Cliff Richard v BBC – Part I – Police investigations and reasonable expectations of privacy

I just got to tell someone about the way I feel,
Shout it from the rooftop to the street,
And if I spread the word please tell me who’s it gonna hurt …

Sir Cliff Richard OBE in Sydney 2013 (element)1. Introduction
The words above are the opening lines of “Can’t Keep this Feeling In“, released in 1998 by Sir Cliff Richard [Sir Cliff], pictured left in a mellow pose at a concert in Sydney, Australia in February 2013. In August of the following year, arising out of an ongoing investigation into allegations of historic sex abuse, the South Yorkshire Police [the SYP] searched a property belonging to him in Sunningdale, Berkshire; and – on foot of a tip off from the SYP the previous month – the British Broadcasting Corporation [the BBC] gave the allegations and the search prominent and extensive television coverage. Sir Cliff was never arrested or charged; and, in June 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service [the CPS] decided that Sir Cliff would not face any charges. This decision was re-affirmed by the CPS the following September, following a full review of the evidence.

Meanwhile, in July 2016, Sir Cliff commenced legal proceedings against the SYP and the BBC, arguing that SYP’s leak to the BBC in July 2014, and the BBC’s coverage of the raid in August 2014, invaded his privacy and breached his data protection rights. Before the trial, SYP admitted liability and agreed to pay Sir Cliff £400,000 damages, plus costs (see Richard v BBC [2017] EWHC 1648 (Ch) (26 May 2017)). Earlier this week, in Richard v BBC [2018] EWHC 1837 (Ch) (18 July 2018) Mann J held that that Sir Cliff succeeded in his privacy claim against the BBC and awarded him £210,000 in general damages (£190,000 in compensatory damages, and £20,000 in aggravated damages), with some items of special damages to be decided at a future date. Because of the success of the privacy claim, Mann J held that he did not need to consider the data protection point.

There are three areas of interest in Mann J’s judgment: first, whether Sir Cliff had a reasonable expectation of privacy, having regard to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [the ECHR]; second, whether the BBC nevertheless were entitled to broadcast, having regard to Article 10 ECHR; and third, the quantum of damages awarded. I will deal with the question of Sir Cliff’s reasonable expectation of privacy in this post; and I will deal with the other two issues in subsequent posts.

2. Article 8 ECHR and Sir Cliff’s Reasonable Expectation of Privacy
In the earlier Irish case of Hanahoe v Hussey [1998] 3 IR 69, [1997] IEHC 173 (14 November 1997) Kinlen J awarded Ir£100,000 damages (worth approximately €185,000 or St£165,000 today) against the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána (Ireland’s National Police and Security Service) for a similarly unjustified leak of a similarly high-profile search. Kinlen J held that the leak was an “outrageous interference” with the defendants’ privacy rights ([1997] IEHC 173 [69]) but awarded damages for misfeasance in public office as a species of negligence ([1997] IEHC 173 [67], [73]). The SYP’s settlement, and this week’s judgment by Mann J, show that the direct protection of privacy interests has evolved sufficiently that their indirect protection via other torts is no longer necessary.

As with the phone hacking cases (see Mann J at first instance; see also the Court of Appeal), Sir Cliff’s case was commenced in the Chancery Division of the High Court, presumably reflecting the fact that the modern English protection of privacy interests began, under the impetus of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, by pressing the equitable claim for breach of confidence into service. The process continued by shearing that claim of limitations that affected its ability to protect privacy interests, before transmuting it into a claim for misuse of private information separate from breach of confidence. This claim is now characterised as a tort. So, in the present case ([2018] EWHC 1837 (Ch) [264]), Mann J referred to “the English tort which essentially gives effect” to Article 8 ECHR. This tort turns on on whether the claimant has a reasonable expectation of privacy that has been infringed by the defendant (see Campbell v MGN Ltd [2004] 2 AC 457, [2004] UKHL 22 (6 May 2004) [21]-[25] (Lord Nicholls), [134]-137] (Baroness Hale); Kinloch v HM Advocate [2013] 2 AC 93, [2012] UKSC 62 (19 December 2012) [18]-[21] (Lord Hope); R (Catt) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2015] 1 AC 1065, [2015] UKSC 9 (4 March 2015) [4]-[5] (Lord Sumption); Khuja (formerly PNM) v Times Newspapers [2017] UKSC 49 (19 July 2017) [21], [26], [34](1), [34](3) (Lord Sumption)). For this test in the present case ([2018] EWHC 1837 (Ch) [231]), Mann J cited Clarke MR for the Court of Appeal in Murray v Big Pictures (UK) Ltd [2009] Ch 481, [2008] EWCA Civ 446 (07 May 2008) [36] as affirmed by Lord Toulson in In re JR38 [2016] AC 1131, [2015] UKSC 42 (1 July 2015) [60], [88]:

… the question whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy is a broad one, which takes account of all the circumstances of the case. They include the attributes of the claimant, the nature of the activity in which the claimant was engaged, the place at which it was happening, the nature and purpose of the intrusion, the absence of consent and whether it was known or could be inferred, the effect on the claimant and the circumstances in which and the purposes for which the information came into the hands of the publisher.

Mann J commented that the last two criteria (circumstances and purposes) were “very relevant” to matter in front of him ([2018] EWHC 1837 (Ch) [231]). He held that “on the authorities, and as a matter of general principle, a suspect has a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to a police investigation” (ibid, [248]), but he stressed that this was only prima facie (ibid, [250]), and not invariable: “there may be all sorts of reasons why, in a given case, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, or why an original reasonable expectation is displaced” (ibid, [251]). He therefore held that Sir Cliff was entitled to this prima facie reasonable expectation of privacy as against SYP both in relation to the investigation and in relation to the search, and that there was nothing in his public status, to deprive him of it (ibid, [256]). The BBC submitted that, once the material gets into the hands of a media organisation such as themselves, the position changes, but Mann J rejected that submission (ibid, [259], [262]): what matters is the substance of what is protected by means of the reasonable expectation of privacy, and the substance of the protection, and that is the same against both the SYP and the BBC.

It is an overstatement to say that the authorities clearly established that a suspect has a prima facie reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to a police investigation. At best, they are equivocal on the issue. Indeed, it could even be fairly concluded that they have, in fact, declined to lay down such a rule. In the earlier case of Hannon v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2014] EWHC 1580 (Ch) (16 May 2014) Mann J himself observed that “the question of the confidentiality or privacy of an arrest is likely to be a fact sensitive point”) (ibid, [99]). In Richard, he noted that, in PNM v Times Newspapers Ltd [2014] EWCA Civ 1132 (01 August 2014) [37] Sharp LJ acknowledged “a growing recognition that as a matter of public policy, the identity of those arrested or suspected of a crime should not be released to the public save in exceptional and clearly defined circumstances”. But that acknowledgment formed part of a submission by the appellant that she did not accept, as it did not properly accommodate the open justice principle (ibid, [38]), a conclusion that was upheld on appeal (see Khuja [2017] UKSC 49). In ERY v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2016] EWHC 2760 (QB) (04 November 2016), it was conceded that the fact that the claimant had been interviewed under caution attracted a reasonable expectation of privacy, and Nicol J held that this enabled him to conclude that the claimant also had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the more general information that he was being investigated by the police (ibid, [65]). In ZXC v Bloomberg LP [2017] EWHC 328 (QB) (23 February 2017) [29] Garnham J observed that the defendant’s concession in ERY meant that Nicol J’s conclusion provides only weak support for the proposition that the claimant before him had a reasonable expectation of privacy in in the contents of the formal document sent by a law enforcement agency in the context of a criminal investigation into a company. Garnham J also rejected the opposite argument that, in the absence of the sort of concession made by the defendant in ERY, there cannot be a reasonable expectation of privacy on the part of a suspect that he is the subject of a criminal investigation. And he concluded that “it is impossible to lay down any such blanket rule in an enquiry as fact-sensitive as this” (ibid, [30]). Hence, the authorities had not clearly established that a suspect has a prima facie reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to a police investigation; indeed, they had probably declined to lay down such a rule; though they probably did not probably did not preclude Mann J establishing it in Richard.

Whether he should have done so turns on his argument of principle. That amounted to quotations from the Leveson Report (2012; vol 2 (pdf); [2.39] 791; see also ibid [3.3] 984), the Judicial Response to the Law Commission Consultation Paper No 209 on Contempt of Court (2013; p5), the College of Policing’s Guidance on Relationships with the Media (pdf) (2013; [3.5.2]), and Sir Richard Henriques’ Independent Review of Metropolitan Police Service’s handling of non-recent sexual offence investigations (2016; [1.39]-[1.40], [1.94]), all of which said that the police should not, save in exceptional and clearly identified circumstances, release the names or identifying details of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime. But even in an era of rights-based policing, where good practice on the part of the police must be informed by human rights considerations, this is a long way short of saying that this must be so because a suspect has a prima facie reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to a police investigation. On the other hand, such a rule, even where it is not invariable, has the capacity to trench as much upon publicity that is a useful element of an investigation as it does upon prurient exposure.

The leading case on the impact of the principle of open justice upon reasonable expectations of privacy is Khuja (formerly PNM) v Times Newspapers [2017] UKSC 49 (19 July 2017). Here, the claimant had been arrested with several other men in connection with child sex offences. The claimant was released on bail; but nine of the others were charged and tried; and seven of them were eventually convicted. Before and during the trial, various orders were made prohibiting the disclosure of information that might identify the claimant until a decision had been made whether or not to charge him with an offence. Two months after the trial ended, and sixteen months after he was first arrested, the claimant was released from bail without charge. The trial judge indicated that he was therefore prepared to lift the reporting restrictions. However, the claimant sought an interlocutory injunction to prevent the media from identifying him and publishing material about him derived from the trial. However, his claim failed at every stage, essentially because he could, in the circumstances, have no reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of material of great public interest disclosed in open court.

In In re Guardian News and Media Ltd [2010] 2 AC 697, [2010] UKSC 1 (27 January 2010) [66] Lord Rodger commented that the “identities of persons charged with offences are published, even though their trial may be many months off. In allowing this, the law proceeds on the basis that most members of the public understand that, even when charged with an offence, you are innocent unless and until proved guilty in a court of law”. Consequently, at first instance in Khuja, Tugendhat J commented that “members of the public generally will understand the difference between suspicion and guilt, and will know that a person is to be presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty” and he had “no doubt that there is the highest public interest in the allegations of child abuse that have been, and remain, the subject of police investigations” ([2013] EWHC 3177 (QB) (22 October 2013) [77]-[78]); and this was upheld by the Court of Appeal ([2014] EWCA Civ 1132 (01 August 2014) [38] (Sharpe LJ; Lord Dyson MR and Vos LJ concurring)). In the Supreme Court, Lord Sumption for the majority (Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Clarke and Lord Reed concurring) approved Lord Rodger’s comments in the Guardian case ([2017] UKSC 49 [8]). But he also warned that it “would be foolish for any court to ignore the extreme sensitivity of public opinion in current circumstances to allegations of the sexual abuse of children and the concerns about the safety of children generally to which those allegations give rise” (ibid). And he confessed that he “might have been less sanguine” than Tugendhat J had been about the reaction of the public to the way in which the claimant featured in the trial (ibid, [34]). However, these caveats should not obscure the fact that he held that the claimant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances.

It is curious that Mann J in Richard ([2018] EWHC 1837 (Ch) [248]-[250]) should have focussed on Lord Sumption’s caveats and the joint dissenting judgment of Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson rather than upon the outcome in that case and in the earlier Guardian case. It is hard to see how a prima facie reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to a police investigation can stand with Guardian and Khuja. Instead, the careful judgments at all three levels in Khuja demonstrate that it is – and ought to be – a fact-sensitive enquiry in every case. More general, prima facie, expectations of privacy in relation to police investigations ought to be matters for legislation (see, eg, Home Office report on Pre-Charge Bail – Summary of Consultation Responses and Proposals for Legislation (pdf) (2015; p15)).

3. Conclusion
In holding that a suspect has a prima facie reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to a police investigation, Mann J certainly broke new legal ground. He may, however, have paid insufficient attention to the decisions of the Supreme Court in the Guardian case and Khuja. This is not to say that Sir Cliff did not have, or should not have been held to have had, a reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances. Rather, it is to say that any such conclusion should have been arrived at, not on the basis that such a prima facie expectation automatically arose, but after an appropriate fact-sensitive enquiry. There is certainly scope for an appeal on this issue, if only to , either to confirm or reject Mann J’s innovation, and thereby bring bring clarity to the law.

The Proportionality of Tobacco Packaging Restrictions on Autonomous Communication, Political Expression and Commercial Speech

QUB via NILQ
The Lanyon Building, QUB
from the NILQ cover
The Summer 2018 volume of the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly has been published this morning. Just in time for tomorrow’s seminar, and building on my earlier paper in the QUT Law Review, it contains the following piece by me:

“A Little Parthenon No Longer: The Proportionality of Tobacco Packaging Restrictions on Autonomous Communication, Political Expression and Commercial Speech” (2018) 69(2) Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 175-211

Abstract
This paper evaluates the constitutionality of statutory restrictions upon tobacco packing in Ireland. It concludes that public health and the protection of children constitute pressing and substantial reasons sufficient to justify the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 and Part 5 of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2017 as proportionate restrictions upon tobacco companies’ freedom of political expression protected by Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution and freedom of autonomous communication protected by Article 40.3.1.

In many respects, Ireland has been a world leader in tobacco control, from banning smoking in the workplace or in cars with children, to requiring standardised packaging. Part 1 introduces this article; it sets out the background to the 2015 and 2017 packaging legislation. Part 2 of this article, on restrictions, describes the restrictions in the packaging legislation. Part 3 of this article, on rights, provides a conspectus of the Irish constitutional speech rights engaged or burdened by these restrictions. This Part presents these rights as comprising a freedom of political expression in Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution and a freedom of autonomous communication in Article 40.3.1. Moreover, these two rights carry concomitant rights to keep silent and to be informed. Part 4 of this article, on reasons, considers the pressing and substantial reasons which the State may proffer to seek to justify the restrictions in the packaging legislation upon constitutional speech rights. Part 5 of this article, on standards of review, considers the extent to which the restrictions in the packaging legislation, motivated by concerns relating to public health and the protection of children, satisfy the current Irish version of the principle of proportionality. It also considers the extent to which the restrictions might satisfy other standards of review or scrutiny. Part 6 concludes this article, bringing together all of the strands of analysis in the previous Parts. And it concludes that, if the restrictions on constitutional speech rights in the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 and in Part 5 of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2017 are challenged by the tobacco companies, the courts will find that those Acts are constitutionally valid.

Attractive packaging is an important element of a product’s effective marketing. Indeed, so central has packaging been to the allure of smoking that Leonard Cohen could extol “the little Parthenon / of an opened pack of cigarettes”. Ireland has been in the vanguard of tobacco control worldwide. With the 2015 and 2017 packaging legislation, it continues to set a very important example. The constitutional validity of these packaging restrictions would underpin a crucial element of the Department of Health’s moves towards tobacco-free Ireland by 2025. And the pack of cigarettes, with large warning photos dominating standardized packaging, would be Cohen’s little Parthenon no longer.

An earlier version of the paper, under the title “Is Standardised Tobacco Packing a Proportionate Restriction on Constitutional Speech Rights”, was delivered at the ICON-S British and Irish Chapter Inaugural Conference, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, on 5 September 2017.

We’ve reached peak GDPR when Ross O’Carroll Kelly gets fired for a data breach

In today’s Irish Times, this week’s instalment (audio here) in the ongoing mis-adventures of Ross O’Carroll Kelly intersected with this blog. Ross is a hapless dad and clueless (if ruthless) estate-agent, who has been described as “Ireland’s most eligible married man” and “the greatest Irish [rugby] player never to actually make it in the game”, and the scene opens with our hero being summoned by the boss:

It’s, like, just before midday when Lauren tells me she wants to talk to me in her office. … She goes, “What do you know about GDPR, Ross?”

I’m like, “Quite a lot, actually.”

Oh, that shocks her – such is my reputation for being as stupid as a goose.

She’s like, “Okay, tell me what you know about GDPR.”

“First,” I go, “you make sure the patient is comfortable by putting some kind of cushion under their head and loosening any tight clothing. Then, you place the heel of your hand on the patient’s breastbone, with your other hand on top of it, interlocking your fingers …”

“That’s CPR, Ross.”

And so it goes on for a while, until Dave – “from Human Resources (formerly Payroll)” – arrives, and asks Ross where his laptop is. Poor Ross. We know from last week’s column (audio here) that he had left his car unlocked at a filling station, from which someone stole his “laptop bag, a briefcase and three Donnybrook Fair shopping bags out of the boot”. So, Ross eventually comes clean to Lauren:

I’m there, “Okay, I’m going to be finally honest with you. They were stolen from the boot of my cor when I pulled in to get petrol. Was there any sign of the three shopping bags from Donnybrook Fair that were also taken? There was six tins of individually, line-caught, white tuna fillets in there that cost 11 yoyos per pop.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“Er, why would I tell you about it? It was my laptop. They were my client files.”

“I’m the Managing Director of this estate agency, Ross. It’s my responsibility to report breaches to the Data Protection Commissioner as soon as they’re discovered. Do you know what the penalties for this could be?”

“Chill out, Lauren. There’s no real damage done.”

And that’s when she says it. She fixes me with a look and goes, “You’re fired, Ross.”

As he will no doubt quickly learn, GDPR stands for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. It, and its incorporating Irish legislation, came into effect on Friday 25 May 2018. And the theft of the laptop and files (and, let’s not forget, tuna fillets and other overpriced groceries) came to light in the column published on Saturday 26 May. If the Saturday column is real-time reportage, or if it is reporting something that happened on Friday, then the data breach happened after the GDPR and Irish legislation came into force, and Lauren does indeed have to report it to the Data Protection Commission. However, if the column is reporting something that happened earlier in the week, then the GDPR was not in force, and the Rossmeister might just get away with it – again.

Plain tobacco packaging in Australia and Ireland

Plain Pack With Shamrock And KangrooAustralia and Ireland were the first two countries in the world to introduce legislation to require standardized packing of tobacco products. As Olivia Kelly reports in the Irish Times that the Minister of State for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne TD launched a landmark Report on the State of Tobacco Control in Ireland to mark World No Tobacco Day yesterday, I’m delighted to announce that a seminar on this topic will be held from 2:00pm to 4:00pm on Tuesday 12 June 2018 in the Neill Lecture Theatre in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute, Trinity College Dublin.

The main speaker will be Prof Matthew Rimmer (QUT); I will respond to his presentation; the seminar will be chaired by Prof Shane Allwright (TCD); and there will be plenty of time for questions and answers.

Prof Matthew RimmerMatthew Rimmer (pictured right) is Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation in the Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. He has recently edited a special issue of the QUT Law Review on the plain packaging of tobacco products worldwide. At the seminar, he will talk about the Australian plain packaging legislation, and the failed challenges to it in the Australian courts, on foot of an investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong, and before the World Trade Organisation.

In response, I will talk about the Irish plain packaging legislation, the failed challenge to it in the Irish courts, the failed challenge to similar UK legislation in the UK courts and before the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the slim prospects for success of future possible challenges.

Shane Allwright will chair the seminar. She is Emeritus Fellow, retired Associate Professor of Epidemiology, and former Registrar, Trinity College Dublin. She chaired the Working Group on the Health Effects of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) in the Workplace, whose 2002 Report (pdf) led to the introduction in Ireland of the world’s first outright ban on smoking in the workplace in 2003.

The seminar is open to the public, and all are welcome to attend, but booking is essential.

New politics and the digital age of consent

An Interesting Game

An Interesting Game (1881)
Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928)
via Brooklyn Museum
New politics certainly make for interesting times. Minority governments are no strangers to defeats, even to two defeats in one day, but yesterday marked another milestone, when the government lost not merely two votes, but votes on two successive legislative amendments. They both related to the protection of children in the Data Protection Bill, 2018. The first will make it an offence to process the personal data of a child for the purposes of direct marketing, profiling or micro-targeting; the second will set the digital age of consent at 16. In fact, seeing the writing on the wall, rather than suffer the indignity – surely unique, even in this era of new politics – of four defeats in one evening, the Minister accepted a third amendment and declined to press a fourth of his own. The third amendment that he accepted will permit not-for-profit bodies to seek damages on behalf of data subjects; and the amendment that he withdrew would have undercut the effect of the third successful amendment. (The three successful amendments are amendments 14, 15 and 115 here (pdf), amending this version (pdf) of the Bill, and debated here). Earlier versions of all three successful amendments had been defeated by the government at every previous stage of the Bill. Time will tell if any of them proves significant, but the one that has generated the most coverage so far is the amendment to the digital age of consent.

The aim of the Bill is to incorporate the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) into Irish law. Article 6(1) GDPR sets out six bases for lawful processing of personal data, the first of which, specified in Article 6(1)(a), is that “the data subject has given consent to the processing of his or her personal data for one or more specific purposes” [on consent, see ICO | WP29]. A child can, in principle, provide such consent; but a minimum age at which children as data subjects can consent to having their personal data processed is not specified in the GDPR. Article 7 GDPR provides that the controller must be able to demonstrate this consent, and the younger the child is, the more difficult it will be for the controller to do so. To these flexible general rules relating to the consent of children, Article 8 GDPR provides a bright-line exception, which has become known as the digital age of consent. (more…)

On world IP day, a note of caution: the EU Copyright Directive is failing

Element of WIPday imageToday is World Intellectual Property Day. On a day to celebrate the role that intellectual property rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity, we should take care that IP law does not achieve the opposite result. I blogged yesterday about the press publishers’ right in Article 11 of the proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Today, I’m staying with the proposed Directive, and with another open letter (pdf, via here) that I’ve signed articulating some of its shortcomings. In this letter, academics from 25 leading Intellectual Property research centres in Europe express grave concerns at the legislative direction of the proposed copyright Directive, and in particular with Articles 3, 11 and 13:

  • the proposed exception for text-and-data-mining in Article 3 will not achieve its goal to stimulate innovation and research if restricted to certain organisations,
  • the proposals for a new publishers’ right under Article 11 will favour incumbent press publishing interests rather than innovative quality journalism [I blogged about this yesterday], and
  • the proposals for Article 13 threaten the user participation benefits of the e-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) which shared the responsibility for enforcement between rightholders and service providers [I blogged about this at an earlier stage in the process].

Poetry Day Ireland logoToday is also Poetry Day Ireland; but poetry the proposed Directive certainly is not. But you govern in prose; and the prose of the proposed Directive could be improved by revisting Article 3, 11 and 13.

169 European academics warn against the press publishers’ right proposed by the EU Commission

Copyright?DSMIn a statement published this morning, 169 academics working in a variety of fields from all over Europe give a final warning against the EU Commission’s ill-conceived plans for the introduction of a new intellectual property right in news.

Here are some extracts from the statement:

Statement from EU Academics on Proposed Press Publishers’ Right

We, the undersigned 169 scholars working in the fields of intellectual property, internet law, human rights law and journalism studies at universities all over Europe write to oppose the proposed press publishers’ right.

Article 11 of the proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, as it currently stands following negotiations in the EU Council and Parliament, is a bad piece of legislation. … The proposal would likely impede the free flow of information that is of vital importance to democracy. This is because it would create very broad rights of ownership in news and other information. … This proliferation of different rights for established players would make it more expensive for other people to use news content. … The proposed right would provide no protection against ‘fake news’. … There is no sound economic case for the introduction of such a right.

The academic community is virtually unanimous in its opposition to the European Commission’s proposal for a press publishers right. … it is important to understand that press publishers already have very significant rights in their publications. … [Moreover], Rapporteur Voss’s proposed amendments will make matters even worse. …

Conclusion
We call on all MEPs to oppose the Commission proposal, and with yet more determination, Mr Voss’s amendments. It is time to reject, once and for all, this misguided legislative reform.

My colleague, Giuseppe Mazziotti, and I are among the signatories. Read the full statement here (pdf) or here (html). It joins an open letter earlier this month from 56 organisations encouraging the deletion of Article 11.

Can you get out of the purchase of a house, if you find out later that someone had been murdered in it?

Get directions 16 Stillwell Dr, Wakefield WF2 6RL, UKThe question in the title was provoked by Ciara Kenny‘s House Hunter column in today’s Irish Times, where she ask Would you buy a house someone had been murdered in? I don’t think I would. And if I did, I’d be stuck with it, since the answer to the question in the title to this post is that you can’tget out of the purchase of a house, if you find out later that someone had been murdered in it. Ciara’s column is a diary of her travails trying to purchase a house in Dublin in today’s crazy property market (as she put it on twitter: it’s an effing nightmare). From today’s column:

Every old house has its secrets. Last summer, a gorgeous house came up for sale which we spent weeks deliberating over. But we couldn’t shake a bad feeling we had about the surrounding streets. So when bidding climbed above what we were willing to pay, we were relieved for once. … [Later, my partner found] a decade-old RTÉ news report about a man stabbed to death by a burglar on the stairs. … I don’t think I would be able to shake the image of that poor man’s violent death every time I walked upstairs.

If Ciara had bought the house, and later discovered its gruesome past, she would not have been able to reverse the transaction. (more…)