Exclusive: Demon loses court battle

Summary:Demon defeated and forced to pay damages in court case it expected to win. Jane Wakefield reports from the Old Bailey

The high-profile Demon Internet versus Laurence Godfrey defamation case finally ended Thursday with a humiliating defeat for the ISP, which has been forced to apologise and pay damages of £15,000.

It is just over a year since particle physicist Godfrey brought his action against Demon. The case, in which Godfrey accused Demon of failing to remove defamatory remarks about him made in a newsgroup it hosted, has been closely followed by other ISPs and free speech advocates over the past two years.

At the height of the publicity surrounding the case, more than 10,000 messages were posted to newsgroups accusing Laurence of attempting to gag the freedom of the Net. Demon entered the fray with all guns blazing, vowing to fight the case on behalf of the whole ISP community.

For Demon, though, things did not go according to plan when the judge, Mr Justice Moreland, threw out its defence of "innocent distribution". Moreland argued that Demon had been informed of the postings and was therefore responsible for them. The precedent, making all ISPs liable for content hosted by them, sent shockwaves through the ISP community.

Demon initially claimed it would appeal against the ruling but later backed down. The case has been beset with confusion and U-turns. Initially the ISP claimed to fight the case on behalf of the industry, saying it threatened "the entire ethos of freedom of speech on the Internet". Later, then managing director of Demon, David Furniss, claimed the case was far more personal. "It is now purely about Dr Laurence Godfrey versus Demon Internet and is not an industry platform," he said.

Take me to the Demon Statement

Come and read the news comment about 'Dr Godfrey's big adventure' with Ken Young from AnchorDesk UK.

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Topics: Networking

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