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Dateline: 10 January 2000 Early Edition
Read The Previous Edition

Editorial
New Zealand Court Loses To The Internet
On Saturday, the NZ Herald published a story, the detail of which (or should I say the suppresion of that detail) has outraged many citzens.

At the heart of the matter is the issue of a suppression order that prohibits the NZ media from publishing the identity of a rich visitor to NZ who was caught importing drugs and let off apparently without even a warning.

Do you want to know who it was?

Then simply harness the power of the Net and find out This story (Link updated 17-Feb-2000, Ed.) gives all the details that the NZ Herald is not able to publish, so why did the court even bother?

Note, earlier links to the story carried by the Associated Press became invalid because the story had "aged off" the servers at the Boston Globe and Yahoo -- that is why the link was updated on 17-Feb-2000.

The court's attempt to hush-up this person's identity is made even more ludicrous by the fact that nobody in New Zealand even remotely cares who he is. The real concern is that he avoided conviction or penalty and managed to have his name suppressed -- yet many other bright young NZers facing the same charges have been whacked with hefty fines, PD or even jail terms, while also having their identities revealed for all to see.

Fortunately for those who are outraged by this situation, it appears that US publishers are not bound by a suppression order made by a New Zealand court and, in this day of instant global communications and online news services, that makes such efforts by the courts to hide someone's identity nothing but a farce.

Even today's Aardvark is probably going to cause some concern to the many local bureaucrats who don't understand the Net -- doubtless some will argue that by merely linking to this US-hosted story, I have violated the suppression order.

Indeed, it is possible that today's Aardvark could revive an issue that has yet to be properly tested in the courts -- how much liability does anyone incur through hypertext linking?

Even the issue of linking to someone else's copyrighted material has yet to be truly examined by the courts in this country.

So will I be hauled up before the court on contempt charges?

I doubt that even the most bumbling prosecutor would attempt such folly. Were I to be prosecuted for such then the courts had better be prepared to take on the entire Internet community -- both at home and abroad. Likewise they'd better be prepared to invest a lot of time and taxpayer money in setting a precedent over the issue of hypertext linking on the Net.

The Net is the nemisis of all those who seek to quarantine information and even the some of the world's most oppressive regimes have failed to control the freedom it offers people -- I think it would be rather presumptuous of the NZ court system to believe it could achieve what so many others have failed to do.

Of course I should also remind the powers that be that Aardvark is actually published in the USA -- not New Zealand, despite the .co.nz domain name.

Clearly the arrival of the Net means that international lawmakers are going to have to spend a lot more time forging reciprocal treaties and creating some kind of consistent respect and enforcement for each other's laws. Or maybe cyberspace should be defined as an entirely new domain -- with it's own set of laws that have no regard for physical borders.

Your comments will be gladly accepted. Just send them to me using the contact form provided and be sure to select whether they are "for publication" or not.

 


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