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... or incur new "exemplary damages" for editorial content not subject to site owner control.

Apparently, users writing news material in Britain are liable under newest crime and courts bill presently in the House of Commons.

From the Guardian U.K.:

Bloggers could face high fines for libel under the new Leveson deal with exemplary damages imposed if they don't sign up to the new regulator, it was claimed on Tuesday.

Under the crime and courts bill in the Commons on Monday night, the definition of "relevant" bloggers or websites includes any that generate news material where there is an editorial structure giving someone control over publication.

Not at risk are readers posting comments. Publishers of scientific journals, student publications and not-for-profit community newspapers would also be exempt.

The chief executive at the Index on Censorship, Kirsty Hughes delivered a comment of her own in which she said:

... it was a "sad day" for British democracy. "This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on everyday people's web use," she said.

She said she feared thousands of websites could fall under the definition of a "relevant publisher" in clause 29.

Hughes said: "Bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place."

Penalties imposed by courts in the form of exemplary damages could target anyone remaining outside the regulator. Besides court costs, those charges could be upward of thousands of pounds, which in all likelihood, would be enough to shut most sites down.

Not at all familiar with British law, but I'm pretty sure Kos could incur damages or be shut down just over what I'm writing right now if Daily Kos was based in Britain.

Some site owners are in open rebellion over this. A writer for the Guido Fawkes Political Blog doesn't fall into the category of bloggers subject to the law. Of course, he believes this because his servers are all based in the U.S.  

"I don't see I should join a regulator. This country has had a free press for the last 300 years, that has been irreverent and rude as my website is and holding public officials to account. We as a matter of principle will be opposing any regulator especially one set up and accountable to politicians we write about every day," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Even the editor-in-chief at the Huffington Post, Carla Buzasi told the BBC:


I can't imagine any politician has had this discussion because they have rushed this through so quickly.

"It does worry me to a certain extent. Someone said this is a carrot and stick approach. There doesn't seem to be too much of a carrot here."


British newspapers and blog operators vigorously oppose the bill, saying it could violate the European Convention on human rights, which regularly promotes the principles of free speech. During the debate over this bill in the House of Lords campaigners said that even local newspapers could be subject to penalties

The applicable "Leveson regulations" in the "crimes and courts bill" were fiercely debated last Monday night, with the culture secretary, Maria Miller, claiming that the publisher would need to meet three criteria because of :

• whether the publication is publishing news-related material in the course of a business
• whether their material is written by a range of authors  
• whether that material is subject to editorial control

Miller said the "one-man band or a single blogger" would not be affected by the legislation because of the definition of "relevant publisher" in relation to exemplary damages.

Some bloggers aren't worried. Sunny Hundal, the editor of the Liberal Conspiracy Blog commented on the matter:

"There's a danger we miss the wood for the trees, as bloggers can already face big fines for libel. I'm fairly confident the eventual body will differentiate between and independent bloggers. Trying to regulate the latter, even Leveson admitted in his final report, would be a step too far.

"The key will be to differentiate between huge operations such as Huffington Post and voluntary blogs like Liberal Conspiracy. We should be vigilant but I don't see a cause for panic yet."

Nevertheless, I can't see any move like this can bode well for democracy... in any country. Let's hope this law stays on the other side of the pond.

Here's some more takes on the law:

Sky News

Huff Post U.K.

Independent U.K.

Telegraph U.K.

More from the Guardian

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's where I was born... (3+ / 0-)

    ...I left ten years ago. I don't think I'd recognize the old place now.


    Sunday Afternoon Composer: Like Monday Morning Quarterbacking, with music!

    by Freelance Escapologist on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 10:15:28 AM PDT

  •  a bit ironic... (5+ / 0-)

    that the press should bleat about the european convention on human rights considering most of the xenophobes involved in Britons media have continually bashed it since its introduction


    by mb6578 on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 10:21:14 AM PDT

    •  Scare tactics of course (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and what they fail to link is that many of the civil actions against them are down to their own contraventions of the ECHR, now the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights when they breached individual's rights to Privacy, let alone breaches of the criminal law by intercepting communications, bribing public officials or receiving stolen goods (like a case over the last week where a reporter accessed private data on a mobile phone stolen from an MP).

      The new law simply requires newspapers to comply with the provisions of a Royal Charter establishing a regulatory body. They are free to revive their own version, the Press Complaints Commission providing it complies with basic standards laid down by the body set up by the Royal Charter.  

      Years ago they were told they were "drinking in the Last Chance Saloon" and simply developed more novel ways of getting their gossip and tittle tattle.

      "Who stood against President Obama in 2012?" - The trivia question nobody can answer.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 02:44:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, how good is our break from these (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, JesseCW, commonmass

    control freaks two and a half centuries ago looking now?

    •  ask someone who can't afford health coverage (0+ / 0-)

      how good that break looks

      One failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all take off our shoes at the airport. Thirty-one school shootings since Columbine and no change in our regulation of guns. --- John Oliver

      by voroki on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 04:37:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The sad thing is that this was a subversion of (9+ / 0-)

    a long effort to get libel laws reformed to make them LESS draconian.  This was a movement that gained moment ever since the shameful attempt of the British Chiropractors Associate to sue science writer Simon Singh for telling the truth about how bullshit the claims of Chriopractors often are.  (I'm not talking about their claims to do something to sort out your back, but their claims that doing so will cure you of all sorts of things that have nothing to do with your back - like virus-borne illnesses.)

    (more about the case here, if you hadn't heard of it: )

    The outcry was over the fact that even though he won in court, it still cost him a million pounds to defend himself in court.  Had he not been well off enough to absorb some of that cost, and had he not had had a lot of donations helping him pay for it, that cost would have prevented him from defending against the accusation and allowed the BCA to win the suit by default.  The existing libel law was viewed as corrupt because it makes it impossible to speak truth to power, so to speak, unless you have deep enough pockets to defend yourself with a really good lawyer.

    A "normal" person can't really afford the risk of a costly lawsuit.  Partly this is because in Libel law in England presumes you are guilty until proven innocent.  The moment the person you have maligned with your statement files a libel complaint against you and shows that your statement was negative about them, you are immediately guilty by default unless you can mount a case to prove you had a LOT of rock-solid evidence to back up your claim. (And here I'm correct to say "England" and I'm not just being an ignorant American conflating England with all of Britain.  The libel laws do vary between England, Scotland, and Wales, and this campaign was mounted largely against the English law.)

    So in order to legally cover your ass when you publish a statement that paints someone in a negative light in England, on the one hand you have to be correct, which is laudable, and is largely why Sky News in the UK is a lot more tame than Fox News in the US (both part of Murdoch's propaganda engine).  But the problem is that being correct  isn't enough.  You also have to be rich enough to slog it through the courts to prove it.  Monied interests can shut up poor people by scaring them with this.

    So after a lot of years of fighting the campaigners for libel law reform finally were close to working out a deal to get the law changed a bit.

    Then.. the Leveson clause was added to the libel reform to sweeten the deal, and subverted the whole freakin' point of the campaign.

  •  Great Britain has always been (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IreGyre, lgmcp, Nattiq

    a bit less lenient with libel and slander, than we here in the states.

    At some point, it just seems that famous people gave up trying to sue.  And non-famous people just don't want to get into it.

    Isn't the responsibility of proof on the prosecution or civil-litigant in these cases?  In other words, don't they have to prove that what the defendant said or wrote was untrue?  

    "Just because you win the fight, don't mean you're right," - Funkadelic

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 11:00:47 AM PDT

    •  No, they don't. (0+ / 0-)

      Under English law, truth is an affirmative defense to libel, which means that the defendant bears the burden of showing that the statement was true.

      Many U.S. States require the plaintiff to prove falsity as part of their case. And the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment requires proof as falsity if the plaintiff is a public figure or the speech involves a matter of public concern.

  •  They never sleep, do they? (1+ / 0-)


    "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." -- JC, Matthew 6:24

    by Chi on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 11:13:02 AM PDT

  •  Depends on just how onerous the "new regulator" (0+ / 0-)

    specifically would be.  What's recommended at Daily Kos is pretty thoroughly editorially managed by community moderation and by site admins, IMO, so I would be surprised if such a law (even if applicable) would drastically affect sites like this one.  Opinion here is, upon occasion, vitriolic, but there is a distinction between opinion and spurious claims of fact.  The latter are not much tolerated.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 12:37:10 PM PDT

    •  As a comparison (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The legislation establishing a Regulator under a Royal Charter is far less prescriptive than the Charter setting up the BBC.

      "Who stood against President Obama in 2012?" - The trivia question nobody can answer.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 02:48:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  By which you mean (0+ / 0-)

        likely to be less onerous and rigorous in the rules it is likely to impose?  Or, less defined and therefore more apt to abuse?  

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 02:54:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  A bit of both (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Newspapers have three options; sign up directly to the new regulatory body which will have defined sanctions and in which they will have no say over who is a member of the new authority; set up their own body like the existing Press Complaints Commission which would have to have its sanctions etc approved by the Regulator or simply ignore it (which the BBC cannot do with the BBC Trust).

          A paper ignoring the new regulatory regime would be liable to pay exemplary damages in the event of a judgement against it in the courts although in exceptions circumstances I believe one of the new body's sanctions could be to remove protection from a paper in the case of very serious and persistent breaches (systematically hacking into people's voicemail accounts for example?)

          "Who stood against President Obama in 2012?" - The trivia question nobody can answer.

          by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 03:00:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  If someone tried to introduce (0+ / 0-)

    a similar bill in the U.S., it would not get any votes. The Ds would block it on principle and the Rs, as we all know, instinctively block everything.

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