NUJ still supports Shetland News in internet case

THE NUJ National Executive Committee on Friday 25 July confirmed the Union's continuing support for Dr Jonathan Wills and the Shetland News in defending the case brought against them by the Shetland Times.

If the Shetland Times won, the World-Wide Web -- and in particular the "search engines" which are so useful to journalists -- would be practically illegal in the UK. Reports claiming that the NUJ was withdrawing its support are not, and never have been, true. The case began when the august Lord Hamilton, at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland on 24 October 1996, 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 ruling, which depends on the notion that the internet is a cable television service, the Web-based News cannot quote the Times's headlines, nor make links into the Times site. A full hearing is currently listed for November 11.

Professor Charles Oppenheim of De Montfort University notes that a Web link "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, with NUJ support, won a substantial amount for unfair dismissal.

Sep/Oct 1997

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This is the catch-up report in the printed newsletter: see the earlier and original, November 1996 Web reports.

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