claimants go after users, not websites

This week I’ve spotted two instances of legal claims being filed not against the websites hosting content but against the person(s) actually posting the content. In one instance, a copyright infrindgement claim was made against a blog posting premiership football videos on Youtube and, in the other, against a message board user who, the claim alledges, posted defamatory material on a magazine’s message board forum.

According to BBC News Online, “An independent website has been told to stop putting footage of FA Premiership goals on the video website YouTube. NetResult – a firm monitoring the internet on behalf of the Premier League – emailed a warning to the website,”

Similarly, the Press Gazette reported on Thursday that:

“A website user is facing legal action over statements he made about a yachting company on a magazine’s forum. Craig Powell wrote about Hampshire-based SD Marine under the heading “Re: Honest brokers or back- street cowboys”, according to a High Court writ. The comment was published on the IPC Yachting World website, but the writer has no connection to the magazine and IPC is not being sued. An IPC spokeswoman said the comment was posted by a site user “entirely at his own responsibility, subject to the site’s terms and conditions”. Powell removed the posting himself before the company contacted IPC.”

Has the tide turned, with those making claims realising that sites offering community features or enabling users to upload content aren’t ultimately responsible for this content? I hope so.

I’m a strong believer that laws in this area should be rewritten to encourage websites to take resonable steps to police content but, so long as they procedures are in place and followed, to ensure that the users who break the rules – and the law – are held responsible for their own actions.

[More on the current state of libel law as it applies to user generated content and online community in the UK.]