Sunday, 21 December 2008

Opinions are like a**holes - we all have one...


Both Iain Dale and AMW have recently run stories regarding Bridget Prentice's proposed changes to the libel laws and in particular the impact this may have on the blogosphere, I orginally posted the following as a comment, but thought it might be useful to air it here. I have been involved in advising website owners on DMCA legislation, and providing investigation services over the last 5 years, so I am pretty sure that this is how it would play out:

Well here's my tuppence worth on the proposed changes to the law, as it stands Bloggers are not exempt from the libel laws see here.

And I guess that's just a result of our civil law, any individual who has the resources can raise an action against another, which must be defended - as to the rights and wrongs of buying law and at what cost, that's another debate.

However comments are in the first instance the responsibility of the individual making them, not the blog owner, and as such a valid defence if the commentator can be identified. Whether the commentator can be identified or not the blog owner or his ISP will be served with a removal order by a complainant, and if not compliant with that, may only then subsequently be sued in lieu of the commentator (Godfrey vs Demon).

As such the only decision a blog owner has to make is whether they want to use moderation or not - this does not make one iota of difference: if a valid email address (or tracked IP address) is associated with a comment then the commentator will be found and sued, and the blog owner served with a removal notice however if anonymous posts are accepted the only action available to a complainant is to serve the blog owner with a removal notice - and only then if it is ignored will the complainant be in a position to sue the blog owner.

So in summary, lawyers get more work serving removal orders, and every blog has only anonymous posts which would be removed if objected to - problem solved Bridget...

3 comments:

  1. polaris, hey i think you might have cleared up my concerns around us blogger with your article..

    "So in summary, lawyers get more work serving removal orders, and every blog has only anonymous posts which would be removed if objected to - problem solved Bridget"

    Good idea, i might do a dirty article on the Government then set my blog comments so that anonymous (including me) bloggers can post till our wee hearts are content lol..

    It is very difficult to trace someone to an IP address, so many people now piggy back on other peoples wifi network it would be very difficult to trace someone, with email accounts you can have as many as you want, AOL and Yahoo must be about the easiest and simplest to obtain.

    Hey polaris you wrote "I have been involved in advising website owners on DMCA legislation, and providing investigation services over the last 5 years"

    That's good to know, i might be calling upon your services anytime soon lol..

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  2. Thanks for the comment. The wheels of justice and investigation move slowly, so being on holiday for a fortnight is not going to be problem (as per your response on your own blog). Take my word for it IP addresses are pretty reliable in most investigations as a starting point (particularly so called anonymous/disposable email accounts), and in the Limewire cases over the last few years Broadband IPs have been accepted as sufficient for serving of papers - but not enough if disputed, normally in a dispute there would be seizure of computer equipment. So it's not that easy to write off IP addresses, particularly in a criminal case. In civil cases as I said earlier though there is generally a tardy response and a lot of pressure on complainants to enter compromise or arbitration; as the costs to progress are phenomenal. So I think we, and your commentators, I don't have many :-(, are pretty safe.

    If you are looking for an investigator I can offer special rates for fellow bloggers - reduced special rates, I promise.

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  3. Hi Polaris..

    Good point you make around IP addresses, if the police or anyone else wanted to find someone responsible they could track down the IP address to a particular area then obtain some sort of sanction to check all the PC,s in that area (block of flats, street) so yeh it is a particuler easy way to find someone.

    Good to know my blog will be in good hands should i ever need to call upon your services!!

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