Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Do not read!

If you're a *cough* regular *cough* reader, you might notice a new totally clickable button to the right - "So you've had a threatening letter". This is a new initiative from the Libel Reform Campaign, a U.K. organisation campaigning, oddly enough, for libel reform. The problem lies in the rather draconian libel laws in England, where costs for a court case can easily be hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds, and the odds are stacked way in favour of the claimant (accuser). People and organisations around the world now use the threat of libel in England - regardless of whether the material was written in England or whether either party is English - to silence any criticism of them, as most people will cave and remove the offending material and/or make a public apology rather than risk the horror of the English courts.
Our libel laws allow people accused of funding terrorism or dumping toxic waste in Africa to silence their critics whilst ‘super-injunctions’ stop the public from even knowing that such allegations exist. We need to reform our libel laws now, and that’s why we’re launching a national campaign to persuade our politicians to do so. Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN
This sucks, and Sense about Science, Index on Censorship and English PEN have taken it upon themselves to get the law changed, so that the outcomes are fairer and the costs are reduced. It seems to be working too, and it will truly be a great day when I can call someone a cocksucker* with impunity; I'm making a list for just such an occasion. In the meantime, bloggers, journalists, scientists and others will continue to sweat over whether to publish valid criticisms at the risk of being financially ruined by a stupid system in an otherwise lovely country. Hence the "Bloggers and libel law" guide, which is a handy information source for anyone accused of libel, and also a great heads-up for anyone who writes on the web.

Seeing as though I regularly criticise people on this very website, and having followed the cases of Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh with interest, I admit that I was a little concerned for my own skin. I feel much better after reading the guide, however, because I now know that I am fully protected from all risk of libel by the fact that nobody actually reads this blog.
Limitation period is the time limit after you publish something that someone can bring an action for defamation against you. Currently this is one year. In the case of writing published on the Internet the limitation period of one year begins again every time someone clicks on the blog post or online article. This is known as the multiple publication rule.
If you have read this far, please leave a comment along the lines of "I promise not to sue Daryl under any circumstances, even if he accuses me of orally interfering with male chickens. Infact, I will forget everything I just read for a period of exactly one year." Just to be sure.

*the word "cocksucker" may not be considered "fair comment" when the libel reform bill is finally passed, but we can all pray that it will.


MeatPopsicle said...

"I promise not to sue Daryl under an circumstances, even if he accuses me of orally interfering with male chickens. Infact, I will forget everything I just read for a period of exactly one year."

Daryl said...

Excellent! Now I can add you to my list.