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Demon successfully challenges Bulger injunction

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A British ISP has successfully challenged an injunction aimed at shielding the identities of the killers of James Bulger.

Thus, which runs the ISP Demon Internet, applied to the High Court to clarify the position of ISPs regarding the ruling. It wanted the order changed so it would not be held liable for material on its Web pages.

Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the Family Division - the body responsible for hiding the whereabouts and identities of killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables - agreed the injunction was "inappropriate" in relation to ISPs.

Butler-Sloss approved alterations to the injunction, which, according to a statement by Thus, now applies to ISPs "if they have actual knowledge and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent publication."

Thus said it took the matter to the High Court because it was worried it could have broken the injunction through no fault of its own.

"What we are seeking to do today is to establish the breadth and scope of this injunction and its implications to Internet Service Providers (ISPs)," it said in a statement before today's decision.

"We fully appreciate the seriousness of the issues dealt with in the injunction and fully support the law in this matter.

"We have applied to the High Court to provide clarity that will enable ISPs to interpret the injunction."

It added: "We are concerned that we could be in the position where technically we are in contempt of Court because of material published of which we have no knowledge."

Two years ago Demon agreed to pay $15,000 damages to scientist Laurence Godfrey after failing to remove defamatory postings on newsgroups it hosted.

According to the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), the current situation for UK ISPs and material posted on their Web pages is pretty murky. The industry is waiting for legislation via the E-Commerce Directive, due later this year, which is expected to state that if ISPs are informed of such content, they must remove it from their Web sites. ®

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Demon libel loss could cripple Internet free speech

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