"We would have crossed the rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land."

Marcus's picture
Submitted by Marcus on Fri, 2012-11-30 13:25
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In the teeth of fierce opposition itching for a new law regulating UK press and investigative journalism, David Cameron says:

"The issue of principle is that for the first time we would have crossed the rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land.

"We should I believe be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and a free press.

"In this House – which has been a bulwark of democracy for centuries – we should think very, very carefully before crossing this line."

Transcript of David Cameron's speech to Parliament

The response:

In an outspoken interview, the Labour leader reveals that he is prepared to fight to bring in a law to regulate the press.

Ed Miliband: PM has betrayed the victims of Britain's newspapers

"He flatters Nick Clegg for being "courageous and right" in also opposing Cameron and praises Tories who have defied their leader. He will give the cross-party talks some time but not more than three weeks. Then he will throw his weight behind attempts to build a cross-party alliance that he hopes will inflict a devastating Commons defeat on the prime minister. He calculates that he has "the vast majority" of the public with him and that Cameron looks shifty and evasive. "He has one more chance to show leadership," he says, quite enjoying the moment.

Hacked Off petition for ‘Leveson in full’ gains ground despite concerns

"More than 110,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Leveson Report to be implemented in full, despite growing fears that some of its less-publicised recommendations could hamper investigative journalism.

The petition was drawn up by Hacked Off, the group established by victims of phone hacking, and was launched last week by Gerry McCann and Christopher Jefferies after Lord Justice Leveson published his report. By yesterday afternoon, the unconfirmed total of people backing the online petition had passed 115,000.

Hacked Off group director Brian Cathcart said: “This is a powerful indication of the strength of public feeling on Leveson. We have long known that the public is firmly behind effective, independent regulation of the press.”

In the wake of the report’s publication last Thursday , the Prime Minister, David Cameron, rejected the central recommendation that an independent regulatory body should have statutory underpinning, to the fury of anti-hacking campaigners.

The actor Hugh Grant, a member of Hacked Off, said yesterday that the Prime Minister’s position was “very close to disgraceful”.


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Labour's six pillars of wisdom to regulate the press

Marcus's picture

Labour's six pillars of wisdom to regulate the press

"Labour's six-clause draft press freedom and trust bill either represents a draconian law that will end 300 years of proud press freedom in the UK or a sensible, modest measure designed to ensure the newspaper industry sticks to its pledge to ensure an independent regulator maintains standards in an industry capable of wreaking unjustifiable havoc in people's lives.

Harriet Harman, the shadow culture secretary, obviously regards the bill she drafted with the expert help of the former Labour lord chancellor Lord Falconer as proportionate and limited in scope. She insists its sole purpose is to implement the recommendation of Lord Justice Leveson. However, to try to distil the findings of a 2,000-page report into an eight-page piece of legislation is no small task.

The bill's aim, she says, is not to regulate the press but to ensure there is a legal guarantee that the regulator will be effective and independent. "We have to remember why we are here. There has to be a legal guarantee that we don't just slip back to where we have been endlessly before, where the press say: 'We have learned our lesson, we are going to do it differently, we accept there needs to be change' and then those promises prove to be worthless.

"The bill seeks to offer to MPs on all sides a way that this guarantee can be made in legal form, and at the same time to allay fears of those who are worried that this might be invasive and cumbersome."

The most striking aspect of the bill proposes the lord chief justice sitting with other senior judges, and such assessors as the lord chief justice may nominate, as the high court, and act as a recognition panel responsible for verifying that the press regulator is undertaking the tasks to which it committed itself.

The "assessors" would probably be media experts and would give advice to the judiciary, in the same way as assessors help the court in other fields such as maritime or construction law...

In practice, the newspaper industry is in talks with culture secretary Maria Miller agreeing to most aspects of a press regulatory body proposed by Leveson, but only so long as there is no statutory oversight since the industry believes this opens the door to state regulation, or more heavy handed regulation by parliament at a subsequent date."

I've heard through the media...

Marcus's picture

...that social media is mentioned in passing in the report.

That's one criticism I've often heard that the Levesin report is old fashioned solving a problem that will not exist in the future die to the Internet.

I heard one celeb from hacked off, Charlotte Church, say that she is worried about the news corporations who own the papers and doesn't seem to mind individuals publishing online.

Doesn't make sense to the logic of her case, but you can see through her response that her motivation is tall poppy syndrome that wants to do as much damage as possible to news corporations without which, ironically, she wouldn't have her celebrity in the first place.

more good stuff

Doug Bandler's picture

"Self-regulation" does not mean no laws. It means that in the civil law arena, it is "policed" by private individuals. For instance, if you think somebody has infringed your copyright, or committed defamation against you, YOU bring an action in a court of law.

Another very helpful essentialization of objective law; in this case civil vs criminal law.

Regarding Sandefeur, great comment. When I read him again, I will pay attention for the things you pointed out. I consider him bright but I am suspicious of anyone that identifies with libertarianism to the extent he does. Libertarians time and again just prove philosophically flawed.

Marcus

reed's picture

It sounds like they are going to copy the Advertising Standards Authority model.

The ASA calls advertising regulation "self regulation" - but it's not.
Government sets the rules and they are enforced by a non governmental pseudo authority.
Submitting to the authority is said to be voluntary but 1) people are unaware that it's not a real authority; and 2) in some cases if you refuse to submit then you are subject to the BSA.

How is "the press" going to be defined?
Do you know if it will include blogging?

Marcus

Michael Moeller's picture

I have not delved into the facts of what is happening in the UK on this issue, and I do not have the time. Ergo, I cannot comment on Cameron or anybody else involved, and what they are trying to do.

But I think I know what your problem might be.

"Self-regulation" does not mean no laws. It means that in the civil law arena, it is "policed" by private individuals. For instance, if you think somebody has infringed your copyright, or committed defamation against you, YOU bring an action in a court of law.

There are laws, but private individuals plead for adjudication to clarify their rights with respect to each other. The police only come into play when those rights are adjudged, and need to be enforced.

This is different than criminal law whereby you have the intentional (or sometimes negligent, as in negligent homicide) violation of rights against another, i.e. the use of force.

Michael

Doug

Michael Moeller's picture

You wrote:

"Very helpful essentialization of what regulations are as opposed to legitimate laws and legal principles. Thanks for this."

You're welcome. I am actually publishing an article very shortly on this very topic, i.e., an argument for no regulation while comparing the right to property and the right to free speech. I will re-publish here if I can, or at least provide a link.

Yes, I am familiar with Timothy Sandefur's arguments. I respect Sandefur, but I think his arguments on IP are ill-informed. One of his problems is that he assumes that for IP to be a valid property right, it must be like tangible property in all respects, or at least what Sandefur deems the important respects. For it to fall under the concept 'property', it has have the same essential characteristics, not share all characteristics. That is why we have the qualifying concept 'intellectual' to distinguish certain non-essential characteristics of IP from other types of property, like real property and personal property.

Sandefur uses a very deductive approach. Just to give one example: he claims IP is not property because of non-exclusivity. Yet, why is physical exclusivity a sine qua non of property? No answer is given, he simply asserts it.

In short, he is taking aspects of IP that are different than real and personal property, and arguing that those differences make IP non-property. It is like using hair as essential to the definition of man, and then saying a bald person is not a man because he does not possess hair.

Problem? It is not the essential characteristic, and Sandefur does not attack, or at least not effectively, the essential characteristic of property -- i.e., the product of one's effort, and the right to keep the product of one's creation -- and how IP does not share this essential characteristic.

Here is a very good video series by Adam Mossoff providing an IP overview.

Michael

Michael I wasn't saying the issues were the same...

Marcus's picture

...I was interested in your legal opinion given that you had so much to say in the marriage thread.

This is more complex than you think.

"Regulation" is referring to "self-regulation", not state regulation.

Now I guess the so-called statute backing could be said to be legally-backed self-regulation (if that makes sense).

David Cameron rejects the statute part of the equation, quite rightly in my opinion.

Those who want the law say that self-regulation will still be independent of the state.

They argue you yanks have already done this, is that true?

I know that movie classification/ censorship in the US is supposedly "self-regulation", but it seems it is something that is legally enforced.

Can you clarify?

Michael - Thanks and a Question

Doug Bandler's picture

Regulations are NOT objective laws -- like copyright, trespass, defamation, etc. -- but rather prior restraints on the exercise of your right to free speech BEFORE you have ever spoken and violated anybody's rights. The government would be screening your speech, and therefore would be violating the free exercise of your right to speak.

Very helpful essentialization of what regulations are as opposed to legitimate laws and legal principles. Thanks for this.

Or the legal definition of copyright (and infringement) would protect your speech from those seeking to expropriate your creation, even if they tried to claim free speech.

Off topic question about this for Michael.

Michael, are you familiar with Timmothy Sandefeur's arguments against intellectual property. I respect Sandefeur, He has made interesting arguments about why the Objectivist arguments for IP are wrong; and why both Rand and Peikoff are wrong. Sandefeur call himself a libertarian but I think its in the same way that Lindsay calls himself a libertarian; ie a Randian version of that term.

This is not the thread for a discussion of this but just in a sentence or two, is there any merit to Sandefeur's argument. I respect him.

Marcus

Michael Moeller's picture

What does this have to do with the legal definition for marriage?

Free speech is granted in the US constitution, and the contours are fleshed out in specific laws. The legal definition of trespass, for instance, would keep somebody from invading your property, even if they tried to claim free speech when they, say, used your microphone to speak. Or the legal definition of copyright (and infringement) would protect your speech from those seeking to expropriate your creation, even if they tried to claim free speech. Or the legal definition of defamation would prevent a person from claiming free speech if they lied about you publicly and harmed your reputation. And on and on.

It is most certainly a matter of legal definition of the rights involved, and when they are infringed -- from trespass to copyright to defamation and so forth.

I haven't read too closely what the UK is trying to do here. But a regulatory agency is a completely different matter. Regulations are NOT objective laws -- like copyright, trespass, defamation, etc. -- but rather prior restraints on the exercise of your right to free speech BEFORE you have ever spoken and violated anybody's rights. The government would be screening your speech, and therefore would be violating the free exercise of your right to speak.

(In this way it is analogous to marriage. By saying who cannot get married the government is violating the excluded parties' rights to enter into marriage.)

Any such prior restraints on free speech are considered censorship under US law and are generally void.

Marcus, I don't think you ever understood what I was saying about marriage. You should just leave it at that.

Michael

Circular...

Marcus's picture

It would interesting to hear what Michael Moeller has to say about this given his need for a legal definition of marriage by the state.

The argument gets quite circular in debates at the moment.

Person A says: this would undermine freedom of speech

Person B says: we just want a legal acknowledgement to give the public faith

Person A says: but if it works without a new law public faith will be restored.

Person B says: that doesn't work, we've tried that before.

Person A says: what if it does work?

Person B says: well then enforcement of the law won't be needed.

Person A says: then we don't need a law.

Person B says: but that didn't work before...

While Leveson was right to be

Tom Burroughes's picture

While Leveson was right to be brutal on some of the excesses of the media (and the UK media are often very keen to call for regulations of other people's businesses and lives, such as on minimum pricing of booze, bans on smoking, etc), his report is bad on a number of levels. Perhaps one of the worst is the impact on investigative reporting. For instance, police officers of a certain rank will, if the report is made law, be required to log any conversations with reporters, giving a level of detail that would make it highly unlikely that a journalist could get a tip-off. Whistleblowers will fall silent. There is also a suggestion that journalists should not be able to hold certain information and data for a story unless or until they have the story completely airtight - which means that a lot of digging around for stories will not happen.

The deadly aspect about all this is that Leveson comes across as reasonable on the surface; he says he wants a free media, is alive to the dangers of a state-licensed media, etc, but the thrust of this report is in the direction of state licensing of the press. The report is already having a chilling effect on some of the more energetic reporters, in my view.

These are not good times to be British.

The pro-statute side are saying some...

Marcus's picture

...amazing things.

Does anyone know if they are true?

1) That the US already has a similar statute on their books

2) This statute will actually enshrine "freedom of expression" in the law

3) The body will be independent of politicians

Thank You to Marcus

Luke Setzer's picture

Thank you, Marcus, for clarifying that. Why can the locals immersed in the situation not grasp that difference? Can they not see where this could lead?

Airhead America, meet Egghead England.

That law already exists Luke...

Marcus's picture

The newly proposed law would give legal force to a regulatory body responsible for press standards. In other words, ethical standards not legal ones.

Privacy

Luke Setzer's picture

How is a law against journalists hacking private telephone calls an immoral restriction on free press?

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