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Don’t leak WikiLeaks: The NDA from hell

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As Julian Assange™ well knows, a culture of secrecy can be counterproductive, encouraging leaks by the disaffected. Someone has now leaked against WikiLeaks, with the organization’s non-disclosure agreement escaping into the wild.

And a doozy of a document it is, indeed, imposing not only a vast penalty (£12 million) for breaches, but noting the commercial value – that is, saleability to mainstream publishers – of the information held by WikiLeaks.

If a document escapes from WikiLeaks, the NDA says, damage to the organization is likely to include losing the “opportunity to sell the information to other news broadcasters and publishers”.

The document, leaked to New Statesman, also provides an interesting insight into the legal advice WikiLeaks has apparently received regarding how to protect itself from litigation: “Any and all information disclosed to you [that is, the WikiLeaks staffer or volunteer receiving incoming leaks] is disclosed without any liability on the part of WikiLeaks,” (our emphasis).

Once received, apparently at the staffer’s risk, a leaked document then becomes “solely the property of WikiLeaks” – an interesting notion, given that governments and businesses would probably consider documents to be solely their property [author’s note: this is not a commentary on the morality of leaking, only its legality].

While such legal protections are sensible, they turn a probably-unwelcome spotlight on two aspects of WikiLeaks. For all the courage attributed to Assange (for example, by the Sydney Peace Foundation), his staffers are at risk for documents leaked to them; and second, while happily adopting the mantle of someone who has reshaped the media landscape, he is fiercely protective of the price that “old media” might pay to access the documents WikiLeaks controls. ®

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