The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) says the 1996 Defamation Act is failing to protect ISPs from libel charges and must be changed to prevent them being forced to act as censors.
Following Demon Internet's decision this week not to appeal against the ruling in its libel case against Laurence Godfrey, ISPA believes the law which is designed to protect ISPs from being liable for defamatory content on its service falls short.
Clare Gilbert an ISPA council member and AOL lawyer explained that while the Act was intended to provide protection to ISPs on the grounds of "innocent distribution", that protection disappears as soon as the provider receives notice of infringing content, even if it has no control over the content.
The Act fails to define what form the "notice" must take so an ISP is ignorant as to whether it has to respond to any claim of defamation.
"Theoretically, an email addressed to an ISP making uncorroborated claims of defamation, could well constitute notice," said Gilbert. "ISPA is of the opinion that this leaves ISPs in a very uncertain situation and opens up the floodgates for them to be sued for unlawful removal of content and puts them in the unwanted position of being a censor."
"Potentially, we are dammed if we do and we are damned if we don't," she added.
According to ISPA, ISPs are ready and willing to establish a proper 'notice and takedown' procedure, where officially corroborated notices can be acted upon by them. In order for this to work effectively, ISPA stressed the backing of the government and clarification of current law is essential.
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