits for claims of libel were rendered all but meaningless in a digital age after Brunswick’s bullshit was applied to websites in Loutchansky v. The Times Newspapers Limited.

As it stands, any UK newspaper or magazine wishing to make an archive of their articles available online must be prepared to prove all over again that what they published umpteen years ago was true. Even archive services such as LexisNexis are vulnerable (as one inventive and secretive ‘blogger’ has shown).

Also, someone could choose to initially ignore something you published about them on your website or weblog and then surprise you with a claim of libel in 5, 10 or 20 years time; that’s a long time to expect anyone to maintain evidence and/or contact with relevant witnesses.

There are already quite a few bloggers with content of this vintage. Very few of them will be aware how (and when) it might be used against them with an ambush claim.

Again, the folks in the US shame us with a superior level of common sense on this matter.

[WARNING: The legal status of web users as publishers and their subsequent individual/collective responsibilities is a matter that’s likely to come up and be widely misunderstood and disagreed upon… in a conversation involving an unknown number of people wishing to stay anonymous while pretending to be more than one person. Just so you know. Oh, and there’s a minor communication/motivation problem on the horizon; those who aren’t paying attention may wonder why we should fight to give ISPs immunity from liability when all they’ve done so far is punk out on us.]

Posted by Tim Ireland at May 12, 2008

Category: UK Libel Law

Working on an opening post. Meantime, Mat Bowles brings to the table an issue worth watching.

UPDATE – Press Gazette – Johnny Vegas sues Guardian and Observer over ‘grope’ story: Comedian Johnny Vegas has begun libel proceedings against Guardian News & Media over two articles which claimed he had molested a woman during a stand-up performance. At the centre of the libel claim is a piece by Mary O’Hara, published in the Guardian’s G2 section on 1 May, headlined: “Since when is sexual assault funny?” O’Hara, who was in the audience at Vegas’s gig at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, claimed in her report that the comedian “gratuitously groped a woman on stage”. The comedian is also suing over a follow-up comment piece in the Observer on 4 May, written by comedian Jackie Clune and headlined: “Sorry, but that really isn’t funny, Johnny”. Vegas has hired law giant Schillings to bring the action against the Guardian and Observer publisher. The two pieces have since been removed from the Guardian website.

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 22, 2008

Category: UK Libel Law

With you shortly.

1. National Service is going ahead, but I can’t sit around forever waiting for the money situation to get better, so, with Clive’s help, I’ve built a little cash machine to help things along. That’ll be with you shortly.

2. As you’re probably aware, the more ridiculous aspects of SOCPA are soon to be binned.

3. Blair’s coining it in while playing The Great Statesman, but he hasn’t killed anyone lately, so I’m happy to leave him to it. Even if he does manage to buy a burial plot with armed guards and electrified fences, I doubt even that will keep me from somehow pissing on his grave.

4. Bush is finished and has been since the 2006 mid-terms.

5. The year or so of bloggage about Iain Dale and Paul Staines (and their overlapping team of wannabe thugs) looked very closely at the techniques used in their ongoing efforts to enjoy power without accountability… and from here it looks as if we’ve finally reached the bottom of their bag of tricks.

[Psst! Iain and Paul: Don’t get your hopes up, you lovable miniature media barons. There are still some loose ends flapping and an almighty wrap-up to come, and I guarantee that you’re not going to like any of it.]

So the time has finally come for a new ongoing project at Bloggerheads.

I have two projects in mind:

UK Libel Law

UK libel laws as they stand make it very difficult for any British citizen or resident to host their website in this country without fear of being silenced with quasi-legal threats (yes, even from total tosspots who can’t afford real lawyers). Overseas hosts are also prone to intimidation, and they most likely won’t give a flying toss about who is and isn’t legally entitled to what, because you’ll just be an unwanted headache to most of them.

After the Alisher Usmanov affair, I did some poking around to see what kind of support bloggers and other web-publishers could expect from the UK hosting industry we would most likely have to abandon en masse if this kind of thing continues… and I didn’t get a nibble.

There were some fine print and television journalists batting for us here and there during the whole Usmanov thing, but challenging the status quo on something this big requires hefty editorial support. I don’t like our chances.

The short version is as follows: if bloggers want to change or challenge the UK libel laws, those of us that do choose to stand together against this kind of nonsense will on our own.

On the surface of things, it’s also a wee bit dry as a subject. But, then again, so was SOCPA to an extent. I’m sure that with some teamwork and creativity, we could paint some well-deserving individuals and organisations into some interesting corners (i.e. give those with the power to change it reason to do so… or at least something to think about).

Murdoch Watch

I’d like to (finally) devote some serious time to this by creating a purpose-built multi-author weblog that documents the many ways that The Sun newspaper manipulates and betrays their readers and the public in general.

There are now some excellent writers in the blogosphere with sufficient background, experience and credibility to take this on. I’d be devoting a good portion of my time to it, and there are a few people I already have in mind that I’d like to invite to do the same.

Of course, we’d probably have to host it overseas (see above), but part of this would be the development of a working [outlet]-watch from scratch for instructional and inspirational purposes anyhow (“You can do this, too for the Murdoch outlet nearest you. And here’s how…”), so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t start afresh at or the like, just to prove it can be done and done well.

[Psst! Just in case you’re not aware, a FOX News watchdog already exists.]

So, over to you lot…

One of the things that I care about most in politics is levelling the playing field; those who wish to engage honestly from any side should be able to do so without being silenced, shouted down, shoved aside or sabotaged.

Which project do you think is most likely to take us forward on that front? Or do you have some ideas of your own?

Now’s the time to speak up if you have something to say.

UPDATE – Please note that I’ll be out for most of Thursday April 17th, so if you’re relatively new here or it’s your first comment, your 2p worth probably won’t be cleared for publication until late afternoon. Cheers all.

Posted by Tim Ireland at March 18, 2008

Category: UK Libel Law

LayScience – Dr. Joseph Obi cons the President of Gambia. Seriously.


I’m with LayScience… Obi is ceasing to amuse me.

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