Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is The Times using courts to curtail potential competition?

Today The Times has announced proudly that a “Landmark ruling lifts lid on police blogger”, referring to a case that The Times won against the author of the Nightjack blog (who tried to get an injunction preventing The Times from revealing his name). But is it something to be really proud of? Or, like the music industry using courts to stop the unstoppable and try to save a failed business model, The Times just found an easy case to undermine the activities of some bloggers and went for the part (their anonymity) that may discourage many from revealing some news? Isn’t it the case that the ruling in question will come to hunt newspapers in general and The Times in particular when in the future they try to keep the anonymity of a source that got the information breaking some rule?

The arguments of The Times could be summarized in saying that the name of the blogger did not deserve protection because he was a policeman that was breaking police rules and, therefore, there was public interest in knowing the name of such a rule-breaking public servant. This is a very strange and dangerous proposition to be put forward by a newspaper; haven’t they heard about the Pentagon Papers? Do they think that those that gave the papers to the New York Times and the Washington Post had the authorization to do that? Or probably when The Times published an article on June 29, 1972, referring to and explaining the contents of the Papers did not matter that they had been obtained by breaking the rules (actually a quite serious law in the US)? One of The Times analysts tries to make a link between the ruling and freedom of information, clearly ignoring the quite precise meaning that freedom of information has in that setting. class="MsoNormal">Finally, The Times also engages in some silly form of character assassination by trying to show how bad the activities of the blogger were, but nothing helps to change the sensation that, legalities apart (the disputable ruling of the judge deserves a full paper on it), something is quite wrong on the ethical side of The Times.

Interestingly enough, one of the “analyses” of the ruling that appears on The Times ends by trying to preempt the obvious saying that “ironically [...] there will be plenty of bloggers who […] ‘will argue it has a chilling effect that will deter bloggers from putting information out there’”, quoting an, of course, anonymous lawyer…

No comments: