“So you’ve had a threatening letter. What can you do?”
A new guide to the libel laws for bloggers is being published today. Download the guide here:
The guide, entitled ‘So you’ve had a threatening letter. What can you do?’, is published by Sense About Science in association with Index on Censorship, English PEN, the Media Legal Defence Initiative, the Association of British Science Writers and the World Federation of Science Journalists.The guide was prepared following Sense About Science’s recent survey of the impact of the libel laws on online discussion.
To coincide with the guide’s publication, Sense About Science is making available a summary of the effects of the English libel laws on bloggers, drawn from cases that have come to attention since the start of the Libel Reform Campaign and from the recent survey of bloggers. The summary identifies the particular ways in which online forums are affected by the current laws, notably:
the individual and non-professional character of much online writing, and therefore the more pronounced inequality of arms, particularly where people are writing about companies, institutions and products; related to the above, the relative lack of familiarity with libel law and access to advice about handling complaints;the liability of ISPs, leading to material being removed without consultation with authors;
and the vulnerability to legal action arising from the international availability of Internet material, and it being possible to republish old material by downloading it.
Reform of English libel law has been promised, and if campaigners are successful, then changes that will give better defences to online publishers and writers may come into force in 2012.
This leaflet is certainly not a substitute for legal advice, but it does provide information which other bloggers and writers who have experienced libel threats say they wished they had known at the outset.
The publication of the guide comes on the day that Yahoo!, AOL UK, Mumsnet and the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) are writing to the Prime Minister calling for urgent reform of our libel laws, and in the week where the summary of the effects of libel law on bloggers has been shared with the Ministry of Justice.
Bloggers and Libel Threats
From the Libel Reform Campaign: