Norwegian Court Rules Blog Posts Are Not 'Made Public'

from the welcome-to-the-world-of-weblogs dept

It’s something of a truism that the courts take time to catch up with technology, especially in the fast-moving world of the Internet, but Thomas Steen points us to a recent court decision in Norway where the gulf between law and life is particularly wide. The case concerns a blogger called Eivind Berge who was arrested recently on account of some statements on his blog that allegedly “glorified and encouraged the killing of policemen” as a report on the Dagbladet newspaper site puts it (Norwegian original.) Moreover:

Berge also wrote that he “planned” to attack a policeman with a knife on a Saturday evening at Torgallmenningen in Bergen, and in police questioning, he confirmed that he supports the killing of policemen as a tool in the fight against male feminists.

The Gulating court had to consider whether Berge’s writings were criminal under the Norwegian Penal Code, and came to the following, rather surprising, conclusion (Google Translation):

“In the present case we hear of statements the accused has made [on] his “blog” on the internet. This can be read and commented on [by] others, in that they seek and log onto the blog. The Court can not see that this means such a reproduction as the law requires,” according to today’s ruling.

As the Norwegian journalist Martin Grüner Larsen points out (Google Translate of Norwegian original):

This means in brief that a mass medium that can reach absolutely everyone in the world, which is publicly known, [with] many readers, is searchable by Google and that despite what it says in the ruling does not require authorization by any means, [is] not public.

Indeed, Larsen believes that the ruling as it stands might even apply to any Web site, not just blogs:

Gulating Court of Appeal in short, just know that the expression on the Internet are not public, regardless of deployment size, nature or amount of reading.

The Dagbladet piece says that the police are expected to appeal to Norway’s Supreme Court. Assuming that happens, the lower court’s ruling seems likely to be overturned, since it is based on an almost complete misunderstanding of how blogs work and Net dissemination takes place.

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Comments on “Norwegian Court Rules Blog Posts Are Not 'Made Public'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Since the internet is technically open to all technical savvy people ALL communication on the internet is pin and ink equivalent of placing an add in the local newspaper.

Thus if the poster wanted privacy they would have used pin and ink not posted their dribble for the world to see.

No, see, this is why printing something in the newspaper isn’t making it public either. Users have to seek out and purchase the newspaper, so it’s not public. See how that works?

Vidiot (profile) says:

No login required

” in that they seek and log onto the blog.”

There’s that cryptic “log on” language again… mark of someone who’s a stranger in the land of the Interwebs. Not that surprising for a judge, much less via translation from Norwegian; but for all those commercial copywriters who tell viewers to “… log on to our website for big savings,” I mean, really — what’s their excuse? I know how to log in; not even sure how I would “log on” if told to, though.

Yogi says:


I think that in Rome, one could not serve in the senate or any public office without first serving ten years as a soldier.

We should apply the same principal here as well: no one can serve as an elected official without first running a blog or web site for three years and writing a useful computer program. Maybe that will get some of the morons out of the system.

Tor (profile) says:

Norwegian law

From what I gather the norwegian law requires the following to be true for the relevant rule in this case to apply:

The incitement to crime is perpetrated by:
1) the publishing of something in print,
2) or witnessed by a large number of people,
3) or under such circumstances that it could easily be observed from a public place and is observed by someone there or in the vincinity.

The court found the first to be the only one possibly applicable since the two others must be done in a public place. But the norwegian law defines “print” as writings, reproductions and the like where the copies have been reproduced using mechanical or chemical means. So none of the conditions apply.

Furthermore, according to the European Convention on Human Rights all restrictions to fundamental human rights must be clearly expressed in law, so the court had very little maneuverability in this case.

Whether the blog was password protected or not was not relevant in the case, so I would guess it’s an open blog.

Link to the verdict (in norwegian).

mikey4001 (profile) says:


So, if internet sites are not public, then writers for internet sites are not journalists. Therefore, people who post things online are not afforded the traditional protections that journalists receive under the law of most free states. How perfectly brilliant. One ignorant/crooked judge with one ignorant/crooked ruling can undermine the very foundation of western journalism. I’m a bit surprised that this idea did not originate in the USA.

Tor (profile) says:

Re: journalism?

Apparently there was a new law prepared in 2005 that would make the internet covered as well, but that bill hasn’t been passed into law yet.

According to the norwegian blogger Olav Torvund (in norwegian) this ruling means that the same difference between print and online postings also applies to:
* incitement to overturn the government
* blasphemy
* advertising prostitution
* bomb recipies
* misleading information about joint-stock companies
* rules protecting the right to privacy

Megan Jones (user link) says:

Not that I excuse their being out of touch, I understand why law and judgments on the internet are often so misinformed. The legal community, at least at the upper echelons, are often privileged old men. The people who are making important decisions about what is and is not legal on the internet didn’t even grow up with television beyond 4 networks. Media has changed drastically in the last 20 years and astronomically in the last 10. Without younger people influencing these decisions they are bound to be misinformed.

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