ISPA's legal eagles fly in for chat

Unlawful content on agenda

Britain's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will sit down behind closed doors today to thrash out a way to deal with unlawful content published on the Net.

Two proposals are on the table for discussion. The first, is that ISPs should receive "blanket immunity" when it comes to carrying or hosting defamatory or libellous comments.

The second, called "R4", was devised by Richard Clayton of Scottish telco Thus, and provides a process for ISPs to deal with complaints about offensive content.

If adopted, an ISP would remove offending material when asked to do so, but put it up again if asked by the author.

It's hoped such an approach would free ISPs from having to decide whether material was unlawful or not and confirm that they are merely acting as a conduit.

Last year, physicist Dr Laurence Godfrey secured an out of court settlement against Demon Internet concerning a defamation action. As a result, many ISPs in Britain now feel it is safer to remove material if asked to do so rather than try and act as "judge and jury".

Today's quarterly meeting of the Internet Service Provider's Association (ISPA) Legal Forum will look at a whole range of issues thrown up by the European E-commerce Directive which comes into force next year.

Consultation for the implementation of the Directive opens in the spring and ISPA would like to present a united front. ®

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