Rumpole in defence of the criminal bar…


I posted a ‘shelfie’ for the ‘books for prisoners’ campaign last week – and was just looking at it and noticed that one of the books on the shelf was ‘The Best of Rumpole’. Rumpole was (and is) one of my heroes – so I took down the book, and started reading the introduction.

RumpoleJohn Mortimer, who created and wrote the Rumpole stories, and who was himself a barrister, said some things in the introduction that reminded me why I find myself instinctively in tune with the criminal bar – though I am not a real lawyer at all. He wrote this introduction in 1992, but the words ring even more true today than they did back then. I’ll just repeat them as Mortimer wrote them:

“On the whole, lawyers are as unpopular as income tax collectors and traffic wardens. People think they tell lies and make a great deal of money. In fact, old criminal defenders like Rumpole don’t make much money and they stand up for our great legal principles – free speech, the idea that people are innocent until someone proves them guilty to the satisfaction of ten ordinary members of a jury, and the proposition that the police should not invent more of the evidence than is absolutely necessary. They protect the rights for which we have fought and struggled over the centuries, and do so at a time when jury trials and the rights of an accused person to silence are under constant attack from the government.”

That was back in 1992 – in 2014 the attacks from the government are far more intense, far more far-reaching, and sadly seem far more likely to succeed. We should be doing everything we can to defend the criminal bar from them, if we believe in any of these things. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I do.

Guest post: Go home, Superman!!

[Guest post by @Super__Cyan]

Superman 1

Would the Home Office dare do this to the Man of Steel? After all, he is an illegal alien. Maybe the Home Office would be more inclined if he looked like this?

Superman 2

(For those who do not know, this is Superman from Earth-Tangent)

This is just to point out the growing concern that officials of the Home Office are conducting ‘racist and intimidatory profiling’ see also this storify by @anyapalmer. This is not to discuss stop and search powers, more on general stop and search powers by yours truly can be seen here. Two things are worth some attention, first this image from the @ukhomeoffice twitter account:

Superman Home Office

And this page on the Home Office’s site which has the interesting headline of ‘Immigration offenders arrested in Home Office operations.’

Are there any human rights issues with these? Possibly, the image of the person being taken away could raise issues of privacy, and as we know that same old Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights might be engaged where it stipulates that:

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Private life, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Von Hannover v Germany 59320/00 [2004] ECHR 294 has pointed out that this includes a person’s picture (para 50). Let’s just assume for the sake of this post that the Home Office officials have lawful authority for taking those pictures, because if they didn’t that would be illegal. So if the officials have lawful authority, what then? Is the Article 8 issue now exhausted?

Not quite, because the subsequent use of those pictures can still leave the Article 8 issue live. This can be seen in Peck v United Kingdom 44647/98 [2003] ECHR 44 here the applicant was filmed by a CCTV attempting to commit suicide by cameras operated by Brentwood Borough Council in a public street. A few months later, the Council issued two photographs taken from the CCTV footage for publication in an article about the preventative benefits of CCTV. The applicant’s face was not specifically masked. Extracts from the CCTV footage were also shown on regional television in which the applicant’s face had been masked at the Council’s request.

The ECtHR pointed out that the Independent Television Commission considered the masking of the applicant was not adequate because the applicant’s distinctive features (para 16). Many of the applicants friends and family who saw the ‘Crime Beat’ programme recognised the applicant (para 21) including people who knew him, like colleagues (para 54). So the important questions would be, from that image, could the individual be identified? Is the obfuscation adequate? Because on the on the @ukhomeoffice ‘Photos and videos’ page there is an image of an official whose obfuscation is telling.

The ECtHR reaffirmed the position that interaction even within the public context falls within the ambit of Article 8 (para 57). Also reiterating that using photographic equipment that records in a permanent nature gives rise to considerations regarding interference with Article 8 (para 59). But here the applicant was not arguing against the use of CCTV footage but the that it was the disclosure of that record of his movements to the public in a manner in which he could never have foreseen which gave rise to such an interference (para 60). The ECtHR concluded that the Council’s disclosure constituted a serious interference with the applicant’s Article 8 rights (para 61). This could be the case also for the present image.

After determining whether this was in accordance with the law and pursued a legitimate aim (which was satisfied para 64-67) the ECtHR also pointed out that ‘the applicant was not charged with, much less convicted of, an offence. The present case does not therefore concern disclosure of footage of the commission of a crime’ (para 79). Drawing analogies with Peck and the image tweeted by the Home Office is that the person is arrested on ‘suspicion’ so there are some similarities. The ECtHR criticised the Council for not taking the utmost care in ensuring the media masked those images and stated:

In sum, the Court does not find that, in the circumstances of this case, there were relevant or sufficient reasons which would justify the direct disclosure by the Council to the public of stills from the footage in its own CCTV News article without the Council obtaining the applicant’s consent or masking his identity, or which would justify its disclosures to the media without the Council taking steps to ensure so far as possible that such masking would be effected by the media. The crime-prevention objective and context of the disclosures demanded particular scrutiny and care in these respects in the present case (para 85).

For reasons such as these the ECtHR found the United Kingdom in violation of Article 8. This is not intended to suggest that this would be the likely outcome regarding the present images the Home Office has tweeted, but none the less great caution should be taken when releasing images of individuals to the public.

There is another issue that may be applicable here, and again it’s something to do with Europe, and something to do with human rights, a recipe for disaster! This time Article 6(2) of the ECHR may be relevant which states that:

Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

This disallows premature declarations of guilt by public officials. In Allenet de Ribemont v. France 15175/89 [2007] ECHR 112 emphasised that not being charged but being arrested falls within the ambit of being “charged with a criminal offence” (para 37). Kouzmin v. Russia (link in French) points out that public official does not need to be an already elected representative or employee of the public authorities at the material time. It may include persons of recognised public standing, from having held a public position of importance in the past or from running for elected office (para 59-69). It seems pretty sure the Home Office’s twitter account would satisfy this as it is a public authority (para 49).

The ECtHR in Ismoilov and Others v Russia 2947/06 [2008] ECHR 348 stressed that:

A fundamental distinction must be made between a statement that someone is merely suspected of having committed a crime and a clear declaration, in the absence of a final conviction, that an individual has committed the crime in question. The Court emphasises the importance of the choice of words by public officials in their statements before a person has been tried and found guilty of a particular criminal offence.(para 166)

So essentially the Strasbourg Court is saying that poor choice of words could violate Article 6(2). The hashtag used in the tweet with the images states ‘suspected #immigrationOFFENDER.’ Offenders are those that have been convicted of an offence, a sex offender is someone who has been found guilty of a sexual offence, see generally F & Anor, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] UKSC 17. Obviously the word suspected demonstrates the suspicion the individual is under, but adding ‘offender’ in the hashtag is certainly poor choice of words, it may have been more appropriate to tweet ‘suspected of #immigrationOFFENCES.’ As pointed out the headline on the website does not, however help the case for the Home Office as it clearly states of ‘Immigration offenders arrested in Home Office operations.’ Only if one reads the body of the text will they discern that those arrested are suspected of an offence, this is sadly only after the website states ‘immigration offenders’ twice before even mentioning ‘suspected.’

Calling someone a ‘bribe-taker’ was enough to violate Article 6(2) in the case of Butkevičius v Lithuania so it is not that farfetched to suggest ‘immigration offender’ may as the ECtHR said ‘encourage the public to believe him guilty and prejudged the assessment of the facts by the competent judicial authority’ (para 53). Similar sentiments by Richard A. Edwards and Associate Professor @NoelleQuenivet regarding the presumption of innocence can be found here and an excellent post from the aspect of data protection here by @bainesy1969. I suppose this may all hinge on whether the individual is identifiable, but the ECtHR in Butkevičius v Lithuania noted that:

‘[Article 6(2)] will be violated if a statement of a public official concerning a person charged with a criminal offence reflects an opinion that he is guilty before he has been proved so according to law’ (para 49)

This implies a violation is possible irrespective identification. Regardless, the Home Office could not have trolled harder, as at the bottom of its site it asks:

Superman home office question

Perhaps the better question would be ‘Is there anything right with this page?’

The new University Law degree, Boris Johnson style

We at the UEA, would  like to let it be known that we offer the perfect law course for any women who, as Boris Johnson suggests, is coming to university primarily to catch and marry Mr Right.

There are many elements to that law degree, each of which can help you in this task – and help you to deal with the many problems that can occur in the process. Each has a part to play – and don’t forget that it’s not just about catching your man!

Tort Law – Whom to sue when he lets you down for misrepresentation

Contract Law – How to keep him for life

Criminal Law – What to do if Mr ‘Right’ takes a ‘playful tiff’ too far

Family Law – How to ditch him when he turns out to be Mr Wrong

Constitutional Law – Crucial, if you’re lucky enough to snare someone in line for the throne

EU law – What happens if Mr Right is a johnny foreigner?

Law and medicine – The ethical issues of tending to Mr Right’s wounded pride

Trust Law – How to turn all those empty promises into real money

Company Law – Understanding what Mr Right does all day in the City

Commercial Law – What’s yours is his, what’s his stays his

Land Law – How to sell your flat when it’s time to move in with Mr Right

Competition Law – What to do when you’re two-timed, and how to deal with unfair competition.

Employment law – Knowing what to do when your nanny or housecleaner calls in sick

Internet Law – When and how you can find out what he’s doing online

Media Law – How to get that key injunction when the paparazzi catch Mr Right out

It’s everything you need – who could possibly want more? It’s not as though women want education for any other reason.

The course texts will include regular subscriptions to Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, as well as ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’.

*Errr… in case you didn’t realise, this is a joke….

**This post inspired by the excellent David Mead, with contributions from others in the Law School at the UEA.

Leveson: Bloggers and the Royal Charter

One of the immediate reactions to the last minute deal over the implementation of the Leveson recommendations was that it would hit bloggers and tweeters very hard. I’m not sure that’s really true – and will set out here why. I should say these are just a few first thoughts – it will be quite some time before everything becomes clear, partly because the Royal Charter itself needs careful and detailed analysis and partly because it’s not just the Charter itself that matters, but the documents and guidelines that follow. The Royal Charter is only part of the story. It sets out terms for a ‘recognition panel’ that ‘recognises’ regulators – it doesn’t set up the regulators themselves. As Cameron and others have been at pains to point out, the idea is that the ‘press’ sets up the regulator(s) itself.  We have yet to see what form any regulator the press sets up will take. It has to be good enough for the recognition panel to accept – that’s the key…

So what about bloggers?

Attention has been focused on Schedule 4 of the Royal Charter (which can be found here), which sets out two definitions:

relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:

i. a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or

ii. a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);”

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.”

So, according to those definitions, many – perhaps most – bloggers would count as ‘relevant publishers’. Certainly I would say that my own blog – this one – would fit the definition. This seems to have caused many people to panic – but you need to look a little further: in particular, what does it mean to say that I’m a ‘relevant publisher’?

On a quick review of the Royal Charter, all it appears to mean at present is whether I would be eligible to part of the ‘recognition’ panel, or employed by that recognition panel – part of the rules intended to keep the recognition panel independent of the press, one of the key parts of the Leveson recommendations.

It may of course mean more than that in time – but we don’t know. We need to see more – the real details of how this will work have yet to emerge beyond the initial Royal Charter Draft. The fact that the definitions are there doesn’t mean much – though it could be a pointer as to the direction that the new regulatory regime is headed. It may indeed be that the new scheme is intended to ‘regulate the web’ but it doesn’t do so yet.

What’s the difference between a newspaper’s website and a blog?

That’s the big question that has yet to be answered. There’s a clear difference between the Guardian Online and my little blog – but where does things like Conservative Home, Liberal Conspiracy and Guido’s Order Order fit into the spectrum? There were even rumours last year that the Guardian was going to abandon its ‘real’ paper and focus only on its online version – they were quickly scotched, but they were believable enough for a lot of people to accept them. If they had happened, should the Guardian Online have been regulated as though it were a newspaper?

If the press is to be regulated at all – and the consensus between the political parties that lay behind yesterday’s deal suggests that non-regulation is not an option – then online newspapers that are effectively the same as ‘paper’ newspapers should have to be regulated too. Small blogs shouldn’t – and Cameron and others have been quick to say that social media won’t be covered, though quite how they bring that into action has yet to be seen. The difficulty lies in the greyer areas, and that’s where we have to be vigilant – the devil will be in the detail.

What about those huge fines?

The Charter actually says the body should have “…the power to impose appropriate and proportionate sanctions (including but not limited to financial sanctions up to 1% of turnover attributable to the publication concerned with a maximum of £1,000,000)…”

Appropriate and proportionate sanctions for a non-profit blogger would therefore be likely to be qualitative – remedies like proper and prominent apologies come to mind. The fining capability – the £1,000,000 that has made its way into press headlines – may mean something to big newspapers, but it’s effectively irrelevant to bloggers. We don’t have ‘turnovers’ of any significance – and big fines would (in general) be inappropriate and disproportionate.

The real key is the idea of ‘exemplary damages’, introduced by the Crime and Courts Bill. That, however, introduces a different definition of ‘relevant publisher’. It says:

“(1) In sections (Awards of exemplary damages) to (Awards of costs), “relevant publisher” means a person who, in the course of a business (whether or not carried on with a view to profit), publishes news-related material—

(a) which is written by different authors, and

(b) which is to any extent subject to editorial control.”

That means that individual bloggers are automatically exempt – but leaves the bigger bloggers like Conservative Home, Liberal Conspiracy and Guido’s Order Order subject to possible exemplary damages.

Personally I don’t think the risk is at all high – exemplary damages are highly unlikely to apply except in the most extreme of circumstances, but it is still something to be alert to.

…and anyway, blogs are already subject to the law

This is a key point that many seem to miss. This regulatory framework isn’t acting in a vacuum. Bloggers and tweeters are already subject to the law – to defamation law, to privacy law, to copyright law, to public order law, to laws concerning hate speech, to obscenity law. This framework would do nothing to change that. Those laws are complex and variably effective – and variably enforced.

Personally that’s what I’d be concerned about, much more than Leveson. The illiberality of the use of public order and related law on tweeters and bloggers is something that, for me, is far more dangerous a trend than anything this Royal Charter could bring about.

Keep vigilant

These are just some first thoughts – there’s a long way to go with this. Monday wasn’t the last word in this. Far from it – we need to watch very carefully and lobby very strongly if things seem to be moving the wrong way, but we shouldn’t be distracted and forced into a panic over anything at this stage.

Personally, I wonder whether those who are against the regulation for their own reasons are just trying to scare bloggers and tweeters, and enlist them on their side. Not me. Not yet.

Votes for kids?

Earlier today I retweeted a tweet suggesting that we lower the voting age from 18 to 16. It was just a ‘casual’ retweet, on the spur of the moment, but when the excellent Owen Blacker (@owenblacker on twitter) challenged me to blog about it, I started thinking more about the subject… and the more I thought about it, the clearer I became that I’m definitely in favour of lowering the voting age, and possibly even beyond 16.

There are a number of reasons for this, some of which have really come to the fore over recent weeks and months. Some are very direct and practical, others much more philosophical. Some are based on what’s happening right now – others on aspirations for the future. Some are because I think the process of voting will benefit the kids, some will benefit the whole of society. Some are based on my own experience as a kid, others on my observations and work with children and young people over the years – and I should say, just to make it clear, I’m 47 years old, and have a 6 year old daughter!

Looking first at the kids: one of the main accusations made about kids is that they’re irresponsible. Putting them into a situation where they have the chance to vote could help shift that – if they understand that how they vote could actually change things, they might think more about it. I’ve worked a little in ‘democratic schools’, where the kids get to vote on all aspects of school policy, and though they sometimes put forward fairly silly policies in general they should immense capacity for taking responsibility. The more responsibility you give them, the better they are at respecting that responsibility.

The second, related factor, is that habits formed at that age can last a lifetime. Just as I (and many people I know) still listen to the music that was around in their youth (I’m still a huge fan of the Clash, the Cure, Elvis Costello, the Specials etc), the political habits we form as youths have a huge influence the rest of our lives. The habit formed by most is one of apathy – and the fact that as a 16 year old you know you have no influence supports that apathy. Bring in the vote for 16 year olds and you have a chance – not necessarily a big chance, but a chance – that you will find more politically engaged adults emerging. That, for me, would be a very good thing. At the moment, our voter turnout is generally abysmal and our engagement with the issues often superficial at best. That isn’t good for anyone!

The next issue is one that has come to the fore over the last few days: education policy. If 16-18 year olds had more of an influence over education policy, I don’t think it would be quite as easy for policies like Michael Gove’s horrendous suggestion of bringing back O levels to come about. As this policy highlights, it is all too easy for politicians to base their judgment and their policies on their own experience – and that experience is often so far from the real experience of real children in schools as to be useless at best, highly damaging at worst. Giving children at least some say could help improve things in that way. If more voters are closer to the ‘coalface’ of education, then politicians will have to pay a little bit more attention to the reality rather than the ideological dogma and their half-remembered childhoods.

In a somewhat similar way, if we had more young people voting – and if politicians had to pay more than lip-service to the youth – we might have more chance of a sensible set of digital policies. As I’ve blogged before, government digital policy is generally dire – partly because they’re almost completely out of touch with the reality of the internet. Young people are much more likely to understand, and to ‘get it’. They’d be much less likely to push absurdities like the snoopers charter, or to allow hideous abuses like the extradition of Richard O’Dwyer (which is being fought against by many – see here, for example). That, from someone who works in the digital field, would be wonderful.

There are other, more general reasons that I would support the lowering of the voting age – and why I think the arguments against lowering the voting age have less weight than they might. The first is about idealism: some suggest that the young are too idealistic, that they don’t understand the realities of the world, so they shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Frankly, I think that is a reason TO allow them to vote, not a reason to oppose it. We need more idealism, more radicalism, more willingness to challenge the status quo, not less. Have we ‘oldsters’ done such a good job after all? The Dalai Lama, who I had the privilege to hear lecture last week (see my blog here) made one of the key messages of his talk an emphasis on youth…. and he was right!

The next is a simple one: anything that increases awareness of democracy, of the responsibilities of the democratic process, must be, in general, a good thing. Democracies are far from faultless, but they’re the best we’ve got, and they must work at their best with more engagement and more understanding. Letting 16 year olds vote would surely help that.

Finally, what’s the downside? What would be wrong with letting 16 year-olds vote? Are they so bad? Maybe they do spend a lot of time agonising about their boyfriends, girlfriends or lack of either, maybe they do care a lot about music, and celebs – but so do huge numbers of grown-ups. What’s more, the 16 year-olds who will bother to vote are likely to be the more interested, intelligent and engaged 16 year-olds, and anyone who has worked with kids knows that some of them are wonderful, inspiring and interesting – and would vote every bit as responsibly and appropriately as any adults – and a good deal better than most.

The real challenge for IT Lawyers: the law!

Sometimes it’s tempting for an IT lawyer – or rather an academic IT lawyer – to feel that things are moving essentially in the right direction, that the subject is getting more mainstream, more understandable – and more importantly, more understood. In some ways, of course, that’s true – but in others, we need to remember that things are far from positive, and that in many ways the ‘establishment’ – the legal system, the politicians, even the public – still don’t really ‘get it’ at all. Perhaps the most important of these is the legal system. To a significant extent it seems as though the legal system – and the law – is just completely out of kilter with the reality of the IT world, and in particular the internet.

A couple of things in recent weeks have driven that home to me. Neither was surprising, but both were disappointing, particularly to those of us interested in privacy and autonomy. First of all, there was the announcement that there won’t be any prosecutions arising from the Phorm secret trials, something which has been greeted with dismay by privacy advocates. Secondly, and most recently, was the failure of the judicial review to overturn the Digital Economy Act.

In both cases, it’s easy to see how the results came about – and indeed to argue that from a precise legal standpoint the results might have been technically correct. In both – and in the case of the Digital Economy Act in particular – it shows that the legal system really doesn’t understand what’s going on in the internet, and how our online world functions. The Digital Economy Act – in its provisions concerning the policing of illegal downloading – is so clearly inappropriate that it’s hard to find an academic lawyer in the field who believes it’s appropriate or proportionate, or even who believes that it stands any real chance of being effective. Precisely the opposite. It won’t work. It misses the point. It will victimise the innocent. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of both the nature of the internet and the habits of most of those who use it. It’s such a bad law it just makes many of us shake our heads in disbelief.

The Phorm story is a little less dramatic, but demonstrates some similar features. The CPS have decided not to prosecute – and they may be right that there might not be much chance of a result. That, however, just reveals that our legal system doesn’t have the teeth or the capability to deal with the reality of the internet – for what Phorm and BT did was something that the law should have been able to deal with. It was a serious invasion of privacy on a very serious scale – secretly tracking the entire internet activities of 30,000 people without their knowledge or consent – and yet the law seems to be incapable of dealing with it, incapable of providing people with the kind of protection that people need. The kind of protection that people have a right to expect. The law should do this – and in its current form it doesn’t.

In the grand scheme of things, neither of these two incidents are likely to matter in the end. Despite the failures of the law, Phorm still failed, brought down by a combination of the privacy advocacy of such excellent groups as the Open Rights Group and the Foundation for Information Policy Research, interventions by the European Commission, and the belated intelligence of businesses like BT who withdrew their support as they began to understand how things really work. Similarly, the Digital Economy Act is likely to end up an irrelevance, as the people who it is intended to catch find ways to sidestep it, as further legal challenges arise, and as embarrassing prosecutions fail – and something that gets closer to understanding the reality of the situation is brought in to replace it.

It feels, though, as if the legal system needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. That’s the challenge for IT lawyers. People are thinking and writing interesting, informative and insightful things about the nature of the internet – but right now, it isn’t being sufficiently read or understood, and certainly isn’t finding its way into the mindsets of those creating or enforcing the law. It needs to be – for though other forces will (and have, in the case of Phorm) stop many of the worst things from happening, without the law being ‘fit for purpose’ everything is a struggle, and many people suffer along the way.

IT law isn’t simple….

….but it’s certainly seems to be newsworthy at the moment. In the last two weeks there seems to have been a deluge of new stories.

1) On the 28th October, there was a call for an ‘internet bill of rights’ in a parliamentary debate.
2) On the 2nd November, business minister Ed Vaizey suggested a ‘mediation service’ to deal with disputes about personal data held on the net.
3) Also on the 2nd November, the US Supreme Court began a hearing about violent computer games...
4) ….and Google put forward its proposed settlement over the Google Buzz privacy issue
5) ….and the busy Ed Vaizey put forward the suggestion of a new ‘privacy code’ for online businesses like Google and Facebook
6) …while the case of the stabbing of MP Stephen Timms by a young woman who had been ‘radicalised’ by watching videos on YouTube sparked a little furore about why such things should be allowed online – this is just one piece about it from The Telegraph.
7) On the 3rd November the ICO issued its response to the Google Street View data gathering fiasco
8) …followed almost immediately by a statement from five civil liberties groups (Privacy International, NO2ID, Big Brother Watch, Action on Rights for Children, and Open Rights Group) suggesting that the ICO’s action on this issue (and indeed on many others) makes it ‘not fit for purpose’.
9) On the 4th November, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke in East London about making that region the ‘new silicon valley’ – and, amongst other things, about making our copyright laws ‘fit for the internet age’.
10) …and the European Commission launched its proposals for a ‘comprehensive approach on personal data protection in the European Union’.
11) On the 8th November, Google announced it was shutting off its data feeds to Facebook…
12) And yesterday it was announced that BT and Talk Talk had been successful in getting a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act.

Lots of news – but what does it all mean? Firstly, that the subject really is current, and of increasing importance. In these two weeks we’ve had a statement from the prime minister, we’ve had a hearing in the US supreme court, , we’ve had one of the biggest players in the internet world Google, involved in three different ways – four if you blame their YouTube service for hosting the radicalising videos – and we’ve had the European Commission making what could be a very significant statement.

Secondly, that the situation is far from simple – and that the ‘regulatory matrix’ is complex. The differing relationships between the different interested parties have all come into play. We’ve had civil liberties groups challenging a regulatory body, we’ve had companies challenging the law, we’ve had questions in parliament, we’ve had a spat between probably the two biggest players in the internet world, we’ve had a class action against a company (Google), we’ve had interventions from regulatory bodies and politicians.

This lack of simplicity is the key – as Andrew Murray highlights in his theory of Symbiotic Regulation (in his excellent book The Regulation of Cyberspace). All these different relationships – between politicians, the judiciary, companies, civil liberties groups, and, of course, individuals – have their part to play in what happens on the internet from a regulatory perspective. It makes it complex – but it makes it interesting. And, at times like these, it makes it news!