Law clarified on ‘user generated content…’

Running a blog, it is not difficult to sense where the legal line is in your own writing, but it can be tough to maintain an ‘open door’ policy when some of our commentators so blatantly ‘fair game‘ or use the comment zone as a means to snipe at public figures and even members of blogging team… In general terms our policy is that where line has been crossed we are happy to take down material… Although there has been an ambiguity in the law up to know around what a blog owner might or might not be vulnerable, it appears it’s had some useful clarification:

Mr Justice Eady concluded that Newsquest websites were acting as hosts of the reader comments for the purposes of Regulation 19 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 and therefore would not be liable for any damages even if the material was unlawful.

He said Newsquest had fulfilled the conditions for protection under Regulation 19, namely that the comments had been posted directly to the sites by third party contributors without intervention by Newsquest, and that they had acted expeditiously to remove access to the material.

Newsquest’s head of legal, Simon Westrop, said: “We are grateful for a very clear judgment from the court which, in our view, is supportive of free expression on the internet.

“It should help website operators in similar circumstances to understand their responsibilities as regards the hosting of user-generated content, with the assurance that the law offers protection if they act correctly.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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