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Hacked Off, the law, bloggers and small publishers

Many bloggers and others have rightly noted that amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill that were voted in the House of Commons on Monday have the potential to weigh unfairly on bloggers and other small publishers. The amendments relate to exemplary damages and court costs.

These amendments can be changed before they pass into law, though there is not much time.

The amendments are the work of Conservatives in government and not of Labour, the Liberal Democrats or for that matter Hacked Off.

They have not been endorsed in any way by Hacked Off. On the contrary, at the weekend we urged the three parties not to approve them finally there and then, but to leave time for them to be improved. The parties agreed to this.

For what it is worth, we believe the potential impact on bloggers and small publishers was unforeseen – an accident in the drafting – and we know of no reason why politicians might resist efforts to put things right.

The amendments go to the House of Lords on Monday for what is likely to be their last stage in Parliament. New changes, if they are to be adopted, have to be ready tomorrow.

We have been working hard, with the support of a legislative drafting specialist, to find the best way of changing the amendments so that the law does not bear down unfairly on bloggers and small publishers, and so that for almost all web-based publishers the provisions would actually give them protection. We will make our suggestions to the political parties very soon, and we expect to publish them as soon as practical after that.

If the amendments that we propose are accepted, almost all bloggers, with a very few, rare exceptions, will be completely untouched by the changes.

36 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Carlreply
March 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm

If Its all the Tories fault why does the wording that has so worried bloggers appear in the draft Royal Charter that was published by Labour last Thursday in response to the Tories pulling out of talks?

http://labour.org.uk/uploads/171c847b-3043-c2b4-1d71-a2fe2fdd93e1.pdf

Mark Wallacereply
March 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm

How generous of you to stoop to consider maybe giving us bloggers some freedom to write. Presumably it’s this level of noblesse oblige which led you to hold a meeting on Wednesday about bloggers under the new law and, err, didn’t invite any of us who disagree with you?

Anyone who cares about Internet freedom would do best to join Blog Off http://order-order.com/2013/03/20/tell-evan-harris-to-blog-off/

Guido Fawkesreply
March 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I don’t believe you, in fact Dr Evan Harris has been telling people he wants to see bloggers regulated.

Pliny the Welderreply
March 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm
– In reply to: Guido Fawkes

My suggestion is, to all of those powerful and rich contributors to the coffers of HackedOff, as well as to those famous names fronting it, who have been in the public eye for so long now, quite simple. Suck it up and shut up – you are privileged peopleAND you are getting justice.
The law, as it stood, was perfectly robust enough to have dealt with the criminals who were guilty of the crimes uncovered, and a lot earlier than when the coalition cam to power and actually investigated it properly.
The fact is that the establishment, Labour Government, the police etc. did not or would not screw their courage to the sticking place and uncover the aweful truth.

What you have created by pushing Leveson will not benefit 98% of the UK, but will try to make the rich and famous 2%, immune from public oversight of their behaviour and actions.

I make this prediction in closing, however – in the manner of an old ex-girlfriend of mine, (a daughter of Priam ) – BEWARE the law of unintended consequences!!

Ianreply
March 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Ugh – if you want to regulate publishers, then regulate them regardless of size.

Why would a publisher reaching X readers be regulated, but one reaching Y readers not be? What happens when a publisher approaches the threshold from being “free” to being “tied up in red tape” – do they beg people to stop reading them?

Frankly, the regulations are mess and a really stupid idea – but the law should apply to everyone equally or not at all.

Jim Hawkinsreply
March 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Why shouldn’t bloggers be regulated? They publish, therefore they should be subject to the same rules as everyone else. What would be unfair about that?

Boriswatchreply
March 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm

“I don’t believe you”

I don’t believe you, Paul. Try not writing for the Sun if you want this to change.

Hacked Off Faces Backlash from Thousands of BloggersEffort to Exclude Small Enterprises from “Relevant Publisher” – Guy Fawkes’ blogreply
March 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm

[…] cumbersome regulatory organisations. Hugh Grant has just tweeted a link to a post on the Hacked Off website claiming that the proposals have not been endorsed by […]

Rakehell Obi (@Rakehell_Obi)reply
March 21, 2013 at 5:42 pm

They want to control bloggers? That should be fun.

free pressreply
March 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Of course you want to see everything regulated. It’s thanks to you that Free Speach in the UK will be destroyed.Are you going to make your suggestions to the political parties in the way you did last week, an unelected group of agitators telling the politicians what they can or cannot do.

Elaine Decoulosreply
March 21, 2013 at 6:09 pm

That is not the only problem with the amendments. The arbitration scheme is only for ‘news-related material’, which is defined as news or information about current affairs, opinions on either or GOSSIP about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news. It’s prejudicial to either very current info or celebs and the well known.

So any other stories by the tabloids that do not fit into one of these categories will not be considered by the arbitration scheme! What about all the human interest stories the tabloids publish? What if someone is defamed in one of them? The arbitration scheme won’t hear it and they are once again at the mercy of the legal system with its absurb costs favoring the rich.

Why won’t the arbitration scheme cover EVERYTHING published in a newspaper? What is the definition of news and current affairs? Something that happened in the past week or past month? It’s ludicrous.

Hacked Off says press damages plan is a mistake » Spectator Blogsreply
March 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm

[…] so that they won’t impact bloggers and small publishers. You can read the full statement here, but this is the key […]

Xristoreply
March 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm

I don’t know why you were involved in this in the first place, in whoever’s office it was at whatever time it was. You’re not elected, you’re a pressure group, a lobby, no more no less. So I, who didn’t vote for you because you didn’t stand for office, am feeling, well, pretty hacked off.

Colin Wilesreply
March 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm

This looks like Hacked Off trying to wriggle out of the furore the Charter has caused. How on earth were four members of your secretive organisation allowed private access to Ministers in putting together this rushed, squalid deal and no one else was allowed to be present? Not the national or local press, not on-line providers, bloggers or others. The press should investigate this grubby deal before it is too late. Read the First Amendment. that’s the only law we need in this country with regard to freedom of speech, the rest is covered by the criminal law as Ian Hisop and countless others have pointed out.

free pressreply
March 22, 2013 at 9:12 am
– In reply to: Colin Wiles

They weren’t given access to any meetings with ministers apart from the LibDems. The meeting was held in Ed Miliband’s rooms at his instigation. This makes it even worse! Another point I would like to see. Is there anyehere on this website that tells you who Hacked Off are? Who are it’s backers,who does it have links to? It is a secretive group that is complaining about others being secretive.

Inyourdreamsreply
March 21, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Hahaha, you know, the government knows, every intelligent person knows that no changes are going to be made now. Either you were naive or stupid. We will be promised that these will never be applied. Then of course it will creep in, judges will have no option but to enforce the law as written, and you will be silent in your mansions

DP39reply
March 21, 2013 at 7:59 pm

It is incredibly obvious that much of the criticism of the drafting is in fact a desperate attempt to resist regulation of any kind. The constant refrain that it’s ‘a mess’ is serving exactly the same purpose. You sort of wonder if the tabloids would ever countenance any kind of sensible regulation. How much easier to refuse and cry foul at any suggestion!. It suits them and they have always felt with justice they were more powerful than anyone else anyway. I think Hacked Off should consider leading a boycott of titles refusing to join the regulator.

Twmreply
March 22, 2013 at 12:03 am
– In reply to: DP39

Hacked Off will be boycotting a lot of titles and websites, including the New Statesman http://www.newstatesman.com/media/media/2013/03/leader-press-reform-too-important-be-cooked-late-night-deal

Anna Raccoonreply
March 21, 2013 at 8:13 pm

“The amendments are the work of Conservatives in government and not of Labour, the Liberal Democrats or for that matter Hacked Off.”

Funny that, I could swear you said Cameron was in bed, but Cathgart and Harris, Miliband and Harman, Clegg and Winterton were all in the negotiations – and yet the amendments turn out to be all the Conservatives fault and nothing to do with you?

Felicityreply
March 21, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Guido you simply do not speak for most bloggers. Stop pretending you do. Vast blogs like yours ie with vast audiences, that tend to abuse ( like yours) should be decently regulated, while little bloggers should be exempt from charter rules. No blogger should be prevented from reporting wrongdoing.

Michael Dreply
March 22, 2013 at 7:16 am
– In reply to: Felicity

Nonsense. You clearly have absolutely no concept of the right to free speech. Mark my words Felicty – when they remove our right to freedom of speech it isnt long before they come to take you away. Read history – educate your self!

Guido Fawkesreply
March 22, 2013 at 2:49 pm
– In reply to: Felicity

You may not like our editorial line, that does not mean we should be regulated. No blogs were criticised by Leveson.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press is not just for those you agree with Felicity.

Bernardreply
March 21, 2013 at 9:11 pm

It’s a real irony that Hacked Off has taken to smearing ‘Conservatives in Government’ in an attempt to deflect from their role in forcing through poorly planned and ill-advised legislation making it legally iffy to make such claims without strong substantiating evidence.

Enjoy the privelage for the short time it lasts!

Alecreply
March 21, 2013 at 9:33 pm

>> The amendments are the work of Conservatives in government and not of Labour, the Liberal Democrats or for that matter Hacked Off.

If this were so and they were able to slip such a pernicious aspect of legislation past your unsuspecting eyes, why bother with the proposed Royal Charter in the first place? Why were they unable to save the Defamation Bill from amendments which could have been used by public figures to prevent sex-workers they’d paid then blabbing to the media?

Sorry, this plaintive plea comes across as that of children who’ve eaten too much cake and now are crying ‘cos their stomachs hurt.

Elaine Decoulosreply
March 21, 2013 at 9:50 pm

DP39, I am extremely keen to hold the press to account, having been one of their victims. But what has been proposed does little to help people like me. The amendments are seriously flawed. The conditions for the arbitration scheme and aggravated and exemplary damages are very selection and I suspect unlawful because of the definitions attached to ‘news-related material’ as I mention above. They are prejudicial.

They are so flawed they do not appear to be applicable to what happened to Max Mosley for instance. Unless you consider him a public figure before he was exposed in The News of the World, of which there would have to be a determination and I believe most people would disagree, what happened to him would not be considered ‘news-related material’ and therefore NOT covered by the arbitration scheme or subject to aggravated or exemplary damages!

Over to the experts at Hacked Off….

Eric Priezkalnsreply
March 21, 2013 at 10:34 pm

The impact was unforeseen? Leveson steered clear of the internet when making his recommendations. This charter covers websites. How much foresight does it take, to consciously go beyond Leveson’s recommendations, and then forget that ‘small’ people have websites too?

Michael Dreply
March 22, 2013 at 7:09 am

I have little money (unlike your rich donators) I lead a pretty boring existence. All I have left is a little freedom and you people are fu**ing with it. No excuses – your meddling gave the lawmakers an excuse to clamp down on free speech. What the hell did you think was going to happen. fascists!

Peter Risdonreply
March 22, 2013 at 10:14 am

This was never anything more than a campaign to introduce special privileges for rich celebrities, trustafarians and for the establishment, to prevent scrutiny and allow them to use the press for publicity while guaranteeing deference and a lack of scrutiny otherwise, combined with a completely unscrupulous attack by some on the left against media that simply have the temerity to disagree with them.

Completely contemptible and wholly illiberal in every respect. You have back liberal democracy by 400 years.

Alecreply
March 22, 2013 at 10:45 am

Michael D, I don’t believe they’re full-blown fascists. I do, however, believe they of the petit bourgeois which always had l-o-o-o-o-o-o-nged for political influence despite not being willing to enter into the time-consuming and boring process of campaigns for office or marshalling arguments in face of reasoned opposition, and looks down its nose at those they consider to be their moral and intellectual inferiors (basically, everyone).

And we know where that anti-democratic, fascistic attitude leads.

Light Blue Touchpaper » Blog Archive » Dangerous Blogs Actreply
March 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

[…] try to write exceptions to avoid regulating the whole Internet. Those exceptions are poorly thought out and will have all sorts of unintended consequences. They might even include this blog! The […]

free pressreply
March 22, 2013 at 1:43 pm

You don’t look at your emails very often do you.Isn’t it about time you answered a few of your critics or doesn’t Hacked Off listen to the “little people?”

amiereply
March 22, 2013 at 5:13 pm

“We have been working hard,.. to find the best way of changing the amendments .. We will make our suggestions to the political parties very soon, and we expect to publish them as soon as practical ..”

We, We We.. Have you NO idea how you sound?! This unelected coterie magnanimously steering the law on all our behalves. The mantle you have assumed gets more disturbing by the day.

A little bit of calm reflection on the Royal Charter and bloggers | Liberal Burblingsreply
March 23, 2013 at 9:35 am

[…] It’s worth noting that Hacked Off appear to have been appalled by the blogger/Twitter implications of the Crime and Courts Bill amendment and have proposed another amendment to rectify it in the Lords on Monday, according to their website: […]

Bloggers unite to oppose “botched late-night drafting” that proposes new press/web regulationreply
March 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm

[…] carefully thought-through if it is to avoid unintended consequences. That has not happened here, as Hacked Off itself has […]

Felicityreply
March 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm

My comment did not suggest that freedom of the press was ” just for those who agreed with me”, (???) but rather I pointed out that blogs like Guidos with big audiences who often abuse others should ideally be regulated decently to protect others from their abuse.

Mom and Sonreply
April 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm

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