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  • Technorati: graph / links

    How does blog hosting impact your legal situation?


    by Sunny
    14th October, 2009 at 12:30 am    

    To what extent does where you run your blog from and / or host it impact its legal situation? For example, PP is hosted in the United States. All material contained on this site and everything uploaded to it is hosted in the US. US libel laws are clearly very different to the UK’s.

    Guido Fawkes has a slightly more elaborate set-up (see video) where he says that the ‘publisher’ is based somewhere in the Cayman islands. But he’s the publisher and he’s always mostly in the UK. But his hosting company is also based in the United States, which shields him too. I’m not sneering here - in fact I admire that Staines has created a setup that allows him to frustrate or confuse potential libel lawyers.

    But the question is: how important is the hosting company? I’m aware that in some cases people of other countries have taken their fellow countrymen to court in the UK simply because the site was accessed by a few people here. That seems confusing. Is any website in the US accessible by British courts then liable?

    We’re hosted in California - which has just passed a law stating that websites hosted there are not liable under British libel law. Obviously they care for free speech a lot. That would cover us - but to what extent? As bloggers we need more discussion and thought about this surely?


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    29 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      New blog post: How does blog hosting impact your legal situation? http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6205


    2. Cayman Today

      Pickled Politics » How does blog hosting impact your legal situation? http://bit.ly/pOuqA


    3. Pickled Politics » How does blog hosting impact your legal situation? (via postie) | Kantaas.Com

      [...] Pickled Politics » How does blog hosting impact your legal situation? [...]


    4. Legal safety questions for bloggers | Journalism.co.uk Editors' Blog

      [...] what extent does where you run your blog from and / or host it impact its legal situation? asks Sunny Hundal of Pickled Politics, using his own and Guido Fawke’s blog as [...]


    5. Legal advice for online writers and publishers « UK Liberty

      [...] for online writers and publishers Posted on October 14, 2009 by ukliberty Prompted by Sunny’s post that asked how important a blog hosting company is in terms of mitigating risk of legal attack I [...]


    6. Joseph Clore

      Pickled Politics » How does blog hosting impact your legal situation?: The key piece of US .. http://bit.ly/u5b5Z http://bit.ly/dTpVi




    1. Guido Fawkes — on 14th October, 2009 at 12:51 am  

      Factual correction: I am not legally the publisher. I also mispoke in that interview, the publisher is actually in Nevis, which is not that far from the Caymans. Got offshore entities muddled.

      Nor am I “always mostly in the UK” as, so far, unsuccessful plaintiffs have discovered.

      Incidentally, I have a mirror site on standby in a fourth jurisdiction. The URL itself is registered in a fifth jurisdiction after the Merrills / Northern Rock memorandum domain registrant based legal attack. I live and learn.

      At the end of the day, you have to have the resources and be prepared to fight.

    2. anarchyintheuk — on 14th October, 2009 at 12:55 am  

      No we don’t.

      I have websites hosted in the UK, Canada and the US. The link on my name is just to one account.

      I don’t need protection from libel laws, because I am not a smart arsed twat.

      I write what I think and what I believe and if anyone wishes to take me to court, take all my money, jail me or kill me, I stand by what I said.

      It really pisses me off when so called ‘bloggers’ try to be smart.

      Do what you believe in and take the consequences, or don’t blog, get a job with a corporate and hide your tail up your arse.

      I didn’t bother with the Guido Fawkes set up video, who gives a toss.

      No wonder you write for the Guardian.

      Stand up for yourself, as any decent blogger does. If you believe it, you will stand by it, if you die by it, it happens in many countries.

      Pseudo bloggers with their defence, counter defence and ‘I wasn’t really there’ are the twats who deserve absolute contempt from the blogosphere.

      The answer is the new FTC rulings affect your ‘google ads’, seek a lawyers advice. Your content is your own issue and if you need a lawyer to hide behind your posts you are not worth much space.

      Look at how many bloggers are in prison or dead because they talked about truth and their beliefs and you want to hide? Get over it and get back to The Guardian protection.

      As for Fawkes, so what, cowards always hide.

    3. Sunny — on 14th October, 2009 at 1:17 am  

      Guido: I am not legally the publisher. I also mispoke in that interview, the publisher is actually in Nevis

      I’m not sure I understand this. Do you send your blog posts to someone else to have them published?

      People don’t necessarily have to sue the ‘publisher’ though do they? As Simon Singh found out. They could sue you directly as the author of the blog post.

    4. Unity — on 14th October, 2009 at 1:36 am  

      The new libel tourism statues in NY, Florida and California have zero impact on British bloggers hosting in the US because all they really do is prevent the enforcement of damages awarded by the High Court in a libel action if a US court believe the action to incompatible with the First Amendment.

      The key piece of US legislation for UK bloggers is s230 of the Communications Decency Act which, amongst other things, prevents webhosts from being held liable for third party content, making legal threats to against hosts ineffective.

      As such we’re not covered against a libel action, or one for contempt for that matter but if someone does litigious then at least the decision as to whether to take a stand or back down can’t be taken out of our hands.

      However, even that comes at a price inasmuch as DCMA makes us much more susceptible to attack on the basis of a claim of copyright infringement.

      As for Guido’s set up, that only really makes it difficult to a) hit him with a takedown notice and b) serve him with a writ.

      So far a libel goes, if a plaintiff chose to go for him as the author or a libel rather than as the publisher then he’s in the same boat as everyone else, give or take the fact that his financial affairs may be arranged in such a way to a make it not worth the effort of suing him on that basis.

    5. douglas clark — on 14th October, 2009 at 2:11 am  

      Unity,

      I’d assume that Sunnys’ concern was if I, as a third party, said something outrageous - not that I ever would - whether his US hosting would protect him from UK courts?

      I am not at all clear why Sunny should be liable for hosting. It would suggest that allowing publication (of my outrageous comment) was his responsibility, not mine. Which is unfair on any open web site, I’d have thought, and would kill debate and discussion. Sunny has hosted, perhaps for reasons of his own John Lee Barnes, and others. It sure as fuck don’t make him BNP.

      Perhaps he should be obliged to take my comment down, assuming it was ‘a fire in the theatre’ comment, but otherwise what is his responsibility?

      It is my comment, not his.

      Yes / No ?

      Please, consider this more of a challenge to identify a reasonable balance than a dry statement of what the current law says. I am interested in where we should be heading, rather than where we are.

    6. anarchyintheuk — on 14th October, 2009 at 2:15 am  

      my response to this farago of a post:

      http://anarchyintheuk.com/bloggers-behind-the-rocks/

    7. douglas clark — on 14th October, 2009 at 2:25 am  

      anarchyintheuk,

      Don’t agree it is as simple as you say in your link, however it is well past my bedtime, but if you are around later on tommorrow….

    8. anarchyintheuk — on 14th October, 2009 at 2:40 am  

      Douglas,

      Happy to catch up tomorrow. But I stand by my simple argument.

      I am a blogger, I stand by what I say, if I end up in court, broke or dead, that is the price for blogging. Let the corporate world hide their tails up their arse.

      It isn’t difficult, a blogger states their belief and accepts the consequences regardless of risk, or else avoids actually commenting, a corporate writer takes legal advice prior to publishing and quite right right too, we are different animals, doing different things.

      Any author who puts legal and life defences above actually posting articles is not a blogger. To suggest people like Fawkes are bloggers, is disdainful to those who die and end up in jail for their beliefs. Fawkes and pickledpolitics are not bloggers.

      Fawkes doesn’t even publish his own material and has no credibility on the blogosphere beyond the Westminster cesspit.

    9. anarchyintheuk — on 14th October, 2009 at 2:54 am  

      Douglas on the point regarding comments. Again as a blogger I am responsible for the website and therefore the material on the website.

      Note the word ‘I’. I have no need for legal defence teams. If I choose to permit a comment on my website, I am responsible. In the Corporate world, you may want to argue about who owns what and who said what. But the simple fact is. I own my website, I decide what can be published or not and therefore I am the person to whom any issues should be directed.

      I know that it isn’t fashionable in the UK today to take responsiblity. If anyone posts a comment on any of my webstes which I approve, I take absolute responsibility for that decision and if anyone is going to be hurt by injunction, legal redress or imprisonment, there is absolutely no way I will release thei presonal information, if it is not already in public domain, responsibility sits on my backside.

      I can’t even agree with you regarding comments. As far as I am concerned Pickledpolitics owns this website and is responsible for what is published on it. He has a delete button and he is responsible for using it. If he doesn’t, that is his choice. Hiding behind lawyers is the provenance of the coward.

    10. Binkstein IX — on 14th October, 2009 at 4:03 am  

      On the issue of Freedom of Speech [note the capitals] some readers may have not - not yet, anyway - seen this:

      http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100013252/arabs-for-israel-meet-the-egyptian-woman-who-campaigns-against-islamic-culture/

      Note the point about the West having lost confidence in its own values.

    11. Kismet Hardy — on 14th October, 2009 at 6:34 am  

      Hosted in California, eh?

      I’m going to ride a bike in a swimming pool in Baldwin Park
      I’m going to block the way peacocks on the road in Arcadia
      I’m going to wear cowboy boots in Blythe even though I don’t own two cows
      I’m gonna sleep in my car in Cathedral City
      I’m gonna go for a shit with the window open at Dana Point
      I’m gonna use sandboxes as asthrays at El Monte
      I’m gonna annoy lizards in the park in Fresno
      I’m gonna throw hay in a cesspool in Chico
      And drive two thousand sheep down Hollywood Boulevard

      Sue me

    12. douglas clark — on 14th October, 2009 at 7:46 am  

      anarchyintheuk @ 9 & 10,

      I’m not sure what special criteria you are applying to your web site that makes it in any way different from, say, this one.

      As a sort of ex anarchist leaning person myself I kind of sympathise with what you had to say, although quite why you would want to take responsibility for me makes you somewhat of a different breed of anarchist from my former self.

      One of the things we used to take reasonably seriously was personal responsibility. Or, if you like, that no-one else had prior authority over what we said or did?

      A host, like Pickled Politics, is thus just that. A friendly public space where you say what you say and, usually, find a welcome. Without going too far into web etiquette a decent guest doesn’t shit on the floor too often. And I wouldn’t, at least not deliberately.

      I doubt there is much of a difference between our hosts views and mine on most subjects. However, I have less to lose than he has on certain subjects and I have made here and on LC comments about Carter Luck that are deliberately incendiary. Suggesting that they are struck off is perhaps a step further than Sunny would go, but I think - correct me if I am wrong Sunny - I think he’d agree with the sentiment if not the actualité.

      But the responsibility for saying that is mine, and mine alone. It is entirely unreasonable that a meeting place in cyberspace where I comment should be in the firing line for what I say. What judgement would the web host be required to make? It would not be on the merit of the arguement, assuming it had any, it would be on the potential liability. Which is why you have to respect the likes of Mr Eugenides, The Spectator and the like for sticking two fingers up at authority.

      Serious case in point, others have challenged the BNP with a series of questions on here. Their replies were unexpurgated, although obviously commented on. Would it be reasonable for anyone to accuse this web site of BNP sympathies for holding that debate or posting their replies? The raw comments from the BNP were perhaps unacceptable to anyone slightly to the left of Ghengis Khan but, if you are going to have a debate with them, you have to be robust enough to publish their shit as well as the counter arguements.

      OK, I can see certain exceptions, but none of them apply to people who are warping our justice system for fun and profit.

      Sure, you can just hit the delete key on the comments you receive, but frankly, absent obscenity or willful trolling or continuous stupidity, it is not a route that I think has merit.

      Frankly we do need a right of free speech, as much to protect web hosts as much as ourselves.

      I am genuinely concerned that the legal establishment will see the take down of Carter Luck as a call to arms. That they will find contrary arguements to the one outlined above. That the fuckers will try to legislate even further against modern media. That they will make money out of it. The previous two sentences are interrelated.

      In summary, I would prefer it if the law assumed web hosts innocent of liability for comments unless there was a huge case to the contrary. That doesn’t mean the commentators are free of liability though. And neither does it mean that a web host can freely create a site that advocates, say terrorism.

      AFAIK Sunny Hundal has never hidden behind a lawyer in his life.

    13. Rumbold — on 14th October, 2009 at 9:46 am  

      anarchyintheuk:

      So your criticism is that bloogers like Sunny wanted more protection from libel laws? Why is this an example of cowardice? We know that the libel laws do not favour free speech, and one litigous blogpost could cost the posters thousands of pounds. So to say “publish and be damned” is just ridiculous. Yes, bloggers in other countries risk death/imprisonment, but that doesn’t mean that we British bloggers should just meekly accept the state of libel law in this country.

    14. anarchyintheuk — on 14th October, 2009 at 10:00 am  

      I have absolutely no reason to doubt your comments, regarding this site.

      The point as I see it, is that Bloggers gain credibility by their very openess and if bloggers hide behind layers of lawyers, their honesty comes in to question, which then impacts on a wider sphere.

      Fawkes actually says in the video’…I can say what I like because…’ There can be no credibility to anyone who uses a legal conundrum to defend a position to say what they like, the extention to this being, the writer doesn’t believe it, doesn’t believe it to be true but is happily protected.

      As far as my responsibility of what is posted on my site, of course I must and that is where we do fundamentally disagree, that has I don’t believe anything to do with ‘political’ stance, simply one of the function and reality of a blog.

      You already conceptually accept there are taboo subjects and my taking responsibility for your comments is not therefore an alien though process.

      A site owner can change the comment itself that purports to come from the commentator. How can you be responsible for something someone else can very easily edit, censor or publish straight as they see fit?

      As far as etiquette: as I have already stated, the host can make a decision and as a guest, I have to respect that decision, but it doesn’t mean I have to pussy foot around. I take the chance that my comments will be deleted, that is where I have a choice, it is entirely up to Sunny, whether he lets the comment stand, edits it or deletes it.

      Re the BNP debate. To accept a comment on a website does not in any way suggest the host agrees with that view, which is a completely different issue. I can’t see the two issues of site owners legal responsibility for content published and accepting a comment means agreement with it as having any correlation.

    15. ukliberty — on 14th October, 2009 at 10:06 am  

      anarchyintheuk, it is all very well being bullish, but it seems to me wiser to mitigate risk and know when to pick your battles - live to fight another day and all that. Indeed, why make it easy for them?

      Sunny, selecting a host and domain registrar outside of England and Wales - particularly if the host or registrar’s country isn’t ‘friendly’ to English law as it pertains here - mitigates the risk of legal attacks from that jurisdiction.

      But, while these mitigate the risk of content being technologically ‘taken down’ as a result of legal attack, you personally are exposed to similar risks from writing and/or publishing online as you would in print - from libel, contempt of court, and intellectual property rights infringement, to criminal offences e.g. under the Terrorism Act.

      There are additional risks associated with online publishing, for example relating to user generated content (e.g. comments on articles) as Douglas rightly highlighted. As you probably know, you can mitigate risk here by not pre-moderating or otherwise monitoring comments but you must investigate swiftly if there is a complaint and remove / suspend / redact offending comment if necessary while you investigate.

      It seems worth noting here that the Terrorism Act allows a maximum of only two days to remove content before you commit an offence by not removing it.

      Merely pointing to offending content elsewhere, in the form of a hyperlink for example, as opposed to publishing it verbatim yourself, also exposes you to risk.

      Also, in general, if user data is demanded from you, you should demand a court order / proper legal authority before providing it as you otherwise risk breaching the Data Protection Act.

      Structuring your finances etc so that it is not worthwhile chasing you is beyond me but my guess is that it’s worthwhile doing if you plan on regularly publishing risky content - as is seeking proper advice on all the above.

      (I am not a lawyer.)

    16. anarchyintheuk — on 14th October, 2009 at 10:08 am  

      @Rumbold, but we are not living just in the world of UK libel law, where we then I can see the argument.

      The new FTC rules do affect UK authors, on-line gambling laws in the US do affect UK businesses, the USA Patriot Act does affect UK bloggers etc..

      There is a far bigger world than the UK libel laws.

      The question posed, How does blog hosting impact your legal situation? was not, should British Libel laws be challenged.

    17. Yahya Birt — on 14th October, 2009 at 11:24 am  

      Sunny,

      Just out of interest.

      Was your decision to have the site hosted in a jurisdiction outside of UK law driven by this form of legal protection or was it more competitive pricing?

      If it was a decision taken for legal reasons would you advise anyone else writing a blog on politics and current affairs to do the same?

      Yahya

    18. Rumbold — on 14th October, 2009 at 11:34 am  

      anarchyintheuk:

      I still fail to under your central criticism. What is wrong with bloggers trying to protect themselves using legal trickery. I am sure that bloggers in other countries would have done so had they the tools available to them. No one wnats to be jailed for blogging.

    19. DavidMWW — on 14th October, 2009 at 12:11 pm  

      Hosting in the US is a good idea, not because you are safe from UK libel laws (you are not), but because UK hosts have a track record of shutting down sites - sometimes entire servers hosting dozens of unrelated sites - at the merest whiff of a lawyer’s letter. There are exceptions - the Positive Internet Company is the only one I know of - but you are much more likely to find a host with free speech ideals and the balls to stand up for them in the USA.

    20. Sunny — on 14th October, 2009 at 4:08 pm  

      Yahya, in answer: Was your decision to have the site hosted in a jurisdiction outside of UK law driven by this form of legal protection or was it more competitive pricing?

      both,

      and yes I would. Hosting in the UK is always a bad idea for reasons mentioned above.

    21. Mr Eugenides — on 14th October, 2009 at 6:18 pm  

      Douglas Clark:

      I’m not sure I’m worthy of any particular respect here. I didn’t knowingly write anything libellous about the law firm or their clients, I didn’t link to the Wikileaks copies of documents critical of their clients, and for that matter I did not repost the Hansard excerpt that mentioned them.

      It’s also worth pointing out that had I got a legal letter demanding I take down certain material, I would quite possibly have complied. I am not Spartacus, and I’m not going to jail for the Guardian.

      But if you believe in freedom of speech it would be ludicrous to stand by and make no comment when a newspaper is, on the face of it, prevented from reporting proceeds in Parliament by court order. That way lies a very dangerous path which we all have an interest in avoiding.

    22. cjcjc — on 15th October, 2009 at 3:45 am  

      If taking legal advice in order to avoid future hassle (or worse) counts as “hiding behind lawyers” (whatever that means) then so be it. It strikes me as a rather sensible thing to do.

      Anarchyintheuk’s comments are just posturing.

    23. douglas clark — on 15th October, 2009 at 9:52 am  

      Sunny,

      You might find this quite interesting, if you haven’t read it already:

      http://blogscript.blogspot.com/2009/10/new-uk-internet-libel-case-coming.html

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