back to article MPs: 'Chilling' new libel law will CENSOR THE TRUTH online

A proposed overhaul to the UK's stringent libel law could have "a chilling effect on those publishing material online", an influential human rights committee warned today. The tabled amendments to the law of defamation could force website owners to take down defamatory material on request even if there is a valid legal defence …

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Trollface

Stoopid

Are these Politicians and Lawyers really as stupid as that? I guess they must be to expect such a law to get through. Might as well draft a law banning breathing. Would this post be illegal? I did call certain Politicians & Lawyers stupid. What with this and the Mrs Mays attempts to snoop the Interwebs it seems to be submit a stupid law week. Of course the defence against this pointless law would be to P2P the "defamation". Good luck in tracing that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stoopid

Funny you mention that. Breathing out does violate EU Directives on acceptable CO2 emissions levels.

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Big Brother

Re: Stoopid

Q. "Are these Politicians and Lawyers really as stupid as that?"

A. Yes. Also mendacious, controlling, hypocritical, devious, cynical, untrustworthy, selfish and thoroughly reprehensible and nasty.

Next question, please.

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Re: Stoopid

Are they stuipd? Nope, not really. Are they guided by unelected civil servants, who have a different agenda? Almost certainly.

Remember, when Tony B Liar wanted to extend the length of time to hold suspects without charge, he only wanted 28 days (up from 14), but asked for (IIRC) 56 or some other equally high number. The commons "compromised" on 28, the actual length of time wanted in the first place.

This law is drafted as draconian as possible, what's the bet that what they actually want is slightly less than this, so that they can water it down and claim any other hindering of the law to be people bent on breaking the law or some other such nonsense?

It's not a million miles from a bait-and-switch scam.

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Re: Stoopid

No, what they want is to bring the unruly Internet to heel.

E.g. the law would make it usefully difficult to discuss cash-for-questions or misuse of expenses by our elected representatives, either by official journalists or on public forums.

It's simply a clumsy and transparent attempt to legislate away free speech online.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Stoopid

Q. "Are these Politicians and Lawyers really as stupid as that?"

A. Yes. Also mendacious, controlling, hypocritical, devious, cynical, untrustworthy, selfish and thoroughly reprehensible and nasty.

1. No they are not stupid

2. Your posting will have to be removed because of your defamatory comments about politicians and lawyers (see 1)

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One tiny little country

> take down defamatory material on request

That may work for *.co.uk but if the material "gets out" into the world it'll be beyond the reach of UK law - whether it's defamatory, true, provable or erroneous. Just like it is now.

Probably the only websites that would be affected by those are online newspapers and other commercial publications. However, since one of the biggest (and probably a lot more, besides) have a long and inauspicious history of publishing downright lies about people: who's only cause of action is to bankrupt themselves with civil action, having a way to bring them to book will be a great leveller.

It will be interesting to see if this law could be extended to getting photographs removed. If one could argue that a particular snap wasn't sufficiently flattering, had been photoshopped, or just presented anyone in it in a bad light - could they demand that photo be removed too? Here's hoping we can bring about the death of paparazzi-ism.

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Re: One tiny little country

I thought the law applied if the material was published in the UK? i.e. the website could be viewed here.

Isn't that why libel tourism is so lucrative?

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Re: One tiny little country

Abso-bloomin'-lutely.

The English laws on libel are so easy to exploit it's ridiculous.

Some tightening up is definitely required - although possibly journals published with regard to English laws on libel (up here we just have defamation, and somewhat tighter controls over who can sue for what and where) may feel that it is already too stringent, those who have to go to court certainly don't.

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Re: One tiny little country

As I understand it you always have the right to not have photos of you published, unless there is a potential defence that publishing the photos is in the public interest (eg someone caught in the act of committing a crime).

The paparazzi and gutter press operate on a schedule that allows them to publish the photos before anyone can object to them, and once they're out there the damage is done. Celebrities put up with most of it partially because they need the attention of the public to further their career and because they are just as put off by the convoluted rigmarole of legal action as the rest of us.

You do see the odd lawsuit when the buggers go too far to let slide though, and it usually ends up going against the paps/redtops.

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@auburnman Re: One tiny little country

"As I understand it you always have the right to not have photos of you published"

No, you do *not* have the right not to have photos of you published. You can only object to a photograph if, once published, it is defamatory and the publisher cannot provide a reasonable defence for why it doesn't defame you.

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FAIL

Re: One tiny little country

Wrong.

As long as the photographer is in a public place whilst taking the photo, not a problem. If you are also in a public place, nothing to answer at all.

If you are 2 miles away on your estate in a bikini and someone takes a photo from a helicopter or from a ridiculously powerful lens, then the photographer has no right - you expect a degree of privacy being on private property that far from public land.

Having to explain such things has become the norm for photographers (both amateur and professional alike), for a number of years now.

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Unhappy

Re: One tiny little country

I thought the law applied if the material was published in the UK? i.e. the website could be viewed here.

Isn't that why libel tourism is so lucrative?

Exactly. And yet when the US government attempts to enforce its laws on the internet, everyone in the UK calls foul. And people in the US call foul when China's government censors things. Repeat ad nauseam.

Most people forget that the truth underlying the "pot calling the kettle black" metaphor is that both the pot and the kettle are in fact black.

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Re: One tiny little country

Sounds like I'm getting mixed up with some other privacy law. Thanks for the correction, and sorry to the good photographers out there for confusing the issue.

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Re: One tiny little country

So define "ridiculously long lens"

> If you are also in a public place, nothing to answer at all.

Is a shopping center a public place?

Carpark of a Tesco?

What if the council hands over management of the whole pedestrianised town center to a private company?

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Re: One tiny little country

"Exactly. And yet when the US government attempts to enforce its laws on the internet, everyone in the UK calls foul. And people in the US call foul when China's government censors things. Repeat ad nauseam."

You are missing the bit where the UK people also call foul when the UK libel laws apply everywhere.

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Happy

Re: One tiny little country

Shopping centre - not a public place, but a publicly accessible place. You can take photographs, but there may be restrictions placed on you by the people that own the shopping centre. They may also ask you to leave for taking photographs, which is in their rights as the owners. Same goes (mostly) for a Tesco carpark, it's not public land, however if you are in a Tesco car park and someone takes your photo there is no expected level of privacy *because* it's a Tesco carpark.

Who manages the land is the relevant point, who *owns* the land is the relevant point.

I don't need to define the lens, I need to define my expected level of privacy, which I did. If you wish to go topless in your back garden, with nought but a 4 foot fence and maybe 10 metres from a public path, you have no expected level of privacy and I could arguably take a photo. However, if I rock up with a tripod, lighting gear and so on, never enter your garden, but set up over the fence, this would generally be considered intrusive and so any of *these* photos could be sued over.

It is a precariously fine line, especially since some people have the absurd assumption that as long as they are on private property, they can do much as they please - this would be why people have been cauthioned/prosecuted for answering the door in very little clothing, it still counts as indecent exposure even if they never leave thier home!!

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FAIL

Re: One tiny little country

That should be "who manages the land *isn't* the relevant point"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One tiny little country

That may work for *.co.uk but if the material "gets out" into the world it'll be beyond the reach of UK law - whether it's defamatory, true, provable or erroneous. Just like it is now.

If the material is visible in the UK then the UK believes that it has been published in the UK in which case the UK libel laws are valid. With a slight twist of "anti-terror" legislation offenders can presumably be picked up and tried everywhere, if other countries take the same line as Britain then it is off to free water-boarding and beatings in some 3-rd world shit-hole.

Borders were invented because different people have different standards, the border is there so everybody knows what the rules are and we don't piss each other off all the time; however lawyers, busybodies and do-gooders see huge growth potential in removing the borders and piss all over other peoples way of life, growing the market for their "services".

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Re: One tiny little country

"The English laws on libel are so easy to exploit it's ridiculous."

A stated intention of the bill is to cut down on libel tourism.

Hopefully this, and many other positives, will make it throuigh to the final draft.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One tiny little country

"If the material is visible in the UK then the UK believes that it has been published in the UK in which case the UK libel laws are valid. "

Best of luck with that. The US may be able to get away with it but the days of the British Empire are long over. Good luck trying to prosecute anything a foreigner publishes to the internet in their own country within the legality of their libel system. Libel tourism only works if the other party is in or has assets/interests in the UK, elsewise have fun paying for that pointless unenforceable High Court decision.

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Giggs and Imogen anyone?

Reminds me of the super injunction nonsense.

No media in the UK dared to name them but it got out on the internet regardless, it was very funny.

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Re: Giggs and Imogen anyone?

No media in -England and Wales-, please.

Up here, north of Hadrian's Wall, it was published, very prominently.

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Re: Giggs and Imogen anyone?

Ahh yes, thanks for reminding me, Good old Scotland.

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Re: Giggs and Imogen anyone?

So all the papers move their servers to Gretna Green and the laws don't apply anyway

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Giggs and Imogen anyone?

In a similar case, in Denmark, the newspapers posted pictures with the "known celebrity busted with 300 grams of coke" cookie-cutted out (of course she got off with a fine and some community service. (A "lesser person" would have got about 1-3 years for dealing. Indeed the outcome people have learned to expect, which was the real reason for the secrecy and the papers mocking it).

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Anonymous Coward

Is there even any requirement to test *whether* the statement is defamatory? I mean, couldn't any random person use it as a way to, without any cost or effort, have any statement about them yanked? EG, someone on El Reg says I don't know what the hell I'm talking about because I think 'SAN' means 'Sumptuous Anvil Nanny', and I can say, hey, he's defaming me, and demand that Reg take it down?

What's to prevent me from claiming something refers to me when it doesn't? If I don't have to prove that something is really defamatory, and I don't have to prove it's *me* - and given that I can't imagine how the law would do anything at all if either of those were necessary - then I could have pretty much any statement about anyone taken down for any reason.

Who thought this was a good idea?

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Big Brother

It's fairly clear...

"thought" didn't come into it.

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Trollface

Thieving bankers and their bought-and-paid-for lier/lawyer politicians!

Ooopsie. I might have just slandered and defamed someone.

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This post was removed due to its defamatory nature.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmmmm...

This is why anon was created. Mwa ha ha ha. Andreas, you have man boobs.

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Happy

@AC 1629h - Re: Hmmmmm...

Welcome to the "I didn't get it" side of the forum!

. . . and I'll have you in court for spreading false rumours about my chest, right after shutting down El Reg for publishing your post.

;-)

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Happy

What we need is someone to create a series of supposedly defamatory texts, such that actually removing one results in the remainder being defamatory in some way.

Then we can watch the whole bunch of eegits disappear up their own arseholes.

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Facepalm

This will improve all government and business in the UK...

At least what's said about it on the Internet - because any negative remarks would be taken down on request of the butt-hurt party.

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Isn't this very like the DMCA?

I know the reasoning behind it is different but this operates like the DMCA. The main thing to learn from that experience is to have a strong penalty for fake or malicious takedown.

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Less law please

We need less law, not more. Haven't our politicians got more important stuff to do.

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Trollface

Re: Less law please

No, they outsourced all the important stuff to the Banks, the EU and the UN. This frees up time to properly game their compensation plans. Now, they don't want anyone to write about it.

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Anonymous Coward

Who paid for Clause 5 ...

to be included in the legislation? J. Saville would have found it very useful.

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The truth...

.,. is always a defence in defamation.

How is this going to be tested?

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Anonymous Coward

This section 5 is from another legal system

There is another legal system, one that knows for certain that it has the right to rule the whole world on behalf of its sponsor. This alternative legal system defines slander as: saying something about someone that they do not wish to be known.

It is almost as though the drafters of this proposed UK law went out of their way to make it as friendly as possible to that alternative legal system.

In passing, this alternative legal system also condones lying to achieve its own ends, and has several technical terms to describe various aspects of it.

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Anonymous Coward

"to call someone a crook" is a statement, you are defaming X.

You should be able to say "I think X is a crook".

Your not stating that X is a crook, you are saying that in YOUR opinion you think X is a crook.

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Anonymous Coward

This whole world is BENT!

I'm sick of being surrounded by the scummiest lowlives, pikey, chavvy dirt!

If the rules can be bent, they will be, and Jack to freedom of speech/expression.

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