It’s pretty safe to say that it isn’t too often that The European Convention on Human Rights, originally set out in 1950, isn’t something that gets cited too often in casual debates around freedom of expression. Yet two particular articles sit at the heart of many debates surrounding the press and, arguably, in many debates around our society in general.

Article 8 states:

“everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

A simple sentiment, but one which sits at the core of the spate of recent super injunction cases and which is frequently winning arguments in court. The sentiment is one which few would realistically argue with; we all have a right to privacy, an essential aspect of a truly free society.

Key to the discussion around super injunctions is the interpretation of this right to privacy as the right to a protection of reputation.

Reputations are legally perceived to have a monetary value and, as dictated by legal precedent in the UK courts, everyone starts with a good reputation – unless proven otherwise. This idea sits at the heart of defamation rulings, the idea that the unfair tarnishing of someone’s reputation can have a negative effect on their potential income.

And yet all too often this idea is emphatically contradicted by the opening line in Article 10 of the same convention:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression”.

 

Essentially, everyone has the right to say what they want, when they want to – and if that is damaging to someone else’s reputation, so be it.

With two such contradictory statements at the heart of super injunctions and defamation rulings, it’s easy to see why cases can last for years following the original comments and/or story.

Nevertheless Article 8 has dominated proceedings in recent years, and a key reason for this is Mr. Justice Eady. If you don’t know Mr. Justice Eady, he is a UK judge frequently appointed to high profile defamation cases.

Numerous publishers have bones to pick with him and it’s rumored that champagne corks were being popped around Fleet Street (metaphorically speaking, at least) when he announced that he was standing down, and it looks as though his replacement might be somewhat more liberal towards freedom of expression, meaning we could see some change in precedence over the coming years.

The phrase “in the public interest” is frequently bandied about in defamation cases. This is the happy compromise between the two articles; you can only impact on someone’s reputation if it’s in the public interest.

So while it might not be in the public interest to know that Princess Caroline of Monaco goes out to dinner with her kids, (unsurprisingly, she received compensation over photographs published of just this), but that it might be good for the public to know about the less-than-wholesome life Tommy Sheridan (then an MSP) was leading; a case which only gets more extraordinary the more you hear about it.

Reeling out 17 witnesses, Sheridan initially won damages from the News of the World over claims that he was visiting an illicit club; five years on and he’s serving jail time for perjury, though one suspects we haven’t heard the last of it yet.

However, the “public interest” argument is also a pretty flimsy and arbitrary compromise which represents the only middle ground between the two. It’s frequently sullied by the press stretching the definition of public interest to, say, knowing that a premier league footballer had relations with someone they shouldn’t have.

It’s also quickly worth mentioning the increasingly prominent trend for “Libel Tourism”, wherein cases can be brought about in territories which have no bearing on the original comments or participants. This, as you may have guessed, is because the internet is ubiquitous and as such as long as you can prove that a comment made in America has been seen in the UK, then proceedings can be pressed in UK Courts – as seen with King vs. Lewis in 2004. Article 8 makes it easier to win damages in defamation cases (and to win super injunctions) in the UK than it does in the US, meaning that this is a trend which isn’t going anywhere.

This has interesting implications for PRs and the use of social media, as it’s increasingly becoming vital to ensure that social media policies are rigid and right, and to ensure that you watch what you say on social networks – either by yourself or on behalf of a client.

Article 8 is currently winning over Article 10 in the UK, so while you’re free to express yourself, you basically can’t express yourself too much. Or something like that. Even if only one person sees a defamatory comment it could be prosecuted.

It’s also worth remembering that Clients taking legal action in order to protect their reputation isn’t always A Great Thing. In fact, it’s pretty much very rare to see any real benefit. See McLibel, which ultimately had a damaging effect on McDonald’s brand. Looking at the reasons that McDonalds originally took action it could be argued that the head honchos at Google would be within their rights to consider similar action against Facebook and BM, yet I believe they are intelligent and perceptive enough not to.

The interpretation of these two articles sits at the heart of one of the key debates around the media at the moment; it’s important that as PR practitioners we fully understand what they stand for.

@tmbrntt

 

Lets talk DERTy

Another week, another round of DERTy Talk, a day later but who’s counting.

So what has been happening in the Digital Entertainment, Rights and Technology space this week? Well…

Digital Entertainment

clip_image002Dirty Derty

If any of you have stumbled across this week’s edition of DERTy talk and are somewhat disappointed by the lack of actual dirt, then this one might be for you. And if you are just interested in regular digital entertainment this might be one of interest too. This week has seen the release of the world’s first 3D porn film. The film apparently cost £2m to make and has caused Chinese fans to flock to Hong Kong in the hope of seeing the uncut version. The first of many eye popping films? Who knows, as long as it doesn’t become 4D…

Cats own the interwebclip_image003?

Worried about how many people currently follow you on Twitter? Perhaps a lowly cat could help, or perhaps just add some amusement to your day. According to a recent list compiled by Shortlist, the animal with the most amount of followers is @sockington (not an Edelman client), with 1,482,735 followers. Sockington is owned by tech-historian Jason Scott. The domestic cat turned twitter legend was originally found as a stray but has since received fame on Twitter and has even had a spread in People Magazine. Others on the list include the Bronx Zoo Cobra which we featured last week and an array of animals ranging from ducks to parrots.

clip_image002

Pirates on the high seas of Web Connected TV

YouTube’s senior director of content partnerships for EMEA has said that an increase in web connected TV’s will not result in “random ads running across the screen” and a lack of quality control. Piracy has been identified as the biggest threat as more people will be tempted to watch pirated material. BBC.com and global iPlayer MD Luke Bradley-Jones has said that video is the single most exciting area in terms of traction with 50-100% growth in use of video across BBC worldwide per month.

Rights

Do you know your data rights?

We wrote ages ago about the new dicdataship and how Data Brokers and the profit being made from digital data. This is a lovely infomercial video explaining how data brokers gather personal information and how they are using your information – whether you know it or not. Brought to you by the organisation Reputation.com – its thought provoking stuff.

 

 

clip_image002[5]

A working group headed by Ed Vaizey has suggested creating a body that will resemble website watchdog the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), however this has been slammed by digital rights campaigners, the Open Rights Group. In part the group has been proposed to find an alternative to website blocking, compromised ISPs and rights holders. Currently there are problems with clauses within the Digital Economy Act around how web site blocking would occur and who would be held responsible if illegal content were downloaded on free public Wi-Fi. The full article is published here and it is set to be an issue that will run and run. After all currently if your website gets blocked there is no one to complain to.

Technologies

Minority Shopping Report

A very impressive customer service/ technology initiative from the clever people at 3 (though almost certainly an April Fool). Basically Minority Report meets online shopping WITH customer service. In terms of how businesses offer content, software and technology as a service – this is an interesting hypothesis of how customer support *might* look in the future, practical joke or not.

Watch it here – http://vimeo.com/21968394

Tweets from the team

@LukeMackay: I might go to Legoland California JUST to see thesehttp://bzfd.it/g0fvA3 #starwars

@GLeney: All I want to do is check the weather! #bbcwebsiteisdown

@AJGriffiths: V nicely done video from Desperados RT @becksr: Wow – this is very cool. http://bit.ly/dJW7cf

@LukeMackay: The Governator. Utterly inspired RT @_mip_ Arnold#Schwarzenegger launches The Governator at #MIPTVhttp://bit.ly/hsluJ8

@AJGriffiths: The @FT refuses to give up subscriber data to Apple. A fair stake in the groundhttp://on.mash.to/h6vfvL

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers