Monday, November 05, 2007

Royal "blackmail" and the Internet

The Sunday Times did its best to spice up the story yesterday: Aide claims tryst with royal’s father.

Tryst? There's a word you don't hear very often. But it does fit neatly into a headline.

As I pointed out the other day, despite all the injunctions flying about, it is very easy for anyone in Britain who wants to find out the name of the minor royal involved to do so. Not that it is very exciting when you do.

Marcel Berlins discusses the implications of the Internet for such legal proceedings in today's Guardian:

There is no way in which a court can impose and enforce a ban on the foreign media (unless it has a legal presence in this country), still less on individuals based abroad. That is the nature of the world wide web. Even before the internet explosion foreign newspapers were able to publish material which our own press could not. And by foreign include Scotland, whose separate legal system puts it outside the control of the English courts.

In the past few years it has become impossible for the law and the courts to ensure that a secret is kept, or to punish those who reveal it but are outside our frontiers. The public's ever-increasing sophistication with internet technology means that access to data, hitherto difficult to reach, has become far easier.

The Contempt of Court Act, the most used legal vehicle to suppress facts from becoming widely known, is becoming less and less of an obstacle to public knowledge. Can anything be done to reverse this trend? I think not.

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