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Law Firm Seeks to Make UK ISPs Legally Responsible for all Internet Content

Posted: 16th Sep, 2009 By: MarkJ
Every once in awhile a news story comes along that causes uncontrollable spasms of hitting ones head against the wall, here's another. Stephen Taylor Heath of law firm Lupton Fawcett has told OUT-LAW.COM, an online legal/law information site, that UK broadband ISPs should be made directly responsible for all content published online.

Heath believes this would solve the problem where a legal ruling in the UK against defamation posted on a USA based website (e.g. Facebook) could not force the company to remove said content. In the US, the Communications Decency Act (CDA) shields hosts like Facebook from liability for the comments of users.

Stephen Taylor Heath said:

"Our view is that online material is being published in the UK because it can be viewed in the UK, so action can be brought. A potential issue is that ISPs allow this to be broadcast in the UK, so with defamatory content you can rope in publishers but also ISPs.

The action would be on the basis that the ISPs are part and parcel of the publication process. It would be the most tangible way of stopping material reaching a target audience."

The most tangible way :shocked: ? Pursuing ISPs in the UK for their perceived role in publication and forcing them to block access to defamatory material posted in the USA (or elsewhere) sets a frightening precedent and also pulls in the whole issue of Net Neutrality again. The move to turn ISPs into a police force might seem like a good idea to uneducated politicians and have lawyers foaming at the mouth, but it is a deeply unrealistic one.

ISPs are mere conduits of access to the Internet; certainly they can assist in filtering out bad websites (child abuse etc.), but extending this to trivial day to day legal disagreements over content posted anywhere is dangerous and at best technically and economically unfeasible. Legal action would also have to be taken against all ISPs to avoid gaps.

Existing UK E-Commerce Regulations state that ISPs will not be liable for illegal content posted by users as long as it does not initiate the transmission, does not select the receiver of the transmission and does not select or modify the information contained in the transmission.
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