<A HREF="directly to jail">
NUJ supports internet publisher against court threat to Web links
The World-Wide Web is illegal. The august Lord Hamilton
said as much at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland on
October 24. He granted the
Shetland Times -- the weekly
lumberjack-friendly newspaper of the treeless islands in the
North Atlantic -- an interim interdict against the
Shetland News --
the archipelago's upstart recycled-electrons-only news source.
Under His Lordship's interim injunction, the Web-based News
cannot quote the Times's headlines, nor make links
into the Times site. A full hearing is unlikely
before early 1997. The News will defend itself vigorously,
with the backing of the National Union of Journalists.
Since it started a year ago the News -- which boasts "readers in
more than 55 countries" -- had carried a headlines page with
its own stories, plus headlines from the Times site. These
linked readers to the actual Times stories. News editor
Dr Jonathan Wills told
Wired magazine, "We trebled the Times site's
readership. There were people reaching their pages from
our site who couldn't get there from the Times' frames-
based home page. We have reciprocal links with everyone from
CNN to an Icelandic newspaper." His on-line statement
refers to the Times action as "an unprecedented attempt to
block free access to the Internet".
Indeed, commentators as far afield as Jim Thomson, librarian
at University of California Riverside, say that "The Web as it
exists now cannot survive if all linkers has to get written
permission from the linkees... though it might seem like a good
idea to a hidebound print publisher."
The Times clearly felt that the two-person News team was
exploiting its reporters' hard work to make their site look better.
Proprietor Robert Wishart says "despite the rubbish Wills has
been spouting about restricting free access to the internet, censorship
and such like this is a simple question of whether or not his
activities amount to an infringement of our copyright."
Professor Charles Oppenheim of De Montfort University
notes that "A URL is simply a fact, in which there is no
copyright. And it's hard to justify copyright in something
as short as a headline; even if you tried, there's a defence
of fair dealing... for the reporting of current events."
Jonathan Wills used to edit the Shetland Times, until he was
sacked and won a substantial amount for unfair dismissal.
It would be deeply ironic if this spat in the old-technology
were to cripple the new.
We think we've already sent nice emails to all our linkees, just in case...
Last modified: 8 November 1996.
Send editorial comments to:
Send design comments
© 1996. All rights reserved.