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UK Libel Law Is a Global Threat To Web Free Speech

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the careful-what-you-tweet dept.

The Courts 363

uctpjac writes "London media lawyer Emily MacManus argues that UK libel law has three features which make it the 'defamation tourism' capital of the world and a serious threat to Web free speech. First, there is no free speech presumption in the UK as there is, for example, in the US. Second, every access of a Web page is considered to be a separate act of publication in the UK (unlike the US, where 'original publication' holds). Third, 'no-win-no-fee' libel litigation is now allowed in the UK. If any blog, anywhere, publishes something you'd like taken down, threaten libel action in the UK: no one except the super-rich can afford to even take these cases to court, so media lawyers advise publishers to 'take it down, take it down quickly, take it down again.' There's not much chance that the judges will move the law any time soon because they just aren't seeing the cases that could cause them to set new precedent."

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God save the Queen!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379015)

She's not a human being!!!

(Old song...)

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379029)

and some people brag and boast about living in said country...

Re:lol (0, Flamebait)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379235)

A lot of people I know in academia brag about it. But it is so hard to find a job in academia in Europe that they move to the US. Then they complain about how terrible the US is, without making the connection that for some reason the terrible things we do make it possible for them to have a job here.

Re:lol (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379341)

..without making the connection that for some reason the terrible things we do make it possible for them to have a job here.

Like death-penalty for minors or your recent foray into torture? I fail to see the connection with job-creation in academia.

Re:lol (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379397)

i don't see why 18 is the magic number when it comes to being accountable for your actions. if someone is mature enough at 15 to commit a crime in the mind-set of an adult, why shouldn't they face adult consequences?

if you want to bring up that the mind-set of an under 18 is not there yet, take a 19 y/o vs a 39 y/o. both can receive the death penalty, but very few would argue they are on equal maturity and decision making levels.

punishment should be based on mind-set and maturity, not some pulled-out-of-your-ass age.

there are 15 y/o's that very much deserve the death penalty.

Re:lol (3, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379445)

if someone is mature enough at 15 to commit a crime in the mind-set of an adult, why shouldn't they face adult consequences?

Because we wanted to pick a hard number that can be applied to everyone, without having to give a fuzzy profile to every criminal.

We picked 18. At 18 you can vote, you can marry, and you are liable for the entirety of your own actions. We could have picked 16, or 25, or 30, but we picked 18.

Oh, and punnishment IS based on mind-set and maturity. Even if you're a minor, you can be tried as an adult for especially henious crimes. And if you're over 18 and mentally undeveloped, well, then you're essentially treated like a child.

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379501)

i understand why we picked a number. it would be really hard to judge each and every situation without any baseline.

my post was (mostly) addressing the comment about minors receiving the death penalty. in summary, there is no reason that a heinous crime committed by a adult-thinking minor should get a lighter penalty. the death penalty shouldn't be limited by age.

Re:lol (1)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379721)

And if you're over 18 and mentally undeveloped, well, then you're essentially treated like a child.

Than why were mentally retarded people given the death penalty?

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379773)

In most states, they are not. Most states either lack the death penalty, or have sufficient safeguards in place, such as a reasonable definition of mental retardation.

Unfortunately not all states are like that. There are a few states with excessive focus on the death penalty, even to the point that they cannot afford to keep the regular prisons up to date, and regularly release prisoners sentenced to life w/o parole, because they have run out of room. But that is the Texan attitude. Just how far Texas is to the right is damn scary, especially considering that many other areas with similar populations of fundamentalist religious nutcases don't have the issues Texas has.

Re:lol (2, Funny)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379785)

Than why were mentally retarded people given the death penalty?

Because Texas has a different standard for "mentally retarded" than the rest of the USA.

Re:lol (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379551)

I don't see that you made a very continuous logical connection. But I could have been more clear. They complain about the capitalist nature of the US for example. Yet I feel that it is this feature that allows for a healthy academic job market, albeit a bit of a rollercoaster (although better up and down then just down all the time). They also feel that the students in the US colleges are bad, when in fact those students are paying their salaries. The students may be "bad" (in some undefinable sense) but apparently my European colleagues don't have the integrity to stop taking part in a system of education that they disagree with. Often I've heard that the students in the US don't understand basic functional programming principles, as is taught in France for example. Our students learn practical things, like C++ and Java, while my colleagues would prefer to teach them OCaml. OCaml is a great language in my opinion, but it won't get my students a job.

Re:lol (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379619)

"Children do not receive a visit from the Judgment Fairy on their eighteenth birthday." Labrat [atomicnerds.com]

Re:lol (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379711)

What a tool you are. Typical Eur-a-peeon. Who was tortured? Captured terrorists. As in the real thing caught fighting American (and British) troops on the battlefield. Torture? Debatable as it was. And the death penalty is reserved for heinous murderers. If a minor is executed, you better believe he did something pretty severe. Personally, I've never heard of a minor having found themselves in such a predicament. I'm sure it has happened just not that I'm aware of.

See, you useful idiot fucks fail lack the intelligence and insight to make very simple distinctions between our situation and yours. We take people who try to kill us very seriously and act accordingly. Murderers and enemy combatants fall into this category and they are dealt with quite harshly. How does this effect the common American on the street? Not a whole hell of a lot, actually. Aside from being slightly safer. My personal liberties are not abridged in the slightest by what goes on in Gitmo and the local state penitentiary. You fools on the other hand, have your rights and freedoms taken away on what seems like a daily basis. Cameras practically stuck up your asses, disintegrating expressive freedom, hate speech laws, internet blacklists, the list goes on and on. Yet, in your pompous arrogance, you have the audacity to try to look down on us. It's like fucking bizarro world. You people are sad. And, frankly, I don't care. As a matter of fact, you deserve everything Orwell told you was coming.

Re:lol (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379763)

You could use that same reasoning for China and India.

The terrible things their governments do make it possible for them to have jobs there.

Re:lol (2, Insightful)

Ragzouken (943900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379515)

Every country has its flaws, and every country has its braggers. The UK is no exception.

Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (0, Flamebait)

CodeArtisan (795142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379047)

So, in summary, UK law prevents a poster from making libelous claims on the web. I didn't think the right to free speech came with the right to defame; even in the US.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (4, Informative)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379059)

But the 'no-win-no-fee' will make it a no-cost low-effort to suppress unwanted speech. There is a big difference between libel and things you do not want to hear.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379065)

Hate speech is free speech

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (5, Insightful)

AmericanPegasus (1099265) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379075)

Doesn't matter. Due to the legal blockades in the UK, if you label ANYTHING you don't like as defamation, it must realistically be taken down. You might think you have the freedom to criticize your local government and their policies, but all they have to do is claim that your criticisms are libelous and you are in a world of hurt if you refuse to back down. The same applies to a church, say of Scientology. Or any other ridiculous way that those in power would like to keep down the voice and will of the people. Another tragedy of free will from the UK. I hope America learns from its mistakes before it's too late.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (3, Insightful)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379219)

I hope America learns from its mistakes before it's too late.

Unfortunately USA will learn that it works and implement those laws too.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379361)

>>>>all they have to do is claim that your criticisms are libelous and you are in a world of hurt if you refuse to back down.

Cowards. Take me to court. I don't care. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I won't have to climb some mountain in Chile to get it. It might even be fun! Plus if you really believe in the rights of man, then you should be willing to fight for them, not just let people trample all over you.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (3, Insightful)

PhreakOfTime (588141) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379519)

Agreed.

Now I know Ive posted this before, but there are just so many instances of this nonsense, that I feel it needs to be repeated at every opportunity.

A local company, Caton Commercial [catoncommercial.net] , decided to send a threatening letter in an attempt to prevent the publication of the public court schedule of their pending cases. Claims of libel were made, along with copyright, trademark, and CRIMINAL charges. You can read the poorly thought out Cease and Desist Letter here [catoncommercial.net] .

It did not seem to matter to them that the ACTUAL COURT was publishing this info that was being linked to. I did not back down, or respond in any way to their threats. Ive never heard another word about it from this company, or their lawyer. It seems that having such asinine claims and accusations published for the world to see, is the best way to respond to such ignorant claims of the self-important.

And while it was not a once in a lifetime experience(although hearing a lawyer try to argue that the courts own publicly published information was libel would have been), it also did NOT leave me in a world of hurt for not backing down. In fact quite the opposite, it gave me a feeling of great confidence that the things that are important to me are worth fighting for, and that I have the integrity to stick to what I believe with my actions, as well as my words.

Needless to say, the actual cowards are the ones who send out letters like this.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379443)

Alternatively, I would like to send notices to all websites that SUPPORT scientology.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379447)

Doesn't matter. Due to the legal blockades in the UK, if you label ANYTHING you don't like as defamation, it must realistically be taken down. You might think you have the freedom to criticize your local government and their policies

I'm sorry, this is not true (and IAAL - hence anonymous posting)

There's a number of defences to defamation in the UK. One is fair comment. You can make a fair comment about something of interest. That includes local government and their policies. That includes religions. That includes celebrities, sportsmen - whatever. The only requirement is you're not doing it out of malice.

Another is truth (justification). If you can prove your comment to be substantially true (not wholly true), it's a complete defence. For example, there's a case where a man sued the newspaper which said he went to prison for 3 weeks. In reality he went to prison for 2 weeks. The case wasn't even put to the jury, because the statement was shown to be substantially true. It is not a "ridiculous way that those in power" can "keep down the voice and will of the people". For one thing, it's private law, not public law. For another thing, it's tried by jury, not a judge, and certainly not a politician.

People like yourself, who cry the sky is falling over a red herring, do as much damage as this alarmist article in the first place to the cause of civil liberties. We need to focus on real problems in rights, specifically in the criminal and public law systems, rather than invent them in the context of private litigation.

Besides, is the alternative that we permit defamation? Even though you can get a no win, no fee firm to represent you in such a case?

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1)

identity0 (77976) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379585)

If you are an actual lawyer, then can you please explain why you don't do it like the US does, REQUIRE THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE GUILT, NOT REQUIRE THE DEFENDANT TO PROVE INNOCENCE?

It seems to me the UK system treats the original article of defamation as being of equal weight as a legal accusation, such that it must be proven in court like a prosecutor's case.

Why do you have a system that places the burden of proof on the defendant?

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379793)

There is no prosecution - it is a civil matter not a criminal matter.

Any anyway, if you have don't have evidence to back up libelous allegations, don't publish them? Nobody is forced to make allegations about other people. There is always the option to wait until you have actual evidence.

In these cases, it is not the one bringing the suit who started it - in many ways the the claimant in the legal case is the defendant in the "court of public opinion".

Contingency fee for defence? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379701)

But are lawyers also allowed to defend libel suits in England and Wales on a contingency fee arrangement, and do they tend to offer such arrangements? Otherwise, a party can silence speech by threatening to bankrupt the speaker with the cost of litigation.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379505)

Not quite. In the UK, the public has strong ability to criticize the government. That freedom goes back to the civil war and the Magna Carta. However, libel laws always apply. You have more freedom if you go to Speaker's Corner and shout it out there, but then only tourists will listen to you. English law is rather more obscure than American law.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379815)

English law is rather more obscure than American law.

That's because a few hundred years ago we yanked out all the good parts and left crap like this behind.

Not that we aren't getting it crapped up again.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379641)

Doesn't matter. Due to the legal blockades in the UK, if you label ANYTHING you don't like as defamation, it must realistically be taken down. You might think you have the freedom to criticize your local government and their policies, but all they have to do is claim that your criticisms are libelous and you are in a world of hurt if you refuse to back down.

No, it means that you can be sued for libel. But that doesn't mean you're going to lose in court.

As in all jurisdictions, there is a cost and hassle to lawsuits. Sometimes it is cheaper and easier to settle. Sometimes not.

While I am not a UK lawyer, anyone know how difficult it is to recover fees & damages from a failed libel suit?

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (2, Informative)

Zumbs (1241138) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379093)

That is, provided the page in question actually is libelous. If I had a web page on, say, UK Prime minister Gordon Brown, and wrote something true about him that he did not like, a libel claim could make my provider take it down. That *is* bad for free speech.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379133)

UK law also prevents a poster from making a true claim that their ISP can't prove is true.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (4, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379161)

So, in summary, UK law prevents a poster from making libelous claims on the web. I didn't think the right to free speech came with the right to defame; even in the US.

You might think that, you [insert crazy libel here]. But think it through.

In the US, you have an absolute right to state your honest opinion, or your honestly believed facts. So, if I believed that, oh, the local priest molested little boys, I could stand out and say that without being sued. If I thought he'd molested a friend of mine, I could picket in front of his house, until the police finally came and did something about it.

But in the UK?

As soon as I started picketing, I could be charged with slander*. (Or libel, if I did so through publication.) The church would take me to court, where I would have to prove my claims. If I can't -- because, for example, my friend isn't allowed to testify -- then I could lose my car, house, and the $20 in my pocket.

The bad part that the summary went into -- the really, REALLY bad part -- is that if I put up a website in the USA, talking about how a priest in Mexico molests children, that priest can go to the United Kingdom and sue me there.

And there's no way in hell I can afford to fly to the UK just to defend the rights my forefathers fought to give me. Nor should I.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379277)

If you don't live in the UK, and don't have any assets there, you can probably ignore any claims in the English courts.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379377)

"Death to redcoats!!!"

Ooops. Wrong war. Well the spirit still lives on. UK Judge wants to rule against me because I defamed their Queen? He can just rot in hell since the colonies are now independent.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379461)

If you don't live in the UK, and don't have any assets there, you can probably ignore any claims in the English courts.

Sure. Until said mexican priest takes his UK court-ordered judgment and comes to the USA, and sues me for collection of said debt.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379759)

IANAL either...but couldn't this get a lot worse?

I'd imagine this scenario going something like:

  - person in mexico hates person in US
  - person in mexico flies to UK, sues person in US
  - person in US loses by default for failure to show, has judgement entered
  - person in US refuses to pay -- it's not a valid court order
  - person in mexico files for a lien--also not enforcable...US citizen now found in contempt of court (a criminal charge?)
  - US has extradition treaty with UK--and gets dragged from their morning coffee kicking and screaming to get locked up in the UK on criminal charges.

Maybe it doesn't or can't work that way...but even if it's not supposed to, I doubt it's much of a stretch or would take much wrangling to find a way to screw somebody comparably.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1)

davidphogan74 (623610) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379771)

What about the ISP hosting for you? Google has assets there, if you host on Blogspot for example. This can affect users outside the UK, because as TFA notes this allows ISP's to be sued if they don't remove offending items as well.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379493)

You might think that, you [insert crazy libel here]. But think it through.

In the US, you have an absolute right to state your honest opinion, or your honestly believed facts. So, if I believed that, oh, the local priest molested little boys, I could stand out and say that without being sued. *snip*

Unfortunately with how the civil court system works that is not 100% true, as you can be sued by anyone for almost anything, at any time.

The question will be if can you afford to fight to prove you are right or will you be forced to roll over?

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379751)

So why should you be allowed to make false, clearly damaging claims and not be held responsible for them? A civil case is not a criminal trial - a civil case is normally where there is some sort of mess (a broken contract, a car wreck, etc) and the courts are responsible for allocating the costs of the mess among the parties. Somebody is always going to be stuck with the costs. On the other hand, a criminal trial can end with none of the parties being criminally responsible.

If you make specific claims about a priest molesting someone, and it turns out you are wrong, why should he not be able to sue you in the same way he could sue you if you drove into him in your car accidentally? Most car wrecks aren't deliberate, but that doesn't mean people get some sort of immunity for the damage they cause because they didn't mean to do it.

Defamation cases are tort cases, just like cases over car accidents. The issue is that somebody has been hurt by the actions of another and if it was not them that was wrong then they should not be stuck with the consequences.

There ARE in fact extra protections for journalists covering public interest cases (see Jameel vs Dow Jones for example), something else that many people overlook.

Certainly you have a right to free speech. But if your poorly-thought-through accusations cause damage to an innocent man I don't see why he shouldn't ask for compensation from you. If you don't have any proper evidence against the man really you should either wait until you have better evidence, or accept that if you are making a mistake you will have to pay for it.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (4, Informative)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379755)

Actually, in the UK, truth is a strict defense against libel. Holocaust Denier David Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt over the UK edition of her book, Denying the Holocaust, in which she called Irving

a Holocaust denier, falsifier, and bigot, and said that he manipulated and distorted real documents.

Irving lost after a trial in which his scholarship on the Holocaust was shown to be fraudulent and he was demonstrated to be a bigot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Irving#Libel_suit [wikipedia.org]

In the U.S., truth is not a strict defense against libel [wikipedia.org] :

For example, the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February 2009 in the case of Noonan v. Staples [uscourts.gov] , that even a true statement, if made with malicious intent, could stand as the basis of a defamation suit, based on a clause in Massachusetts libel law, allowing libel suits for true claims made in "actual malice."

Your belief above that honestly believing something is sufficient, is not strictly true: It depends upon the jurisdiction you're in.

Re:Right to Free Speech != Right to Defame (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379613)

So are negative product reviews now illegal?

I guess now everything is instantly "awesome" in England.

You have to love how the ruling class imposes such limitations on communications. They fear what exactly? The truth?

And this is just one example (0, Offtopic)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379049)

Of why giving DNS control to the UN is a horrible idea imho.

Re:And this is just one example (2, Insightful)

FST777 (913657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379067)

Please elaborate, because I fail to see the point.

If you mean it should be given to another, separate, international entity, you are absolutely right. But I get the feeling that you'd rather maintain the status quo, and I can't see how that would help in matters like these...

Re:And this is just one example (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379391)

If you get sued in the UK, fail to show-up, and lose, then the UK could petition the UN to drag you into their International Court. Or revoke your website DNS lookup. Or both.

Re:And this is just one example (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379667)

And this is the reason why the US tells the ICC to go fuck itself.

Re:And this is just one example (1)

Chlorine Trifluoride (1517149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379081)

You mean the UK, right? Of course, giving the DNS to the UN would be a problem, after that idiot "no criticism of religions" resolution that they passed.

Re:And this is just one example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379259)

That is the scary part, using our own laws against those who have valid criticisms of religion.

I think the recent wars are examples. Secular ideas creeping into very conservative societies. Using religion to gain power and change whole countries into believing scientific progress is evil.

People unwilling to accept change.

Re:And this is just one example (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379169)

Yup. Giving DNS control to any body outside of the USA would be FAIL. The only country I trust to keep DNS poison free is the USA. Let's face it, the only place in the world where /everyone/ has a voice on such matters is the USA.

(OK, OK, you might argue that the communists and fascists don't have a voice, but they are the ones that want to censor, thereby eliminating other voices.)

Re:And this is just one example (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379415)

>>>OK, you might argue that the communists and fascists don't have a voice

Bzzz. Even assholes have the right to free speech in the United States - http://www.americanfascistmovement.com/ [americanfa...vement.com] - http://www.kkk.com/ [kkk.com]

Re:And this is just one example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379567)

You forgot http://www.democrats.org/ and http://www.gop.com

Re:And this is just one example (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379679)

Yup. Giving DNS control to any body outside of the USA would be FAIL. The only country I trust to keep DNS poison free is the USA.

I think giving more control of the Internet to a country that in the last decade has suspended habeas corpus, wiretapped the conversations of its own citizens without warrant, proclaimed that the protections of liberty enshrined in its founding document apply only to its own citizens (and what does it matter since it's "just a goddamned piece of paper" anyway), created a copyright law that is incompatible with the principles of Fair User and the Public Domain, created another law that makes it illegal for you to know or reveal that you are under suspicion of violating it, started teaching Intelligent Design in "science class" in a lot of places, went abso-fucking-lutely ballistic because some chick flashed a nipple at the Superbowl for chrissakes and doesn't seem all that interested in things like net neutrality, open standards and document formats and the freedom of individuals to do as they please with their own properety, would be an EPIC fail.

Give control of the DNS to the people at Wikileaks, or Groklaw, or NYCL. Give it to the Pirate Bay, I don't care.

But do not give it to the US, the UK, Australia would probably be bad, even Canada is getting sketchy ...

Isn't that why we have court... (2, Interesting)

JoshDmetro (1478197) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379077)

So that the filthy stinking rich can do whatever they want. The powers that be can accuse you of anything and if you don't have the money you can't defend yourself. Especially lately where the whole innocent until proven guilty no longer exists. The onus is on you to prove your not guilty at quite a substantial cost. There is also no penalty for making false accusations which allows extreme abuse of the law. In Canada now there are some laws police are allowed to administer a summary penalty with no chance to ever prove your innocence. And no recourse before the courts,you can't even appeal to a judge. And this is illegal under Canadian constitution but you are not allowed to take the matter to court. So much for having a Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms if you are not allowed to exercise your supposed rights.

implications (4, Interesting)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379079)

Sooooo, what does this mean to a citizen of another country (say the United States) who has no assets in GB? Are they able to reach out and touch you?

Re:implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379137)

Who has assets in George Bush anyway?

All countries are equal on the slippery slope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379465)

Well, Democrats have been supporting the World Court and other recognition of the laws of other countries. It's a short hop to recognizing a penalty assessed by a friendly country's courts. And then it's a short hop to recognizing the courts of all countries.

Re:implications (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379537)

Sooooo, what does this mean to a citizen of another country (say the United States) who has no assets in GB? Are they able to reach out and touch you?

Probably not.

Well, in the USA, there legislation in progress to explicitly prohibit US courts from assisting UK libel verdict enforcement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libel_tourism#Proposed_Federal_legislation [wikipedia.org]

These laws were prompted by rich Saudis linked to terrorism financing suing in UK courts for libel.

Why does libel law exist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379117)

Why does libel law exist? I really don't understand. Why not just give a `right of reply' and be done with it? Suing for libel, just makes more people aware of whatever it was...

Re:Why does libel law exist? (2, Insightful)

novakyu (636495) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379273)

Why not just give a `right of reply' and be done with it?

Unless by "right of reply", you mean the existing free speech rights that everyone already has, I'd rather have libel suits than some "right of reply".

Any reasonable enactment of "right of reply" will include provisions which make it mandatory to publish the reply in the same forum where the defamatory statement was originally made. That means if I ever make a statement on my website considered defamatory by anyone, then, by law, I would have to print, on my own website, at my own cost, a statement which would directly contradict what I said and which I would most likely not agree with.

Free speech doesn't mean anyone can put any sign they want on my lawn. Free speech simply means I can put whatever sign I want on my lawn (save for obscenity laws and local codes), and maybe public places, where such posting is allowed.

So, I would rather have libel suits, which I just need to fight off once, rather than "right of reply", which would be more insidious and annoying than libel suits.

Why should I care about foreign court orders? (4, Interesting)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379129)

I'm not a British citizen. I have no assets in the UK anybody could seize.

Why should I care if you sue me in a UK court? You could get a court order entitling you to a million pound. How would you collect? Ask me to send you a cheque from the US?

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379151)

Exactly! What'll be the worst thing that'll happen? I won't be able to visit the UK? Big deal, I wasn't planning on visiting a police state during my vacation time anyways. ;)

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379183)

Not being able to visit the UK would be a problem for me. It's a nice place, and I have friends and family there. But I don't think a civil court order would be enough to get me arrested if I visit there as a tourist.

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (2, Insightful)

kohaku (797652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379181)

Believe it or not, some slashdotters actually live in the UK!

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (5, Insightful)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379221)

Believe it or not, some slashdotters actually live in the UK!

Yes, and it's bad they live under such rules. I hope they'll be able to use the democratic process to change them, or the immigration process to make them inapplicable to them.

But my point is that it is not a global threat to Web free speech as the article said. Of course, UK law can hurt UK residents, just as US law can hurt US residents. That's part of the cost of living in a country, and the reason I switched.

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (1)

kohaku (797652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379753)

Whenever a government is allowed to get away with something like this, it's a global problem. Should I not care about Darfur, simply because I don't live there? (Not to equate this with genocide, but I hope I made my point)

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379255)

Yes, and we expect to be bound by the laws of our country. We're still trying to work out why other people think that they are. Do the UK's truth in advertising laws also apply worldwide? If so, a lot of people in the USA corporations should start hiring more lawyers...

If someone files suit in the UK against you for libel and you don't show up, what happens? The court finds you guilty in absentia and... what? Tells you to stop or they will shout stop again?

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (5, Interesting)

sudotron (1459285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379441)

Well, I must say that the UK is a horrible place to live and I absolutely would not recommend anyone to travel there. Ever. Wherever you go, make sure it isn't the UK.

Come and get me, bitches.

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (3, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379479)

>>>The court finds you guilty in absentia and... what? Tells you to stop or they will shout stop again?

Well it would certainly cut-down on UK tourism: "Sorry hon we can't go to England - I have a warrant for my arrest." "For what???" "I called Prince William a drunken embarrassment on my blog, and a judge convicted me of libel." "Oooh." "In fact pretty much the whole of the European Union is off-limits due to extradition laws." "...." "Yeah."

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379637)

And just like that, the solution to this BS problem presented itself. Where is the group that is going to sue everyone at the drop of hat for anything they say?

Stack the courts with these law suits.

Stack the police records with warrants.

Get some people arrested!

Cause an international scene over rather mundane things. Hell, ask people from the US to get involved!

Enforcing a bad law rigorously is a good way to get it changed. Oh, and I saw the Prime Minister with an underage child.

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379639)

""In fact pretty much the whole of the European Union is off-limits due to extradition laws." "...." "Yeah.""

Really? I rather like Eastern Europe...

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379703)

And now many countries in Eastern Europe are NOT in the EU?

Ukraine,
Moldova
Serbia
Montenegro
Kosovo
Belarous

and the big daddy of them all,
Russia

Your travel plans might become limited...
Some even have more draconian laws that the UK but don't worry, Wacky Jacqui is working on it in between leting her husband watch 'Adult Movies' at taxpayers expense (ok, they have paid it back but you get my jist...)

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (1)

DikSeaCup (767041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379205)

Perhaps it's time to configure apache on my website to deny uk referrers and blacklist all uk addresses.

Bah, not like it gets a lot of traffic anyway ...

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379241)

Go right ahead. It's not as if there isn't other midget on horse sex sites that I can visit.

Re:Why should I care about foreign court orders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379327)

If your country has subscribed to the The International Court, (if treaties have been signed) we may experience extraditions to other countries. For this purpose.

In the world, America is an island of it own beliefs.

incorrect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379167)

There most certainly is free speech in the UK, they exported that ideal to the rest of the world and their former colonies.
Libel is something very different. In the US you can lie about someone in print, in the UK you cannot as you have to show your proof. That's why they like the UK libel laws.

Jurisdiction? (2, Interesting)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379177)

I am pretty sure a UK libel judgement against foreign citizens and servers cannot be enforced. A UK judgement cannot be enforced against servers located in the United States. That would be an abrogation of the rights of the United States to be the sole police of its citizenry. Imagine a world where foreign judgements are enforceable: courts in Nigeria would be issuing summons to Bill Gates for millions of dollars!

Re:Jurisdiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379217)

you sir have pointed out why a one world government will never succeed for long!

Re:Jurisdiction? (1)

Chlorine Trifluoride (1517149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379229)

I think that you're right. IIRC, extradition treaties only apply to criminal proceedings, not civil suits. However, UK courts could probably seize any assets that you have there.

Re:Jurisdiction? (4, Informative)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379267)

Extradition is governed by treaties and only applies to criminal cases. Most extradition treaties require the demanding country to prove a prima facie case of a crime. If the UK suddenly made libel a crime so it could extradite violators, most countries would change their extradition treaties accordingly.

The article is just being sensationalist. It sucks if you are in the UK, or have your servers there, or if you have property within the UK, but the rest of the world is not affected by the UK civil law. The end effect will be that servers will not be hosted in the UK and media companies will avoid it as well.

Re:Jurisdiction? (2, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379299)

English court judgements, and that is what it would be, can be enforced easily in England and Wales. They can in most cases be enforced in Scotland and Northern Ireland with a bit more difficulty, and similarly across the rest of the EU.

Re:Jurisdiction? (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379363)

How? Details please. Civil cases specifically.

Re:Jurisdiction? (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379389)

You go to the Sheriff court in Scotland for example and apply for an order to enforce the judgement you got in England. Then all the enforcement mechanisms in Scotland such as seizing assets and selling them at auction, earnings arrestment orders and so on are available to you.

Re:Jurisdiction? (2, Informative)

rpjs (126615) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379405)

IANAL, but I understand that, at the discretion of the local courts, civil judgements obtained in one common law jurisdiction can be enforced in other common law jurisdictions, so English judgements have been enforced in the US, Australia etc and vice versa, usually involving cases where someone has been judged to owe money in one jurisdiction and has been traced to another.

However, because of the issue of libel tourism from the UK, US states have recently begun to specifically exclude the enforcement of English libel judgements in their jurisdictions.

The plague spreads through the Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379657)

Well, if the UK creates a mandatory Internet blocking list the court might add your domain to it. It might not matter for what purpose the blocking list exists, if a judge has power to order government workers to enforce court orders.

If you refuse to pay the court's penalties, they might also block all of your ISP's services because the ISP is aiding in the libel. Then the ISP's providers would be targeted for aiding in the libel.

Eventually various cases would cause other countries to be blocked, building Adrian's Wall of the Internet.

Racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379797)

Imagine a world where foreign judgements are enforceable: courts in Nigeria would be issuing summons to Bill Gates for millions of dollars!

That sounds racist -- or at least, nationalist -- to me. It is NOT Nigerian law that is a problem in prosecuting Advance Fee Fraud cases. Indeed, the whole class of 411 scams is named after Nigerian law.

That some Nigerians have engaged in such scams? No doubt. Also a whole lot of Spaniards, Germans, Australians, Americans, etc., etc. But what does that tell us about the Nigerian legal system? Diddley Squat! In fact, I'd be willing to put Solid Swiss Money on it: Nigerian courts have probably prosecuted (and jailed) more Advance Fee Fraudsters than the US justice system.

UK Law Pointless (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379209)

So what. Someone can sue me in the UK but it has no influence on me outside the UK. I have zero, zip, zilch desire to ever travel to the UK. My country won't extradite me over the UK's absurdities. So the UK has no effect on me. Stupid people in dumb countries think they can rule over other people. The UK is imploding. Let it. The smart people left long ago.

You're either mislead or misleading. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379213)

I have no idea what the submitter is referring to when he claims that the UK lacks a right to free speech. The article itself makes no such claim, although it does go on to raise other issues that are less easy to argue with.

As a result of the Human Rights Act 1998, any body acting in a public manner, not just in a vertical (governmental) relationship as in the US Bill of Rights, is required to act in accordance with ECHR articles. Article 10 guarantees a right to freedom of expression, limited only in accordance with law, and only where such laws are found to be necessary for a functioning democratic society. As another commenter points out above, neither this, nor the US's first amendment, are apt to shield defamers from litigation.

On another note, I don't appreciate the UK being referred to as a whole in this matter, we in Scotland have a distinct legal system and this is more relevant in regard to defamation than in almost any other area.

If you take issue with our defamation law, that's something you need to raise with the EU, where most of our modern development in this regard, especially electronic correspondence, comes from. However, it's irresponsible and misleading to imply that we lack basic respect for a right to free speech.

I_A_AL, the submitter clearly isn't.

makes me glad I'm not an English citizen (3, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379227)

*thinks back to all the times UK posters have bitched and moaned about "rights", not visiting the US, etc*

Always found it amusing in the first place given they've gone completely fucking bonkers with speed cameras, CCTV, "anti social behavior" laws, and of course the UK has much of the same anti-terror bullshit. Meanwhile, Cambridge (mass) just rejected cameras that were going to be installed by Homeland Insecurity over privacy issues. The backlash is gaining; in the UK, it never started.

Our politicians seem to be trying desperately to go the way of England with taxes, but the decision to split from England ~230 years ago appears to have been an excellent one nonetheless.

Submitter is either misleading or mislead (5, Insightful)

g.a.dyke (1518393) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379289)

I have no idea what the submitter is referring to when he claims that the UK lacks a right to free speech. The article itself makes no such claim, although it does go on to raise other issues that are less easy to argue with.

As a result of the Human Rights Act 1998, any body acting in a public manner, not just in a vertical (governmental) relationship as in the US Bill of Rights, is required to act in accordance with ECHR articles. Article 10 guarantees a right to freedom of expression, limited only in accordance with law, and only where such laws are found to be necessary for a functioning democratic society. As another commenter points out above, neither this, nor the US's first amendment, are apt to shield defamers from litigation.

On another note, I don't appreciate the UK being referred to as a whole in this matter, we in Scotland have a distinct legal system and this is more relevant in regard to defamation than in almost any other area.

If you take issue with our defamation law, that's something you need to raise with the EU, where most of our modern development in this regard, especially electronic correspondence, comes from. However, it's irresponsible and misleading to imply that we lack basic respect for a right to free speech.

I_A_AL, he clearly isn't.

Take me to court. (-1, Redundant)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379317)

Go ahead. Sue me. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I won't have to climb some mountain in Chile to get it. It might even be fun!

Not entirely true - Judges are getting it. (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379321)

Not so long ago Marina Hyde wrote an article in the Guardian suggesting that Elton John was perhaps less than a 100% altruistic do-gooder. He sued for libel. The case was dismissed by a judge who denied leave to appeal. John tried to appeal. The Appeal Court gave his lawyers, basically, a week to think of an argument why they should be permitted to do so. They have walked away from it, and the Guardian is now promoting Hyde's book attacking all aspects of celebrity culture, which is being published shortly. The case establishes a precedent and raises the bar for libel trials.

Judges and Appeal judges are starting to get it. In the mean time, make sure you post your opinions of bankers and politicians through a suitable proxy onto US servers.

Australian free speach in action .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379339)

'Claim by the Queensland President of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) against Whozadog.com, seeking the source of a posting claimed to be defamatory [wikileaks.org] '

'We are the lawyers for Mr ******* [slashdot.org] who has been the victim of three highly defamatory anonymous postings which you have allowed on your website .. ****** ******* .. demands sexual favours from female .. staff & from .. operatives that are after a boost in their political career'

A worrying development? (1)

M-RES (653754) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379423)

What is worrying is that many ISPs and webhosts around the world may start to block UK IPs from accessing material on sites they host on their servers to avoid UK legal action (if it can't be accessed from the UK then how can it be prosecuted under UK law, right?).

This could be the great UK firewall the government has been fighting hard for, but so far failing to achieve. Except that this would be imposed by everyone OUTSIDE of the UK, leaving us all isolated and we'd have no way to fight it.

free speech presumption (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379471)

Doesn't exist most places does it?

Remember, when the UN comes in and gets its way of the 'lowest common denominator' ( using the WTO as its persuasion tactic ), your countries sovereignty wont mean much.

There should be something scary under the hood (1)

darkat (697582) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379475)

We in Italy are experiencing the rise of a party founded by a rich moron which controls newspapers and televisions. He was (still is?) the member of the covered masonic lodge names "P2" which had in his plans exactly what this government is doing, i.e., concentrate the power in the hands of the premier and destroy the democracy. This party absorbed the post-fascist party. In UK there is something strange going on. The power has been is in the hands of a the labour party for many years but I noticed that several Big-Brother laws were passed during these years. Laws aimed at the electronic control of the people and at the suppression of the democracy.

Re:There should be something scary under the hood (3, Insightful)

JordanL (886154) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379749)

No surprise there.

"Liberals" seek government surveilence to "protect" people from themselves. "Conservatives" seek government surveilence to "protect" people from terrorists.

"Libertarians" seek citizen surveilence to protect people from their government.

Say what you will about the "craziness" of this or that Libertarian idea... they correctly understand that no matter who's in power, they're always trying to screw you.

Missed the elephant in the living room (5, Interesting)

identity0 (77976) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379511)

I only did a quick scan of the article, but it sounds like the author is blaming only some recent developments in UK law, but not the underlying system of UK law.

The basic thing that's wrong with UK libel law is that the burden of proof is on the defendant. The defendant must prove that the published article isn't libelous, whereas in the US the prosecution must prove that the article is libelous. In the UK the defamatory article is assumed to be wrong unless the defendant proves it true, whereas in the US the article is assumed to be true unless the prosecution proves it false. And then the US prosecutor would have to prove that it was maliciously false, that the defendant knew it to be false. Welcome to Soviet Britain, where defendant is guilty until proven innocent!

UK law in libel was designed to protect the powerful against 'false' accusations in the press, where US law was designed to protect the press in publishing accusations. See John Peter Zenger [wikipedia.org]

The Hacker's Handbook? (1)

drseuk (824707) | more than 5 years ago | (#27379533)

Second, every access of a web page is considered to be a separate act of publication in the UK (unlike the US, where 'original publication' holds).

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hacker's_Handbook [wikipedia.org] :

The first edition, which is the version most easily available for download, was published in 1985 and the last of four editions (edited by Steve Gold) appeared in 1989. In 1990 the UK Parliament passed the Computer Misuse Act - publication of additional editions would likely have been considered an incitement to commit an offence under that Act.

So if I download the freely available online version(s) I'm potentially committing an offence by "re-publishing" "The Hacker's Handbook" but if I borrow the (real, physical) book(s) from my local library (which actually does have some copies of it), then that's fine?

Gn4a (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379757)

stand anymore, under t4e GPL.

Guess... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27379819)

They must be so proud! They haven't been a global threat for over a century...

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