Feeds

FCO takes on Murray and the blogs over Murder in Samarkand

Return match for former ambassador

Boost IT visibility and business value

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office is following up on its earlier moves against former ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray with the threat of an injunction. Alongside the publication of his book, Murder in Samarkand, last week Murray posted a collection of supporting documents on his web site (here); the current FCO action demands the removal of these.

By 4pm today - but as was the case last year when the FCO moved against the book itself, the blogosphere has swung into action. Numerous sites, including Blairwatch and that of Iraq specialist Dahr Jamail, are now hosting the documents, and the friends of Craig Murray are attempting to maintain a list. Ominously from the FCO's point of view, this time around the disputed documents have also been made available via P2P networks and as Bittorrents. This makes it practically impossible for the FCO to stop distribution, even if if it were sufficiently aggressive (and rash) to attempt to suppress all copies within UK jurisdiction.

In threatening Murray with the injunction, the FCO is claiming infringement of copyright rather than an official secrets breach. Its notice of infringement claims that 13 out of the 15 documents, and parts of a 14th, are Crown Copyright on the basis that they were "produced by an officer or servant of the Crown in the course of their duties." It adds, sweetly, "even if a document is released under the Data Protection Act or Freedom of Information Act that does not entitle you to make further reproductions of that document by, for example, putting them on your website or making further copies to be provided to third parties."

Murray's response to this is that the retention of copyright in these cases was intended to protect the Government's revenue interests and, there being no revenue involved in documents freely available on the Web, there is no commercial need to press copyright here. Legally his argument is dubious, to say the least (don't go trying this with my IP, buster...) but morally it has some traction. Newspapers can get documents via the FoIA, and then get busted for breach of copyright if they publish them? A likely story, albeit one with a murky legal basis.

Essentially, as Murray says, copyright is one of the weapons the Government has available for deployment when it wishes to "arbitrarily suppress information for political purposes." Murray meanwhile does not need to mount a serious legal defence if the FCO goes ahead with the injunction application, because he has already made attempts to suppress the documents futile.

Although we might observe that the FCO has learned little since Spycatcher, in its defence we should note that it's between a rock and a hard place here. Murray, after a frustrating period trying to get FCO approval for Murder in Samarkand, has made no bones about his intention to publish, be damned and take the consequences. The FCO therefore has to put up or shut up. And if it shuts up, then it no doubt reasons that every last Government squealer will be able to blurt whatever they want while shouting 'freedom of speech' and 'the public's right to know.' You and we might reckon that'd be an excellent outcome, but you can see why it wouldn't play particularly well with the Government.

So, Spycatcher 2, here we go? If so it's a battle the FCO is likely to win legally, but nevertheless to lose horribly. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.