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UK Bloggers Could Face Libel Fines Unless Registered As Press 394

Diamonddavej writes "The Guardian warns that Bloggers in the U.K. could face costly fines for libel with exemplary damages imposed if they do not sign up with a new press regulator under legislation (Clause 21A — Awards of exemplary damages) recommended by The Leveson Inquiry into press behavior and ethics. Kirsty Hughes, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, said this a 'sad day' for British democracy. 'This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on everyday people's web use.' Exemplary damages, imposed by a court to penalize publishers who remain outside regulation, could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, easily enough to close down smaller publishers such as Private Eye and local newspapers. Harry Cole, who contributes to the Guido Fawkes blog says he does not want to join a regulator, he hopes his blog will remain as irreverent and rude as ever, and continue to hold public officials to account; its servers are located in the U.S. Members of Parliament voted on Clause 21A late last night, it passed 530 to 13."
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UK Bloggers Could Face Libel Fines Unless Registered As Press

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:04PM (#43214599)

    From last night's debate over the very clause this story references:

    "Three interlocking tests will apply ... They ask whether the publication is publishing news-related material in the course of a business, whether its material is written by a range of authors and whether that material is subject to editorial control. This provision aims to protect small-scale bloggers and the like."

  • by BenJury ( 977929 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:18PM (#43214763)

    Its precisely these sorts of misleading headlines that need to be taken out of the industry. From the actual sodding article entitled "Press regulation deal sparks fears of high libel fines for bloggers":

    publisher would have to meet the three tests of whether the publication is publishing news-related material in the course of a business, whether their material is written by a range of authors – this would exclude a one-man band or a single blogger – and whether that material is subject to editorial control.

  • Re:Libel Fines (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:18PM (#43214765) Homepage

    Uhm, no, you've got that backwards. In the UK, the truth is *always* a valid defence. If you were telling the truth, you will always win a libel suit - there is no way for you to lose.

    The reason the UK has a "bad reputation when it comes to libel laws" is because lawyers think it should be like the American system, where it doesn't matter what the truth is as long as you can pay more money than the other guy.

  • Re:OUTRAGE! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Soluzar ( 1957050 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:23PM (#43214835) Homepage
    I think that like the rest of your constitution, it sounds great in theory. In practice your constitution means almost nothing, and was described as "just a piece of paper" by one of your recent presidents.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:26PM (#43214883)

    I am no expert on media or British libel law, but something tells me that if Rupert Murdoch and his toadies are fighting so rabidly and foaming at the mouth so much at this royal charter, then it must be a good thing.

    All this legislation means, is that a lot of rightwing douchebags who previously think they're invincible and can destroy peoples' lives at whim, are finally brought to heel. No more threats to destroy politicians, no more special pleading, no more backroom deals with the Prime Minister and cabinet in Number 10, and no more special treatment for Establishment-connected bloggers and Tweeters.

    Rupert Murdoch is addicted to wielding and abusing his considerable power. He's afraid of losing control, which is why his propaganda machine has gone into overdrive.

    Really, the rightwing is the group you are accusing of using the press to destroy people? There may be some of the right that do sink to such levels but it does not even come close to what the left does to people they don't agree with.

    Google Santorum sometime and read what you get there, just don't do it from a work computer....

    I am so sick of the left accusing the right of doing what the left does daily.

  • Re:OUTRAGE! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:30PM (#43214951) Homepage Journal
    Like what exceptions? In Europe just the other day, a guy was sentenced to jail [] for tearing up a Qur'an. Let me know when that happens in the US. Short of intellectual property and direct, imminent, incitement to violence, there are no significant restrictions. Even defamation is a tort, while in many countries, it's a criminal act.
  • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:42PM (#43215135)

    UK Bloggers Could Face Libel Fines Unless Registered As Press

    Even publishers who have registered could face exemplary fines; it is just a little higher standard. Look at the legislation [];

    (2) Exemplary damages may not be awarded against the defendant in respect of the claim if the defendant was a member of an approved regulator at the material time.

    (3) But the court may disregard subsection (2) if—

    (a) the approved regulator imposed a penalty on the defendant in respect of the defendant’s conduct or decided not to do so,

    (b) the court considers, in light of the information available to the approved regulator when imposing the penalty or deciding not to impose one, that the regulator was manifestly irrational in imposing the penalty or deciding not to impose one, and

    (c) the court is satisfied that, but for subsection (2), it would have made an award of exemplary damages under this section against the defendant.

    Subsection 3 basically negates most "protection" from exemplary damages by registered publishers. Subsection 2 states exemplary damages can not be awarded against a registered publisher but subsection 3 shows how the court can disregard Subsection 2. Yes it is harder to impose exemplary damages but it still can happen. The other thing that is missing from this whole discussion is that the regulator can impose damages too that could be as much as the exemplary damages.

    Basically what subsection 2 and 3 state is that publishers should be fined by their regulators and not the court unless the court believed the regulator was "manifestly irrational". This protects publishers who register with a regulator from being fined twice except under extraordinary circumstances.

    The other thing they ignore is Clause 29 [] which defines what a "relevant publisher" is.

    (1) In sections [Awards of exemplary damages] to [Awards of costs], “relevant publisher” means a person who, in the course of a business (whether or not carried on with a view to profit), publishes news-related material—
    (a) which is written by different authors, and
    (b) which is to any extent subject to editorial control.

    A blogger is usually a single person and there is no editorial control so most bloggers would not be a relevant publisher. By the way there is a clause that protects web sites as well.

    (3) A person who is the operator of a website is not to be taken as having editorial or equivalent responsibility for the decision to publish any material on the site, or for content of the material, if the person did not post the material on the site.
    (4) The fact that the operator of the website may moderate statements posted on it by others does not matter for the purposes of subsection (3).

    That clause also stipulates a list of exempt publishers under Schedule 5 [].

    Special interest titles

    4 A person who publishes a title that—

    (a) relates to a particular pastime, hobby, trade, business, industry or profession, and
    (b) only contains news-related material on an incidental basis that is relevant to the main content of the title.

    I bet most bloggers would fall in this category.

    What clause 21A sets forth are the circumstances under which a relevant publisher can be charges exemplary damages by the courts. Under Clause 29 and Schedule 5 it would be very difficult to categorizes a blogger as a relevant publisher. This is yet another tempest in a teapot brought on by reporting that only shows the salacious part of a story.

  • Re:Libel Fines (Score:4, Informative)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @02:12PM (#43215541) Journal

    Uhm, no, you've got that backwards. In the UK, the truth is *always* a valid defence. If you were telling the truth, you will always win a libel suit - there is no way for you to lose.

    The difference between UK and the civilized world is that in UK, defendant is the one who has to prove the truth of his claims. In civilized countries, as with any other crime, the party charged with libel is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and it's up to the prosecution to prove the falsity of any statements that are claimed to be libelous. It's quite obvious that UK laws do not favor the guy with less money - good luck proving the truth of your statement against a well-determined team of highly paid attorneys picking holes in any arguments you make.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @02:13PM (#43215551) Journal

    Truth is an absolute defense against libel charges in UK, but defendant has to prove it (in US, plaintiff has to prove the falsity of defendant's claims, instead).

  • Re:OUTRAGE! (Score:5, Informative)

    by tommeke100 ( 755660 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @02:20PM (#43215651)
    I'm from Belgium and that story sounds very weird. I'm pretty sure there is more to the story than just ripping up a Koran. The guy already had a jail-sentence in the past for arson. The links you provide also point to extreme-right wing blogs. Supposedly, he went to a 'small rally' and went into a bar afterwards where he got into a fight with 12 Arabs who threw a Koran at him, which he ripped up. This story did not get picked up by the press here. If this really is what happened "dude shocks Arabs by ripping Koran, goes to jail for disrespecting their culture", it would have been all over the news here.

    I don't know what that 'small rally' was about, but this has the neo-nazi smell all over it.
  • Re:OUTRAGE! (Score:4, Informative)

    by mrbester ( 200927 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @03:04PM (#43216191) Homepage

    I *can* say Scientology has the behaviour of a cult in UK because that is directly quoting a High Court judge.

  • Re:OUTRAGE! (Score:4, Informative)

    by SplashMyBandit ( 1543257 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @06:11PM (#43218317)

    Please re-read. Verbal fight until the Muslims threw the Koran at him (that is, they assault him). He *responds* but ripping Koran up (not by assaulting them). Who goes to jail? not the guys initiating the assault.

    Then we have the case of "The Innocence of Muslims" film. It is actually relatively factually correct (actually more so than many Hollywood productions) - even if the production values were lousy. Who goes to jail, a guy in the US exercising his First Amendment Rights. Meanwhile both the Muslim Brotherhood and Obama Administration exploit the film for their own ends (the latter to deflect attention from their criminal gun-running to Al Qaeda affiliated groups in Benghazi; and you thought "Fast n Furious" to drug-lord enemies was a one off). Citation: []

    Then we have the case in Spain of a young film maker (Imran Firasat) being persecuted by the Spanish Government for making an historically accurate film about Mohammed. He is being chucked out of the country where he will almost certainly be killed. So much for political asylum for truth speakers in the EU. Citation: []

    This is the 'stealth jihad' that is far far more insidious than the kinetic jihad. It is slowly but surely changing free societies where one cannot speak *facts and truth* about Islam without being prosecuted. Worse, we have people like yourself that can't even read and see the problem with who gets prosecuted for what. The published 10-year plan of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is coming along nicely. Most people are worried about a resurgence of neo-nazis when it is the rise of the totalitarian Left and their Islamist allies that is proceeding to crush individual liberties like unfettered Free Speech. Political Correctness in particular is strangling the Free World.

    So wisen up please people. There is a war on for our culture and liberties. The mainstream media and political elites are lying to you (both progressive and conservative politicians). Your rights are being eroded due to misguided political correctness and the slow 'stealth jihad' of the OIC. Learn to read the news critically and correctly - Islam is on the march across the globe. Whether or not you want it in your neck of the woods it is coming. Your choices under Islam are: be killed, submit, or be discriminated against as a second-class dhimmi. You have one other choice: resist and fight for free speech and liberty.

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27