Defamation law currently states that someone has the right to sue every time defamatory material is published. This means that publishers could be liable many times over for the online publication of an article if a court agrees that the mere delivery of a web page to a reader counts as publication.
It seems that the Ministry of Love –sorry, that should be the equally Orwellian-sounding “Ministry of Justice” — is consulting on a change, and about time too.
In most countries, the law is different. You publish something online, and that’s it. But in the UK “publication” online is when someone accesses it. This is very bad news, when the laws on what is allowed to be said keep changing. In the last five years the UK government has used the excuse of “hate speech” to criminalise people expressing disapproval of various favoured groups and policies. So expressing a perfectly legal distaste for some evil or other in 2000 — and I probably did — means that I can be prosecuted now for publishing “hate speech” today.
Obviously the UK shouldn’t be criminalising free speech, however deserving the perverts that it wants to privilege. But still more, it shouldn’t be doing so retrospectively, which is the current situation.
So … a little step towards ironing out a silly legal situation, and bringing UK law into line with the US. Now if only they would see sense on copyright and introduce a horizon of 1923 for copyright too…