Forget the Geneva talks - the real battle over Internet copyright has broken out in the Shetland Islands. A battle between two local online publications could prove a test case that will alter UK law on Web site links.
Back in October, Robert Wishart, managing director of 'The Shetland Times', the islands' long-standing weekly newspaper, complained to Scotland?s supreme civil court that 'The Shetland News', a popular new electronic publication, was making direct links to the pages of his online edition.
It may be the most exciting thing to have happened to the Shetland Isles since Billy Connolly did his World Tour of Scotland but the case has enormous implications for the future of the WWW and has attracted international concern. An interim injunction has been filed which says that the 'News' cannot quote 'Times' headlines or make links to the 'Times' site. And should 'The Shetland Times' be successful at the full hearing in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, scheduled for early in the New Year, it will become illegal in Scotland (and possibly throughout the UK) to make a hypertext link to a page without the permission of the Web site operator.
'The Shetland News', which ?boasts readers in more than 55 countries?, intends to defend itself vigorously. It has the backing of The National Union of Journalists and has set up an Appeal Fund on its Web site asking people to give generously and ?help us defeat this unprecedented legal attack on the freedom of the Internet". The 'News' used to carry a headline page with its own stories, plus headlines from the 'Times' site, which linked readers to the actual 'Times' stories. The online paper claims its links had trebled the 'Times' site?s readership and that it had reciprocal links with everyone from CNN to an Icelandic newspaper.
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