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The ISP liability Demon invoked again

Legal threats override free speech?

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The issue of ISP liability for user postings has cropped up again on a newsgroup for software company Gipsy Media. And, sadly, it involves Demon Internet again. The saga has been extensively covered by Meejahor.com and revolves around a so-called beta tester, Andy Mabbett, and his criticisms of the TV listings program DigiGuide.

DigiGuide is owned by Gipsy Media, and it wasn't too chuffed when Andy posted comments on its Web site saying that the company hadn't been completely honest over the add-on TimeSink "advertising solution". Basically, TimeSink (from Conducent) is another one of these programs that uses IP information to build profiles.

This has become a big issue recently, with people crying "privacy invasion" left, right and centre. Mr Mabbett said that the use of TimeSink hadn't been fully explained to those upgrading to the latest version of DigiGuide.

Gipsy Media was understandably not too happy about this and started removing Andy's comments. Andy was eventually informed by staff member Russ Freeman: "Your attitude is unwelcome on Gipsy Media web sites, your rights to access our web sites and our products is now revoked. Make the visit to read this your last and make no more posts." There's no love lost between the two. Freeman, for his part, feels he is getting a raw deal from the "antagonistic little sod". "We have solved the problems - as soon as possible - but he still went around calling everyone a liar. I don't think that's very fair."

Several days later Andy posted a message on a different newsgroup accusing Gipsy Media of being dishonest. Things escalated from there. Suddenly Andy's ISP, Demon Internet received an official compliant about his postings, asking it to look at his so-called defamatory postings. Gipsy Media won't say it was them that complained.

Andy may also be pulled up for abusing copyright because he continued to use text from Gipsy's forum to make points on other newsgroups and his own Web site. This is all getting out of hand you say. Well, Andy has also received warning from Demon that he should "not publish such material in future using [his] Demon service".

This may seem heavy handed, but then you can't really blame Demon. It was bitten last year when it was forced to pay UK scientist Laurence Godfrey £15,000 plus cover court costs of around £250,000 because of libellous comments made about him on a Demon server. We asked Russ Freeman whether this fact prompted him to complain about Mabbett's behaviour. He said no. "I don't particularly follow the news and I hadn't followed this case about Godfrey. I don't really care what someone else has done, if someone is copying our content then you would complain."

It's a fair point. All ISPs must be receiving similar requests but are either holding firm or have never been unfortunate enough to have the media watching the situation closely. Was Demon in the wrong place at the wrong time again or are we guilty of playing it up because of Demon's recent history? Bit of both probably.

Anyways, if you're interested in this case, visit Meejahor.com, which has pushed the boat out on this one, including substantial links to the original material.

Related Links

Meejahor article on the saga
The plot thickens

Related Stories

Demon coughs up damages in Godfrey libel case
UK Court rules on ISP liability

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