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Web Justice?

The Internet is unmoderated, and offers many people the apparent opportunity to seek publicity for their situation, and support in some difficulty or other. The case of Svenska Journalistforbundet v Counsel of the European Union Case T-174/95 ECJ/CFI Bulletin 16/98 (Law Society Gazette 9 September 1998) is interesting for those seeking such justice.

This case might serve as a warning for those denizens of Internet who see it as a safe base from which to attack some behemoth in the 'real world'. The case itself is not particularly significant, it concerned the draft of a procedure for disclosure of information, but the Court was faced with a situation requiring the issue of an additional, cautionary, note to the judgement.

One of the parties felt entirely aggrieved by the whole matter, and lacked faith that the court would deliver something which sufficiently accorded with his own personal sense of justice. He took his case additionally to the 'court' of the World Wide Web. We all know of sites where someone has taken advantage of the comparative anonymity and cheapness of the web, to publish something which a more formal organisation would not have published. In particular, he released, onto the Web, pages which had been disclosed to him in the proceedings, to be used for the purposes only of those proceedings. He also took the opportunity to make his feelings clear about those documents, and invited readers to contact the European Commission (and he gave details of telephone and fax numbers to assist) to make their own views clear. He used the pages to try to bring external pressure on a party to the case.

It is not recorded whether there was any substantial response to the web page as such. It may have lingered in that electronic limbo, to which many pages are consigned, unread and unvisited, but as a direct result of the re-publication on the Web, the court proceedings were impeded. Further papers and arguments had to be filed, and at additional expense to all concerned.

The court was miffed. It decided that it was necessary, and proper, to order the web page author to pay a sufficient additional burden of costs to feel its clear disapproval. The court said directly that the use of documents, which had been produced to the party in the case purely for the purpose of proceedings, for purposes outside that procedure amounted to an abuse of the court process.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
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Copyright and Database Rights: David Swarbrick 2012
18 October 2013 131 18 October 2013