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Why Privacy #Superinjunctions Are Pointless

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While certain social media sites discuss the names of the people who have taken out superinjunctions to protect their privacy, I thought, a propos of nothing, that I’d chuck my twopenneth in to the debate.

I am the first one to mock these injunctions (although for professional reasons I probably shouldn’t). I mock them because of their utter futility. When I was growing up, a book was banned under the Official Secrets Act – it was called Spycatcher by Peter Wright and it revealed some things about MI5 or MI6 or MFI or something. During the period of the ban, I acquired a copy. I suppose, on a level, this means that I breached that Act – although, in my defence, I was about 14 at the time and did not really pose much of a threat to national security.

The book did though. I read some of it and I genuinely believe that had the whole country been able to buy the book and read it, it would have led to the end of the civilisation – primarily as they all dozed off into a boredom induced coma. Man alive, it’s an awful book. I suspect it did more to convince people not to join MI5 and take up accountancy instead than any other book in history.

Anyway, back to the plot. 14 year old me acquired a copy of Spycatcher. I did so using my best espionage techniques – which included remembering that it had been on the news and seeing a copy of it on a stand outside a newspaper stall at Paignton train station.

Of course, it sold far more copies banned than it ever would have done if it had been available from the outset.

And, of course, if we had all had access to the world wide web at that time and it had been banned, we would literally all have had a copy – not just those of us who happened to see a copy freely available to buy at Paignton train station.

Superinjunctions are a bit like the Spycatcher thing. The press is banned from telling anybody anywhere who is subject to these superinjunctions or what they are about but it’s pointless. If you go on to certain social media websites and search of some kind of secret squirrel subversive text (‘superinjunction’ for instance) you’ll start to find the list of names of people who may have one – and the reasons too. Google is also useful for these purposes.

Like I say, pointless.

But there is more to this in my opinion. It is our prurient Victorian view that other people should act in an ‘appropriate’ manner (normally involving sex) and that their behaviour has something to do with us if they do not.

Sure, I will point and laugh at them – but I’m laughing at them because of the fact that they’ve run off to court to do something pointless not because of what they have done.

None of the people that I have read about so far (with the exception of Andrew Marr who seems to have berated, on the one (oversized) hand, politicians for their sexual peccadilloes and, on the other, the idea of judge-led privacy laws at around the same time that he wandered off to court to get a superinjunction) have been hypocritical to me. Far from it, they’ve done things in their private lives that are nothing to do with me. The footballer hasn’t preached at me on the subject of marital fidelity, the actor hasn’t held forth on morality – so what does it have to do with me what they get up to in their own lives? Literally nothing.

Statute law will intervene in this because we cannot kick the habit of thinking that other people’s private lives are something to do with us. Just because someone is famous does not mean that we own them and it does not mean that they are our play thing. They are people, just like you and me, who deserve to get on with their own lives, do what they want and make mistakes in private.

What I’m saying is that we should leave them alone – for our own sake. As soon as there is a proper privacy statute in place in the UK, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be people who use it for corrupt purposes – things that will really have an impact on you and me. So, let the politicians and footballers and actors do what they have been doing for years – it’s nothing to do with us – and, in return, let’s not have a privacy law that stops us knowing things that we need to know.

Written by James

April 26th, 2011 at 11:31 am

Posted in law,legal

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Hello, neighbour!

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I just wanted to welcome a new blog to the world.  Over at my place of work, Everys, a small revolution has taken place and the website has given birth to an ickle bloglet.

Unlike other law firm blogs, this one is going to be a bit less law and a bit more real.  But obviously there will be a bit of law in there!  So, for instance, there is an interesting article about Home Information Packs and their possible future demise – and there is a survey to give your views.

As an added bonus, I will be blogging about lots of things including one my my favourites – scams!  I just love blogging about scams – forewarned is forearmed, mes amis!

Bloggers are being encouraged to use their real voices and blog about things that genuinely interest them and, horror of horrors, actually engage with people through their comments!  It’s unheard of amongst the legal community! :)

So, get yourself over to the Everys Blog and read all about it!

Written by Socialholic

December 21st, 2009 at 10:19 am

Posted in blog,law,legal

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Who owns your posts?

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Thanks to @paulseys for drawing my attention to a recent US article on who owns your online material.  It’s a subject that I have occasionally talked about but have not yet been brave enough to commit my thoughts to text.  Cowardice on my part but there you go!
The reason is that there is a legal answer and a real world answer and I am am not convinced that the two align very well.
Many employment contracts would suggest that the employer owns all intellectual property rights created by their employees.  It was a standard clause in contracts that was much more relevant to days of yore when employees were not creating lots of content online in their own time.  It made sense back then. 
Now, of course, we are all churning out material like the proverbial infinite number of monkeys and we must be close to something resembling Shakespeare.
But the old rules still apply – and the chances are that your employer owns that material.
However, and this is the first reality check, what employer in the right minds is going to want the copyright to my tweets?  Although, you can’t deny the inherent genius one of my recent offerings:
Let’s get back to some real twitter stuff! There are more Greggs bakeries in the UK than McDonald’s – 1,400 vs 1,200. :o ) #fact
And here’s the bigger reality check, does any employer really want the potential relationship and reputation harm of trying to take material created by a former employee?  As one friend of mine (who does not work at the same firm as me) put it, ‘Let them try it.  I get social media and they’ll regret trying to take over any of my stuff’.
Of course, it also depends on who the creator of the piece is.  If, for sake of argument, the writer is a lawyer and is writing in his capacity as a lawyer on lawyer time, his lawyer employer is going to want to keep the copyright.  Seems fair enough.  But again, do they really want it?  I have written a number of articles as a lawyer for my lawyerly employers in former firms and they now have my name attached to articles that I wrote when I was there… but I’ve left!  Does that help them?  I’m not sure it does.
Now I write on here in my own capacity in my own time.  I’m certainly not giving legal advice here – it’s more a statement of my experience of dealing with businesses.  Would my employers want this material?  I don’t know.  They may want something a little more ‘lawyerly’ to put out in the firm’s name and that would be great.
These days, we build our own personal brand and we create our own material.  For some, the ‘package’ that they as people represent is probably better thought of as ‘on loan’ to whoever they are working for at the time.  While the legal reality is probably very different, in many ways enforcing it would create such a storm, you may be ill advised to try it.

Written by Socialholic

November 4th, 2009 at 9:10 am

>A Thousand Thanks!

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>Just a quick personal thank you to the thousand and more of you who have downloaded the PhotoLegal podcast. When Darren, Phill and I started recording the podcast just two weeks ago, we had no idea how popular it would be and we certainly wouldn’t have thought that it would have attracted the attention it has.

The current edition of the podcast covers photography in public (and another blog post on that beckons!) and features special guest, Olivier Laurent, News Editor of the British Journal of Photography. The next one will feature Kate Day of the Daily Telegraph and we will be discussing social networks.

Thanks for all your support – and if you haven’t heard it yet, take a look at

Written by Socialholic

May 12th, 2009 at 7:38 am