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Demon coughs up damages in Godfrey libel case

Pays price for uncivil liberties

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Demon Internet has agreed to pay £15,000 to a scientist after failing to remove defamatory postings on newsgroups it hosted.

The UK ISP will apologise to Dr Laurence Godfrey, as well as paying his legal costs, which could top £250,000. Add in its own legal fees and Demon is facing a bill of half a million smackers.

Dr Godfrey alleged Demon had failed to remove defamatory material on a newsgroup it hosted. It related to a message posted three years ago on soc.culture.thai, purporting to come from him and containing damaging allegations of a personal nature. A second posting contained defamatory comments about Dr. Godfrey.

Dr Godfrey told the BBC: "I am happy with the settlement. I don't think there is a right, in fact I'm quite sure there's no right, to libel other people on the Internet, to concoct fabricated allegations and try to destroy people's reputations."

The case, which hinged on whether Demon could be treated as a publisher of the material, will have repercussions on other ISPs who will see it as a gagging order. Most host newsgroups and fear they could be found liable for any content posted by their users.

Demon estimates that one million individual articles are posted in more than 35,000 active news groups each day. All well and good. But before we climb too high up the civil liberties flagpole, it is useful to recall just how incompetent Demon Internet was in dealing with Dr. Godfrey. He informed the company several times about the postings. Demon failed to respond. Now it is paying the price. ®

Demon Internet statement

Dr Laurence Godfrey vs Demon Internet (Thus plc) Thus today announces that it has reached an agreement with Dr Laurence Godfrey, which brings to a close the two cases he brought against its Internet Service Provider brand, Demon Internet. We can now draw a line under this issue and focus on serving our customers and building our business. Concluding this matter in a reasonable way is in the best interests of the company and its customers. Thus remains convinced that the law has not kept pace with the development of the Internet and will work with our colleagues in the industry to lobby for modernisation of the law. Thus will press the Government for recognition that ISPs should not be liable for the millions of items carried on the Internet every day. While we take our obligations very seriously, and act when informed of any defamatory or unsuitable material, it is contrary to common sense to make ISPs responsible for the millions of items carried on the Internet.

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