Yesterday Guardian journalists gleefully drew Guido’s attention to a clause in Maria Miller’s proposed legislation that attempts to bring this blog into the regulated, un-free press sector that is being created post-Leveson. Guido has highlighted the ambitious clause in red below…
1. For the purposes of this Charter:
a) “Regulator” means an independent body formed by or on behalf of relevant publishers for the purpose of conducting regulatory activities in relation to their publications;
b) “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:
a. a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or
b. a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);
c) “broadcaster” means:
a. the holder of a licence under the Broadcasting Act 1990 or 1996;
b. the British Broadcasting Corporation; or
c. Sianel Pedwar Cymru;
d) a person “publishes in the United Kingdom” if the publication takes place in the United Kingdom or is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom;
e) “news-related material” means:
i. news or information about current affairs;
ii. opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs; or
iii. gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news.
It is arguable – and Guido does argue – that since this blog’s server is in California the publication takes place in the US, under the protection of the First Amendment. Readers point their browsers at www.order-order.com and download the content from the server cache. The publishing tool is the server and it is definitely not in the United Kingdom. Which is why they introduced the second part: “or is is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom”. That is an interesting idea, which hopefully won’t catch on internationally. Imagine if the Iranian regime implemented the same law, demanding that the BBC’s Persian Service, which is broadcast from London, submitted to their regulator. Crazy.
Guido would be interested to hear what the many m’learned friends who read this blog think of this bit of the legislation. Who will the regulator pursue? Individual bloggers personally when they are in the jurisdiction? A foreign citizen, uploading to a foreign-hosted website, published by a foreign domiciled company – seems to Guido that this legal extra-territoriality has dubious legal foundations. Perhaps Maria Miller is planning to send Royal Navy gunboats to Wexford and California?