UK Liberty

Legal advice for online writers and publishers

Posted in freedom of speech, law and order by ukliberty on October 14, 2009

I am not a lawyer.

Prompted by Sunny’s post that asked how important a blog hosting company is in terms of mitigating risk of legal attack I left the following comment (here slightly edited):

Selecting a host and domain registrar outside of England and Wales – particularly if the host or registrar’s country isn’t ‘friendly’ to English law as it pertains here – mitigates the risk of legal attacks from that jurisdiction.

But, while these mitigate the risk of content being technologically ‘taken down’ as a result of legal attack from that jurisdiction, you remain personally exposed to similar risks from writing and/or publishing online as you would be in print – from libel, contempt of court, and intellectual property rights infringement, to criminal offences (e.g. under the Terrorism Act).

There are additional risks associated with online publishing, for example relating to user generated content (e.g. comments on articles). You can mitigate this risk by not pre-moderating or otherwise monitoring comments but you must investigate swiftly if there is a complaint and remove / suspend / redact offending comment if necessary while you investigate.

Merely pointing to offending content elsewhere, in the form of a hyperlink for example, as opposed to publishing it verbatim yourself, also exposes you to risk.

It seems worth noting here that the Terrorism Act allows a maximum of only two days to remove offending content before you commit an offence by not removing it.

Also, in general, if user data is demanded from you, you should demand a court order / proper legal authority before providing it as you otherwise risk breaching the Data Protection Act.

Structuring your finances etc so that it is not worthwhile chasing you is beyond me but my guess is that it’s worthwhile doing if you plan on regularly publishing risky content – as is seeking proper advice on all the above.

I am not a lawyer.

Advice congealed from, among others, Pinsent Masons’ and McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists.

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