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Subject: East Enders was Re: UKNM: Legal Responsibility of Content
From: Nigell Boulton
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 18:12:48 +0100

Did anyone see eastenders last night???

-----Original Message-----
From: Ray Taylor <tayloratbizbiz [dot] com>
To: uk-netmarketingatchinwag [dot] com <uk-netmarketingatchinwag [dot] com>
Date: 23 September 1998 16:55
Subject: Re: UKNM: Legal Responsibility of Content

Danny O'Brien <dannyatspesh [dot] com> said:
To: uk-netmarketingatchinwag [dot] com <uk-netmarketingatchinwag [dot] com>
Date: 23 September 1998 12:09
Subject: Re: UKNM: Legal Responsibility of Content

>It's not, for
>instance, beyond the realms of credibility that you might be asked one day
>give an expert opinion as to whether a mailing list like this *should* be
>viewed as a publication.

Opinion as requested: In my view, people using this list should bear as much
responsibility for what they say as they would be required to do if they
wrote their opinions down on a piece of paper, photocopied them 400 times
and circulated them to other people on a postal list. No more, no less. I
can see no argument why being able to do the same thing electronically ought
to change the rules of responsible free speech. If someone uses this list to
propagate racist, sexist, or other offensive abuse or for making unfounded
allegations about someone else's business then they should be penalised, and
the moderator of this list should take reasonable steps to prevent this
happening, as I am sure he does.

If you want my opinion on the law of the land then I think what is needed,
in media law, is a combined effort at modernising legislation on freedom of
speech _and_ personal privacy. The aim of this legislation ought to be to
balance those two aspects of liberty so that both can exist without threat
to the other. Now I know there are some people, particularly of the "kewl
Net" way of thinking, who think they ought to have the right to do what they
like, say what they like, and damn everyone/everything else. Not views I

As a staff journalist I never made a harmful allegation against someone
without good reason, and evidence that the allegation was true. As I said in
a previous message, the occasions when I have seen publications get into
legal trouble has almost always been as a result of unprofessional
journalism, eg a writer takes a juicy telephone allegation (known as a

"heavy breather") and writes a "great" story on the basis of it without
actually checking the facts of the matter. The subject of the allegation
(which might or might not be true) threatens court action and the publishing
company settles for a large sum, out of court. The reason for this is that

the writer can show no evidence to back up the allegation.

To my mind the fault lies with the journalist in this instance because the
story should not have been written without factual backing. Journalists who
make this mistake are the kind that spend too much time in the pub and not
enough on the telephone doing research. It follows that the journalist's
employer ought to pay for the error but the biker who delivers the Syquest
disk (I said it was a long time since I was in this business) ought to be
kept out of it. Involvement of people who clearly have no meaningful role in
the content of the message is an anachronism as I am sure most members of
this list recognise.

But bad journalism works against free speech because the next time a good
story comes up the publishing company is less likely to want to risk
publishing it.

And if people in the new media world want to be accepted alongside grown up
media then they will have to treat online content in a professional manner.
Anyone need any professional help professionalising their online content,
please let me know.

> Think what you like, Ray, but I'd hope that
>personally you'd actually access an opinion, rather than just leave it to a
>blundering court who - let's be honest - wouldn't know an e-mail if it
>up and infected their learned faces with the ebola variant of the good news
>virus. That way, one day, suing Sam would be seen as insane as suing Ken
>Morse, rostrum cameraman, and we could all live happily ever after.

I hope nobody does sue Sam and I certainly have no time for people who pop
up and threaten all and sundry with "their solicitors" at the drop of a hat.

But the only way he will minimise the risk is to ensure that members of this
list abide by guidelines as to what can and can't be said. I would also
recommend professional and legal indemnity insurance to cover the risk.

>But enough of this heavy stuff. What's your favourite banner ad?

One that gets 10%+ click through and costs US $100. Obviously not one
designed by a UK studio!

Anyone who finds banner ads entertaining is sad beyond redemption.
If you ask a creative agency the same question they will say "one that costs
UK 1,000 + and who gives a fuck if it gets any click through ? (Those
creative agencies who are valued clients of NMC/Adplan are of course
excluded from this sweeping statement which is included for the purposes of
humour only :-))

Readers of this comment are advised not to take any of it too seriously and,
if offended, to write rude messages in response rather than resorting to
litigation. Both the author and his employer are very poor and the chances
of getting any money out of either of them in a court action are pretty
remote, so don't bother.

Ray Taylor
Beckenham Chambers

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