Category Archives: blogging

Skepticlawyer.com.au

Another reason why I have been a bit distracted lately… after two years of my own little blog, I am moving my blogging services elsewhere.

I have decided to accept an offer to team up with Skepticlawyer (Helen Dale) from Catallaxy, and we are setting up a joint blog, Skepticlawyer. It goes live today! We are both lawyers (obviously) but we have quite different political slants – it just makes for more fun, really – the main thing is that we enjoy each other’s posts.

Henceforth, all my posting will be at Skepticlawyer, so please update your links and feeds.

Check out my new post on legal ethics and clients who confess to crimes. Helen also has an interesting post on whether libertarians and progressives can hammer out a political compromise.

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Filed under blogging, blogs, law

Now I’m really disturbed

Someone found my blog via a google search for “whale penis”. I didn’t even know that I had used that second word in this blog! I know I used the word “whale” in a post featuring a picture of a little boy swimming with a whale.

I don’t even dare think why someone might be searching for that particular term. There’s some sick puppies out there.

Update

I actually did use the word “penis” once on this blog, when discussing social mores with regard to dress (or lack of dress). The extremes were Afghan women wearing burqas to New Guinea highlanders wearing only penis gourds. Obviously this is what the search picked up.

Anyway, a friend has suggested that perhaps the searcher was a connisseur of Chinese penis cuisine, described in this article here (I’d actually seen this article before via a link on J.F. Beck’s site). Ugh. Quite revolting. I’ve eaten fried bettle before in Cambodia, but I draw the line at eating schlongs.

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Filed under blogging, crazy stuff

Blogging meme: Gimme three good reasons why you blog

I’ve been unwell the last few days, otherwise I would have written a few posts on different issues: students suing schools for lack of support with learning disabilities, apology to stolen generation, other things. But before I get to that, I thought I’d answer Bruce’s meme of 3 good reasons why I blog.

(1) To keep my mind active and keep learning – I started blogging about four months after I had my daughter when I was not working. It is so good to keep thinking about issues and write about them. I find that writing things down clarifies my thoughts. And I enjoy thinking about other perspectives. Some people write about very different things to me, in a different way and from another perspective. That has been fascinating.

(2) To hear what other people think – Initially I didn’t think anyone would read my blog apart from those who knew me well. One of the nice surprises of blogging was how many other blogs are out there. And another nice thing was the people who found my site and commented on my posts. I think a really important part of blogging is being open-minded and open to the opinions of others.

(3) To learn and keep in touch with current affairs and legal developments – I’ve learned a lot through this blog – about the law, about other countries and religions, about other people’s points of view. I like reading recent legal cases and commenting on them for two reasons: first, to improve my own knowledge, but also secondly, hopefully I demystify the law for non-legal readers. Long-time readers will know that I feel very passionate about the way in which ordinary people can be alienated or sidelined by the law. It’s also been very interesting to research some current affairs issues more thoroughly and have a more informed point of view.

Who do I tag? I always feel a bit funny about tagging people in case it’s a burden, but I’ve enjoyed writing this post, so hopefully those whom I tag will also enjoy writing their posts. So I tag: Jim Belshaw, Stephen Warne and Dave Bath. Each writes a very different style of blog, but I enjoy them all. I’m hoping they will all give different answers too! (and check out their respective blogs, please).

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Filed under blogging, blogs

You can tell I’m busy when…

I can’t even find the time to write blog posts! I have received a number of queries asking where I am, whether I’m OK and indeed, whether I’m still alive. Yes, I’m OK and still living and breathing.

Shortly, I am buried under marking. I’m 40% of the way there. I hope to be at least 50% of the way there by the end of the weekend. I really hate marking.

Apart from that, I have also just started assisting law students whose second language is English (a girl has to find some source of income over the summer break) and doing research assistant work. Sigh! No rest for the wicked. And I’m still supposed to be doing PhD… Hopefully things will slow down after Xmas.

I assure you that I am percolating a number of posts. Just to remind myself for when I get around to it:

1. Transit lanes on the freeway (mutter, mutter)

2. Putting the baby in creche for the first time (traumatic for both myself and the bubba)

3. Are the interests of unions and of businesses really so different? (yes, inspired by that Union = Anti-Business campaign) I know both like to see themselves as antithetically opposed, but I’m not so sure.

4. Can you believe the Christmas decos are out again?

Oh yeah, in breaking legal news, Pants Man’s contract as a Judge has not been renewed. Who woulda thunk it?

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Filed under blogging, jobs, Personal

More on defamation and blogging

It seems that the threat of defamation proceedings for blog posts is alive and well in Australia. Check out this post on The Local at blogs.com.au.

(Hat tip to the inestimable Jim Belshaw)

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Filed under Australia, blogging, blogs, defamation, law, technology

Defamation and anonymous blogging

Has anyone else ever put comments up in online forums, or in response to newspaper stories or blog posts? If you’re reading this post, I suspect that you might have been tempted to do so. You know the drill then. You are required to enter your name in a box headed “Name”, and then you are required to enter an e-mail address. Usually, there is a disclaimer beside the box, stating “will not be published” or “for verification purposes only” or something of the sort. Perhaps you have used a psuedonym, feeling safe in the knowledge that no one will know who you are. Given a recent case in the UK, perhaps you need to mind what you say.

In Sheffield Wednesday Football Club Inc v Hargreaves [2007] EWHC 2375 (QB), a football club, Sheffield Wednesday, and members of its board of directors sued the owner and operator of a fan website, www.owlstalk.co.uk, for defamation. The plaintiffs sought to require the website to disclose the e-mail addresses of contributors to a fan chat forum whose contributions were said to be defamatory.

At the outset, taking off my lawyer’s wig and adopting a practical point of view, it seems to me that if one’s fans are already offside, then suing those who are critical of your management isn’t going to increase your popularity with the fan base… Just a thought.

In any case, the comments were made by some 11 anonymous contributors, all of whom were fans of Sheffield Wednesday. All of the comments were scathing about the way in which the plaintiff chairmen/directors and others had managed the club.

Richard Parkes QC said at the outset at [9]:

…in a case where the proposed order will result in the identification of website users who expected their identities to be kept hidden, the court must be careful not to make an order which unjustifiably invades the right of an individual to respect for his private life, especially when that individual is in the nature of things not before the court.

Ultimately, his Honour decided that the defendant should be required to divulge the details of only those contributors whose comments were of the most serious nature (at [17] – [18]):

It seems to me that some of the postings…border on the trivial, and I do not think that it would be right to make an order for the disclosure of the identities of users who have posted messages which are barely defamatory or little more than abusive or likely to be understood as jokes. That, it seems to me, would be disproportionate and unjustifiably intrusive. …

The postings which I regard as more serious are those which may reasonably be understood to allege greed, selfishness, untrustworthiness and dishonest behaviour on the part of the Claimants. In the case of those postings, the Claimants’ entitlement to take action to protect their right to reputation outweighs, in my judgment, the right of the authors to maintain their anonymity and their right to express themselves freely, and I take into account in this context the restrictions on the use of defamatory language which the rules of the Defendant’s bulletin board impose, restrictions which in the case of these postings appear to have been breached. I take into account also that the Defendant does not appear to have had any policy of confidentiality for the benefit of his users.

Having read the exerpts of the comments in the judgment itself, the comments in fact seemed pretty tame compared to some things I’ve read in the blogosphere. I could imagine the comments being made by disgruntled fans in the pub after the match, and indeed, I think this is very much the way in which the fans themselves saw it; except that they had put the comments in writing on a public forum, which gives the comments a very different status.

People often treat e-mail and online forum comments as if they are “verbal” rather than “written”. But what could just be a disgruntled whinge may come across as something altogether more serious when put in writing. I fell into this trap once myself with e-mail, and vowed never again to communicate problems via e-mail, as they lack “tone”, and may come over so much more harshly as a result. 

Furthermore, it’s easy to be nasty if you are just typing a comment and don’t have to look someone in the eye when you make it. I once dealt with a client who was pleasant if you saw him in person, but typed vicious and unreasonable e-mails asking you to crush the other side and give no mercy, even if the dispute was partly of his own making. My tactic was always to ring him back about the e-mail and get him to soften the instructions thereby. I’ve never found a “take-no-prisoners” approach to be effective. Softly, softly, catchee monkey…and go in for the killer punch if necessary at the end.

It’s even easier to be vicious if you are anonymous, because if you want to make up a sufficiently obscure psuedonym, even your own mother might not realise you made the comment, so you don’t have to take responsibility for it. Although I write under a psuedonym on this very blog, I always write as though I was writing under my own name. I’m sure it’s easy enough to work out my real identity if anyone really wanted to do so.

The lesson for us all is to be very careful with what we say. Would we be embarrassed to own up to it? Is what we are saying truthful? It seems that it was important in this case that (a) there was no confidentiality policy in place to protect the details of contributors and (b) there was a policy that abusive/defamatory comments should not be made. At the very least, those who run internet forums and the like will have to revise their confidentiality policies if they wish to protect the details of contributors.

Any comments, of course, will be treated STRICTLY CONFIDENTIALLY (just for the record, in case any judges out there are reading this blog).

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Filed under blogging, blogs, courts, defamation, e-mail, England, freedom of information, freedom of speech, Internet, law, media, privacy, soccer, technology, tort law

15 minutes of fame

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” (Andy Warhol)

Seems like it’s my turn to have 15 minutes of fame. On Sunday, The Age had an article about legal blogs, featuring a quote from yours truly at the end. The hard copy is even better because it has a picture of the banner from the blog (with the awesome eagle picture which Iain found for me). I’ll scan it in and put it on the blog when we get set up in the new house.

Moving day is tomorrow. Telstra cut our internet off a week early, hence my lack of blogging, commenting or anything else. I’m typing this before class starts…zounds, better get to class!

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Filed under blogging, blogs, law, media, Personal