AuthorDennis Lane
David Potts has written a timely a nd necessary book on one of the most elu-
sive areas of the law. Internet defamation, or “cyberlibel,” is eas y to commit
and complex to combat. In the print and television world, the publisher has
control and responsibility: it owns the means of publication, is usua lly in-
sured, and is certainly visible. In the Internet world, the defamer has control:
he is invisible and anonymous; his postings cost nothing and are immediately
available to a world-wide audience. Responsibility for the posting is another
issue. Power without responsibility is a dangerous mixture. It may take weeks
or months to nd out who the defamer is and much longer to get his posting
removed, unless the site is a monitored one. In the Internet world, where libel
spreads with the speed of light, a nd anonymit y paradoxically can enhance
the apparent t ruth of what i s written, damage to the vict im can swi ly be-
come so severe as to demand legal action to remove the posting.
is, and indeed, all other legal problems in cyberlibel, are greatly ex-
acerbated by the Internet’s utter indierence to national boundaries. If an
American travelling i n Libya uses a computer i n a British-owned hotel to
post a defamatory statement on a website whose server is in India, and the
Russian victim reads it in Ca nada, whose courts can hear the lawsuit? David
Potts has tack led this ver y real issue with thoroughness and insight and the
result is greatly helpful.
An inesc apable fact is that the shape of the I nternet is constantly evolv-
ing, most recently led by applications such as Sky pe, Facebook, Twitter, and
Apple’s emerging i-world. It is not yet c lear whether this trend is likely to
further fragment the Internet and complicate the task of obtaining legal rem-
edies, or lead to closed proprietary prot-making networks which might bear
some structura l resemblance to the print world and make t hings easier. e

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