back to article You have the right to be informed: Write to UK.gov, save El Reg

The government is about to commence a piece of legislation that will seriously affect The Register’s ability to Bite The Hand That Feeds IT. You have until 5pm today to tell the government it should be stopped. Most British readers will have seen news coverage about Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. This is a …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Foreign readers from forn parts also welcome to submit their details to #FreeThePress?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm not sure why you'd want to.

      Isn't the point to stop the press publishing rubbish which costs people too much to challenge and even when successfully challenged often comes too late to repair the damage caused?

      It wouldn't be hard for someone else to set-up an alternative regulator if you don't like the current one. The press have proved that they do need one and that self regulation isn't working.

      This does rather seem to be a game of chicken with the press refusing to sort out an acceptable regulator to try and twist the argument into freedom of the press.

      I do want a free press (that also means I want exposure to different views and we don't get a lot of that in the UK) but that doesn't mean that the press can get away without being held to account in a reasonable way and I don't think the proposed law is unreasonable.

      So, El-Reg and others should stop complaining and agree to be regulated and if they don't like the current regulator then start one which they do like!

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        "I don't think the proposed law is unreasonable"

        Even the part that says that a publisher has to pay all costs, even if they win in court?

        A newspaper could say that 'the sky is blue', but someone could still take them to court and force them to pay all fees.

        The idea behind this is to make it possible for people who aren't as rich as Max Mosley to sue publishers, but what's wrong with just making the loser of a case pay? That way if (for example) the Daily Mail write something false about you, you can take them to court and only have to pay if it turns out that the Mail was not wrong. Equally, if (eg) Oracle don't like an article on elReg, The Register would only have to pay out if they had in some way misrepresented facts their story.

        The legislation makes the assumption that fault will only ever be on the part of the publisher, and completely ignores the possibility that someone will try and silence a story they don't like.

        1. Ragarath Silver badge

          I want to sign but...

          Having been a regular reader of El'Reg for a very long time now I want to help out but...

          I've just had a read through (properly even though i have read about this before) and would like something clarified as IANAL.

          In the legislation http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/22/section/40 section 2 it states that the Court must not award costs if the publisher is a member of an approved regulator. Yes there are a few provisions but as I said IANAL and they seem reasonable.

          In this case would not being a member of an approved regulator exempt El'Reg?

          Please can someone that understands this stuff more explain for me?

          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            Re: I want to sign but...

            Attempted explanation of the dilemma faced by El Reg, though IANAL either:

            Key point: there is currently no choice of "approved regulator". Only Impress has received approval, and for the reasons Gareth explains, submitting to regulation by (and paying subscription fees to) Impress is unpalatable. IPSO is the industry's response to the widespread call for a regulator to curb excesses of The Press (phone 'hacking', making stuff up, etc.) following the Leveson report, but it's not approved so membership doesn't give a publisher the protection from the Section 40 jeopardy.

            Corrections/amplifications welcome.

            References:

            Impress recognition [guardian.com]

            Impress site [impress.press]

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I want to sign but...

              The question then is why is it the case that IPSO, "...has said it will not seek recognition from the Press Recognition Panel" ?

              Would it find it too onerous to meet the recognition criteria.

              Have they brought it on themselves by appearing to be too accommodating or just weak

              https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/sep/13/press-watchdog-ipso-mp-sir-alan-moses

            2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: I want to sign but...

              IPSO is the industry's response to the widespread call for a regulator to curb excesses of The Press (phone 'hacking', making stuff up, etc.) following the Leveson report, but it's not approved so membership doesn't give a publisher the protection from the Section 40 jeopardy.

              I strongly disagree. It's pretty clear that IPSO was set up to get as much of the self-regulation regime from before Leveson to stay in place as the press could get away with. The hope being that by not getting recognition, section 40 wouldn't get triggered as there was no approved alternative.

              Moseley called their bluff by helping to fund Impress - which means that section 40 could be triggered - and they've been whining massively about it ever since. The solution is simple, and to get IPSO approved. I simply don't buy the objections.

              Had the press ever shown an appetite to regulate themselves properly this wouldn't have happened. But they've been promising better self regulation since the 1950s, and broken their own rules, let alone what the public expected of them, ever since. Sometimes spectacularly so.

              Impress were set up nearly 2 years ago now, so it's not like this is an unexpected problem.

              Annoying as it is for El Reg, there are others out there in the same boat. Like the Guardian, Indy and FT - all supposedly responsible press organisations that don't fancy joining the irreconcilables at IPSO. And didn't join Impress either. They could have looked at some alternative. But seem to have decided to just hope the government would break their word on Leveson. Which, to be fair, they still might do. But it's a big risk.

          2. AstroNutter
            Holmes

            Re: I want to sign but...

            I'm no expert on legal things, but having read through that section is seems quite clear to me.

            section

            40.2 is saying that if the publication is a member of a regulator, is must not award costs except for the caveats.

            40.3 is saying that is the publication is not a member is must award costs except for the caveats.

            Bottom line, in the case of the register. Which the article says is not a member of a regulator....

            They get screwed.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              The caveats are important

              3(b) it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to make a different award of costs or make no award of costs.

              So if in the circumstances ElReg can demonstrate that it's not equitable to award costs against them they DON'T get screwed.

          3. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: I want to sign but...

            There might be an issue with the idea of a regulator. The regulator by definition has to be a censor, any other role would render them irrelevant. Since the censor has to stay in a job they're likely to approve only harmless material -- press releases, for the most part -- which would cause a lot of the interesting material to disappear. The costs trick is a neat way of forcing a publisher's hand, typical of the modern way to do an end run around peoples' rights -- sure, you have your rights, it will just bankrupt you to exercise them.

            (I've also got a bit of an issue with anyone called "Mosley". Mr. Max is the youngest son of the late Oswald who was a well known Fascist. Although Max can't be held accountable for his father's sins his biography suggests that the apple doesn't fall that far from the tree.....you'd be getting at best an ultra-conservative running the press censorship organization.)

            Maybe the answer is to move publishing (nominally) to the US. Here, at least for the time being, we have a long standing tradition of press freedom bolstered by a well understood 'public interest' defense against libel actions. While it does mean that we have to put up with all sorts of crap -- fake news isn't a new phenomenon -- we realize that ion of the cornerstones of democracy is the ability to publish news and opinion.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          FAIL

          "Thee part that says that a publisher has to pay all costs, even if they win in"

          If they are not a member of a recognized regulator and don't submit to arbitration.

          And does not come in to force until a Regulator is set up.

          This is what you get if you have UK governments running scared of Murdoch and believing the claim that it's "The Sun Wot Won It" BS.

          Newspapers should have come under fair reporting laws in the UK decades ago. They didn't. Self regulation has proved to be BS for Murdoch titles and the Mirror under Robert Maxwell.

          They did it to themselves.

          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            Re: "The part that says that a publisher has to pay all costs, even if they win in"

            > does not come in to force until a Regulator is set up

            ... which happened back in October when Impress was recognised by the Press Recognition Panel.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "The legislation makes the assumption that fault will only ever be on the part of the publisher, and completely ignores the possibility that someone will try and silence a story they don't like."

          Actually it doesn't.

          From 40.3

          the court must award costs against the defendant unless satisfied that—

          ...

          (b)it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to make a different award of costs or make no award of costs.

          In other words, the court can take its own view if the circumstances make that appropriate.

          Could the Act have been more open-ended about this? Maybe, but if it were the case of phuzz vs the Mail would you want it written any differently?

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Thanks for the clarification doc, I'd not read the exact wording.

        4. 's water music Silver badge

          The legislation makes the assumption that fault will only ever be on the part of the publisher

          I think the assumption it makes is that the scenario is always a private (naive and under-funded) individual complainant going up against a well funded media organisation where the likely potential costs are not material to the publisher but ruinous to the complainant. The arrangement makes some sense in this scenario

          1. ridley

            I can see what you are getting at apart from your scenario doesn't work if the publisher is a member of Impress.

            Making the publisher liable for all cost under all circumstances unless they are a member of Impress is just plain bribary.

        5. Professor Clifton Shallot

          "what's wrong with just making the loser of a case pay? "

          It is basically the reverse of the Reg case - if you have just stepped off the Clapham Omnibus or out of your Mondeo and find that e.g. the Sun has printed something you object to the fear that the costs of their superior lawyers could ruin you if you lost the case or even that you risked the same just from your own costs during the process then you might not want to go ahead and they get away with it.

          It's a very complicated issue and can easily seem unjust whichever way you cut it.

          We all want a free press (I don't think there's a sane objection to this) but I expect that most would agree that freedom is as wasted on some of our current press as youth is on the young.

          I'm not sure quite what the answer is - just that the current proposal isn't quite it.

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            "I'm not sure quite what the answer is - just that the current proposal isn't quite it."

            We could have had an independent regulator. Ofcom doesn't get every situation right or make decisions that accord with everybody's taste. But it stays in the vicinity of the tightrope.

            However the tabloids wouldn't have it---not with a "business model" built on defamation---so they squealed about censorship so much the government took fright and said, "Okay, you sort it out." They didn't. Mosely has.

            I feel sorry for El Reg being caught up in this, but if big media had taken a reasonable position, we'd have a reasonable solution. Instead they took an extreme position and we've ended up with an extreme solution -- one that has the potential to be extremely punitive on the press.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            > We all want a free press (I don't think there's a sane objection to this)

            Nor do I, but with freedom comes responsibility and the red tops have been pretty irresponsible at times.

            The issue of Impress vs IPSO and quite why there is only one approved arbitrator is quite separate to the legislation itself. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that Max M spotted a way of getting his pet project approved by doing a checkbox exercise but that doesn't explain why IPSO is not yet approved.

          3. doveman

            I think the answer is to make legal aid available for libel cases. Then the merits of any claim would be assessed first by the Legal Aid agency, filtering out any vexatious claims or attempts to censor important stories and if the claim is successful, the legal aid costs would be reimbursed by the media organisation.

            Of course, we also need to increase Legal Aid to a level where solicitors can survive doing such work but that's another matter.

        6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          >but what's wrong with just making the loser of a case pay?

          Because giant companies could spin their legal bills to astronomical numbers so if you lost they could claim you owed them $MM. They could demand that you paid some sort of bond upfront to cover their costs if you lost - since you can't afford this you can't sue any company that has in-house lawyers

          1. Eguro

            Solution seems clear

            Make it so the loser has to pay his own lawyers plus pay the winner the same - or up to the actual cost of their lawyers.

            So I've spent £25,000 on my lawyers - you've spent £50,000. No matter who wins the loser pays the winner £25,000.

            I'm sure there are twists to work out, but that seems like it could provide a fair enough system, if implemented well.

        7. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          "

          Even the part that says that a publisher has to pay all costs, even if they win in court?

          "

          Yes, that's what all the papers are bleating about - but in fact that is not what the regulation says. Firstly the court is permitted to award costs to the other party if it believes that it is just to do so (e.g. if the claim is completely without merit), and secondly it does not apply if the newspaper has agree to go to arbitration or that arbitration would not have been viable.

          So not quite as bad as it is being inaccurately portrayed.

        8. Dave 15

          This is the current state

          What you describe about loser pays is the current status, well more or less. The court can award costs, and can award costs up to the amount of the real costs. As far as I know the court doesn't have to award the costs but it certainly can.

      2. ridley

        There is no alternative to join, you HAVE to join Max Mosley's

      3. Adew1234

        Hmmm Common Purpose lackey Hugh Grant could have penned your ??? "key talking points" response himself.

        With regard to your statement......

        "It wouldn't be hard for someone else to set-up an alternative regulator if you don't like the current one. The press have proved that they do need one and that self regulation isn't working."

        You conveniently neglect to add that any prospective regulator would have to be formally approved by the same corrupt government club members that Moseley's so called independent regulator was.

        Have you attended any Common Purpose training courses lately ?

      4. streaky Silver badge

        Technically speaking it's to make it so cases are less likely to go to court. Skipping arbitration (by either side) would be assumed by the courts to be somebody trying to abuse process. Very few people who don't work in news media should or would have a problem with any of it. In fact I suspect if you polled the general public one would find that most people would think it doesn't go nearly far enough.

        Much as I enjoy reading the 'reg; claiming you're not Murdoch press so it shouldn't apply is a pretty sorry excuse - the potential for damage is so extreme in these cases something needs to be sorted out and there shouldn't be any exceptions. Think before you publish is what the media forgot in times of twitter that would protect them from all of this.

        The right to publish freely has been abused by people calling themselves journalists - I don't think any of what the government is doing is going to solve any of the problems in the world but it does improve access to redress when it goes wrong. If journalists have a problem with this stuff they should talk to their peers; this stuff is legitimately the absolute minimum that could be done.

      5. Dave 15

        But this will not have just the effect you wan

        True the press might think twice about publishing stuff that is wrong, but they probably already think twice in most cases. When they do get it wrong it doesn't matter if they pick up the costs or not the damage is not really ever properly repaired.

        However this new law means they can't say anything about anyone, or probably anything about anything.

        I could trawl the paper every day, find something I think implies something that I don't think is right and can go after them. Even if it is a spurious claim it costs them not me.

        At this point all I have to do is team up with an unscrupulous lawyer (not sure there are many who dont match the description) and the costs can be huge.

        That is press control of as frightening a kind as that exploited in North Korea and Russia.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: But this will not have just the effect you wan

          "When they do get it wrong it doesn't matter if they pick up the costs or not the damage is not really ever properly repaired."

          The problem is that the UK versions of the National Enquirer(*) are widely read and widely believed. The Sun/Mail/etc mostly don't care about damages because they're either too big to sue (for small guys) or the awards are smaller than the sales boosts.

          (*)OK, they're not _quite_ at "I tangoed with Elvis on a UFO" level, but they're not far off it.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      @Anonymous South African Coward

      I signed the petition anyway, I'm not in the UK...

  2. Robin 3

    You need to move offshore. Perhaps you can publish from Sealand :)

    The whole thing stinks. It has the feel of Malaysia and the 1mdb scandal, where the news source to break the story, and the only one able to cover it safely is based in the UK ( http://www.sarawakreport.org/ ). But then I guess Razak has his lawyers lined up now to blow them out the water too.

    1. Locky Silver badge

      Sealand?

      Pah.

      In the name Lester, El Reg should decamp to Rockall

      1. Robin 3

        Re: Sealand?

        My first thought was Rockall, but as it has been kept a part of the UK I fear it would not help much.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_of_Rockall_Act_1972

        The lack of a decent boozer may also work against it.

        1. yoganmahew

          Re: Sealand?

          If only there was an english-speaking website publishing place within Europe. Ta failte romhat...

          Alternatively, elreg.com?

          1. Mephistro Silver badge

            Re: Sealand? (@ yoganmahew)

            "Ta failte romhat..."

            Is that Irish or Scottish? ;-)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Sealand? (@ yoganmahew)

              "Is that Irish or Scottish?"

              Neither -- it's Cornish for "Wear the fox hat"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Offshore won't work

      Reading the law, it's not location based, only way out is to have a case where arbitration through an approved regulatory body would have failed, except that

      40 (3) (b) it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to make a different award of costs or make no award of costs.

      does seem to contradict this article as El Reg is not a member. Also historically the Barclay twins once sued for british publications for invasion of privacy (when the UK had no privacy laws), in france based on physical copies of the newspapers being available on french soil.

      Skim reading a bit and 41 (3) of the proposals still means that El Reg is not liable for it's comments section even if moderation in situ (that's actually an improvement).

      The proposal seems to be pushing for arbitration and regulation being an advantage as a more likely result being that the court would not award costs, but it's not a slam dunk. This bill covers a lot of ground but there is a loophole in "editorial control", if the writers were given free reign and then subject to personal liability then El Reg and an arguable loophole if El Reg is "special interest" under schedule 15 and not a member of a regulator body. Sorry about the caps but Schedule 15...

      Exclusions from definition of “relevant publisher”

      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.

      It's arguable that El Reg is special interest and that Paris Hilton is on an incidental basis.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Offshore won't work

        "Skim reading a bit and 41 (3) of the proposals still means that El Reg is not liable for it's comments section even if moderation in situ (that's actually an improvement)."

        A potential loophole? Any possibly contentious stories get posted "anonymously" as a forum post?

    3. tr1ck5t3r

      Perhaps its more to do with preventing the media from destroying peoples lives and also crowd control of the public. Lets face it, when all the pedo hysteria kicked off, an innocent paediatrician was targeted by vigilantes. Where was the media to control the crowd then?

      At the end of the day we all want to have a good time whilst we live our lives, but we all come from different backgrounds, things that have happened to us in the past can affect our judgements and because intelligence is a very complicated matter which lets face it even the so called experts cant really agree on what exactly is intelligence, is it right for the media to go on a witch hunt just for profit?

      If you want to go darker, then how about targeting known criminals to blackmail them into using their skillz to commit further crimes? Its very useful for overseas secret service agents to target known criminals in a foreign land to coerce/blackmail them into further indiscretions (whatever they maybe). So is it right for the media to publish information which has not stood up to the processes and high standards we expect in Court?

      Its a double edged sword, but what people get up to in the private lives is their business not anyone elses provided everyone is consenting and not forced or tricked into doing anything whatever it may be, sexual, business misconduct or otherwise.

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        The media weren't there to control the crowd when the paediatrician was attacked.

        Because she wasn't attacked at all. A couple of local kids pissing about daubed a word of graffiti on her home, and the myth of a rampaging mob grew from there, stoked by Chinese whispers.

  3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Kick of an article 10 lawsuit while you still have time

    Well, this is a fairly clear violation of article 10 of ECHR.

    1. It is specifically designed to stifle the freedom of expression and has no other function.

    2. It does not fall under the exemption statutes specified in 10.2

    So, in the short amount of time remaining before the High Chancellor(ess) Theresa May pulls us out of that convention I suggest someone kicks off a lawsuit against UK on this one *.

    (*) I suggest that person applies for asylum somewhere else too as he will be one of the first to join the population of Lark Hill after the next elections.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kick of an article 10 lawsuit while you still have time

      Why do you think May want to leave? Because of this sort of shit.

      She wants a US style where the government get to choose the top judges, to reflect their "moral" views.

  4. Sartori

    Done

    Just completed the Free The Press form, only takes a few seconds to do, good luck El Reg, hope many more people sign up too!

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Done

      Signed too. As I have said before, the dystopian future portrayed in "V for Vendetta" seems less and less a work of fiction

    2. Known Hero

      Re: Done

      Signed as well, but wondering why this has not been stickied at the top of the page on El Reg for the past few months ...

      Considering how important it has been made out to be, why wait for the last day to request a vanguard action ??

      *edit, just seen this has been mentioned below, I am not alone ...

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Done

        If it was up to me I'd have written a story about this every day for the last 4 years. Sadly (!) it's not up to me, and we did have quite a lengthy internal conversation about publishing this.

        Ultimately we recognise that what gets us as journalists worked up is very rarely what gets our readers worked up. Add that the rest of the media have been reporting on the topic for months and publishing this was a recipe for reader boredom and switching off. But we couldn't stay completely silent.

      2. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: Done

        "Signed as well, but wondering why this has not been stickied at the top of the page on El Reg for the past few months ..."

        You have seen their stories about Wikipedia and their fundraising activities haven't you? Incidentally those stories would presumably have to stop too with the deep pockets of the Wikimedia foundation...

    3. JasonLaw

      Re: Done

      Likewise

  5. Ian Emery Silver badge
    WTF?

    Question

    WHY have you only just noticed this??

    Any chance of stopping this required a campaign LAST YEAR.

    The only hope now is to take a hit, go to court and get the regulation overturned.

    First one to blink..........

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Question

      Well probably a bit of a campaign right after levenson going "best not to throw the baby out with the bath water chaps"

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Question

      Articles two weeks before, one week before, and the day before and pinning them near the top of the front page would have been better.

      As it is this was published on the last working day. It's a big ask.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Question

        Ian Hislop has been vocal about this issue for the last year. It also formed a large chunk of last week's Media Show on BBC Radio 4.

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge

          Re: Question

          I am asking why El Reg hasnt done anything before now; did they not notice??

          I am well aware of the act, and Private Eye have been campaigning against it since the day it was announced, but PE circulation figures are down in the churn compared to major dead wood publications, so very few pay attention, even after all the major scandals and stories they break - mainly because the big press read PE then steal the story, claiming it as their own.

          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            Re: Question

            Hmm. The Guardian counts as major dead wood publication, I think, and they covered PRP recognition of Impress in October: Max Mosley-funded press regulator recognised as state-backed watchdog.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Question

              "Hmm. The Guardian counts as major dead wood publication, I think, and they covered PRP recognition of Impress in October: Max Mosley-funded press regulator recognised as state-backed watchdog."

              And considering his political leanings and family background, does this not smack of political control of the press, albeit by proxy? Add in the Snoopers charter and....

              UK justice used to be based on "everything is legal unless specifically prohibited by law". These days, we have so many laws, you need to consider your actions before hand, because they may not be legal. Judges, barristers and lawyers have to go look stuff up, its so long winded and complex and the Police rarely bother to enforce "minor" laws because they don't know what they are leading to more people breaking the law "because everyone else does".

              EDI|T. Sorry, got a bit stream of conciousness there. It 2am :-(

      2. Known Hero

        Re: Question

        @dann55

        Just think if they pinned this to the top of the page, how else would be able to read about Dev Ops !!!!

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Question

        "As it is this was published on the last working day. It's a big ask."

        And having been on the road all day, nearly 400 miles in total, I only just got around to reading this story many hours after the deadline.

    3. Flywheel Silver badge

      Re: Question

      Hopefully this won't go the same way as the "consultation" on the Snoopers Charter. *sigh*

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Freedom is not free

    I feel the blood of the mighty will soon run in the streets again (or was it of patriots? I don't know any longer over all the PC indoc)

    (Revolution just after I check my facebook page!)

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Freedom is not free

      Remind me when that happened. Are you suggesting that PC indoctrination stopped the overthrow of various Muslim oligarchies/dictatorships? Or are we going back to the revolutions in China and Russia? Or the French or American revolutions? Or possibly the Parliamentarians under Cromwell? Just which mighty had their blood running in the streets and how did PC ideas stop that?

      Last 'revolution' I saw in the West was the Occupy Wall Street movement, as a grass-roots uprising, such as it was. Everything else seems to be billionaire-led.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    but but but fake news and celebrity voice mail

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry but the UK press deserve this. It's an utter cesspool of filth. Sorry that you'll need to be sure what you write is accurate, I guess that's terrible for you.

    1. jaywin

      If only this was about accuracy. Put simply, you will be able to sue El Reg because you say it is incorrect, take them to court, get it thrown out because you've just made up your complaint, and El Reg still has to pay for the whole debacle. Even if El Reg was 100% correct in what they write, they still get lumbered with the bill.

      Robust press regulation to ensure accuracy is a good thing. Allowing anyone to create frivolous lawsuits which then cost the publisher is not the same thing.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "If only this was about accuracy."

        Indeed. In the interests of accuracy, go back to the article, follow the link to the relevant part of the Act and read 40.3(b).

        Anyone thinking the Act allows them to start a frivolous lawsuit for free could end up with a nasty and expensive shock. If the court feels the circumstances are appropriate that provision enables them to dump the defendant's costs on the plaintiff.

        1. Jonathan Richards 1

          Enables, but does not oblige

          > If the court feels the circumstances are appropriate that provision enables them to dump the defendant's costs on the plaintiff.

          Aye, there's the rub. Frivolous plaintiffs could end up with a shock. To make that happen you as defendant have got to engage a lawyer good enough to convince the judge that all the circumstances mean he or she can overturn the statutory award of damages. It's three levels down in the error-trapping code, and certainly not as good a protection as "Truth === no award of costs".

      2. Jonathan Richards 1

        At the mercy of the court

        +1

        > Even if El Reg was 100% correct in what they write, they still get lumbered with the bill.

        There's a bit of nuance to this, as other people have mentioned in these comments.

        Section 40

        (3) If the defendant was not a member of an approved regulator ... the court must award costs against the defendant unless satisfied that—

        ...

        (b) it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to make a different award of costs or make no award of costs. [omissions for clarity]

        That's quite a high bar to cross, though; to convince the judge, in the face of inevitable opposition from the plaintiff's lawyers, to vary the statutory award because it's "just and equitable in all the circumstances" [emphasis added].

        This is where the law isn't like a program. There's very little IF ... THEN ... ELIF ... ENDIF.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: At the mercy of the court

          I'd have thought that it would help your case to show a judge that you'd done some serious work on joining/not joining an approved regulator. After not finding one you'd liked, you'd looked at setting another one up (obviously with others like Private Eye, the Guardian, FT, Economist etc). And that you'd put in place some systems to allow low-cost arbitration before court action as an option to any complainant. That at least shows that you've not simply ignored the problem for the last 4 years, in the hope it would go away. And that you've taken the issue seriously.

    2. cbars

      Bzzzt

      Doesnt matter if it's accurate, the point is that at the moment you can tell people to piss off and if they sue you you're indemnified against the costs if what you write is true. This way, it'll be easier to just take a story down than risk paying to drag a case through the courts - you think news outlets make enough money to put up money to stand up for principles? Dream on

      The UK has some of the most aggressive libel legislative powers on the planet already, which is why the american's always bitch and moan through our courts, they've got that pesky right to free speech over the pond which makes shutting people up rather hard.

    3. LHGFLICOD

      Accuracy will be no defense.

      The way the Law is worded all costs are paid by the newspaper/website regardless of the outcome/merit of the case. Given that UK Libel law is already so bad many countries refuse to help enforce any penalties awarded this is not a good thing.

      So say a newspaper uncovers something the size of the expenses scandal and attempts to publish it, then they could be sued by hundreds of members or parliament and regardless of outcome be on the hook for the lawyers fees. Under those circumstances I suspect no one would be using a cheap lawyer to sue either.

    4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Facepalm

      The point being that they can be sued even though they've been entirely accurate.

      That has always been the case and the court just rules "It's accurate, so bugger off. Loser pays for all the lawyers". That way the financial burden is on the party that is in the wrong (either the publication lied and they pay, or the subject sued under false pretences and they pay).

      This legislation changes that so that the publication pays regardless.

      Write a derogatory article about me (even though I'm the scum of the earth) and I'll sue you using the most expensive lawyers available. You have to pay for them whatever, so no risk to me. Kerrrrr ching.

      1. Mark 110

        As I understand the law the following is actually what happens:

        1. Both parties in a dispute should go to arbitration/mediation in the first instance rather than the courts

        2. If one party refuses to go to arbitration/mediation then that party must bear all the court costs, win or lose

        3. If one party refuses to accept the results of arbitration/mediation and it ends up in the courts then that party bears the costs

        Its not quite as simple as the publication always bears the costs. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I picked that up of a senior lawyer on Radio 4.

    5. Craig McGill 1

      Missing the point a bit

      Speaking as someone who has been a journalist and on the other side, I can point out that you are utterly wrong here. This isn't about accuracy - people/organisations will use this as a threat to stop something being published even if it is true. As others have pointed out, the big issue is this will be used as a threat ("Are you 100% sure about that? Will your anonymous quotes stand up in court?") - that's something many firms won't take a chance on, even if the story is true.

      There are times journalism needs to be on the vague side of the law - many a crook has been exposed because journalism did stuff the law couldn't - but all of the recent activity has mostly been about the rich and famous attacking the media that has, at times, been a pain in the backside for them and embarassed them.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Missing the point a bit

        Indeed. This Autumn saw the child abusing bent cop Gordon Anglesea sentenced to twelve years for his crimes. In 1994, he successfully sued several news outlets, including Private Eye, for libel.

        This is far from the only case. Private Eye doesn't harass the victims of crimes as the News of the World did, its targets are the rich, powerful and corrupt, with some gentle ribbing for the merely stupid.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Missing the point a bit

          "In 1994, he successfully sued several news outlets, including Private Eye, for libel"

          I do wonder if Private Eye and co can now recover those awards, plus interest?

    6. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Sorry but the UK press deserve this. It's an utter cesspool of filth. Sorry that you'll need to be sure what you write is accurate, I guess that's terrible for you.

      Part of the British press have behaved abysmally for decades, it is true. However, this law would affect long established news organs that expose the bullshit of our British press, politicians and others.

      http://www.private-eye.co.uk/

      1. John G Imrie

        +1

        for mentioning Lord Nome's mighty organ.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The only thing right here is that action needs to be taken. However, there are two winners in this proposal: the lawyers, who as we all know are very much part of the establishment which has a grip on this country and will do so even more now that the morons voted last year for them to get their way, and of course those people who are up to no good and don't want people to find out as it will be an inconvenience to them. Of course, they tend also to be entrenched within the same crony network.

        What actually needed to be done was to properly regulate the press. Not in a way to stop them actually publishing stories but to ensure that if they do engage in improper activities they will be held to account and will be punished for them. After the Milly Dowler scandal, a few low level staff were held to account (rightly) and were punished. Their superiors who benefited from the activities were given gardening leave and funnily enough are back doing what they always were. The News of the World was simply rebranded and continues to spout its evil crap.

        And of course we had a very expensive enquiry which oversaw this injustice and many legal cases, all paid for by the general public to make lawyers and all their chums richer than they already were.

        A big song and dance was made last year about who influences and controls this country and where the so-called sovereignty actually lies. The truth is there is a disease endemic to Whitehall and Lincoln's Inn. This is just another symptom.

    7. Wiltshire

      RE << Sorry but the UK press deserve this.>>

      Sorry, complete and utter logic failure there.

      Like, some Muslims are terrorists, therefore all Muslims deserve to be treated like terrorists.

  9. frank ly

    re. Quadsys

    I fully agree with your arguments and opinions but I'm confused by your use of the Quadsys situation as an example.

    If people are charged with an offence and appear in court then this is a public event, in principle and in practice. Provided you report the facts, as stated in court papers and announcments or by repetition of court journalist's published articles then how can anyone use a legal procedure to prevent you from reporting it?

    1. Filippo

      Re: re. Quadsys

      Under the rules described in the article, it's easy. They just need to file a lawsuit.

      They cannot win, because, as you notice, the journalist is just repeating public documents. But they don't need to win. With the new rules, the journalists will pay the legal fees even if the suit is obviously frivolous. So, they just need to rack up enough legal fees to cripple the journalists.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: re. Quadsys

        "With the new rules, the journalists will pay the legal fees even if the suit is obviously frivolous."

        Except they don't. Go and read what the legislation actually says; the article actually provides a link. If the circumstances are appropriate the court can make different awards or no awards at all. I can see nothing at all in there to stop the court awarding the defendant's costs against the plaintiff.

      2. rh587 Silver badge

        Re: re. Quadsys

        Under the rules described in the article, it's easy. They just need to file a lawsuit.

        Except they're not allowed to do that. First they have to take it to arbitration with the regulator (who will tell them to fuck off, because there's no case to answer), and then they can take it to court, where most judges will be unimpressed with genuinely vexatious cases and tell them to go to hell.

        Of course El Reg does not wish to join Impress for reasons that are quite understandable. It seems to me they should have formed up with Lord Nome and other publications 18 months ago and formed an association of respectable press (i.e. the sort of people that didn't get sued by Chris Jeffries or held in contempt of court by the Attorney General) that excludes the Daily Heil and The Scum, sought approval as a regulator and gone from there. Leaving it till the deadline is a bit late.

        Did your parents never teach you not to leave your homework till the night before?

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: re. Quadsys

          Except they're not allowed to do that. First they have to take it to arbitration with the regulator

          1. You missed "approved" in the definition of the regulator

          2. 90%+ of the Internet press does not want to be anywhere near the currently approved regulators and cannot agree on founding a new one and carrying it through to approval. This includes el-reg too as it is not a member of an approved regulator if memory serves me right.

          This is the rub here - that this is a restriction on the freedom of expression (article 10 of ECHR) through a roundabout way. The regulator can enforce specific limits on what the press says without any judicial oversight and it is given a court statute without any basic rule of law in its rulings. The government giggles in the background as it has achieved its objective to control the press based on the demands of its paymasters without being seen to do so in the open.

          In addition to that, this creates a registration regime for the press and ensures that only the privileged few are free to speak. This was somewhat the case courtesy of UK libel law, it is now made even more discriminatory. Freedom of speech? Article 10? Yeah. Bollocks - it is only for the privileged ones who are members of an "approved" club (so the law says). Everybody else is not entitled.

          This is exactly why this should be taken with the ECHR Court - it is a clear violation of article 10 (if the UK libel law gets nuked as a collateral, well, only more to celebrate). This also needs to be done before May pulls UK out of that to join Belarus in the club of countries where only approved can speak freely only on approved matters expressing only approved opinions.

      3. Neil Charles

        Re: re. Quadsys

        "They just need to file a lawsuit."

        No they don't, they file a complaint, which goes to the regulator.

        It only goes to court if either The Register isn't a member of a regulator, or if the complainants or The Register want to take it to court.

        The important part (at least as reported on R4 Today) is that *whoever chooses to go to court pays all costs*. The costs don't automatically get applied to the newspaper, they get applied to whichever party rejected independent regulation and insisted on going to court.

        A lot of the reporting on this is wilfully misleading IMO. Not liking the Max Mosely funded regulator is fair enough, but costs are not automatically applied to the publication. Proper independent regulation that would allow the average person meaningful redress against the likes of The Daily Mail is badly needed.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are two sides to this argument

    The mass media in general (not pointing at El Reg here) have in the past shown themselves to be prepared to publish inaccurate, vexatious and harmful articles about individuals, safe in the knowledge that only corporations and very wealthy individuals had the resources to bring a defamation action. It's this behaviour that fuelled the demand for regulation.

    Naturally publishers have a deep-seated antipathy to anything that smacks of government regulation of the press, along the lines of Ofcom for broadcasters. That's why they were offered the alternative of self-regulation through "independent" industry-led bodies. If publishers aren't prepared to sign up to any form of regulation, even the carrot of fairly toothless industry-led ones, then they can hardly be surprised that a stick is being put in place as a backstop.

    If you have a better idea of how to constrain the likes of Murdoch and Dacre from treating individuals like crap then I'd love to hear it before rushing off to sign a "leave things as they are" petition.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: There are two sides to this argument

      How about Ofcom for Publishers? By that, I mean a publically funded Body with the ability to apply fines and determine acceptability of content.

      Rather than a privately funded (either by anti-media or pro media groups) Body which cant be trusted to act impartially (by definition) and which no matter what happens will be accused by one group or the other as being partisan.

      It's not that hard to come up with this simple idea, but because it would leave an impartial arbiter which cant be influenced by either side, of course neither would want it...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: There are two sides to this argument

        What should we call it? The Press Council? The Press Complaints Commission?

        As Smooth Newt says, it's been tried and we're at the present situation because of the way that turned out.

        1. lglethal Silver badge

          Re: There are two sides to this argument

          Both the Press Council and the Press Complaints Commision were voluntary bodies with no actual legal Framework to work in. In other words, these were voluntary commisions which the papers could pretty much ignore if they wanted.

          What I have suggested is a public Body with an actual legal Framework and a bit of teeth to it. Ofcom is the public Body for television and if you want to broadcast in the UK you have to play by its rules, and take the fines it gives you or you get prevented from broadcasting. A similar Thing for the Paper Business should have been the first step after the News of the World scandals. Why it didnt happen, I can only imagine (the words vested interest come to mind)...

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: There are two sides to this argument

            Iglethal,

            The press are refusing to accept that the body they set up themselves can be audited and approved at arms length by a semi-independent of government body, whose members are also appointed independently, set up by royal charter to avoid it being beholden to Parliament. With the safeguard that this system requires a two-thirds vote of Parliament to change - so that governments can't have at it willy-nilly.

            How much fuss would they have made if they'd been put under Ofcom? Which is far less independent of government, but I'm struggling to think of even accusations of goverrnment intereference in their TV news regulation - let alone proven cases.

            This is a difficult situation, with good arguments on both sides. But the press have shown themselves unwilling to take the matter seriously for over 50 years now - over which time they've promised to do self-regulation better. And failed. Repeatedly. Eventually something was going to give. If there'd been a bit more of a spirit of cooperation, this would all have been sorted out years ago. But the press refused to have anyone marking their homework - despite chucking abuse at everyone else who's self-regulated when they screw up.

            Nobody wants to see the government controlling the press, but equally the press can't be trusted to do it themselves. This was an attempt at a work-around. I'm losing patience with the press argument that it's unworkable - which all looks rather self-serving. Though I've a lot of sympathy for El Reg, stuck in the middle.

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Devil

    Mosley and Meritocracy

    Mutually exclusive I'd have thought.

    What are his qualifications apart from snorting [redacted] off of a [redacted] [redacted]?

    Censored because the media is probably liable for comments too.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Mosley and Meritocracy

      He's not supposed to be running Impress, he just helped to pay for it. Admittedly perhaps not from the purest of motives. But it can't be totally bollocks, as it managed to get its process approved - and a bunch of local papers to sign up - which means they're in for binding arbitration on those rules whether they like it or not.

  12. Smooth Newt
    Alert

    This slow motion train crash that has been years in coming.

    There has to be regulation of the press outside of law courts, because otherwise a publication can say anything they like about anybody who doesn't hundreds of thousands of pounds to risk in a court case. So whilst We Have The Right To Be Informed (always provided it doesn't antagonize advertisers), we also have the right not to have scurrilous stories written about us.

    The Press Complaints Commission, and the Press Council before it, were useless, toothless watchdogs which worked more like customer services departments than regulators, and didn't even investigate most complaints. As making up stories was pretty much the business model of several very profitable publications, scandal piled on scandal. Successive governments dragged their feet for decades because the last thing they want is to antagonize the media that they rely upon to tell the public how to vote.

    Finally, and inevitably, there was such a big scandal, over phone hacking, and which affected enough rich and powerful people, that the government had to actually do something meaningful.

    The media proposed the usual toothless watchdog that had served the gutter press so well, and everyone else so badly, for 60 years. So not surprisingly, the only one which got approved was the one that all those pissed off rich and famous people set up. Whilst the system is indeed a train crash, the UK media industry were driving one of those trains by allowing self-regulation to so signally fail in the first place, and then when it did not propose an acceptable alternative to Impress.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I misreading this?

    I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know if I'm misreading this, but:

    1) I thought that section 40 only applied if the publisher was eligible to join a press regulator with an arbitration scheme and chose not to do so.

    2) The exclusions (at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/22/schedule/15/enacted) include:

    Special interest titles

    4A 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 would have thought that that implies El Reg is off the hook along with all other "specialist" publications (fnar fnar).

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Am I misreading this?

      >Special interest titles

      >4A 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.

      The Reg publishes stories about every sector and business that uses IT (that's effectively everything, then), and more general stories, articles and opinion pieces about the wider effect of IT on society, economics and politics. Nice try, but I can't see the Reg qualifying as 'Special Interest'.

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Am I misreading this?

        Beat me to it.

        This is worded so as to exclude house journals of trade associations from news media regulation. Think of things like the IMechE mag Professional Engineering, which is mainly full of in-depth features which may or may not relate to up-to-the-minute news topics.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. SVV Silver badge

    Unprecedented?

    Is this the first law that requires the party being sued to pay up, win or lose? I would presume so, but would love to hear from a legal expert to find out. Surely if this is really so, news would instantly become extinct in this country as anybvody who got written about for any reasoh could sue for libel using expensive lawyers, cripppling the legal system and ending a free press.

    So, presumably this bit of the law is to "persuade" publishers to "voluntarily" sign up to this new regulator, who hardly anyone knows anything about. Once that is done, everyone will probably carry on just as before unless there's something dramatic I don't know.

    I somehow doubt that a tory goverrnment would really cripple The Sun and the Daily Mail. Howevver we no longer seem to be living in what we previously regarded as normality,

    1. Youngdog

      Re: Unprecedented?

      "persuade" publishers to "voluntarily" sign up to this new regulator

      'Coercion' was the word I used in my submission to gov.uk

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Unprecedented?

      "Is this the first law that requires the party being sued to pay up, win or lose?"

      No, because it doesn't. There's wriggle room to allow the court to make up its mind, even to the extent of making the plaintiff pay the defendant's costs if the circumstances justify that.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Unprecedented?

      It was designed as coercion. To make it look too scary for the press to refuse to set up a Leveson-compliant regulator themselves.

      The press decided to take that risk, in the hope the government wouldn't dare use section 40. And also in the hope that nobody else would set up a Leveson-compliant regulator - so it couldn't come into force.

      Somebody did, and got a bunch of local papers to join.

      The main culprits copied and pasted their old self-regulator they've controlled before and hoped for the best.

      A bunch of people in the middle decided not to join either of those, or to set up their own.

      Now everyone's complaining as if this was a surprise.

  16. Doc Ock

    Reg, relocate offshore if all else fails.

    Unfortunately this piece of legislation is the result of some very bad behaviour by certain sections of the press which has handed crooked politicians a tool in gagging the media for stories they don't want leaked. A sad day for honest investigative journalism, World in Action was possibly the finest of them all which is sadly no more.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Done as well

    Just completed the free press form too - and since the text is pre-populated but editable, I included a link to El Reg's article as an example of a small trade magazine that will be faced with a wall of vested corporate interests...

  18. Paul Smith

    Accuracy of Reporting

    I am not convinced that the article actually reflects the truth of the situation that Section 40 covers. As I understand it, if some one is upset by an published storey, then the publisher has the option to a) go to arbitration or b) pay all the lawyers. The fact that El Reg doesn't like the current arbitration choices is not (IMHO) sufficient reason to block the law.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Accuracy of Reporting

      Under section 40 as written, we'd also have to pay all the costs of arbitration. Which makes it even more expensive on top of the legal burden.

      No thanks.

      1. Paul Smith

        Re: Accuracy of Reporting

        Now, now, a little more accuracy please. This is important.

        Arbitration is a fixed cost process unless you choose not to abide by the findings while the cost to the victim of an incorrect article is open ended.

        As an industry, you have had years to clean up your act, and have chosen not to.

        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

          Re: Accuracy of Reporting

          @Paul Smith please be careful where you use the words "as an industry", because El Reg as a web publication had no reason to promote self-regulation of paper publications such as The Sun etc. It is the lawmakers who chose to put them all in the same basket.

          1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

            Re: Accuracy of Reporting

            ... and while we are pointing to lack of self-regulation in press, perhaps it is time to see the mote in our own eye.

  19. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    From the Johnny Foreigner outsider's perspective:

    Seriously, Britain, what the hell is going on across the channel? You're throwing away achievements that vast chunks of the world used to envy you for.

  20. Vimes

    Even the NUJ think that IPSO is a waste of space. Mind you this is an organisation that counts Trevor Kavanagh as a member.

    https://www.nuj.org.uk/news/nuj-condemns-ipso-decision-on-describing-migrants-as/

    As for a regulator that hates the mail and the sun, have you seen the crap that they put out on a daily basis? It's their sort of xenophobia that helped to bring about the killing of Jo Cox. Perhaps we could do with a regulator that hates the tabloids for once. Maybe they'll actually take substantial action against them.

    I'm also curious: if IPSO is bad then why has nobody either here or elsewhere in the media made suggestions on how to improve it? People have legitimate concerns about how the media behaves and it's only the repeated failures to either recognise or significantly deal with those failings that has lead to this situation.

    Personally I think section 40 is an overreaction too (SCO is a good example of how litigious a company can be for example) but it was the sort of thing that sooner or later would have come, and frankly it's difficult to have any sympathy for a press that has been given decades to sort things out and repeatedly failed.

    Incidentally Impress will be enforcing the same editors code as IPSO, so the accusations that they will end up being biased seem more than a little overblown. So far all I've seen is Mosley's name mentioned and hyperbole. Is there anything of substance to that fear?

  21. Andrew Oakley
    FAIL

    Force? No it doesn't.

    "Section 40 forces all news media publications to pay for the lawyers of both sides in any court case" - No, it doesn't.

    Section 40 encourages news organisations to join a complaints arbitration scheme.

    If El Reg chooses not to do that, then THE REG is forcing complainants to pay for expensive legal services when a cheaper arbitration service is available. Therefore it is fair that El Reg should foot the bill for making that choice.

    Not all complainants are going to be millionaires. Section 40 is designed to protect ordinary Joes.

  22. Pat Att

    Not just the Reg that will suffer

    Think what this will do to publishers like Private Eye. They'll be sued to death in months. It must be stopped. Please do so.

  23. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    "Formula One Boss Max Mosley"

    ...is actually former Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile president Max Mosley.

  24. Mike 125

    Not this again...

    Goddamn it - giving me stuff to think about which *matters*. I didn't go into IT for that.

    Signed.

  25. CJatCTi

    Should it be two laws not one?

    Self regulation has failed every time in the past which is why we are where we are now. And the IPSO is not what Leverson proposed, the big papers have just put forward their option & the government has said OK.

    There are two levels of exposure, the dailys specialise in personal (who slept with who) & corporate corruption which doesn't sell papers.

    I don't care who slept with who, but I don't want my taxes being wasted because of back handers, contracts being awarded due to corruption & the SFO is a waste of space. Magazines get this into the public domain, and are happy to challenged in court, but why should they pay for a regulator that isn't designed to cover their reporting?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Should it be two laws not one?

      "Self regulation has failed every time in the past which is why we are where we are now."

      Government regulation hasn't been much better, which is why BT is still able to get away with market abuse despite the existence of Ofcom (Hint: Anticompetitive activities should come under the competition and markets authority, not Ofcom)

  26. lawndart

    Picks up the phone...

    Hello, lawndart solicitors. Yes. I see. Well we do specialize in Section 40 cases. You want to know how much we charge? How much do you want us to charge? Yes, really. Do you despise the publisher or just want to send them a warning message? You wish they never existed. Fair enough, in that case our fees will be £1m per hour. No, no, you don't have to pay anything. They will be the ones paying, win or lose. You want us to charge £10m per hour? That's fine. See you in court!

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Picks up the phone...

      I'm an IT Manager for a Solicitors, and so passingly familiar with what can and can't be done with legal costs.

      You wouldn't be able to actually get away with billing £10m per hour, as the costs would be assessed under section 70 of the 1974 Solicitors act. Courts will then eliminate costs they think are undue, and if the bill is reduced by more than 20% then the firm that raised the bill pays the court costs for the courts time looking at the bill.

      Since courts do in divorce cases happily and more or less habitually eliminate £50 costs for an assistant spending 3 hours sorting and indexing a thousand pages worth of loose documents (~£16 per hour) for the court bundles that the courts demand, i'm not entirely sure how you think that anybody is going to get away with charging £10 million per hour.

      To put that into perspective, the firm at the bottom of the legal 100 (the top 100 UK law firms) billed £21 million for the year, with 150 Solicitors/lawyers which equates to a total billable amount of £11k per month per solicitor/lawyer. And that's the 100th largest and best paid firm. The rest of firms tend to earn somewhat less, obviously.

      Bringing a case along these lines would take be about an hour talking to the client, two hours putting together a legal case/bundle and then about 4 hours of the solicitor being in court/travelling. That'd probably cost something like £400 at anything but a London firm, where you pay about 5x the amount because it's London.

      On a fixed fee basis at most firms, £400 for 7 hours work is about £64 per hour. With the Solicitors wages being about ~£30 per hour including PAYE etc, and considering certain fixed expenses such as an office, support staff (reception, IT, etc) to pay from that how much profit do you think is actually made? It might not be as big as you think, assuming that your legal information is sourced from watching TV or films.

  27. Champ

    S40 essential part of Levenson

    S40 is part of the implementation of the Levenson recommendations, which all right thinking people should support. Read Hacked Off to get a picture of how appallingly our big newspapers acted in the UK.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: S40 essential part of Levenson

      By Hacked Off do you mean that thing Hugh Grant supports vocally? Because I can't imagine why he'd be anything other than an unbiased contributor to the debate...

      1. Champ

        Re: S40 essential part of Levenson

        My mistake - I meant "Hack Attack", by Nick Davies. An enthralling and horrifying read.

        Your words about Hugh Grant are instructional, though. Of course he has a vested interest - he's had his personal life dragged through the press, been papped, had his phone messages hacked - do you think that this is "ok", because he's "a celebrity"? Because I certainly don't.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: S40 essential part of Levenson

          Of course he has a vested interest - he's had his personal life dragged through the press, been papped, had his phone messages hacked - do you think that this is "ok", because he's "a celebrity"?

          Well that depends, does he want the press to only report good things about him to help promote his latest attempt at acting? Is he relying on his self created persona as an affable fop to get ahead? Yes, he is so it's a bit rich to complain if it turns out it's a tissue of lies and they report on that.

          If crimes have been committed against him to produce stories then he can already take court action, except the only thing I can recall about Hugh Grant is a dalliance with a prostitute and the press got that from the LAPD. Presumably he'd rather we didn't know about that due to the effect on his public image, and is hoping S40 and Impress would make papers wary of publishing such things in the future.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: S40 essential part of Levenson

        Agreed, I notice exactly the kind of dishonest reporting ironically in this very story. They completely fail to mention they only have to pay both sides of a case IF the publication doesn't belong to a recognized regulatory organisation.

        Because all oversight and regulation must be bad, this, coming from a market that has played so fast and loose with the truth for so long. Every individual who values his or her privacy, and wants a fair hearing if the press hangs them out to dry, should be 100% behind this measure.

        El Reg, shame on you for pushing the BS.

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: S40 essential part of Levenson

      S40 is part of the implementation of the Levenson recommendations, which all right thinking people should support.

      "Leveson"

      I quite agree that the major newspapers need reining in, but S40 is not the way to achieve it. The very notion that someone might be made liable for legal costs of an action that they did not start, and in which they are found blameless, flies so hard in the face of justice that "all right-thinking people" should recognize the iniquity that it embodies.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: S40 essential part of Levenson

        The very notion that someone might be made liable for legal costs of an action that they did not start, and in which they are found blameless, flies so hard in the face of justice that "all right-thinking people" should recognize the iniquity that it embodies.

        Indeed. Maybe that's why the Act says "the court must award costs against the defendant unless satisfied that ... it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to make a different award of costs or make no award of costs."

        1. Fonant

          Re: S40 essential part of Levenson

          The problem is that the default position is that the defendant must pay all costs, even if the defendant is found not guilty of any wrongdoing.

          So I threaten to sue El Reg for reporting something true but unpleasant about my company. I say that I will use very expensive lawyers to protect my company's reputation. El Reg now have a choice: they retreat and cover up the report, or they go to court to prove that what they reported is true - in this second case the default position is that they will have to pay for my solicitors even if they win the case. They are only safe if (a) they win the case and (b) they persuade the court not to apply the default damage rules. If the damages are large (which they will be, expensive lawyers and all that), they probably can't afford to take the risk (or can't afford the insurance premium to cover the risk).

          1. Champ

            Re: S40 essential part of Levenson

            No, this is not true either. S40 specifically allows for a low cost, third party arbitration to be applied. It's only of the publication insists that it will go to court, and that's where the costs can mount up. Hence the disincentive for the use of the courts.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: S40 essential part of Levenson

        This is exactly the problem. El Reg has published a seriously misleading story, and people are eating it up. It even fails the basic common sense test. People here are being inadequately skeptical and just eating up a line of BS.

        The press NEED NOT share the costs when found to be correct, IF they are a member of an oversight organisation. Something the press desperately needs because they're mostly scum sucking lowlifes. Too far? :)

  28. nedge2k

    Um..

    Max Mosley is NOT the boss of F1. He WAS the president of the FIA, the sports governing body. Bernie is the boss of F1 (for now...).

    1. The Axe

      Re: Um..

      So Mosley can sue El Reg under section 40. Bye bye El Reg.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course, you are free to...

    Setup another press "regulator", one that is neither in the hands of celebs or press barons, therefore enabling you to continue nibbling hands.

    1. Davidmb

      Except the new regulator must be approved

      By the Press Recognition Panel. So far only Impress has been approved.

      Almost as if someone wanted to give the appearance of independent regulation, while snuffing out small independent publishers.

      1. Vimes

        Re: Except the new regulator must be approved

        The possibility nevertheless remains for the media to come up with their own regulator. It just has to satisfy the conditions laid down by the PRP and be more responsive than the currently useless IPSO.

        Assuming.for a moment that the PRP isn't making unreasonable demands then one wonders why the media has not done so, especially if the failings of Impress are so obvious.

      2. Vic

        Re: Except the new regulator must be approved

        So far only Impress has been approved.

        Do we know how many would-be regulators have applied for approval?

        Vic.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Except the new regulator must be approved

          Well, under section 2 on this page:-

          http://pressrecognitionpanel.org.uk/guidance-for-applicants/

          The procedure is that the name of an applicant is published and 20 days later a request for information is made publicly under the "calls for information" section of their website.

          As Impress is the only body listed on there, it would appear reasonable to infer that so far only Impress has applied.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Except the new regulator must be approved

        "Almost as if someone wanted to give the appearance of independent regulation, while snuffing out small independent publishers."

        Alternatively, almost as if someone noticed that nobody had been appointed, worked out what was needed to make it happen and then went ahead and set it up as a tickbox exercise.

        The simple solution is for the non-tabloid rags to setup their own regulator. If Comrade Moseley did it then the point is unequivocally that it can be done.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be honest, I can't be arsed.

    In the same way the press can't be arsed to speak up for me, my privacy, your privacy and the state of government interference into our lives, the amber state of alert con trick and the dismantling of public and local services many rely on.

    If the press prefer to spout celebrity shite and useless crap, they can pay for the privilege in court.

    When they can no longer afford to do that, reporting on what the government is up to will be all that's left and maybe the great unwashed will look up from their shiny gadgets and see what is happening around them.

  31. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Toppling the System from within only takes Fools to being their Fascisti thing.

    Bad laws are never adhered to, by neither the good nor the bad and ugly, and are a revolutionary act which sees supportive tyrants and wannabe oppressors disposed of in many most unsavoury ways.

    Do fools never learn anything from history whenever common sense escapes them for vested interests to try and take over and make over Informative Narrative Crowd and Clouds? Are they Closet Retards?

    Forewarned is forearmed, and the following is shared not to impress but rather to inform one with the truth, a whole truth and nothing but the truth .....

    Mosley is the youngest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, former leader of the British Union of Fascists, and Diana Mitford. ...... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Mosley

    What is the modern equivalent of ye olde pitchfork and musket for latter day Roundheads battling Cavaliers?

  32. Champ

    Don't sign this until...

    ...you've read this:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/john-cleese/section-40-press-regulation_b_14056886.html

    I'm fairly disappointed that El Reg have taken this stance on Section 40, which is a key part of the Levenson recommendations. But even the Open Rights Group emailed me asking me to sign a petition against it.

    Once again, we're all being lied to

  33. Ellis Birt 1

    Impress is currently the only approved regulator - mainly because the newspaper bosses don't want any regulator.

    Impress may not be perfect, but I cannot see how El Reg. would suffer from signing up to them. In the case you mentioned, reporting court proceedings, Impress would not prevent you from doing so.

    If you are a responsible publisher and check your facts properly, what do you have to fear from a regulator?

    1. The Axe

      So you want a state regulated press. Just like the good old USSR then.

      1. Smooth Newt
        WTF?

        So you want a state regulated press. Just like the good old USSR then.

        This isn't state regulation, any more than the BBC or the universities are "state regulated". Anyone can set up a regulator and is entitled to have it recognised as such provided that it meets the criteria set out in Schedule 3 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/254116/Final_Royal_Charter_25_October_2013_clean__Final_.pdf

        This contains such apparently onerous and unacceptable conditions as Serving editors should not be members of any Committee advising the Board on complaints and should not play any role in determining the outcome of an individual complaint. Any such Committee should have a composition broadly reflecting that of the main Board, with a majority of people who are independent of the press.

        i.e. Newspaper editors aren't allowed to mark their own homework or those of their friends. So they throw their toys out of the pram and claim this is an attack on press freedom. There is absolutely nothing to stop the UK news media industry from financing another regulator which meets these criteria, instead of whinging about Max Mosley.

  34. Nick Kew Silver badge
    Flame

    Goodbye, free press

    OK, others have made the obvious point: where the heck have you been all this time?

    Anyway, you piqued my curiosity, so I looked up when I blogged predicting this. Turns out it was July 2010 when News of the World closed and they were about to launch Leveson. "Con-men and fraudsters everywhere will stand to benefit if investigators better resourced than the police have their hands tied." Villains and Scapegoats.

    Goodbye, free press. It wasn't entirely nice knowing you, but I fear your replacement will be a whole lot worse.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I couldn't but help notice

    "Mosley’s regulators at Impress are neither impartial nor neutral. Almost all of them have publicly said they hate the Daily Mail and/or The Sun. "

    Sounds like a good starting point.

    But in all seriousness, if the first of those two esteemed organs could rein in the comments on its website then they might not feel the need to feed them with hyperbole-laced headlines and could concentrate on the rest of its output. Which I believe is 'celebs in bikinis'.

  36. Gert Leboski

    Signed.

    This country becomes more vile every day. :-(

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Signed.

      This country All countries become more vile every day. :-(

      FTFY. Sadly, being on the west coast of the USA.. too late for me to sign.

  37. tiggity Silver badge

    Metro

    Surely going from metro.co.uk to Mail Online is a step down, not a step up. As Mail Online with it's focus on the sidebar of shame is the epitome of a clickbait cesspit rather than a bastion of journalistic standards.

  38. Wiltshire

    El Reg might need to follow Guido Fawkes example and be based offshore.

    Otherwise, under the new rules, it might well be scared to report things like Impress' funder Max Mosley once wrote a letter demanding an end to “coloured immigration” and defending his fascist father.

    https://order-order.com/2017/01/09/impress-funder-max-mosleys-demand-end-coloured-immigration/

    Or how the key figures of the new Impress regulator want to ban the Daily Mail and financially ruin the Sun and Express.

    https://order-order.com/2016/12/20/impress-regulators-say-hate-daily-mail-scum/

    First they came for the popular press...

  39. chrspy

    NOTHING, repeat NOTHING in the proposed legislation actually restricts the press in any way - if they are prepared to go to arbitration and not use their financial clout to bully - yes BULLY - those whom they decide to pick on because they know that those so bullied will not be able to answer back or afford to take legal action. El Reg has drunk far too much of the Murdoch and Dacre "Coolade" in this article. Whilst the British press seem to want everybody else "regulated" they baulk at the idea of that happening to themselves, but the fact is they are out of control and - actually at the moment a huge danger to our democracy themselves. Clause 40 AND Leveson 2 MUST happen and the sooner the better so that we have a RESPONSIBLE press, not one that is set on trying to dictate it's own (or rather the interests of it's owners) agenda.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Conflicted

    I'm in two minds whether to speak out against this or not.

    On the one hand, certain sections of the press have been getting away with abusive behaviour for years, safe in the knowledge that most of their victims were too small to be able to defend themselves (and their biggest victims probably had even worse secrets they didn't want exposed). Self-regulation was almost entirely ineffective, and continuation of the same couldn't be seen as an option in the post Levenson world. I'm not entirely impressed with with the regulator that the new law is pushing (thank you, here all week, try the chicken) but after the phone hacking scandal what did the press industry expect?

    On the other hand, if this were to go through, it would spell the end of a free press in the UK - eventually all that would be left would be the BBC and a few remaining brands so emasculated they'd be little more than lifestyle magazines. Corruption would go undiscovered, Government wasting taxpayer funds would go unreported, scandals would go unremarked. We'd be reliant on offshore publications to keep our own instituations honest (sue under section 40 all you like, no other country in the world is going to help enforce any resulting costs or damages whilst such a draconian law is on the UK's statute books). It wouldn't be long before corpse witch May would be pushing for a great firewall of Britain to block out the filthy unregulated foreign press <which are calling us out for what we are>.

    What's needed is a compromise, but it seems both sides are playing "my way or the highway", so the public is guaranteed a crap result.

    Ironically enough, as an online-only publication, El Reg would have least to fear from the changes. Just up sticks and register a new head office somewhere more media-friendly (or at least less media hating) and pay all your UK correspondents as freelancers (if you're not doing so already) - and optionally publish their output under pseudonyms in case the UK courts try to get cute and make them individually responsible. You won't be the only ones relocating like this - in particular I'd hope Private Eye would go online-only and do the same.

    1. The Axe

      Re: Conflicted

      Certain sections of the press got away with abusive behaviour. They were eventually punished. What S40 wants to do is punish everyone because of the actions of a few. Just like in a classroom where the whole class is kept behind because one kid wrote "Teacher is a twat" on the blackboard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Conflicted

        @ The Axe

        Same AC here. I agree with you on the principle of punishing the class for the actions of an individual, but I don't think this really applies here. I'd also question the claim that those sections of the press were eventually punished. Rebekah Brooks is probably having a right old laugh at that one. The News of the Screws lives on, only with a different name - Rupert probably wanted to rebrand anyway, and this just forced his hand. The only people punished in that whole nasty episode were low level hacks who lost their jobs when the old name closed, plus a couple of scrotes who were too close to the actual hacking to get off the hook. No-one senior enough to be truly responsible had a charge that stuck on them. It was an object lesson in "something must be seen to have been done" from the police, and in cover-up tactics from the senior figures in the Murdoch empire.

        S40 isn't a way to punish the whole class for the actions of a few. The default award of costs only happens if the publisher doesn't join a regulator, or refuses to go to arbitration through that regulator first. So what S40 actually does is punish publishers if they refuse to play ball with the new regulation regime, which in itself is not a particularly bad thing.

        When pushed on this, one of the Reg staff pointed out in this thread that the current wording of the regulations also puts the entire costs of arbitration onto the publisher too. Whilst these may not be as high as the costs of a court they may still be too high for the current business model of ad-funded journalism to support. If they tweaked this so that the initial stages of a complaint was funded by the complainant (capped at a couple of hundred quid, refundable if publisher loses) then it'd be enough to disincentivise idly vexatious complaints, but not too much to deter anyone with a genuine grievance. This could be workable, if the parties involved were willing to work towards a compromise.

        However, as I said before, neither side is giving way here. The press industry is obviously hoping for an end run where the proposals get thrown out completely, the status quo is maintained, and Levenson is left as nothing more than a bad dream. To further this goal it's pushing out misleading articles like the one that spawned this thread to try to co-opt members of the public to help them.

        I'm not happy when people try to manipulate me, so in this case I didn't write to gov.uk before the deadline as the call to arms stank to high heaven. If the reg had taken a more honest and analytical view of the subject I might have been more receptive to speaking up for their interests.

  41. emmanuel goldstein
  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You get my vote PURELY..

    Because of the nature of the regulation 'option' you've been given, which rationally is a non-option in my evaluation.

    It's like an outspoken anti-meat Vegan funding the creation of a new Animal Welfare Regulator - we'd lose bacon!!!

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Impress is not as bad as you make it out to be

    Yes, it draws its funding from someone with a grudge, but having looked at the Max Mosley case I cannot deny that Max Mosley actually had a point. I personally do not give two cents about what someone does in the supposed sanctity of their home - as long as it does not affect others or society as a whole that is nobody's business.

    But, Max Mosley is one of a class of citizens that apparently have no rights to privacy because they're famous or involved in politics or having committed the serious crime of being much richer than the audience of the newspapers in question, which is rather weird because no such exceptions were made in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (nor do they say that it's OK to harm kids of rich people, but I'm getting off track here). In other words, that is just as wrong as doxxing a teenager on Twitter who has been a bit daft so she can get proper hate mail in her letterbox (and yes, that has happened).

    My point is thus that your repeating of those "revelations" is proving the exact point that Max Mosley was making with Impress, and it IS an issue that needs attention because it is otherwise giving free reign to chequebook "journalism" (it's IMHO an insult to the term) which has caused enough harm already - see News of the World et al.

    It means that I cannot take a position for or against IPSO or Impress, both have good and not so good things as part of their agenda, and to me, the sensible option lies somewhere in the middle.

    What IS clear, however, is that the Government's black-and-white take on this is a classic, "let's-not-discuss-this-with-anyone-but-ram-it-through move that should be fought by all. I'm all for forcing the government to pretend for a bit longer that the UK still has some semblance of democracy, even if it's just pretend.

  44. my fingers stuck

    grumpy old man

    as i have said before in other postings... the uk is running at abreak neck speed towards 1984, yes george orwell was right... he just got the year wrong

  45. kmac499

    Signing up to a regulator and Arbritation before going to court seems fine to me,

    Most other serious occupations have some form of self regulating body with the ability to expel offending members.

    Maybe Impress ain't the right regulator but IPSO certainly isn't. The fact that the nationals fought tooth and nail against equal prominence for a correction or apology i.e Front page banner headlines tells me everything I need to know about their commitment to the truth.

    Maybe the smaller publishers could look at forming their own regulator??

    I treasure a free press but more importantly I treasure a press that reports on News not pictures of some idiot who believes themselves to be a 'celeb' falling out of a limo at 3 in the morning.

    Personally I would love to see the Editors of some of our natinal organs in the media themselves a lot more. I wonder how Daily mail readers would react to the reported behaviour of Paul Dacre. (would make Donald Trump look like a pussycat)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I see that recently Dacre has decided he no longer wishes to be chairman-for-life of the "Editors’ Code Committee"

      http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/paul-dacre-steps-down-from-editors-code-committee-with-parting-shot-for-liberals-who-conspire-to-manacle-press-freedom/

  46. Paul Smith

    Not the end of free press, the

    Sorry, but the more I read, the less this sounds like the end of a free-press, though it might spell the end of the current 'can't touch-me' attitude that a small but dangerous minority of the press enjoy. The legal and financial threats that the papers are claiming will put them out of business are the same ones that the publishers having been using to ignore or silence their victims for years.

    All this talk of Fascist, racist and/or biased personalities is a distraction from the fact that today, an individual who believes they have been wronged by the press has no recourse but to take on the expense of a high court case. Section 40 will give them an additional option, fixed cost arbitration. The publisher can choose to accept the result of arbitration and the case is closed. The publisher can refuse to accept the result of arbitration and go to court, and the publisher can refuse to go to arbitration in the first place. Either action will result in the publisher being liable for the legal bills meaning the publisher can no longer ignore complaints from people who can't afford a high court case. And since the act explicitly says "the court must award costs against the defendant unless satisfied that ..." the the publisher need not worry about frivolous cases as they will be appropriately punished by the courts.

  47. dmesg

    My email:

    I write to protest the proposed Section 40 change which makes media organizations liable for the legal costs of both sides, even if the media organization wins. This is an open invitation for the filing of frivolous and vexatious lawsuits against media. Even the threat of such lawsuits will have a chilling effect. The law may be aimed at the "bottom feeders" of the media industry, but it will equally affect top-tier organizations that publish valuable news.

    In my case, I rely on The Register (www.theregister.co.uk) for impartial and insightful information on the Information Technology (IT) industry. I work in IT, and The Register is a unique resource for honest, straightforward information. It has proved valuable for making informed decisions on products, services, suppliers, and future strategy. There are numerous occasions where it has (responsibly) disclosed critical security flaws requiring immediate attention -- something that many vendors would prefer never be reported.

    The organization I work for is a public university system in the USA, funded by taxpayers. The proposed changes would harm the taxpayers that fund my work, and similarly will reduce the ability of publicly-funded IT workers in the UK to serve the UK taxpayers.

    I am aware of the clause that allows publishers to avoid the worst of the change by signing up to a state-approved press regulator. This is nothing less than prior restraint and self-imposed censorship. I am astounded that such would ever be proposed in the UK.

  48. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Time for The Reg to up sticks...

      I can suggest Switzerland: Beautiful views. Clean air. Wonderful infrastructure, and certainly no shortage of beer. Oh, and considerably less idiotic legislation than you are likely to find anywhere else in Europe.

      Switzerland, where you can get fined for flushing your toilet after a certain hour at night, or putting your recycling in the wrong coloured bin...

      Sorry to break it to you, but idiotic legislation is everywhere, and most of the examples you will have heard about of bad EU legislation are fictitious (such as the bollocks Boris Johnson made up about bananas).

  49. Gorak

    This article convinced me to support the Act.

    "All they would have had to do is threaten to sue us for publishing malicious falsehoods."

    That's blatantly not true. They would have to sue and then YOU would have to refuse to go to arbitration. Whichever party escalates things to the high courts has to pay the costs. This would prevent rich people threatening to bankrupt you with legal fees.

    As someone whose grandfather was slandered by the Sun after Hillsborough, I think this sounds like a great idea. No one in my family could ever have afforded to hire a lawyer to take on Murdoch.

    The metro.co.uk article you say is the best short read gives a "step-by-step guide to how you can give your opinion" and then proceeds to tell you which answers to give in order to get the second part of the Leveson inquiry shut down. That's not my opinion and neither is a pre-written consultation response written by Free the Press campaign (whose website gives no mention of who funds or runs it).

    For someone who claims to be neutral, you seem to be awfully keen for us to support the shutting down of an inquiry which would look into collusion/corruption between journalists and politicians & police officers. I fully understand why the Sun/Mail/Mirror etc don't want an inquiry into what they've been doing, but what does El Reg have to hide?

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: This article convinced me to support the Act.

      I'm sure you had absolutely no previous views on press regulation, especially as you refer to something that was done long before most of the Sun's current crop of reporters were out of primary school.

      Thanks to all those who responded to the consultation, and as for those who think Impress is a viable or sensible press regulator, I wholeheartedly disagree with you and hope your point of view does not prevail.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: This article convinced me to support the Act.

        Having taken a cursory look, it appears that no other regulators have even applied for accreditation and the situation is that:-

        1) If ElReg is not signed up to an independent regulator with a complaints procedure then there is no other way of redressing grievances but court, in which case ElReg pays all costs for justifiable court cases as there was no alternative provided to litigation.

        2) If ElReg is signed up to an independent regulator with a complaints procedure then any court cases brought are entirely at the cost of the person bringing the case.

        If you feel that Impress is not a viable or sensible regulator then why do you not simply get together with the other tech publications and fund a regulator with for tech publications that your happy with?

        To a casually uninterested observer such as myself, the information the press is putting out regarding press regulation appears inaccurate enough to justify the need for what appears to me to be fairly soft regulation compared to the rather more stringent regulation that many of your readers have to comply with.

  50. Not That Andrew

    Submitted my thoughts about Section 40 several days ago. I doubt it will change anything, but I also doubt that Section 40 will withstand serious legal challenges.

  51. graeme leggett

    Many publications have advanced their position on Section 40.

    My own local paper, part of a large regional empire, did so through its associated website. It's opinion (that it was a dark day for press etc) was challenged through the comments section to the webpage There were references to performance of certain tabloids. How the publishing group was presenting section 40. How IPSO wasn't working.

    The comments section then got removed. I'm glad the Register does engage with its readership.

  52. theOtherJT

    How impartial are the regulators?

    ...or "regulator", as it seems that there's only one that's on the approved list here.

    This to me seems to be the real nub of this question. If everyone's happy that impress is a genuinely impartial body then I don't see that there's a problem here - the rule does what it's nominally intended to do and provides a route for those of little means to take on the press.

    Of course if that regulator is in the pocket of people who intend to use it to silence criticism of them and their business/political/criminal* dealings then we have a massive fucking problem here.

    I'd be happy to write to write and object to this, if I had an answer to that question and I thought it was appropriate, but with only slightly more than an hour to go I don't feel that it's possible that I can make that determination with any degree of confidence.

    *often hard to tell the difference, I know

  53. Jonathon Green
    FAIL

    Albert Einstein famously didn't define insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something different to happen but if he had then in the case of UK press self regulation he would have had a point...

    The respectable not-the-daily-mail sector of the industry has had all the time in the world to set up a Leveson compliant, genuinely independent alternative to Spanky Moseley's effort but appear to have chosen to spend the time and money sitting in the pub bitching about it and hoping it would all go away. Well, it didn't, this is where it's brought us to, and I think they've let the public down very badly.

  54. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Choices

    On one hand you squash lies and truth, on the other you only squash the truth.

    I made my mark against section 40.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    footnotes

    "he website is a training ground for web reporters who later make the step up to Mail Online "

    I hate the idea of a world in which the Mail Online is a step "up".

  56. DougS Silver badge

    Seems a law tailor made for Donald Trump

    Interesting timing that a guy with legendarily thin skin who loves to sue or at least threaten to sue the press over the smallest slight becomes president when the UK is putting this law in force. It would pretty much ban the UK press from writing anything negative about him, even things he does as president of the US, if he was able to claim it damaged the "Trump brand" hurting the value of his hotels in the UK!

  57. Max Load

    If it was important, why didn't you say sooner?

    You know what? You could have said before. It's not like legislation proposals aren't published in advance. You'd kinda think it's a thing that media people would be on the case about.. The Guardian and FT (Twitter feeders; often parasitic on The Reg et al) have just announced a joint venture to resist the same thing. They even invited me to participate in the discussion. But only via Twitter. To which I say "No thanks.", because I prefer not to engage in that sort of activity. So my only option is to gripe via the least lazy news provider.

    Man, I remember going for a job at a news agency in the mid 70s and being ridiculed by a guy in a worse suit than my dad's because I didn't know the best cycle route from Farringdon to Islington. Journalists then might well have been scumbags, but at least they got out of the house.

  58. RustyNailed

    Self Inflicted Risk

    That Impress is the only regulator *at the moment* is no excuse. This hasn't just been sprung on publishers - they have had time to prepare, and have chosen not to. That's OK, and that comes with associated risk, known well in advance. Knowing this was coming, there was no operational reason for various press organisations not to have gotten on with it and created their own compliant regulators and requested approval. This would provide protection from the bulk of the nasty S40 implications cited in the article.

    So the real question is, why didn't they?

    Personally I think the requirements to be a recognised press regulator set out in the Royal Charter are reasonable and proportionate. They do, I believe, reach a sensible balance of providing the ability for people with limited resources to challenge multinational media companies, while protecting publishers from spurious and defensive challenges that have no merit (via the low cost arbitration requirement).

    It explicitly ensures regulators cannot prevent publication of articles, and restricts Government meddling, and the Parliamentary majority required to change the Charter is set higher than most laws, and must also be unanimously approved by the Board as well (so a Government cannot just make a proposal to change it in Parliament alone).

    A publisher is free to publish anything they like, if someone takes exception to that, the regulator must offer a low cost, independent, arbitration service. If arbitration fails, and it then goes to court, the publisher is then protected (by default) from the excessive costs they are worried about, by S40 (Section 2).

    Essentially it seems that the press complaints about S40 coming in to force are a direct result of them failing to do anything about legislation that has been known about for 2 years, but which they ignored because they don't like/agree with it.

  59. Potemkine Silver badge

    It may be time to move on the side of the Channel where the concept of 'Freedom' still exists

  60. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Like any other civilised human being, I too loath and detest the sewer press -- Mail, Express, Star, Sun and Telegraph. If this nutty regulation becomes law, whilst it would mean the end of a free press in the UK for the short period of time until it's repealed because it's obviously leading to perverse outcomes, it would at least allow us to try our best to put the hatesheets out of business by bringing a series of vexatious cases. In the ideal world, it would stay on the books long enough to see those wretched liespouts permanently put out of business and everyone who ever worked for them blacklisted by the industry for the rest of their lives. THEN repeal it and replace with a sane system.

    Yes, I know I'm living in cloud cuckoo land, but a man can dream, can't he?

  61. Alan Brown Silver badge

    misrepresentation much?

    The proposed law ACTUALLY says that anyone who refuses binding arbitration and goes to court will be liable for the full costs, but the arbitration process itself is low cost compared to the current cost of dealing with court action.

    I'm aware that there are concerns with the arbitration process but painting this as putting yourselves in the firing line for all parties' court costs if you are NOT the party escalating it to court is disingenuous at best.

    Only the party which pushes it upward from arbitration to court will be liable.

  62. kkanalz

    Your answer is simple: just move your operation to the USA, where freedom of the press is encouraged.

    Of course, that doesn't negate the total "wrongness" of what the U.K. government is doing to the used-to-be-free-press in your country. Will a write-in campaign really be effective? From my observation of that tactic here in the USA, the politicians will just go ahead and do whatever they want anyway -- never mind the interests or thoughts of the very people who elected them!

  63. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Wow

    And people criticize heavy-handed government and excessive litigation in the US?

  64. cream wobbly

    You Tubes

    * Broadcasters are also exempt, at least for their streamed, TV and radio output, because that is regulated by Ofcom. Their written output on their websites, however, will be caught by Section 40.

    So, that means the potential victim articles of the regulation could be recorded as text-to-speech and uploaded to YouTube. Or am I reading this wrong?

  65. Alan J. Wylie

    Shiva Ayyadurai and Techdirt

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170111/11440836465/techdirts-first-amendment-fight-life.shtml

    Shiva Ayyadurai is suing Techdirt for $15M over their comments on his claim that he invented e-mail.

    http://fortune.com/2017/01/05/email-inventor-techdirt/

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