New Libel Law Proposed In The UK; Gives ISPs Two Weeks To Respond

from the a-fortnight? dept

It's no secret that the UK's defamation laws are extremely problematic. They've longed been used for "libel tourism" as well as to silence critics. There's been a lot of talk in the UK about fixing those issues, but little action. Now it appears that a new libel bill has been introduced that, among other things, will give ISPs a 14-day window to respond to claims of libel. This seems sort of half-way between the typical "notice-and-takedown" and "notice-and-notice" proposals we've seen elsewhere. A two week window could actually give an ISP the chance to get a response or a challenge from the creator of the content before taking it down. However, not surprisingly, some are claiming this window is way too long, and ISPs should be forced to take down any content that is called libelous.

The bill does have many good aspects, including a defense for "responsible publication on matters of public interest," but appears to leave out a lot of important things as well, including shifting the burden of proof from the accused to the accuser. It's hard to believe that anyone, in this day and age, could possibly still have a libel law that puts the burden on the accused to prove they didn't libel someone. It's too bad that the UK doesn't appear ready to fix that glaring problem just yet.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Andrew F (profile), Jun 7th, 2010 @ 8:46pm

    Injunctions

    I really don't see why ISPs have to do any automatic takedown at all. If someone wants something taken down, they should have to go to a court and get an injunction. It's not always obvious what's libel, and if you have to wait 14 days, then you might as well use that time to have the judiciary at least take a preliminary look.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2010 @ 8:48pm

    Re: Injunctions

    Because...it's on the internet! All reason and logic is thrown out the window when ignorant legislators get involved.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2010 @ 9:08pm

    14 days is a very long time in 'internet time'.

    "It's hard to believe that anyone, in this day and age, could possibly still have a libel law that puts the burden on the accused to prove they didn't libel someone." - only one person is making the speech, they are the only ones who can control it. are you proposing a nanny state where we can say anything we want, do anything we want, and then just take it back in 13.9 days and say "oops, sorry"? if you make the speech, you are responsible for it, end of discussion.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2010 @ 9:17pm

    Re:

    Due process and presumption of innocence is yet again too much work for TAM's non-justice.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2010 @ 9:23pm

    Re:

    This comment is libellous.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2010 @ 9:43pm

    Re:

    So fucking dumb.

     

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  7.  
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    Andrew F (profile), Jun 7th, 2010 @ 10:08pm

    Re:

    You misunderstand the proposed law. The 14 day period is the notice-and-take-down for the ISP, not the original poster of the libelous message. That person is still liable for damages, regardless of what the ISP does.

    The point of a more liberal notice-and-take-down statute is to give intermediaries like the ISP more time to decide whether or not a message they DID NOT originally create is in fact libelous.

    By way of analogy, suppose someone publishes a possibly libelous book. You then go into a bookstore owned by someone else and say, "That book is libel! Burn it right now!" The bookstore owner then says, "Hold on here. I have no idea who you are or if your claim of libel is true. Please give me 14 days to verify this." Is that so wrong? You can quibble about whether 14 days is too long in "Internet time", but the basic principle is the same.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2010 @ 10:25pm

    Re: Re:

    it always comes to a question of balance. publishing the book might have taken 6 months, from writing, editing, printing, and distribution. on the internet, that process takes seconds. why should the offended party be forced to wait 14 days before the material can even be called into question? if you wrote a libelous book about me, in theory my lawyers could get an injunction in a couple of days. why should the internet give some sort of longer period of time?

    remember, this isnt to stop the speech from ever happening, just allowing for a sober second though outside of the publics eye.

     

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    Big Al, Jun 7th, 2010 @ 10:48pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    i don't know if you're deliberately misreading the article or just plain stupid. To quote:
    "A two week window could actually give an ISP the chance to get a response or a challenge from the creator of the content before taking it down."
    At no point is it stated that the remarks/article MUST stay up for 14 days.
    You can still get an injunction to have it taken down prior to that time if it is so bad.
    The ISP can remove it at their own discretion if they support your claim.
    However, if your claim is flimsy then they can keep the material online to allow a rebuttal.
    That way the ISP isn't being hammered from both sides and free-speech remains untainted.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2010 @ 10:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Just palin stupid. I know I mis-spelled plain but I'm leaving it there.

     

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jun 7th, 2010 @ 11:04pm

    Re:

    Yeah, it's not like there's the possibility for someone to LIE and say you libel them. And since you didn't libel them, there's no way to PROVE a negative (hey guys, here's the video where I clearly am NOT LIBELING! in fact, in this video I'm buying a newspaper in some random street! yeah!)

    Moron.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jun 8th, 2010 @ 1:31am

    Re: Re:

    Could claiming that someone libelled you be itself a libel?

    If so where does the burden of proof lie then?

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 8th, 2010 @ 3:14am

    Another "law" written for tyranny.

    As pointed up by the recent election, the UK is not even a democracy but an actual *monarchy*; the serfs must ask their hereditary tyrant for permission to form a government. So why is difficult for you to believe this bit of feudalism still exists, except that your notions about "jolly olde England" are in error? The libel "laws" are particularly handy for silencing those who oppose feudalims or other troublesome ideas.

     

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    adele pace, Jun 8th, 2010 @ 3:42am

    Re: Injunctions

    Agree with ISPs being left out of it.
    ISPs will invariably feel pressured to make decisions and it is unfair to put that burden on them.
    I don't see why a plaintiff shouldn't have to apply to a court for an interlocutory judgement of some kind.

     

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  15.  
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    Comboman (profile), Jun 8th, 2010 @ 5:15am

    Which accused?

    It's hard to believe that anyone, in this day and age, could possibly still have a libel law that puts the burden on the accused to prove they didn't libel someone.

    When you libel someone (eg. "Mike is a crook"), the accused is really the person being libeled, not the libeler. It should be up to the accuser (i.e. the potential libeler) to prove their accusations. If they can't prove them, they are guilty of libel.

     

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  16.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 8th, 2010 @ 8:36am

    Re: Which accused?

    No, one claiming to be libeled must first show damages from *untruths*. You have a point, but in the US at least, libel is a concern mostly of the powerful and has always been slanted toward the underdog who reveals *truth*. For instance, an employee might know that the boss is skimming profits but not have proof enough for a court. Your views would tend to shield crooks and tyrants, part of my point above.

    By the way, the US gov't is now moving against whistle-blowers and others who simply tell the *truth* about what it's doing.

     

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  17.  
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    Whisk33, Jun 8th, 2010 @ 10:56am

    "...shifting the burden of proof from the accused to the accuser. It's hard to believe that anyone, in this day and age, could possibly still have a libel law that puts the burden on the accused to prove they didn't libel someone. "

    Looks like one of these needs to change. I think the first one.

     

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