Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
Just a few short weeks ago,
an Australian court ruled
that its laws could be applied to overseas websites for the purposes of defamation actions.
This created a bit of an uproar and resulted in quite a bit of controversy
within the Net industry. "What right does the courts of one country have
to try and impose its laws on the citizens of another?" was the question
You'll probably also recall that a few years ago, an American millionaire was
hauled before the local courts on charges relating to the possession of
cannabis. Name suppression was ordered by the court -- but a newspaper
in the offender's home-town went ahead and published details of the case,
including the guy's name.
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After I linked to that story there was much discussion over the inadequacies
of things like name suppression in the cyber-age.
Well this weekend a very interesting situation arose in the UK which is worth
Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has gone to court in an attempt to stop
the UK's The Mail on Sunday newspaper from publishing allegations about
his private life.
It seems that old Gerhard would rather that some of the potentially embarrassing
details of an alleged affair with a TV reporter not be plastered all over the
Schroeder was successful in convincing a Hamburg court to issue an injunction
that forbids the paper's publishers, Associated Newspapers, from printing
their allegations. If the paper ignores the injunction then it could be slapped
with a $500,000 fine -- or at least that's the theory.
The paper's editor has dismissed the injunction as being invalid and he told
the media that "we do not accept that Chancellor
Schroeder can use a German court to tell us what we can and cannot report"
Some lawyers disagree however, and have suggested that German law could,
in some cases, apply to UK companies and citizens because they are all
part of the European Union.
But what has all this got to do with the Internet I hear you ask?
Well, although The Mail on Sunday seems happy to ignore the injunction
and print its allegations on paper -- I've been unable to find any indication
that they're also publishing them on the Net.
Could it be that the ruling of an Australian court has set such a precedent
that they're not prepared to risk it?
Just a few weeks ago I also noticed
in which a Candadian court ordered some details relating to a case suppressed
and it specifically included mention of the internet. I wonder how
they'd go about enforcing that if an NZ newspaper published the
How long before we see a cyber-treaty which will give the courts of one country
to impose a binding ruling on Internet publishers from another?
Or, in the wake of the Australian court's ground-breaking decision, has the
need for such a treaty been eliminated?
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