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Separate publication online upheld

by on 13 Mar, 2009

A European court ruling has underlined that there is a separate publication in online archives.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has in its formal statement ruled that the UK libel law, which says an Internet archive of a paper publication is a separate publication, is OK. Publishers, editors, writers and sources can therefore be sued twice: once for on paper and once for the online archive of the paper.

This has been the position of UK courts for a long time. It all goes back to an 1840s case: the Duke of Brunswick. Now it involves The Times and a Russian. The Russian objected to an article in the paper headed “Second Russian Link to Money Laundering”. The Russian sued. Then sued again for the article appearing in the online archive.

This is a restriction on the freedom of speech to have an online article, argued The Times. Such archives are mighty useful, says the ECHR. But they are a separate publication.

The Times pointed to the US law which chucked out the Duke of Brunswick ruling as long ago as the 1940s. In US law there is only one publication, not two separate ones.

The Telegraph has been hit by this double dipping in the past. So be warned: take it out of the archive when there’s a problem.

Pity the ECHR didn’t take the opportunity to really examine English and Welsh libel law. It could have done us all a service. But then the anti-European papers would be screaming about European interference: quite an irony.

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