Tag Archives: uk parliament

Defamation Act and Networking Filtering/Blocking

14 Jun

I have been thinking about the consequences of installing network level filtering, as TalkTalk have indicated recently they would do and  Claire Perry would like.
“TalkTalk customers get internet porn filter choice”
As I understand current UK defamation law, ISPs have an “innocent disseminator” defence provided in the Defamation Act 1996 [1].

1. (3) (e) as the operator of or provider of access to a communications system by means of which the statement is transmitted, or made available, by a person over whom he has no effective control.

[1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/31/section/1#section-1-3

I found it extremely interesting that mobile phone companies provide over their network access “no effective control” affected by the editorial control (selective blocks, trivially administered).   TalkTalk ISP, and (by extension) all network providers according to Claire Perry’s should move toward an OPT-IN and a  suggestion of mandatory network filtering.Could it, in theory, become possible to sue an ISP for not blocking access to material originating outside of UK jurisdiction? What would happen if a court was asked to issue an injunction to filter for defamation or a privacy breach? Could TalkTalk be compelled to block material?

For section1 (secondary responsibility defence) under the Defamation Act  one needs to show reasonable care so that, in theory, the repeat defamation situation case that would not be met. For an interesting case, see the dicussion in McGrath v Dawkins [2012] EWHC B3 (QB). At present common law innocent dissemination survives –however see Metropolitan Schools.

The Ecommerce directive prevents any general obligation to monitor. See the cases of Case C-70/10 Scarlet Extended SA v Société belge des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs SCRL (SABAM) . There  is also a firm rule against prior restraint of defamation –so that not even the courts by court order will restrain defamation pre-publication (as opposed to privacy) –to avoid the courts acting as censor. It would be an unlawful restraint on speech/expression and so engage Art 10.

its an interesting question and I am not entirely sure what the correct answer is.Two points: (1) the High Courts power to issue an injunction is very wide Take a look at s37 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 here…(2) Secondly, however, an ISP is not themselves liable as a publisher of material which passes over their wires. The BPI thought that would mean they could not obtain an injunction under the SCA against ISP’s to block copyright content, which is why they lobbied hard for s97A of the CDPA 1988 and even then they were nervous of proceeding any further. In the event s97A has proved quite powerful enough.

As you know, there are 4 main types of case where the court will refuse an interim injunction to restrain publication. The Solicitors from Hell case was one in which Bonnard didn’t apply because the defendant did not indicate an intention to plead justification would a decision at hearing turn upon questions of the general character of the claimant, but I failed to communicate that was what I was talking about.
I suspect there’ll be an increasing opportunity for cases where neither Bonnard v Perryman nor any of the other situations (such an intention to plead honest comment or where a communication is prima facie privileged) apply. There’ll also be situations – such as election comments – where I can see people finding it attractive to obtain an injunction, but the rule against prior restraint is superseded by statute. I n those sorts of situations where a court will make an order, do will it make an order against an ISP using filtering technologies? I cannot think of any situations where that has happened or something analogous has happened?
More generally some information about orders to block directed at ISP’s outside s97A:

In modern practice the rule against prior restraint applies whenever a defendant has a defence –not just when that defence is Truth. The rule was affirmed in Green v Associated [2004]  EWCA Civ 1462.  There is also now a significant body of human rights jurisprudence to support the rule. Eady had questioned whether the rule was compatable with the new convention jurisprudence and the test for balancing Art 8 (reputation and privacy) and Art 10 (freedom of expression) which gives no precedence to either Article as applied in privacy cases (see Campbell and Re S) in Sunderland Housing v Barnes –but the rule has held except where as in the Solicitors from Hell case the defendant has evidenced an intention to repeat. The rule is good law and not under attack.

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UK Parliament Asks For Public Comment On Six IP Policy Questions

19 Mar

It appears that the UK Parliament is asking for thoughts from the public on six key policy questions around intellectual property. You can be assured that the large lobbying organizations will make their voices heard, but it would be great if others in the UK, who have a more modern and nuanced view of what’s happening around intellectual property issues, would make their voices heard as well:

1) What should the objective of IP policy be? 

2) How well co-ordinated is the development of IP policy across government? Is IP policy functioning effectively on a cross-departmental basis? What changes to the machinery of government do you believe would deliver better IP policy outcomes?

3) There have been numerous attempts to update the IP framework in the light of changes brought about by the digital environment. How successful have these been and what lessons can be learnt from these for policy developments?

4) How effective is the Intellectual Property Office and what should its priorities be?

5) UK IP policy sits within European and supranational agreements. How should the UK government co-ordinate its policy at an international level and what should it do to promote IP abroad to encourage economic growth? Do you have examples of good and poor practice in this area?

6) Protecting, and enforcement of, the IP framework often sits in very different departments to those that develop IP policy and those that have responsibility for the industries most affected. What impact does this have and how can it be improved?

If you do decide to respond, obviously take time to carefully detail your position and back it up with facts and analysis, rather than any sort of emotional response. The details of how to respond to the request can be found in the official announcement (pdf) of this inquiry. It’s worth noting that the group organizing this does appear to come at these questions from an already biased position — in that the person collecting these responses works for “the Alliance Against IP Theft.” So, you’re already dealing with someone who falsely defines infringement as theft. That’s all the more reason to be careful, thorough and detailed in any response.