Big win, big fee, placing unjust pressure on the press

The decision to make the Mirror pay for the privilege that Naomi Campbell enjoyed in the form of a conditional fee agreement highlights a profoundly unsatisfactory state of affairs for the press when it comes to defending claims brought against them.

Read full article on MediaGuardian.co.uk HERE


Ofcom censures BBC for screening Pulp Fiction too close to watershed

Ofcom has published its latest complaints bulletin today.

Its ruled that the BBC's decision to screen Pulp Fiction soon after the 9pm watershed on its prime-time Saturday night schedule breached its code. The excessive levels of abusive language and violence, while consistent with this genre of film, were not appropriate for screening at a time when audience research showed that younger viewers may still be watching.



Stone slams fashion houses for ditching Moss

Sharon Stone launched more than a product when she took to the stage for Christian Dior in Paris earlier today. Using her platform at the heart of the city's fashion world, she slammed the various labels who had ditched Kate Moss over the recent 'Cocaine Kate' saga saying: "Whether or not a house stands with her or not through it says more about the house than it does about her."

She went on to say that people should be allowed to make mistakes in their life, apologise and just get on with it. (MediaBeak says: unless of course you've upset a tabloid by forcing them to pay you large libel damages for a similar claim, in which case they'll be after pay-back OR are an embattled Metropolitan Police Commissioner who decides to raid hangouts of your associates and stage a crack-down on the monstrous crime of personal use of cocaine)

Stone invited anyone free from sin to throw one at her and concluded: "If you are in here and haven't made a mistake, I'd like to meet you because I've been waiting for Jesus — and today would be the day,"

So while the Mossey posse flee from the Met, Kate can take comfort in knowing that today's laughter in Paris was in her support rather than at her expense.

Picture credit:Reuters


'Innocent' downloader sues RIAA for hacking her computer

As reported on Recording Industry vs The People - a blog "devoted to the RIAA's lawsuits of intimidation brough against ordinary working people" - the litigation tables have been turned in the ongoing battle against piracy.

The Recording Industry Association of America (whose logo I have reproduced merely to guide interested readers to their web pages for more information - so RIAA please don't think about busting me for trade mark or copyright infringement!) has been busy prosecuting thousands of individuals for illegally downloading music and recently targeted 17 college campuses at Universities in the US, issuing 757 individuals with lawsuits for illegally distributing copyrighted material on the internet. (So all you students take note, if you're illegally downloading and file-sharing on campus it could be you getting busted next!)

One of the many thousands being sued was a single mum living in Oregon who was charged with downloading gangster rap at 4:24am in the morning. Not only does she claim she's never downloaded music, she hates gangster rap and certainly wouldn't be up at 4 in the morning trying to get hold of it. Outraged by the RIAA's legal action, she decided to investigate their claim. She discovered that in order to identify her someone must have hacked into her computer and had a look at her files.

So while the RIAA alleges she's been engaged in nocturnal downloading under the identity of gotenkito@kazaa.com, she's decided to get even and is suing them for invasion of privacy, electrnonic trespass and general dodgy dealing. She says she's never heard of that online name (so will the real gotenkito please step forward - not that they're likely to!)

She claims that the RIAA hired a company to hack into personal computers and have a snoop around to see if any illegal downloading of file sharing has gone on. If this were true, then that would be a concerning case of big brother behaviour.

The problem is that the very nature of file-sharing software is that it allows open access. So it would be easy to get into the computer when its linked up online and 'sharing'. If, as she claims, she's never downloaded - and her child or pet hamster hasn't been secretly doing so - then it would appear the RIAA has got it wrong (or been given the online grocery ordering list by mistake).

Either way, it should make for an interesting test case.

About the case HERE
For information on the UK see the BPI site

Internet regulation best left to industry

Ofcom boss Stephen Carter considers self-regulation to be the way forward for controlling online content.
In an interview with The Times (see Timesonline HERE) he acknowledges that the time has come to address how best to control what gets published on the internet.

The EU is keen to bring in legislative measures to provide for cross-border controls over content. As with any attempt by the EU to legislate across its territories, this is likely to be fraught with complexities and take far too much time. The problem with any attempt to legislate for the net is that by the time a law gets agreed, drafted and passed, the technololgy will have moved on and a raft of new issues will have emerged.

Whether its porn or paedophiles, its the people the laws need to target as much as their medium. The net has given them a vastly extended neighbourhood but it still takes the person to commit the crime. Similarly, less heinous illegal activity such as downloading is made possible via the net but it still takes the person to do the downloading. So going down a route of introducing draconian laws to clamp down on the net is more likely to stifle good things than successfully capture and prosecute the bad.

While the net may make cross-border cybercrime easier, it does not provide an excuse to extend existing laws beyond their natural boundaries. This was tested in the context of online libel in a Canadian case last week - which Siobhain Butterworth, legal director of Guardian Newspapers describes in her article The not so world wide web (well worth a read)

So, while Ofcom may have enough on its plate, Carter sees sense in adopting a self-regulatory approach. It makes sense that those providing the technology and content can come up with ways of dealing with it. At the end of the day it makes more sense for content providers and ISPs to properly police themselves. This will give their law-abiding users confidence in their service while keeping the unwelcome spectre of ill-fitting legislation at bay. As with any community, there will always be unwelcome criminals but the technology they use to perpetrate their crime is also provides the trail to trap them.


Writers seek to make ITV pay for repeats

It's bad enough having to put up with so many repeats on tv but it now appears that broadcasters have also been trying to get out of paying for them.

A report in today's Observer says that some top telly screenwriters are seeking payment from ITV for showing their programmes on its digital channels. The writers claim that a loophole is being exploited in their royalty agreements which is short-changing them over their fees. (MediaBeak says - that's the danger of sloppy drafting - you always need to read your royalty agreements both ways round to ensure that to the extent you leave any loopholes, they are there for you to exploit).

According to the claims, the broadcaster is selling the programmes on to its other channels rather than screening them as a repeat. This lets them pay the writers less - a cunning plan.

So it may seem like cheap tv to ITV but their quick fix for content could come at a price if the writers successfully sue them.