European Court asked to rule on Internet free speech

English libel laws could breach the right to freedom of expression on the Internet

British Web site Outcast will ask the European Court of Human Rights to consider whether English libel laws breach the right to freedom of expression on the Internet, reports the Financial Times Friday.

The online version of gay magazine Outcast is spearheading the appeal to the European court after its Web site was removed by its ISP following another threats of legal action from rival publication, the Pink Paper.

This initiative is a response to the closure of a number of UK Web sites by ISPs fearing legal action following the landmark Demon Internet versus Laurence Godfrey court case last month. Demon agreed to pay £200,000 in damages to settle a libel action brought because of material posted on its server.

This week the Web site belonging to the Campaign Against the Censorship of the Internet in Britain was also removed by the hosting ISP after Laurence Godfrey threatened legal action about a headline about his case which he considered misleading.

According to the Defamation Act of 1996, ISPs are not responsible for defamatory material if they can prove it was published on their servers without their knowledge.

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