Legal News

Twitter User ‘Breaks’ Celebrity Injunctions

Lone tweeter challenges the role of online media in privacy law by revealing puported celebrity injunctions

A lone Twitter user has set out to flout privacy laws by tweeting a list of celebrities who – it is claimed – have taken out so-called “super-injunctions.”

The leak is apparently designed to discredit the trend for celebrities who take out injunctions to protect their privacy, forbidding the media to report the story or name the people involved.  However, the list is apparently full of inaccuracies, and at least one celebritiy – socialite Jemima Khan – has tweeted to deny the allegations that refer to her.

It’s not just about celebrities

The twitter user posted six tweets only, in the space of seven minutes on Sunday afternoon, and has since gained 26,000 followers, along with a lot of satirical retweets spinning even more fanciful rumours on the hashtag #superinjunction.

The tweeter clearly intends to expose the use of privacy injunctions to ridicule, but the effect has been to heighten the debate about privacy laws and the role of the Internet, with some arguing that celebrities should not have access to such injunctions.

“If you have one of these injunctions you will probably find you are exposed on the Internet within hours and the press interest will last much longer,” said Conservative MP Louise Bagshawe, quoted in the Mail, adding: “Another consequence is if anyone has a super injunction for a good or valid reason, they are tarred with the same brush. That is something judges ought  to consider.”

A legal committee set up by the Master of the Rolls is due to report on so-called gagging orders next month, and will have to deal with publication online, according to BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman: “If it doesn’t, the super or secret-injunction may no longer be an effective tool in the administration of justice.”

Tweet important stuff

True super-injunctions include a requirement that the existence of the injunction itself must not be mentioned, and some Twitter users have pointed out more serious cases where superinjunctions have been challenged.

Two years ago, Wikipedia and Twitter users broke a super-injunction issued to shipping company Trafigura which forbade discussion of allegations the company had dumped toxic waste in Cote d’Ivoire.

“Let’s just remember why we got angry about #superinjunction – Trafigura. Not who is shagging who in what way,” tweeted ChicaLolita. “Leak important stuff, not this.”

Twitter has denied any responsibility for its users’ tweets, in a statement: “On a practical level, we simply cannot review all one 55 million-plus tweets created and subsequently delivered every day. There are tweets that we do remove, such as illegal tweets and spam.”

However, it is possible that the anonymous tweeter may get a visit from the authorities. In March Twitter was ordered to hand over details to the US government, of three users who had contact with WikiLeaks.

Google Legal News

YouTube Co-Founder Leaves Chief Executive Role

Google’s Chad Hurley is to step down from YouTube to work on other projects, amid ongoing reorganisation at the video service

Google’s reorganisation of YouTube continued last week week with the revelation that YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley was stepping down to work on other services at the search engine.

Hurley, the face of YouTube since he and fellow co-founders Steve Chen and Jawed Karim sold YouTube to Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion (£1.02bn), will serve as an adviser.

YouTube growth

“I will continue to serve as an adviser and am excited to witness the next phase of YouTube’s growth,” Hurley said in a statement.

That growth to this point includes 24 hours of video uploaded per minute, with more than 2 billion videos watched daily.

Google also said this month it is making money from more than 2 billion views per week, with YouTube leading Google’s display ad business to a $2.5bn run rate.

The move, which TechCrunch uncovered on 28 October, comes more than a month after YouTube reorganised around content partnerships.

YouTube installed Dean Gilbert as YouTube’s Global Head of Content, and more quietly tucked in the company’s bold Google TV effort to marry web and channel surfing.

Gilbert, who previously worked on Google TV, is charged with turning YouTube into a more serious broadcast medium for television via YouTube Leanback, the Google TV application that lets users watch video after video without interruption.

Content partnerships

Overseeing Gilbert and YouTube is Salar Kamangar, who will take the chief executive role at the unit.

“The reorganisation YouTube did over a month ago focused on streamlining our operations so we could make faster decisions and align team goals with the company’s overall business objectives,” Google told eWEEK.

“Just like any rapidly growing organisation, it is important for YouTube to evolve and grow to ensure further success in the future.”

Co-founder Kim left YouTube shortly after selling it to Google. Chen left YouTube in 2008 to work on other Google projects. Hurley stayed as his company weathered a $1bn lawsuit from Viacom, which accused YouTube of airing copyrighted videos.

A federal judge found that Google and YouTube removed copyrighted content in accordance with the law. Viacom has appealed the ruling.

Legal News

UK Committee Suggests Libel Rules For Websites

 by Steve McCaskill

A parliamentary committee suggests websites should be required to remove anonymous libels

A joint Parliamentary committee has said that websites should have protection from defamation cases if they respond swiftly to allegedly libellous comments from anonymous posters.

It says that websites which identify authors and publish complaints alongside comments should get legal protection.

Hidden identity

The recommendation is part of a wider review into the UK’s defamation laws aimed at promoting free speech and reducing the “unacceptably” high costs of libel cases. Currently, websites are liable for defamatory statements made by their users and if they fail to remove a comment which prompts a complaint, they risk becoming the “primary publisher” of the statement.

The committee proposes a “notice and takedown procedure” whereby complaints are displayed alongside the offending comments and the complainant can then apply for a takedown order at a court, as long as the author is identified. If a website does not comply, then they should be treated as the publisher of the comment.

However anonymous comments should still be immediately removed from the website unless the author volunteers their identity. Conversely, websites can apply for a “leave-up” order if they believe an anonymous comment is on a matter of “significant” public interest.

Anonymity “discourages responsibility”

The committee has criticised anonymous comments saying that although they may “encourage free speech”, they “discourage responsibility” and hopes that such reforms would lead to a general recognition that such posts are unreliable.

However Mumsnet co-founder Justine Roberts told the BBC that many of its users rely on using user names as opposed to their real name as it provides them with the freedom to speak honestly about difficult subjects.

The site currently receives about ten complaints a month, a figure it fears would increase should the committee’s recommendations be enforced.

The Committee has also proposed the introduction of a “single publication rule” which would give potential claimants only one year from the allegedly defamatory material’s date of publication to launch libel action. Currently, this year-long window of opportunity restarts every time an article is downloaded or accessed from the internet.

The report is published amid a backdrop of an ongoing debate about libel laws in the UK. In May, the British High Court issued an injunction to Facebook and Twitter that prevented them from publishing damaging information online and in August, Atos Healthcare, the company responsible for doling out government incapacity benefit, began threatening legal action against websites and forums which aggregated patient’s experiences, accusing them of libel.

Legal News

Nominet Considers Criminal Domain Takedown Rules

 by Matthew Broersma

Police could request a domain be blocked without a court order, if new proposals are adopted

Nominet, the registrar that handles .uk domains, is moving ahead with proposed rules (PDF) that could allow law enforcement agencies to request a domain be shut down without a court order.

The registrar launched the process in response to a request from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Currently Nominet’s rules don’t allow for domains to be shut down for criminal reasons, though in the past it has blocked domains at the request of law enforcement agencies on the pretext that they provided false contact details.

Limited application

Suspension of a domain will not require a court order but should be limited to circumstances where necessary “to prevent serious and immediate consumer harm”, according to Nominet.

The draft proposal would establish a process under which law enforcement agencies would request a domain be blocked in cases where “suspension is proportionate, necessary, and urgent”.

The policy would cover cases in which a site is involved in crimes covered under the Serious Crimes Act 2007, including fraud, prostitution, money laundering, blackmail and copyright infringement.

Nominet would only accept take-down requests from law enforcement bodies with which it has a trusted relationship.

The policy would allow for appeals and would not allow take-down requests related to “disputes between private parties, freedom of expression or political speech, or requests relating to offences where prosecution would require the authorisation of the Attorney General or the Director of Public Prosecutions”, Nominet said.

Nominet’s director of policy, Alex Blowers, said the policy was intended for cases where the delay needed to obtain a court order would allow damage to consumers.

Copyright enforcement

While the policy advisory group has taken input from the Alliance Against IP Theft, Blowers said the policy wasn’t intended for private copyright enforcement.

An advisory group was formed in March, chaired by Dr Ian Walden, a professor of communications law at Queen Mary University of London, and including members from law enforcement, ISPs, domain regsitrars and academia.

The group’s draft recommendations have now been published and Nominet is seeking feedback from stakeholders ahead of a 21 September meeting, where the issue will be discussed before submitting recommendations to the Nominet Board.

If adopted the rules could go into effect by the end of the year, and will be subject to an annual review.