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UK air traffic control goes after Wikileaks

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The National Aviation and Transport Services (NATS) is threatening legal action against Wikileaks because the website has published a recording of the crashing of BA flight 038, call sign Speedbird 38, which came down just short of the Heathrow runway in 2008.

Earlier this month Wikileaks published an audio recording of air traffic controllers seeing, and reacting to, the crash and images of the control system. The Boeing 777 hit the ground just on the threshold of the runway at Heathrow. There were injuries, but no deaths.

NATS is claiming absolute copyright over the recording.

Richard Churchill-Coleman, general counsel and company secretary for NATS wrote to Wikileaks claiming copyright but also justifying the move. He said the tape was part of an ongoing investigation and that the confidentiality of evidence in such an inquiry was vital.

Churchill-Coleman said this atmosphere of confidentiality allowed air traffic controllers and pilots to give evidence freely without fearing the consequences. This atmosphere makes it easier for lessons to be learned and therefore air safety improved.

He added that the recording: "adds little to the public good apart from satisfying the public's general curiosity".

Wikileaks does not often obey such takedown notices and is unlikely to do so in this case. ®

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