Free speech, libel and the internet age

#1
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/5230776.stm

Internet law professor Michael Geist says the issue of free speech and the power of the net to disseminate comment is far from being resolved in law.

The Rivoli, a popular Canadian music club in Toronto, Canada may seem like an unusual venue to consider internet free speech.

Yet later this week, it will play host to a fundraiser in support of P2Pnet.net, a Canadian-based website that is being sued for defamation for comments posted on the site by its readers.

The suit, launched by Sharman Networks' Nikki Hemming, has attracted considerable international attention because of the parties involved - Sharman Networks is the Australian-based owner of Kazaa, the peer-to-peer file sharing service that last week agreed to pay the entertainment industry $100m (£53m) to settle ongoing litigation.

It also highlights the vulnerability of thousands of individuals to defamation lawsuits merely for providing access to other people's comments.
I follow this with interest , primairily for the rather breath-taking double standards I personally feel being displayed by the named party towards other sites, especially as she's so big on 'freedom of speech and enterprise'

Libertie , egalitie, Fraternetie indeed........
 
#2
Now there's a debate to be had! and agree with your comment on double standards in relation to Sharman networks.

So, as a moderator of ARRSE PTP, do you think that that the free speech that we enjoy here (with caveats) will become more restricted over the coming few years as a result of these cases?
 
#3
Yes I think it will AB. As more and more high profile individuals scour the net looking for 'defamatory comments' on themselves or their business , or rather as their lawyers do , it will get harder. Even putting fora behind membership portals and non-searchable by search engines will be no defence, if Lawyers are determined.

Still, lucky for P2P net they didn't say her arrse looks fat in that. :D
 
#4
Looks like the Wicked Witch will be busy. Still it might distract her from allegedly taking money from Childrens Cancer Charities.
 
#5
PartTimePongo said:
Yes I think it will AB. As more and more high profile individuals scour the net looking for 'defamatory comments' on themselves or their business , or rather as their lawyers do , it will get harder. Even putting fora behind membership portals and non-searchable by search engines will be no defence, if Lawyers are determined.

Still, lucky for P2P net they didn't say her arrse looks fat in that. :D
I have often trawled through threads on Arrse and seen libel comments.

MOD's need to be more aware of such comments. I know they cannot go through every single thread, but I seen harmless post's removed and threads with libel comments kept!
 
#7
I see a large part of the problem relating to sites offering truly anonymous postings, and conclude that ISP's are going to find themselves under even more pressure to monitor content then ever before.

Maybe speech isn't as free as many would think!
 
#8
Warrior_Poet said:
Is it libel if it's true John? ( sweating nervously as I wait for the boots kicking in the door)
Libel is a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person.
 
#10
This issue has been discussed by Arrse Mods , and we are trying to think of ways and means of addressing this.

Especially in the light of cases like Don King v Judd Burstein , Godfrey? v Demon Internet and now Nikki v P2P net , there will be legal precedents set, something all forum owners will have to keep abreast of.

I suspect the word alleged will be getting used a lot in the future :(
 
#11
This issue has been discussed by Arrse Mods , and we are trying to think of ways and means of addressing this.
Maybe respond quicker to user's alerts. I must say I informed BadCo to a Libel comment and the thread was removed.
 
#12
Maybe get user alerts in the first place? Possibly a "complain about this post" button?

Are you in 'The law' John, or is this just opinion?
 
#13
I guess the IS managers of several well known tabloids must really be thinking long and hard about their position. It's one thing to fall victim to libel statements made by anonymous posters, it's a somewhat different matter when 90% of what appears on your "legit site" is as guilty.

Sorry, forgot - everything that's in the tabloids is correct, right?!
 
#15
PartTimePongo said:
Maybe get user alerts in the first place? Possibly a "complain about this post" button?

Are you in 'The law' John, or is this just opinion?
Both..
 
#16
An interesting and important debate. The net has bred "opinion-as-fact" sites like wikipedia and various consumer/community sites that, for whatever reason, become established as authoritative within their fields. The truth is that information posted on such sites can cause individuals and organisations a great deal of damage - especially if false or malicious. Such individuals and their livelihoods deserve protection from attack, and I think we'd all be in agreement on that. Not for the first time, however, we will see a well intentioned law being weilded clumsily (if not downright nefariously).

The devil is always in the detail. Firstly, the only people with the resources to take on the internet will be the privately and corporately rich. Oh, and the governmentally rich of course. Fair do's, capitalism suits me, and I'm not suggesting that we're about to be crushed under an orwellian jackboot just yet. The problem is that our (well, everyone's) system of government is proving-how shall I put it?-vulnerable, compliant even, to the agendas of those with money and commercial clout.

A ruling class consisting of, or at least beholden to, a group of individuals that can smash down the dissent of the proles (even if done politely in court) is not a good situation. I'm not a crazy lefty, I'm citing precident - look at...well, read a history book, even a crappy one with cartoons in it.

There's not much we can do about the letter of the law. Like I said it comes from good intentions and changing it only throws up a raft of other potential threats to rights and liberty. The counterbalance to an overly powerful monied elite is, as always, us.

If the masses sat at their screens decide that, actually, this is just a bit of a laugh and I'm not willing to try and think around the problem in the face of potential litigation, i'll just log-off and go and play on my Playstation 3 (please santa) then freedom of speech will diminish slightly. If the keyboard warriors sat in their parents' loft conversion sprouting forth about freedoms without ever having earned a right in their life decide this is all a bit much and it's easier to listen to Opeth or something, then another of the rights no-one earned or knows about will dissolve.

If, however, the population of the internet becomes a bit more self-aware and realises what a huge industry it is in its own right, then the likes of Ms Hemming can hire as many lawyers as she wants, they'll be fighting a multi billion pound hydra that everyone wants a piece of. If the internet community works out how to play the technology and semantics to their favour then libel won't be breached. Half-witted politicians have been slagging each other off for centuries, in print and in parliaments, without coming a cropper. If people really want to take responsibility for their rights then they'll pull it off here too. I won't hold my breath, Superman returns comes out soon.
 
#17
RTFQ said:
If, however, the population of the internet becomes a bit more self-aware and realises what a huge industry it is in its own right, then the likes of Ms Hemming can hire as many lawyers as she wants, they'll be fighting a multi billion pound hydra that everyone wants a piece of. If the internet community works out how to play the technology and semantics to their favour then libel won't be breached. Half-witted politicians have been slagging each other off for centuries, in print and in parliaments, without coming a cropper. If people really want to take responsibility for their rights then they'll pull it off here too. I won't hold my breath, Superman returns comes out soon.
This is almost certainly why the wheels fell off individual prosecution for filesharing, as Ms. Hemming should be well aware. The expense and bad publicity garnered for prosecuting teenage girls wasn't worth the trouble. I have no doubt that the big brains are working on another way to curb this problem (the iTunes store and pay trading sites seem to be working, but not stopping it) but the legal route has proven thus far ineffective.

Website owners are a bigger and more stationary target, though. And libel has a well-established precedent. It may be a lot easier for the corporate bloaters to prosecute shut down sites that say mean ol' things about their CEOs, as many of these sites are their own business entities. Politicians probably won't be the ones that sue...it'll be manufacturers and brands with an interest in defending their corporate reputation and a pool of funds for doing just that.

As long as we don't say anything libelous about Procter & Gamble we'll be fine, right? :-D I wonder if ARRSE has any volunteer legal types on the scan?
 
#18
Judge_John said:
PartTimePongo said:
Maybe get user alerts in the first place? Possibly a "complain about this post" button?

Are you in 'The law' John, or is this just opinion?
Both..
Do remind me not to hire you. I would always be wary of someone who claims to be "in the law" and whose command of English is of your standard.

"and I have often trawled through threads on Arrse and seen libel (should read 'libellous') comments.
MOD's need to be more aware of such comments. I know they cannot go through every single thread, but I seen harmless post's removed ( 'I seen' is VERY bad English and 'posts' does not need an apostrophe) and threads with libel ('libellous') comments kept! ( 'kept in them', or, 'retained')


And "I must say I informed BadCo to a Libel comment and the thread was removed." should read either " should read "I must say I informed BadCo of a libellous comment and the thread was removed. "or "I must say I informed BadCo of a libel and the thread was removed. "

Here endeth the lesson.
 
#19
londonirish said:
Judge_John said:
PartTimePongo said:
Maybe get user alerts in the first place? Possibly a "complain about this post" button?

Are you in 'The law' John, or is this just opinion?
Both..
Do remind me not to hire you. I would always be wary of someone who claims to be "in the law" and whose command of English is of your standard.

"and I have often trawled through threads on Arrse and seen libel (should read 'libellous') comments.
MOD's need to be more aware of such comments. I know they cannot go through every single thread, but I seen harmless post's removed ( 'I seen' is VERY bad English and 'posts' does not need an apostrophe) and threads with libel ('libellous') comments kept! ( 'kept in them', or, 'retained')


And "I must say I informed BadCo to a Libel comment and the thread was removed." should read either " should read "I must say I informed BadCo of a libellous comment and the thread was removed. "or "I must say I informed BadCo of a libel and the thread was removed. "

Here endeth the lesson.
I'll brush up on my English just for you!. How sad you must be to go through all my comment's and correct them.
 
#20
Judge_John said:
londonirish said:
Judge_John said:
PartTimePongo said:
Maybe get user alerts in the first place? Possibly a "complain about this post" button?

Are you in 'The law' John, or is this just opinion?
Both..
Do remind me not to hire you. I would always be wary of someone who claims to be "in the law" and whose command of English is of your standard.

"and I have often trawled through threads on Arrse and seen libel (should read 'libellous') comments.
MOD's need to be more aware of such comments. I know they cannot go through every single thread, but I seen harmless post's removed ( 'I seen' is VERY bad English and 'posts' does not need an apostrophe) and threads with libel ('libellous') comments kept! ( 'kept in them', or, 'retained')


And "I must say I informed BadCo to a Libel comment and the thread was removed." should read either " should read "I must say I informed BadCo of a libellous comment and the thread was removed. "or "I must say I informed BadCo of a libel and the thread was removed. "

Here endeth the lesson.
I'll brush up on my English just for you!. How sad you must be to go through all my comment's and correct them.
Good, you should. Your employer certainly would take a dim view of your English, if indeed you are a lawyer. I did leave one or two comments alone, but your posts have an air of authority about them, which might fool others, but not me. I did it in order to de-bunk someone who is possibly not what they say they are, or , if indeed you are a lawyer, to give you the help you so clearly need.

You don't need an apostrophe in "comments"

So there. :twisted:
 

Top