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RealTime IT News

Demon Case Is "Disaster," Says UK Cyber Liberties Group

Internet Freedom, one of the leading cyber liberties groups in the UK, said Friday that Demon Internet's failure to challenge a legal decision in a libel case was "a disaster for ISPs, Net users and free speech."

The libel case of Godfrey versus Demon Internet, is now due to go on trial later this year because Demon chose not to appeal a trial judge's decision that went against the company.

Demon pleaded that it was an innocent disseminator of material on the Internet, and therefore could not be charged with libel in this or any similar instance. Unlike book publishers who select their material and approve all content, Demon argued that ISPs merely disseminated material without checking it. The judge rejected the argument.

"This decision is bad news for ISPs," said Daniel Lloyd, lawyer and legal advisor to Internet Freedom. "It means that in future a litigant need only so much as suggest that a comment is libellous and the defence of innocent dissemination is withdrawn from the ISP."

Internet Freedom points out that under UK libel law the onus is on the defendant to prove innocence. Given that that Internet makes it very easy for people to respond to statements, a great amount of potentially libellous material is likely to appear -- placing ISPs in an impossible position.

"British Law now demands that ISPs remove controversial material that anyone suggests is libellous," said the founder of Internet Freedom Chris Ellison. "This will be a disaster for Net users who will be denied access to information, for ISPs as they will have to police the Net, and for free speech not just in the UK but from around the globe."