Privacy for sale: Angelina Jolie to confirm pregnancy to the highest bidder

While celebrities and the courts argue over the parameters of the human right to privacy and protecting celebrities and others from unwanted media intrusion and speculation, their quest to find a legal and moral centreground is undermined by the commercial forces at play.

Reports suggest that Angelina Jolie is offering an exclusive to confirm her pregnancy to the highest bidder. While the monies will go to some well deserving charity the concept and acceptance of it set a tricky precedent. To the extent that the money raised by this publicity stunt may well benefit a good cause it also puts a price on the sale of this confirmation and/or 'exclusive' and sends out the message that - whether for charity or not - such private information is for sale to the highest bidder.

This poses a legal and regulatory dilemma insofar as the legal system is - through the Human Rights Act and European Convention - charged to protect the right to private information. So if celebrities are allowed to sell their private information to the highest bidder why should the law step in and prevent this or similar information being published when a celebrity decides they don't want this information to be published or that the price they are being offered isn't right.

There is a need to separate the human rights based protection of privacy from the commercial regulation of private information as a tradable commodity. As the law stands intellectual property and associated licensing laws allow for the commercial exploitation while human rights laws and self regulatory codes deal with non-commercially regulated intrusion. This separation may seem workable at one level but there have been enough cases to prove it is not.

A prime example is the case of Douglas v Hello where Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas had entered into an exclsuive licensing deal that allowed OK! magazine to take and publish photographs of their wedding. Rival Hello magazine managed to obtain some sneakily taken snapshots from the wedding an printed them ahead of OK!'s official wedding pictures release. The protracted and ensuing legal action saw OK! magazine use the pretext of the Douglases privacy to sue rival Hello magazine for the revenues it lost as a result of Hello's spoiler. This is perverse and so too is the ruling that ultimately acknowledged some such right. It is illogical and arguably an abuse of process to use human rights related laws to protect privacy rights that one has already sold for commercial gain.

To the extent that one seeks to commercialise one's private life and information, one compromises the human right to privacy in that information. The very fact that a right is for sale means that the holder of the right has ascribed a value to it and anyone paying the price can, by implication, override the privacy in it. So where a right has been so commercialised, then any use of the private material that falls outside the terms of the commercial deal is surely a contractual issue relating to a breach in commercial exploitation or licensing rights as opposed to a human rights issue.

There remains much confusion between the two and the willingness of Angelina Jolie to commercialise her private news may serve a charity but does little to help clarify an already confused law. If there were new legislation that distinguished between privacy in a human rights sense and as a commercial commodity then that would serve to clarify an unsatisfactory interpretation and application of the laws that are currently being mixed and matched to address the various interpretations of what constitute privacy issues.


PCC Chairman calls for revamp of 'pretty weird' regulation

PCC Chairman Sir Christopher Meyer has honestly laid out the challenge that faces media regulation. Appearing before the House of Lords Communications Committee he acknowledged that the current system of regulation - knitting together the PCC that covers print and online press, Ofcom for broadcast and the ASA for advertising was a mix of regimes that would benefit from rationalisation and reorganisation.

Meyer's comments are welcome in that they point to an acceptance of what needs to be done with media regulation in the UK and the need for an inclusive and cohesive approach between rules for print, broadcast, online and adverts. A review and shake up of the regulatory regime would be both welcome and necessary. It would be preferable to reorganise the self-regulatory landscape along lines that acknowledge developments in law, regulation and technology than to keep manipulating the suite of out-of-date laws that surround it. If regulation took the funamental principles of the European Human Rights Convention as its backdrop and then worked outwards from that it could take regulation where it needs to be and create some clarity and workable rules for the media. This would be preferable to any legislative measures in areas such as privacy which successive parliaments have steered clear from and would be difficult to frame along the flexible lines that are required.


Ryanair scores PR hit with ad outrage

What may have been intended to be a cheeky ad has made its way into the headlines in what - giving the Ryanair PR team the benefit of the doubt - is some clever manipulation of the situation. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) received 13 complaints that the advert depicting an adult in schoolgirl's clothing was sexually suggestive in an inappropriate manner and - most likely for being held to account if they ran the ad rather than agreeing with the ASA or wanting to turn away the revenue - several papers refused to run it.
The ASA ruled that the advert breached s2.2 Social Responsibility and s5.1 Decency parts of the non broadcast advertising code

While the intent of the advert may not have been to be suggestive in an inappropriate manner - though the company can't realistically argue that the thought wouldn't have crossed its collective mind - the handling of the fallout has secured Ryanair primetime TV spots and front pages. Had they accepted the ASA's findings, withdrawn the ad and apologised then there might have been some comment but the fact that they openly taunted the ASA with their response that accused the ASA of being a "bunch of unelected self-appointed dimwits are clearly incapable of fairly and impartially ruling on advertising" ensured the story got picked up as news and has now hit the headlines.

While all of this may not have been deliberate the exposure Ryanair has got is priceless - if one were to go a step further one could even say that the decision to run the ad was linked more to the Britney association than to the inappropriate sexualisation of schoolgirls - given Britney's media exposure that association would also ensure the ad leveraged from the linkage.

A vox pop on one of this evening's news programmes summed up the reality of the situation - "what has it got to do with aeroplanes"


Should critics be subject to defamation law?

The Court of Appeal in Belfast has retired to consider its decision on whether to allow an appeal by the Irish News against a £25,000 libel award over a restaurant review.

As previously reported on Mediabeak, last year a jury decided that the paper should pay out for publishing a review of Goodfellas Restaurant in Belfast that was critical of the eating experience and awarded a low star rating. What may seemingly be a regular libel action harbours significant issues over whether subjective reviews should be subject to libel law and, if they are, what that means for the competing right of free speech.

More from MediaGuardian


Doors closed on open justice - Court of Appeal upholds gag on murder trial

The Court of Appeal has this week upheld an order that allows a significant proportion of a defendant's testimony to be held in secret. As previously reported on Mediabeak the case concerns the murder of a wealthy author, Allan Chappelow who died from head injuries following a burglary at his Hampstead home in June 2006.

The defendant and the media had petitioned the Home Secretary to allow the case to be heard in open court rather than behind closed doors. The state had successfully secured a gag over proceedings on the basis of national security. At the heart of the case lies the, as yet, and in light of the gag probably never, substantiated allegaton that the death of Chappelow may have had some connection with the securtiy services. The Court of Appeal has upheld the original order granted by Mr Justice Ouseley - insofar as the judge had 'correctly applied the relevant law to the facts before him' - which is legalspeak for the judge followed the letter of the law as far as it could be construed towards the state - i.e. played it safe.

This decision is a shame given that it was not just the media but the defendant who was keen to have full public exposure and discussion of the truth. It is another example of how 'national security' can be used to trump the truth even in the wake of the Human Rights Act. To add to gravitas, Mr Justice Ouseley's original order also cautioned journslists that speculation about the case could amont to contempt - so no pressure there! - Mediabeak would like to stress that this report does not speculate in any way about the case or its merits, it merely questions the right to obtain more information to prevent such speculation.


Multimedia trial coverage - local rape reaches international readers

Exeter based Express and Echo has been running a pilot programme that put its multimedia capabilities to the test through its reporting of a brutal rape that had left a profound affect on the city. Mediabeak reported on the pilot scheme that started earlier this month as the trial got underway at Exeter Crown Court of a polish man accused of raping a 48 year old mother in the centre of town. Showing little remorse, Tomczak had carried out what police descibed as one of the most horrendous crimes they had been asked to investigate. Whether the coverage achieved its aim of brining the trial closer to its readers is up for debate. It appears that while the local press provided welcome reportage, police were displeased by the Polish media's interpretation of the judicial process.



J'Accuse - Alastair Campbell attacks media over "culture of negativity"

The grand political puppetmaster of spin Alastair Campbell has this evening attacked the media over its "culture of negativity" and significant fall in standards. Delivering the Hugh Cudlipp lecture at the London College of Communication, Campbell used the platform to attack the sales and headline driven focus of the media, drawing on the ongoing McCann repoting as an example of what's wrong with how our press approach their subject matter.

More on this evening's talk from MediaGuardian

Mediabeak will be delivering a talk on the McCanns and the media - analysing the media's treatment(s) and approach to the story as it unfolded and how it still achieves front pages. (See further posting for details - talks will be held in February and March in London and Bournemouth)

Ofcom: Latest complaints bulletin - user generated content under fire

Ofcom's latest Complaints Bulletin, published today, finds Sumo TV in breach over inappropriate user generated content and sees MTV's Music Factory held to account over its automated competitions.

The issue of user generated content is particularly of note as the proliferation of UGC and 'social networking' sites such as You Tube or Facebook have led to cases that are setting the scene for what will be testing times for regulators, broadcasters and ISPs as they grapple with how to encourage interactivity while still policing standards in respect of the content that ends up being published and uploaded or downloaded.

Ofcom reminded broadcasters about its concerns over UGC:

"User-generated content
Ofcom is concerned that some channels broadcasting considerable amounts of user-generated content may attempt to place too much responsibility for ensuring compliance with the Code with the individual user, and not perform sufficient checks themselves. Responsibility for compliance with the Code always remains with the broadcaster. Proportionate but robust pre-broadcast checks may impose extra costs on the broadcaster, and limit the amount of user-generated content it can air. However, it is clearly important to ensure that people aged under eighteen are appropriately protected, and that individuals appearing in items are not unjustly or unfairly treated or have their privacy unwarrantably infringed. Ofcom therefore reminds licensees who broadcast user-generated content of their responsibilities to ensure full compliance with the Code, and in particular with the sections in respect of Protecting the Under Eighteens, Harm and Offence, and the Fairness and Privacy.

Broadcasters need to be aware that simply because material is available on the web, this does not mean that it is automatically suitable for broadcast on a licensed service which has to comply with the standards as set out in the Communications Act"

More analysis from Mediabeak to follow...


Privacy claim: Liz Hurley and Hugh Grant sue over holiday snaps

Liz Hurley, her husband Arun Nayar and Hugh Grant are heading to the High Court where they are suing picture agencies Big Pictures and Eliot Press for privacy invasion. Both agencies are no stranger to legal action - Ewan McGregor having secured a payout against Eliot Press over photographs taken while he was holidaying with his family in Mauritius while Big Pictures have been in the frame for several actions such as the famous David Beckham 'Golden Balls' picture.

The three friends are complaining about pictures that were taken while they shared a holiday in the Maldives last October. The rules and laws of privacy have seen much confusion in the past and inconsistency in the approach taken by the courts. Much of this centred around the notion that one only had - in line with the law and self-regulatory codes - a 'reasonable expectation of privacy' if one were somewhere truly private, in the sense it was not accessible (or meant to be) to the outside world. What recent rulings have clarified is that the human right to privacy as conferred by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and given effect to in the UK via the 1998 Human Rights Act, is portable. In other words, as a human right it attaches to the person rather than the location - if the activity, albeit in an ostensibly 'public' place, is of a private nature (and in absence of any competing right of the public or the press to expose wrongdoing or the invasion being justified by the deception it exposed) then the human right to privacy stands and the state directly and the press indirectly have a duty to respect and uphold that privacy.

This changing landscape and clearer delineation of privacy law has come via the European Court ruling in the case of Hanover v. Germany and was confirmed in the self-regulatory context through the PCC's adjudication over a complaint by Elle McPherson in January last year.

What is interesting and differentiates this case is that, according to reports, Hurley, her husband and former lover, are seeking restitution in the form of a share of the profits creamed off by the picture agencies rather than a straight and fixed damages award.

This makes sense. The pictures are out there and can't be retracted (though an injunction can secure they cannot be reissued) so why not profit from their sale? If the profits from sale are likely to be greater than a damages award then it makes sense to ask the court to order that option.

Another KEY reason for doing this that supports a TREND Mediabeak predicts is that by doing so the legal action changes - what the courts are being asked is to recognise the intellectual property worth of the image as a commodity (use of image obtained without permission and in an unlicensed manner) and/or data protection angle (one's image as captured on camera as being part of one's personal information). What this means is that what Hurley and others in her position would claim is that their picture has been used without permission for the commerical benefit of a third party and as such that third party has to compensate them for the loss of control over their image rights and - should they wish - being able to sell that picture themselves. This makes for a clearer cut commercial and hopefully also legal argument - one is no longer trying to balance the right of the celebrity to privacy against the media's (self) appointed right to report but is taken into a more easily quantifiable commercial context of the financial exploitation potential of their image.

What Hurley and similar legal actions will be saying is OK, I'm not hung up about my human right to privacy and want to get drawn into a ridiculous court battle over when one's actions or where one is might attract that human right BUT what I am saying is that you have used a picture of me and are trading off my celebrity or picture selling status to exploit my image without my permission - that's basically ripping me off and you will need to compensate me for it. This approach is making increasing sense and is more likely to find resonance in the courtrooms that are more used to ajudicating over property rights than they are over persona related rights.

So there is hope, not just for Hurley and their lawyer's success but for the emergence of a clearer legal landscape in relation to privacy and image rights and how the English and other legal systems deal with this historically thorny issue.


Who's suing who this week - Kate Moss, Suzanne Shaw and 'An East Grinstead Woman'

There's no let up in those upset by what they've seen or read - and while libel lawyers may have maligned a fairly static market over the past 18 months, there does seem to be a sustaining flow of cases coming through to play with. This weeks offerings are - according to unverified reports - being led by 34 year-old, 34 hour (or not, depending on which paper, mag or site you read) party girl Kate Moss. News of the World cited a 'source' as reason to believe she had rounded off her birthday celebrations with an orgy at the Dorchester hotel in London. Other papers had said she'd actually left her party and couldn't go the distance (whatever that was) so there are plenty of conflicting 'stories'.

However her partying ended it was not, apparently, in the form of an orgy and Mossy has apparently instructed Harbottle and Lewis to defend her honour.

Reports of legal action have so far been carried by purveyors of such news in the form of:
Entertainmentwise and Heatworld

Next up we have Suzanne Shaw - the former Hear'Say member who has made a return via the reality tv world that is Dancing on Ice - she's going to sue anyone who publishes details of or markets sex tapes that she has falsely been linked to. The tapes have been around since 2001 but have now regained their currency through her appearance on ice antics. If its not her in the pictures then the real person has missed an opportunity to sell their story to the tabloids - "It was me in those pics" - meanwhile anyone trying to make money out of Shaw-lookalike sex should know that she's on their case. That case could however be a difficult one to police or prove if clips that have previously done the rounds resurface on the likes of YouTube with not discernible originator.

And finally we turn to what the Press Gazette reported on as "a legal battle for libel damages brought by an East Grinstead woman". The woman in question goes under the name of Amber Daunt and she's particularly displeased with 'Take a Break' (Kitkat being optional) magazine over an article she claims was defamatory and in respect of which she is seeking £200,000 damages. There aren't too many details on what caused her such upset but in tabloid parlance 'its got Amber seeing red'.

Four jailed for defaming student on Facebook

In what could be one of the first cases of its kind, four people have been jailed for defamation following a complaint by a female student that they had posted pictures taken without her permission as well as offensive and sexually defamatory comments that had appeared on the social networking site. As Mediabeak reported recently, bulletin board and chatroom contributors need to beware as what they may consider to be personal postings are very much public publications and as such subject to defamation law.

This case is (as far as Mediabeak can ascertain) the first where Facebook users have been in the frame for posting objectionable content - there have been cases where Facebook comment has been cited in evidence to prove criminal intent but not in relation to defamation. The current case took place in Lebanon and was proscecuted under criminal law rather than via press related laws. There is some controversy surrounding the detention of the four accused. After a week in jail they were released but have still to stand trial.

Another interesting point is that the perpetrators found out that they were being reported to the authorities and deleted all the comments but the victim had saved copies and these were admitted as proof. From a legal point of view removing a posting will prevent it from further being capable of being defamatory but it will not make the fact it was online and capable of being read by infinite amounts of people go away - it was still published and the fact and effect of that publication will be admissable as evidence.

There are differences across jurisdictions in how defamation is litigated - in this case the criminal option was used while in the UK one would follow a civil action. Facebook itself is not liable as has a disclaimer in its terms of use and cannot be expected to police all of the content it facilitates worldwide. If however it had been made aware of misuse of its service and offensive material and done nothing to address or prevent this then arguably it could attract liability.

What is clear is that what may be seen as 'social networking' is equally 'social comment' and where such comment is defamatory it will be subject to the same laws as any other form of publication.

More in this case from Menassat - an interesting Lebanese site Mediabeak has been reading

Hellish kitchen - restaurant libel case puts press freedom to the test

As previously commented upon by Mediabeak, The Irish News is heading to the Court of Appeal in Belfast this week to contest a £25,000 libel ruling it was hit with last year over a review its restuarant critic Caroline Workman had provided back in 2000. Reviews are normally seen a subjective criticism and part of the wider review landscape so last year's ruling that saw the Irish News fined for carrying a critical review of Goodfellas came as an unwelcome surprise for it and the wider media who understandably regard this as a damning blow to free speech. There is an established assumption that reviews are subjective and in publishing them, newspapers are presenting rather than condoning the views expressed in them. The question that arises is to what extent can such fee speech be immune from sanction?

Defamation is predicated upon the publication of statements that damage the reputation of an individual, organisation or business, in this case a restaurant. One defence is to prove that the statement is true.

This poses problems when it comes to reviews, be they of restaurants, or anything else for that matter. The whole nature of a review is subjective, presenting the opinion of the reviewer, and hence there is no true of false.

So if the Belfast Appeal Court fails to allow the appeal then this will be bad news for the press and the ability to offer 'critique' over life's gastronomic, literary and artiscitc offerings. While comment shouldn't be allowed to irresponsibly ruin commercial enterprise of a gastronomic or artistic nature, it does have a place to assess the quality of these enterprises in the context of the public they serve. So if you can't stand the heat get out of the proverbial kitchen - one doesn't see the likes of Gordon Ramsay get all precious over a review - instead he growls in his various kitchens and ensures the product is right and the review will (in most cases) take care of itself.

Check back with Mediabeak for the latest from the appeal hearing after it gets underway on Wednesday.


McCann watch: Express stoops to new lows to secure headline

Having moved on from Diana conspiracy theories the Express has now turned its attentions to the McCanns. Its editorials have offered nothing of 'newsbreaking' value to the Diana coverage and have provided nothing beyond recycled stories in relation to the McCanns. This Sunday's offering, suggesting the 'agony' of Madeleine had led to a McCann 'split' was as gratuitous and cheap as it was substanceless - as noted by Greenslade.

It is perhaps surprising that the McCann's have managed to remain focused and togther INSPITE of the media coverage that has been driven by speculation rather than substance. Greenslade's rebuke is totally justified and hopefully the PCC will be engaged to deal with this cheap excuse of a headline. Having spotted the headline, Mediabeak did decide to read the story but all it confirmed was that the Express is as far away from a real investigative scoop or news story as it has been for quite some time. So the money one might have wasted on buying a print copy may aid its struggling circulation but will not enhance its reputation.

What the McCann coverage and even the repositioning of our heroic BA flight Captain and First Officer reporting tell us is that the tabloids are experts at packaging and selling stories but the stories of today are no match for the proper news that used to be delivered by the press of yesteryear.


Sienna Miller wins further privacy ruling

As Mediabeak reported in December. Sienna Miller won a privacy payout from The Sun and News of the World which had featured illicit photographs taken from the set of the movie 'Hippie Hippie Shake'.

As Mediabeak pointed out last month. Miller was not going to walk away from the legal action until she had also silenced the photographer who had sold the offending pictures to the press. The picture agency, Xposure and publishers News Group Newspapers have already been hit with a £37,500 + legal costs payout but this week it was photographer Warren Richardson's turn to face the music and payout for this privacy invasion. High Court Judge Mr Justice Eady granted an injunction preventing further disseminating the offending pictures and ordered that sneaky snapper Richardson would have to pay the costs of the litigation as well as damages to be assessed at a later date - Richardson can only hope that his fee from 'Xposure' was worth it.



Mediabeak on the rise in PCC complaints - online access fuels rise in PCC complaints

As Mediabeak reported yesterday, the number of complaints handled by the PCC in the last year has continued to rise but what lies behind the increase? Are we faced with a less responsible press or a more vigilant audience and accesible complaints procedures?

While complaints about the press have increased, this is as much due to the accessibility and transparency of the process as it is about the misbehaviour of the press. The PCC is tasked with policing the online environment and has now also got jurisdiction over audio-visual online content (via a remit extension granted early in 2007 - that saw its first case in August last year)

With complaints reaching record levels Mediabeak was interested to ascertain the split between online and print generated complaints. The PCC has swiftly and kindly provided the following information:

55% of complainants provided online versions of articles, compared to 45% who provided the hard copies.

This statistic is interesting not in relation to the basis for the complaint but for what it tells us about where the complained of story originates from. Consistent with a trend in online news readership being greater than print, more complainants link to online articles as the originating source of their complaint than hard copy print versions. This can be further explained by two factors: first, that more people access, source, browse or stumble upon news via the internet and second, once posted, the majority of stories remain available directly or via archive online. Whereas in the past someone may have passed on an outrageous story they had read in a paper as 'hearsay' such hearsay is now replaced by an online search that allows an infinitely wide audience of people to directly access and see that which may have offended the originating person.

So while some may say its a bad thing complaints continue to rise, the other side of the argument is that such increase is good in that is shows that the press and readership are increasing interaction and feedback through a regulatory system that works. The PCC and its effectiveness may have been maligned in the past by individuals who thought they did not have sufficient protection or compensation from the press but as a self-regulatory body it is becoming more visible, relevant and effecitve. So an increase in complaints is actually a good thing in that is shows that self-regulation can work.


BBC Newsnight faces gag over Diana inquest debate

Pressure is being put on BBC's Newsnight programme not to broadcast its debate on whether the ongoing Diana inquest is a complete waste of time. The issue is currently being debated on their website and is due to be aired as part of the programme tonight. As Times online reports, Lord Justice Scott Baker's office is understood to have contacted Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General airing their fears that the programme could potentially prejudice the inquest.

In absence of an injunction the Attorney General might not have the legal authority to prevent the programme but could put pressure on the BBC to pull the segment.

As an official inquest it is still subject to the laws of contempt and if the programme could be deemed to pose a realistic and serious threat insofar as it would undermine the credibility of the Coroner's Court and any verdict it delivers then that could arguably give grounds for an injunction BUT the counter argument here would be that the debate Newsnight is airing merely reflects public sentiment and as such would not be capable of undermining the inquest.

The other option would be to construct the debate around the wider context of whether more than 10 years on we should still be digging up the past. If one avoided specific reference to aspects or credibility of the inquiry then one could argue that it would not be contemptuous as it is merely a discussion of public affairs - an exception under contempt law.

All will be revealed when the programme airs later tonight.

PCC: Press complaints reach all time high

A McCann related piece that critical of the Portuguese and a tasteless sticker in Heat magazine drove complaints about the press to record levels in 2007. Figures released by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC)this week reveal a 31% increase in complaints over 2006 to 4340 for 2007. As the two biggest offenders, Heat's tasteless sticker accounted for 143 complaints while Tony Parson's critique of Portuguese - specifically their police - in the Mirror attracted 485 complaints.

As in previous years, the increase can in part be attributed to a more visible, accessible and efficient process for making complaints. Mediabeak would also suggest that it points towards the increasing trend of interactivity between the public and its press. Technology has given the public the tools to be more engaged, interact with and report on the reporters of news. How news comes to air or appears online has been demystified and to the extent there are more news outlets and opportunities for the public to peruse, they have become more critical as consumers.

Another factor that needs to be taken into account with these figures is the fact that the PCC's remit has also been extended to cover the online environment. What would have been useful is a breakdown of how many of the complaints related to online stories as opposed to print ones. Year on year it could turn out that one is not comparing like with like.

Mediabeak has raised this with the PCC and hopes for a response ahead of waiting for the full annual report being provided.

PCC Chairman Sir Christopher Meyer commented:
“These figures reflect three things: the PCC’s greater visibility from a permanent campaign to publicise its services throughout the UK; the extension of the Commission’s remit to cover more information than ever before, including video material on the websites of newspapers and magazines; and growing confidence among the public in what the Commission has to offer. This now ranges from confidential settlements, through published c or rections and apologies, to formal rulings against newspapers and magazines, many of which took forward our case law on the vexed question of where to set the boundary between private life and information that is legitimately in the public interest.

Beyond this, we placed an increased emphasis in 2007 on sorting out problems before publication, which could otherwise have led to a formal complaint. This included in particular deploying our anti-harassment service and dispersing media scrums.”

Politics prevails over process: Secrecy order imposed on murder trial

As mediabeak reported yesterday, a secrecy order was being sought over a murder trial on the grounds of 'national security'. The media and the defendant had contested the order arguing that a right to a fair trial and a free press should prevail over state-infused intervention but Mr Justice Ousley has ruled that parts of the trial are to be held in secret. The difficulty for the media with such gags is that the basis for their order derives from material or information that is itself classified secret and so can not be placed under scrutiny. So where the state persuades a judge that the material is top secret and/or as in this case, would lead to the collapse of the trial were secrecy not to be granted then the judge is the sole arbiter.

More from


UK murder trial tests open justice: will it prevail over political attempts to secure a secret trial

The impartiality of the judiciary and its ability to safeguard the fundamental cornerstones of democracy in the form of open justice and press freedom is being put to the test this week in the run up to a murder trial.

UK media heavyweights are challenging a request by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to have the trial heard 'in camera' behind closed doors under the spurious pretext that it is in the interests of national security so to do. As Mediabeak previously reported the trial, due to start on the 23rd of January, concerns the murder of an author, Allan Chappelow in June 2006. A 45 year old financial trader, Wang Yam is on trial for murder. As part of his defence, Yam had handed over a list of people who he contends are the true and likely suspect in the murder case. It is this list the Home Secretary is seeking to gag.

Here we have the unusual scenario whereby the person accused wants the press to hear what's being said and presented in court, the media want to report what the court is being presented with but the state wishes to suppress the evidence for fear of implicating its own or 'compromising national security'. It is a fundamental tenet of justice that such a case be in the open. The defendant has a right to defend himself with evidence and the media have a right to report on this as well as the evidence led by the prosecution.

Why was an 86 year old recluse murdered and who wants to cover it up?

Frances Gibb from The Times tried to answer this in a previous article.

It is to be hoped that justice will prevail and that Mr Justice Ousley who has the task of deciding will give suitable weight to the Human Rights Act and underlying European Convention principles. If not, it is a slippery slope for open justice and the media's ability to report on it.

More from:
The Times
The Telegraph

Bing Bong Bosh - where's the News at Ten

As the battle to decide which is the greatest news programme of them all hots up, ITV is upping the stakes by banishing the ad break from its relaunched 10pm news programme. Having lost the ‘opening night’ ratings war to the BBC it appears ITV execs are fighting back. While they claim it is a commercial decision – and an expensive one at that - it does seem to be a bit of a coincidence that they choose to announce this the day after the programme relaunches – surely it would make sense to have launched it in ad free format.

Both programmes have been accused of being ‘light’ on news for their head-to-head debut but that’s perhaps a bit cynical. We have to remember that with 24 hour news on the net and tv, these flagship programmes are as much about entertainment as they are about delivering anything substantially new. That having been said, they do offer an opportunity to move their journalism from soundbites to background and insight pieces offering more or a wrap-up of news events and analysis. Hopefully this is the direction they’ll take, using their access to interview ‘exclusives’, technical capabilities (ITV’s live link from under a glacier was impressive even if not cutting edge news), graphics capabilities to enhance coverage rather than substitute for substance.

Read all about it:
First night defeat HERE
News hasn't moved on HERE
Clash of the ten o'clock titans HERE

Abramovitch sues The Sun over suggestion he’d dined on Mourinho’s head

As previously reported on Mediabeak, Roman Abramovitch is heading for the high court this month where he is suing The Sun for suggesting he had acted in an unprofessional manner in commenting on former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. Headlining its story in a way that only The Sun or Star can, it had a picture of Abramovitch brandishing a knife and fork about to tuck into a plate on which was superimposed the head of Mourinho along with the caption “Rom: I ate Jose! Jibe by Chelsea boss”. Abramovitch failed to see the funny side to the suggestion that he had downplayed Mourinho’s contribution to the club and proceeded to issue a writ.

The Sun may wish to check in with colleagues at The Times who defended a libel action over comments about Southampton FC Chairman Rupert Lowe. That case centred on the less graphic comment that Southampton boss Rupert Lowe had behaved ‘shabbily’ over the depature of the club's manager. It saw the jury award a staggering £250,000 in libel damages - this was subsequently reduced to £50,000.

Journalists hospitalised after TV station holds staff captive in dismissal dispute

Buenos Aires TV station Canal 9 has outraged human rights groups after it held five of its staff captive for 60 hours without allowing them access to water or toilets and turning off air conditioning and power. A dispute erupted after six colleagues were dismissed by the broadcaster. The journalists, all employees of Canal 9, had initially been prevented from entering their workplace but having managed to get in, management order the unlawful detention that resulted in two people being rushed to hospital.

This example of how not to resolve employment disputes is at odds with Argentina’s Labour Laws and a flagrant abuse of human rights.

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Somalia ranked second most dangerous place for journalists after Iraq

Reporters Sans Frontiers has called on Somalia to end its abuse of press freedom and violation of journalists’ rights. With eight journalists having been killed in 2007, Somalia ranks as the second most dangerous country for journalists to operate in after Iraq.

RSF points to a complete lack of protection for journalists, especially in relation to security forces who make a habit of arresting and detaining them. One journalist remains in a critical condition after being shot in the face when gunmen stormed a radio station last week.

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Bulletin board posters beware: comment is free – but not from defamation laws.

There have been numerous internet libel cases – notably the libel action by childless doyenne of childrearing, Gina Ford against the website by and for mothers – mumsnet.com – over comments posted about her on its discussion boards. One might be lured into a false sense of security that one is able to comment, vent ones opinions and even anger in cyberspace without comeback – not so. Defamation laws, while aged and less than satisfactory, do extend to cyberspace any ‘derogatory’ comments ‘published’. Just because a comment is on a message board for a seemingly closed community on a particular website does not mean its reach and potential effect should be underestimated.

Defamation law is engaged by the act of publication and the fact that the material published has the potential to lower the person being referred to in the ‘estimation of right thinking people generally’. So if someone’s reputation has the potential to be lessened as a result of what’s published they have the makings of a defamation action.

As the Telegraph reports this week, those contributing to financial bulletin boards may think they are debating what to long and short in the city but in doing so they are exposing themselves to litigation and a series of cases are winging their way to court to prove the point.

As Mediabeak knows from time spent at the coalface of broadcast journalism compliance, a seemingly innocuous statement that, for example, the lack of strategic focus (of X company) seems to be affecting the share price, can within minutes attract an enraged phone call from the company’s head office demanding an explanation.

So as libel law stands – unless you are satisfied that you can prove that what you have said, asserted, suggested or alluded to is true, you could be looking at a big bill for any comment you can’t prove to be true – or at least based on facts that are substantially true (thereby possibly availing yourself of a ‘fair comment’ defence).

Nuts sued: lapdancer says magazine faked interview about 'down and dirty' sex romp with Dannii Minogue

Lads mag Nuts is being sued for falsely attributing interview quotes to a lap dancer who had been caught on cctv in what the tabloids headlined as a 'lesbian sex romp' with Dannii Minogue.

The News of the World had first exposed its 'exclusive' story of how Dannii had been dirty 'dannii-ing' with Janine Marshall, who was at the time a lap dancer at London's Puss In Boots club. Marshall known as 'Jupiter' had given an interview to the paper and expressed her regret that her mum found out about her career through the press. She had not however given any interview to Nuts magazine which proceeded to patch one together headlined "Dannii Minogue played with my boobs", drawing largely on extracts from the News of the World story. The magazine even put the 'intetview' into first person and allegedly invented quotes. As the Press Gazette reports today, Marshall is now suing Nuts for false attribution and making the interview up.

Dannii Minogue has previously litigated over the story, eventually securing copyright over the leaked cctv pictures. That didn't help her much as the pictures still found their way onto the internet.

Marshall's, like Minogue's legal (as opposed to lap) action is based on the moral right of ownership in relation to copyright. Under the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act (CDPA), copyright falls into 'ownership' in the commercial sense - in this case Nuts is accused of lifting quotes and text from the News of the World so it would be the paper as commercial owner of that copyright who might have a right of action - BUT the author of a copyright work (such as a documented interview or a published statement) retains what is termed the'moral' right of ownership in the work. That right includes the right not to have comment falsely attributed to oneself or derogatory treatment of the work. It will be interesting to see (1) if this gets to court without settling ans (2) if it gets to court what level of damages a court would deem appropriate in these circumstances.

s84 CDPA - False Attribution

Another case involving cctv footage stolen from nightclub


McCann Watch: Maddy for hire - little legal protection to prevent this perversion

There's no let up in the McCann coverage which as Mediabeak reported last week continues to track the search for fact and the continued versions of the fiction. With nothing tangible coming from the continued police investigation the McCann's want to seize the initiative and challenge police to either charge or clear them from their 'arguido' suspect status. Given that Madeleine remains unfound and her disappearance unexplained, Kate and Gerry McCann want the Portuguese police to give them some respite from their pain by releasing them from the suspect status. All the police have to hang on to - beyond their maligned secrecy laws - are the McCanns themseleves as suspects and the seemingly enigmatic persona that is Robert Murat.

Meanwhile, this week's media coverage has moved on from speculation about a possible movie deal - which the McCanns strenusously deny - to the sick parasitic people that are peddling a 'Maddy Lookalike' for a reported £600 per outing.

As Sky News and other media report, the Juliet Adams Model Agency is offering a Madeleine lookalike for hire and also hopes that they can sell her in to any movie company that makes a film about Madeleine. The agency has defended its actions as have the parents of three year old Kelsey Lynn Kudla, who - according to The Sun - say they merely want to help. How altruistic of them. They as the agency have come under fire for their tasteless attempt to expoit the situation.

While distasteful it is not necessarily illegal. This begs the question what can Madeleine (in absentia) and or her parents do on her behalf to prevent others using her image and story for commercial gain? Ones image is a personal private right and the use of it or representation of it is covered by privacy laws and also intellectual property laws such as copyright or 'passing off' under trademark law. However these laws are phrased around invading someones privacy or misappropriating their original work or image but do not provide for a situation such as this where a lookalike child may be used as a 'stand in' for Madeleine McCann. Beyond a crime reconstruction or movie its difficult to envisage when such a 'stand in' would be used but if the stand in is being freely provided and then used to depict a story that is in the public domain, it is difficult to construct that as an invasion of privacy or misappropriation of image.

So, sick and opportunistic as it may seem its not illegal. Despite her parents protestations, it is ultimately Kelsey Lynn Kudla who is being exploited as much as the situation and some may say this is in itself another form of abuse of a three year old who can hardly consent to the context she is being used in.

Cecilia Sarkozy fails to ban book and criticisms of 'President Bling Bling'

The former wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy has failed to persuade a Paris court to issue an order preventing publication of a book about her. Cecilia Sarkozy had wanted to prevent publication of the book bearing her name by author Anna Bitton on the grounds that it contained unflattering remarks about her former husband that she claims were wrongly attributed to her or taken out of context.

The book is one of several that examine the woman who was behind the French presidential candidate, now president and discuss her influenc on him as well as his shortcomings behind the political spotlight. Her attempt to ban the book may be fuelled out of some residual deference to her former husband or desire to prevent unnecessary scandal - or accusation that she was (as she is entitled to) behaving like the woman scorned. The court was not however persuaded to ban the book and public interest in it, as in the president is describes, is as great as ever.

Both in polical and private life Nicolas Sarkozy doesn't seem to hang about and is moving quickly on with legislative measures as well as his new relationship and love with former Italian model, Carla Bruni. The French press have already shared their public's intrigue with the 'speedy' president - or as the front page of Liberation captioned him 'President Bling Bling'

Back in Britain, the Independent today ran a piece on the book Cecilia tried to ban

Other papers discussed whether Sarkozy might become engaged to and possibly even marry Carla Bruni before his official visit to the UK later in the year. According to the media, the Queen would welcome the move as it would spare 'one' having the awkward situation of offring two bedrooms when Sarkozy stays at Windsor Castle.

Let's big it up for bling-bling and hope he's as good for his country as he's proving to be at livening up its political media coverage.


Slovenia accused of media interference

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) - part of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has accused the Slovenian Government of hiding behind its European Union Presidency and ignoring the issue of press censorship at home. 571 journalists have signed a petition calling on the Slovenian Government to refrain from engaging in censorship and its persistent attempts to exert undue influence on the freedom of the press to comment and criticise on the political process and wider issues in Slovenia.

Local journalists reacted angrily this week to publicity material compiled by state press officers that glossed over the issue and tried to present a different picture to its intended audience of international journalists and observers.



Diana Inquest - Al Fayed's media man under fire for spinning

Mohamed Al Fayed's media adviser Michael Cole was given a rough ride when he appeared at the inquest into the deaths of Diana and Dodi this week. Under scrutiny were his statements to the press in the aftermath of the fatal crash in August 2007. He had tried to slice his story two ways and made a cynical complaint to the PCC about the media's coverage in the process. Mohamed Al Fayed's position was and is that Diana and Dodi were to be engaged and that she was pregnant. This was the reason they were, in his mind, the victims of a planned assasination by security services and not a tragic accident. Having been told by Al Fayed that this was the case, Cole had briefed the media that there was not a "scrap of evidence" to suggest this and went as far as complaining to the PCC when some newspapers suggested the pregnanacy theory. The Coroner, Lord Scott Baker considered this complaint to have been somewhat disingenuous.

More from Guardian Unlimited

Daily Mail pays out to pilot over misleading 'date rape' claim

The Daily Mail has been forced to pay 'substantial' damages to a British Airways pilot over allegations he was being investigated after two air stewardesses had been given a date rape drug. 50 year old Captian Tony Pollock had complained about the article headlined 'BA pilot facing inquiry over date rape drug'. The story had suggested he was being investigated for involvement in administering the drug when in actual fact his only connection was that he had been cited as not having done enough in response to the stweardesses feeling unwell in the aftermath of the incident. An internal investigation had cleared him of any failing in his duty of care towards his fellow colleagues.

Aside from his grievance with the Mail, Pollock poured scorn on the English libel system - in particular the fact that legal aid is not avaialble to those wishing to bring a defamation action when they have been harmed by the publication of untrue or misleading facts.

Pollock has a valid point and one which needs addressing. Following the historically longest and highly publicised 'McLibel' case, the European Court found that in not making legal aid available to defendants in libel actions it had failed in its obligations under human rights legislation - judgment details HERE Press report HERE. This has been addressed but not in the coherent and satisfactory manner that is required, or the European Court may have intended. As the law stands if one is accused of libel then, subject to qualifying for the criteria and means test one can apply for legal aid to defend a libel action BUT where one is the person defamed one cannot correspondingly apply for legal aid to bring an action. This is wrong and absurd and the law will need to be reviewed and addressed to remedy this situation. To the extent that human rights law demands that ones should be able to defend oneself fairly in a court of law, it must logically provide for the corresponding right to bring and action.

Tom Cruise wedding picture extortionist escapes jail sentence

A computer repairer who had tried to extort over £1m dollars from Tom Cruise for stolen wedding pictures has been sentenced to two years probation and fined $3000. A photographer had entrusted Marc Gittleman with the repair of his computer but when Gittleman discovered over 7,000 pictures of Cruise’s 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes on its hard drive he decided it was a good idea to copy and use them to blackmail Cruise.

He enlisted the help of a serial celebrity picture peddler (who has since committed suicide) and tried to get Cruise to hand over $1.3m. Having shown suitable contrition for his shame, the judge at the District Court in Los Angeles took pity on him and agreed with lawyers from both parties that it was not necessary to send him to jail.



Golf Channel suspends presenter over Tiger Woods lynching jibe

US cable tv station the Golf Channel has suspended its anchor Kelly Tilghman for an offensive choice of phrase in discussing Tiger Woods performance at the second round of the PGA Tour season. In what she conceded was a poor choice of words she commented to Nick Faldo that if other players wanted to challenge Woods they'd have to "lynch him in a back alley".

She claimed this was all in jest and that she's known Tiger for over a decade and this was not meant to be offensive but her bosses at the channel took appropriate action making it clear that alluding to the lynch mob actions of the past was not acceptable, least not on air. Her comments were accepted as jest by Woods but civil rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton has got on the case and is demanding Tilghman's scalp (metaphorically of course!)

The media are making mileage out of this - reports from Reuters
ABC News

Express and Echo pilots blanket multimedia coverage on rape trial

The Express and Echo newspaper is planning to exploit its full multimedia capabilities to bring readers rolling coverage of a rape trial. The trial which starts next week is expected to last three weeks and has attracted large local interest following the brutal rape of a 48 year old mother.

In addition to several pages in the newspaper, readers can logon to the paper's website where there will be hourly updates and video reports from outside the court. Readers will also be treated to text alerts so they can be kept up to date with the trial while on the move.

This is the closest to streaming live video footage from inside the court that multimedia news can deliver but will put the paper's editorial compliance to the test as there are strict reporting restrictions - in relation to rape cases in particular and contempt rules in general - that will need to be observed.

Full details from HoldTheFrontPage

France to scrap ads on state TV

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has this week announced plans to scrap adverts on state funded broadcasters. The move, aimed at increasing the quality of programming, would be the most radical reform seen in the country's advertising market and give commercial broadcasters access to an estimated 800 million Euros of advertising spend. The flip side is that the state sector would have to make up the ad revenue shortfall by taxing ad revenues on commercial channels and possibly levying modest taxes on internet and mobile phone users.

The risk is that if commercial channels get taxed on ad revenue they will hike prices to offset the additional tax burden. This could also reduce competition in the market as broadcast ad spots are reduced.

More from Reuters

Plea to free French journalists from death sentence

French media are putting pressure on the French government and the president of the west African country of Niger to release two journalists who are being held for visiting north Niger’s Tuareg rebels without permission. The journalists working for the Arte television channel, face the death penalty if found guilty of the charges.

Earlier this week Le Monde published an open letter appealing to Niger’s president to free reporter Thomas Dandois and his cameraman Pierre Creisson and Liberation has added its weight by publishing a piece criticising the government for not doing more to secure the release of the two men.

Fresh reports also suggest that UK Foreign Secretary, David Milliband is also being lobbied on behalf of Dandois who holds a British passport and has relatives in Scotland.



PCC censures OK! for privacy breach

While OK! is busy suing Heat for infringing its copyright, it has fallen foul of the PCC code on privacy after identifying a woman (not unknown to the public) as having attended Alcoholics Anonymous with her male friend. Clause 3 of the PCC code sets out what editors should observe in relation to privacy and speculation based around pictures that invade the private sphere by discussing inherently private matters such as addiction and treatment for it.

The PCC was not impressed by OK!'s excuses - read full adjudication HERE and upheld the complaint.

Pictures and stories relating to celebrities and others attending alcoholics anonymous have been subject to extensive scrutiny and a less than satisfactory final judgment - in the case of Naomi Campbell and the Mirror. In short, you can expose someone as lying or deceiving the public but you can't intrude on or discuss the afflictions they may have without attracting complaint about privacy invasion - except if you're dealing with Britney Spears where the behaviours, afflictions and attendant coverage are already way off any self-regulatory scale.

More on Campbell v Mirror HERE and House of Lords judgment HERE

OK! sues Heat over pregnant Britney sister exclusive

OK! is suing rival celebrity magazine Heat for copyright infringement over an interview with Britney Spears' pregnant sister, Jamie Lynn Spears.

OK! had secured an 'exclusive' interview with Britney Spears' sister in which the 16 year old revealed she was pregnant - particularly topical given the media coverage about parenting in the wider Spears family. This propelled sales of OK! in the US towards the 2 million mark in the run up to Christmas.

Heat magazine had 'borrowed' - or 'quoted extensively' from OK!'s exclusive to the extent that OK! considers this to exceed any fair use and amount to blatant copyright infringement.

OK! is no stranger to litigation and the courtroom having seen off yet another celebrity magazine, Hello, in an epic court battle pegged on the rights to exclusive photographs of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones' wedding. In that case OK! piggy-backed what was essentially a commercial damages claim for loss to sales through Hello's spoiler on the Douglas' privacy and confidentiality in their agreement with OK! over the exploitation of their wedding pictures.

A magazine - and in this case its publisher, Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell company - that will go the distance through the courts to protect its commercial interests (as it did in its litigation with Hello) is not going to let this 'extensive' borrowing from its exclusive pass unnoticed or uncompensated in the ever competitive celebrity magazine market.

So what's wrong with Heat quoting a bit from the OK! interview? This depends on how the parties and the court will interpret the context and 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act. Yes, one can make fair use of some attributed material but when one republishes a substantial or significant part of an original work - be that narrative, opinion or, as in this case, interview - then that can amount to infringement. In a commercial setting you can't just reproduce large sections of an interview from another magazine - even if you attribute it - if the effect is that you are basing your story substantially on the content from another source. This is particularly contentious when dealing with an 'exclusive' interview where the exclusivity (where genuine) means that the information is not readily available for the public or wider media to report on. It is the publisher that secures the 'exclusive' that at the same time buys itself commercial control over the copy it produces from such an interview.

Given OK!s track record it would be a brave and deep-pocketed Heat magazine that seeks to fight this one out in court. A settlement that compensates for the overzealous 'borrowing' seems most likely.

Heat magazine is still on the reputational back foot for the distasteful stickers it gave away towards the end of last year. It would do best to cut its reputational and financial losses and secure a few exclusives of its own.


McCann watch - Cuddle Cat holds the key

As we move into 2008 there is still no sign that Madeleine McCann will be found or that the investigations of either the Portuguese police or detective agency Metodo 3 have got any closer to solving the mystery surrounding Madeleine's disappearance.

To the extent there have been no tangible results, the media has kept the story alive through the steady flow of new angles, gossip and misinformation that still makes its way onto tabloid front pages, websites and broadcast bulletins.

The latest 'news' highlights the bipolarity of the coverage:
On the one hand there is the investigation and reports today that the Portuguese police wish to reinterview the Tapas 9 - the friends with whom the McCann's dined on the night Madeleine disappeared. As Mediabeak reported last month, the 'Tapas 9' recently had a reunion so will at least be prepared for another round of questioning.
On the other, the 'story' and confirmed reports that representatives of the McCanns have met with an entertainment company to discuss a potential film about Madeleine.

In absence of any breakthrough and given the difficulties in obtaining any sensible information other than 'leaks from official sources' to the Portuguese media, the story has grown very long legs of its own. The story is the news and the protagonists and story-tellers have long eclipsed Madeleine as the focus of 'news'. This poses an awkward dilemma for the McCanns who have done all they thought they could and all they thought was right to find Madeleine - or at least highlight the fact she still needs to be found - but in doing so turned the focus on themselves and ignited a media monster that is proving as difficult to tame as it is enduring.

The irony in this tragic case is that laws that were meant to protect and assist the investigation have actually forced public perception and media reporting to follow lines of inquiry that are increasingly speculative, founded on scant availability of facts and are likely to be far more prejudicial than offering sensible updates on the investigation might have been.

The one key witness which holds the secret to what happened to Madeleine and who fresh reports claim the police are keen to reinterview - is Cuddle Cat - the toy Madeleine clutched and had in bed with her when she was presumably taken - the toy Kate McCann has clutched onto as tightly as she does the hope that Madeleine will be found. Only Cuddle Cat knows what happened - why would and abductor leave behind the cuddly toy that gives their victim comfort and if they awoke might prevent them from crying? Cuddle Cat holds the key but cannot talk and any traces of stray DNA will have long been messed up.

It is to be hoped that a miracle or the bullish bragging of Metodo 3 that they will find Madeleine does provide an answer soon. Without a breakthrough the quality of media coverage is likely to become as strained as the pegs upon which it can be hooked.

ASBO reporting restrictions - ruling highlights misconceived and misconstrued system

A journalist has been refused information on ASBO recipients after the Information Tribunal ruled that Camden Council does not need to supply information about the recipients of ASBOs. As the Press Gazette reports today, Guardian journalist David Leigh had requested information about the ASBOs it had issued in 2006 from the council but been refused. The Information Commissioner subsequently overruled the council's decision last February but his ruling has now been overturned by the Tribunal. [RULING HERE]

In upholding the Council's decision to refuse the information, the Tribunal adjudicated that the Freedom of Information Act did not require the Council to release the information and cited the 1998 Data Protection Act as justification for protecting the identities of the individuals. Leigh has decided not to take his quest further - not least because the whole appeal process takes too long - but the case highlights the grossly unsatisfactory state of affairs when it comes to clarity in the rules and their application when it comes to reporting ASBOs.

Rules relating to the reporting of ASBOs (Anti Social Behaviour Orders) have caused confusion since the orders were first introduced. Much of this stems from the fact that they are civil orders issued by a council to deter antisocial behaviour and do not therefore have criminal effect or fall under the normal reporting restrictions and rules for criminal cases. In making an ASBO, it is discretionary for a council to name those who are subject to it. This seems at odds with the idea that the point of these orders is to stamp down on antisocial behaviour in communities and 'name & shame' those who engage in such behaviour. The Sun newspaper ran its own 'Shop a Yob' campaign along these lines. What this latest ruling seems to imply is that the ASBOs are there for the state - in the form of councils - to use but that when it comes to letting the press or public know who's subject to an order they can hide behind data protection law.

This is nonsense - Soham murderer Ian Huntley had remained under the radar of police in the time before his heinous crime partly because of such a flawed interpretation of what the Data Protection Act requires. If you are going to subject people to orders relating to how they behave in their community then that community and the media who report on it have a right to transparency and to know who is deemed antisocial. Just as people have a right to know if they have a paedophile living on their street or their estate, they have a right to know what other malfeasants inhabit their community. The Data Protection Act is there to protect sensitive, personal information - bank accounts, medical records and such like, however its being extended to cover any information, the release of which could be to the detriment of the subject. The argument surely is that if someone has engaged in antisocial behaviour then they should be subject to scrutiny.

Reporting restrictions become even more ridiculous when one is dealing with juveniles (those under 18). Even if they have previously been identified as subject to and ASBO, where a juvenile disobeys their ASBO and ends up in front of the magistrates courts on criminal charges, the court has the power (under the Children and Young Persons Act) to restrict the identification of the subject of the ASBO. So you end up with a situation whereby someone who continues with antisocial behaviour and goes on to commit an offence is then entitled to anonymity. The courts have in the past also ruled that magistrates should exercise caution when identifying juveniles and that they should not allow them to be identified as part of their punishment.

Its time there were some more sensible rules around the reporting of ASBOs to prevent such situations arising in the future. Its also time to revisit the Data Protection Act and its application to clarify its interpretation so that a better balance can be struck under human rights laws between freedom of information and the rights of individuals to keep sensitive information about themselves private.

Sneaky Chef sues Seinfeld

Book wars - Sneaky Chef claims Deceptively Delicious cookbook is deceptive.

The author of a best-selling, healthy-eating cookbook for kids is suing Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld for copyright and trademark infringement as well as defamation for what she claims is a blatant copy of her original book "The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids Favorite Meals".

Missy Chase Lapine, America's answer to Jamie Oliver, is a campaigner for improving kids eating habits and her book quickly hit the best sellers lists following its release in April 2007. Some six month's later Jessica Seinfeld published her book "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Getting Your Kids Eating Good Food." Although the publishers had been alerted to the similarities between the two books they went ahead with publication, only making some minor amendments. Lapine's lawsuit claims that in addition to striking similarities to the overall look and feel of the book, there are also several examples of identical language.

The defamation action that has been attached to the copyright and trademark infringement claims relates to Jerry Seinfeld who, it is claimed, went on a campaign to discredit Lapine, calling her a 'nut job' and publicly calling her a 'wacko' on the David Letterman show.

More from Reuters/PRNewswire
Missy Lapine's Sneaky Chef site
Jessica Seinfeld's book and webpages

Costume designer sues Riverdance

Abhann Productions, the company behind the globally successful Riverdance show, is being sued over allegedly unpaid royalty fees due to the designer who produced the show's original costumes. Jen Kelly, one of Ireland's top haute couture designers, is suing the production company for royalty payments dating back to 2000 when a previous agreement with him expired. He claims that many of the 300 or so costumes he designed for the original show are still being used in original or modified form in the current productions and as such he is entitled to royalty payments in respect of such use.

Design Rights under the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act arise automatically and don't require formal registration. While unregistered protection as a UK design right lasts for 15 years from creation, if one registers the design right then up to 25 years protection will apply.

It is not understood whether Kelly has quantified his claim and a preliminary hearing is expected later this month.

More on Design Rights HERE and HERE
More on the legal action from The Stage


Tom Cruise set to sue over Andrew Morton book

Tom Cruise is no stranger to scientology. Andrew Morton's books are equally likely to cause controversy. However the suggestions Morton puts forward in 'Tom Cruise: An Unauthorised Biography' have upset Cruise, who it claims was the No.2 in Scientology, to the extent that he is reported to be suing Morton's publishers, St Martin's Press for some $50m.

Morton has produced books on Diana, Monika Lewinsky and Posh & Becks but this latest compilation has been derided for having been penned without reference to any of the relevant protagonists and inventing facts. If true, this seems unlikely to deter publishers from releasing it in the US on January 15th but it may not make its way into bookshops in the UK so soon as English libel law places a more onerous test on publishers than does US law. If released in the UK publishers would have to prove that what has been written is true, while in the US the emphasis is more on the defamatory effect than the veracity of that which is printed.

So we may have to wait to read about Morton's speculation that Cruise was trying to recruit Posh and Becks to scientology (though a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the attempts to convert them would make for great reality tv). When it comes to defending their 'belief' or what many would term as 'cult', scientologists are quick to retaliate and litigate. The most celebrated recent investigation into scientology made the headlines in the UK after investigative journalist John Sweeney 'lost it' and gave them a taste of their own 'mind control' methods.

So, having witnessed what can happen when one asks a question too many, Morton and his publishers will need to work out if the potential legal action will be worth the profits from publication.

More on the content of the Morton book from the Daily Mail

Major gaffe on Parade as US magazine keeps Benazir Bhutto alive on its front page.

The editorial department at US magazine Parade must have been on a long vacation over the new year as the brutal assasination of Benazir Bhutto seems to have eluded them and allowed the slain former leader's picture and caption "I am what the terrorists fear most" to remain on the magazine's front page as it spread its way across the US in the form of a free insert into several million of the country's leading papers.

Publishers argued that with over 30 million magazines already printed it would have been logistically and economically unviable to withdraw or amend circulation. Yes the interview is interesting - more so if she were still alive - and it is arguably one of the last interviews before she died but to release a front page that totally overlooked the fact that the terrorists had in fact been her final nightmare is not the sort of commercial decision that can or should override journalistic accuracy or integrity. Credit to Parade for the interview. Discredit for failing to acknowledge she had died at the hands of the terrorists who, as she claimed, saw her as a nemesis.

Censorship: Chinese journalists told what not to write

The BBC reports on the extent of censorship in China. While most journalists around the world log onto their computer or internet connection in search of material to report on, their counterparts in China are plagued by the 'anti-pop-up' - not ads for usesless gizmos or services but directions from the state authorities on what they should or should not report on. So from manipulating Google, clamping down on YouTube and monitoring web traffic, the Chinese authorities have probably got more police in cyberspace than they have on the streets - very Second Life.

More from the BBC


PCC slams Sunday Mail for 'bad practice' over 'Captain Conman' story

The Press Complaints Commission has this week upheld a complaint against the Sunday Mail for what it termed "a serious matter" and "rare example of bad practice".

The complaint relates to Clause 1 of the PCC Code and the accuracy of the paper's
story "Ship of fools" about 'Captain Conman' Alex Lothian. The Scottish paper ran a story on 14th October 2007 about Mr Lothian who it said was helping the owners of the HMS Bounty (which featured in the 1962 film 'Mutiny on the Bounty')tour the boat round Europe.

The essence of the piece linked into an article that had appeared in the same paper back in 2003 that claimed Lothian was a conman and questioned his naval credentials.

Mr Lothian had complained to the PCC about the earlier piece and while there was no admission of wrong, there had been an undertaking to add a file note to ensure that any future reference to Lothian or the story acknowledged that the facts complained of were 'disputed'.

This was seemingly ignored and the Sunday Mail referred to his "Walter Mitty" claims that were "first exposed by the Sunday Mail in 2003" that alleged he "once tricked the charity Maritime Volunteer Service, claiming to be a recently-retired Navy officer embarking on a plan to form a coastal patrol called Dads Navy." It also referred to a 1995 conviction.

Mr Lothian had complained that the article was in breach of the PCC code for being inaccurate in that it failed to take into account the facts that had previously been disputed.

The PCC upheld his complaint and was particularly critical over the issue of repeating allegations without acknowledging these had been disputed and denied:
"Despite the newspaper’s contention that the allegations were true, the Commission concluded that by omitting the complainant’s position on the matter – contrary to the undertaking – the article was misleading. The Commission regarded the failure to adhere to an offer made during the course of a previous PCC investigation as a serious matter and a rare example of bad practice."