The Guardian carried a very revealing report today about a case involving a football website where fans of Sheffield Wednesday expressed their views on the owners of the club in a libellous fashion. The Chairman, Chief Executive and five directors of the club have won a High Court ruling forcing the owner of the Owlstalk website to reveal the identity of those accused of libelling them. It's worth reading the whole article HERE but here's an extract...
This ruling has huge implications for blogs and websites and may well force us all to introduce full registration. If there are any libel lawyers reading this, do give us your take on this ruling and how it may affect blogs like mine!
The club's lawyers asked the judge, Richard Parkes QC, to order disclosure about the identity of 11 fans. But the judge decided some fans, whose postings were merely "abusive" or likely to be understood as jokes, should keep their anonymity. The judge ordered that three fans whose postings might "reasonably be understood to allege greed, selfishness, untrustworthiness and dishonest behaviour", should be unmasked. Their right to maintain their anonymity and express themselves freely was outweighed by the directors' entitlement to take action to protect their reputation, he said. Court orders obliging websites to disclose the identity of users posting anonymous defamatory remarks began in 2001.
Dominic Bray, of K&L Gates, Sheffield Wednesday's solicitors, said: "There seem to be quite a lot of websites that are using their anonymity to make comments about people and think that there shouldn't be any liability for it. But the internet is no different to any other place of publication, and if somebody is making defamatory comments about people then they should be held responsible for it. What these cases do is just confirm that's the law - the law applies to the internet as much as it does to anything else."