DEFAMATION & COPYRIGHT
The Observer newspaper’s Networker column often provides food for thought and writer John Naughton often has a fresh approach to new issues which have developed out of the internet. He writes in his 17th October 2004 column about the way in which the internet, which was once perceived to be the great and wonderful holy grail of real truth in a world of spin, of exposure in a era of hush-ups and of free speech in a world of censorship is now nothing of the sort. Indeed such is the nervousness of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to avoid any liability for defamation or copyright infringement because of those who use their systems; When activist group ‘Bits of Freedom’ placed a public domain work by Dutch author Multatuli on ten Dutch websites, all but three removed the work when contacted by a fake society claiming to represent the copyright owner of the work. In fact Multatuli died over 100 years ago and the article posted on the ISPs stated the work was in the public domain. Only one ISP responded to the fake society (set up by the actvist group) pointing out that the work was well known and clearly in the public domain. One ISP took down the ‘offending’ article within one hour. As John Naughton points out “if you want to censor someone, just get your lawyer to write a snotty letter to the ISP that hosts his or her site”.
The Observer, 17 October 2004