[Theforum] Liability for comments

Martin martin at members.evolt.org
Wed Dec 26 10:18:01 CST 2001

On Wednesday, December 26, 2001, at 10:08  am, Madhu Menon wrote:

> I have no problem with a carrier's liability for copyright violation 
> once they've been informed of it. However, defamation is subjective and 
> there's no reliable way for an ISP to determine if comments on a 
> discussion board are libelous. What I call criticism, you could call 
> defamation.

Depends on whether it's true - defamation is by definition an untrue 
So "Madhu blows goats" is defamation. "Madhu can't write for toffee"
is criticism, even though it's no more true than the defamatory 

> The next thing you know, people will be filing lawsuits against 
> newsprint manufacturers for defamatory remarks in magazine articles.

Yes, this has happened. But it's a very, very difficult (expensive) 
thing to do...
£250k for legal fees isn't particularly excessive.

> Apparently, under UK law, the burden of proof for libel is on the 
> defendant, not on the plaintiff. :(
(NB that's English law terminology - Scots law doesn't differentiate 
between written and
spoken defamation, and has defenders and pursuers)

That's reasonable. If I accuse you of blowing goats, and you take me to
court over it, it's up to the person who made the original accusation
(me) to prove that I'm right. Otherwise it would be inconsistent with
a case where I sued you for blowing goats - I could accuse you out
of court, you'd sue me, the burden of proof would be on you to prove
that you *don't* blow goats, you'd more likely lose, and then I'd use
that as evidence for my later action against Madhu the notorious
goat blower.

Also, as defamation is a civil matter, not a criminal one, the
burden of proof isn't "beyond reasonable doubt", it's "on the balance
of probability"

> The crazy part is that Godfrey got £15000 as damages, but £250,000 as 
> legal fees. Oh, what has the world come to? When will we get judges who 
> actually understand technology?

UK law isn't too bad - most cases have been settled out of court, there
haven't been stupid patent cases, pretty much all the domain name 
have been sensibly resolved...

> For those who want to read more about the Godfrey vs. Demon (a UK ISP), 
> here are some links:


if you want a legal perspective from Scots law.

email: martin at easyweb.co.uk             PGP ID:	0xA835CCCB
	martin at members.evolt.org      snailmail:	30 Shandon Place
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   url:	http://www.easyweb.co.uk			Scotland

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