British man sacked for having opinion

Shut up or shove off

A British man has been sacked for speaking out against heavy-handed copyright actions in the US after appearing on Newsnight last week.

Alex Hanff was asked to appear on last Monday's Newsnight programme to talk about the recent Supreme Court decision against Grokster. Hanff, who is from Lancaster, was of interest to Newsnight because back in March he was sued for copyright infringement by Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers - as exclusively revealed on El Reg here.

Hanff worked as a trainer and consultant for Aldcliffe Computer Systems, also based in Lancaster. He was given permission to leave work 45 minutes early to meet the Newsnight camera crew. He returned to work on Tuesday.

Hanff told the Reg: "At first everything was fine then at lunchtime the technical director came in and fired me. He told me it was because of my opinions and there was no right of appeal." Although Hanff had only been working at Aldcliffe Computer Systems for a week he said the full-time position was a dream job: "I turned down a higher-paid post because this was a career position and a fantastic opportunity."

The sacking was even more of shock, said Hanff, because he had had nothing but praise while working at Aldcliffe and had been told that, at interview, he had "blown all the other candidates out of the water".

Hanff said: "Democratic society is based on the ability to have opinions and to express those opinions - that's how society grows."

He said that after the sacking he received a call offering to increase his severance pay from one week to three months. On legal advice he declined the offer.

Tribal Group, which owns Aldcliffe Computing, said in a statement: "Mr Hanff was employed on a probationary basis for one week in one of our software companies. The decision to terminate his employment was made in order to defend our legitimate business interests. Mr Hanff has declared that he is opposed to copyright and intellectual property laws. Since much of our business is based around the protection of our copyright and intellectual property, we consider our dismissal of Mr Hanff entirely justified and appropriate."

The largely untested Human Rights Act does guarantee the freedom to have an opinion and to express that opinion.

Back in March, Hanff received a letter from lawyers Jenner&Block, representing the Motion Picture Association of America. He has been advised to ignore the letter because the MPAA has no jurisdiction in Europe.®

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