Blogging Along in the Brave New World of Leveson? A Further Comment

Richard A. EdwardsILHRU. UWE Bristol.

Some further thoughts on the new regime for the press, particularly on how it applies to blogs.

Further to my previous post it is now clear that the changes do cover some blogs and websites. Guido received clarification of this earlier. But the intention to bind news blogs and other websites is crystal clear if you pick your way through the ‘dab of statute’ that extends to fifty-five A4 pages and which complements the draft Royal Charter.  

Clearly, just as these provisions will not bite on back-bedroom bloggers, they will cover web-papers such as the Huffington Post. However, they will also ensnare many blogs run by chambers/law firms, and also stimulating political blogs run by entrepreneurial people like Iain Dale. Do these blogs need to register?

If these folk give up publishing because of these rushed and ill-considered reforms, then the world really will be the poorer for it. I hope I am wrong.

Extracts, for those interested, from Crime and Courts Bill amendments

 NC 26

‘(1) In sections [Awards of exemplary damages] to [Awards of costs], “relevant publisher” means a person who, in the course of a business (whether or not carried on with a view to profit), publishes news-related material—

(a) which is written by different authors, and

(b) which is to any extent subject to editorial control.

This is subject to subsections (5) and (6).

(2) News-related material is “subject to editorial control” if there is a person (whether or not the publisher of the material) who has editorial or equivalent responsibility for—

(a) the content of the material,

(b) how the material is to be presented, and

(c) the decision to publish it.

(3) A person who is the operator of a website is not to be taken as having editorial or equivalent responsibility for the decision to publish any material on the site, or for content of the material, if the person did not post the material on the site.

(4) The fact that the operator of the website may moderate statements posted on it by others does not matter for the purposes of subsection (3).

(5) A person is not a “relevant publisher” if the person is specified by name in Schedule [Exclusions from definition of “relevant publisher”].

(6) A person is not a “relevant publisher” in so far as the person’s publication of news-related material is in a capacity or case of a description specified in Schedule [Exclusions from definition of “relevant publisher”].’.

 NC30

(4) “Relevant claim” means a civil claim made in respect of any of the following—

(a) libel;

(b) slander;

(c) breach of confidence;

(d) misuse of private information;

(e) malicious falsehood;

(f) harassment.

….

(7) “News-related material” means—

(a) news or information about current affairs,

(b) opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs, or

(c) gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news. 

NS5 

To move the following Schedule:—

‘EXCLUSIONS FROM DEFINITION OF “RELEVANT PUBLISHER”

Broadcasters

1 The British Broadcasting Corporation.

2 Sianel Pedwar Cymru.

3 The holder of a licence under the Broadcasting Act 1990 or 1996 who publishes news-related material in connection with the broadcasting activities authorised under the licence.

Special interest titles

4 A person who publishes a title that—

(a) relates to a particular pastime, hobby, trade, business, industry or profession, and

(b) only contains news-related material on an incidental basis that is relevant to the main content of the title.

Scientific or academic journals

5 A person who publishes a scientific or academic journal that only contains news-related material on an incidental basis that is relevant to the scientific or academic content.

Public bodies and charities

6 (1) A public body or charity that publishes news-related material in connection with the carrying out of its functions.

(2) “Public body” means a person or body whose functions are of a public nature.

Company news publications etc

7 A person who publishes a newsletter, circular or other document which—

(a) relates to a business carried on by the person, and

(b) only contains news-related material on an incidental basis that is relevant to the person’s business.

Book publishers

8 (1) A person who is the publisher of a book.

(2) “Book” does not include any title published on a periodic basis with substantially different content.’.

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