New York Times – Not (All) Available Here
LONDON – A while back I wrote about the BBC limiting access to World Cup content to UK only internet connections because of event rights issues. This week, we have seen the New York Times attempt to do the reverse, i.e. block access to part of its website to anyone with a UK internet connection, to avoid the risk of being held in contempt by UK courts for publishing too many details about a sub judice terrorism case.There are UK and US angles on this story in The Guardian and The New York Times itself that make interesting reading. Of course, the same VPN connection that links me Cisco’s corporate network in the US which prevented me from watching the BBC World Cup content means that I am able to read the full New York Times coverage – a feature of internet architecture that will always make these geographical blocks imperfect. And for those who have UK internet connections, the fact that there is a community of bloggers who like nothing better than to publish controversial content means that 5 minutes work on a search engine will produce dozens of unauthorised copies of the material they are not supposed to be seeing.This is a tricky situation as there is a genuine risk of trials collapsing in the UK if inappropriate disclosure of facts has taken place in such a way as to be deemed prejudicial to a fair trial. There would be a great deal of public concern if someone suspected of a serious offence had to be released because of irresponsible publication, and the contempt laws are there precisely to prevent this from happening. But this historic arrangement is again challenged by the new global communication medium of the net and other countries’ different traditions about what can or cannot be published about court cases.