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Dateline: 31 March 2000 Early Edition
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Get Rich Fa$t!!!!
No, I'm not talking about ponzi schemes, dubious investment plans, multi-level marketing scams or any of the other "get rich quick" schemes that circulate on the Net.

I'm talking about the easiest way in which you, or anyone else can harness the power of the Internet to score large amounts of money while doing little more than tapping out a few lines on your computer keyboard.

Sounds too good to be true -- maybe not -- this time!

Although the most successful exponents of this new get-rich-quick scheme are presently spending active in the UK and other countries, New Zealand does have one early adopter who's giving it ago.

I am referring of course to the art of suing for libel or defamation.

Demon Internet in the UK has decided to take the pragmatic course and pay Dr Laurence Godfrey some NZ$45,000 and as much as NZ$600,000 in costs to settle a defamation suit he brought against them.

The spooky thing was that Demon didn't actually make the comments that were deemed to be defamatory -- they simply acted as a provider of usenet access and the offending material was placed on that service by someone else.

According to BBC report, there are now likely to be a rash of defamation suits brought against ISPs in the UK as others hope to cash in on this defacto precedent.

There are concerns that many UK ISPs will now choose to simply stop carrying usenet news feeds so as to avoid the risk -- something that has angered regular users of the more than 70,000 groups that exist on the Net.

So, the simple way to make a small fortune is to just goad someone (preferably someone with lots of money) into making a defamatory comment about you on a usenet newsgroup and then sue the stuffing out of any and every ISP that has the offending message show up on their news server.

This raises all kinds of legal issues that we, as an industry and community, need to have addressed very quickly if the Net isn't to become a playground for ambulance-chasing lawyers and opportunists.

Once again (sigh... I'm getting tired of this)... I call for NZ's lawmakers to lead the way by kick-starting an international cross-border treaty to be set up to deal with Internet-related law. It's presently working quite well for other areas such as copyright law so why not general Net law?

If our government wasn't so busy contemplating its navel, New Zealand could take an early and critical lead in establishing this crucial part of the new economy. We're very well positioned to do this because we're a comparatively "neutral" country who would not be seen to be playing favourites.

Okay... so I can dream can't I? Meanwhile, I'll leave the government to get on with its witch-hunts, nationalisation of private industry and crucification of Te Papa.

And of course a piece on defamation would not be complete without a mention of the O'Brien versus Brown situation.

One can't help but wonder if Patrick O'Brien didn't get wind of this latest get-rich-quick scheme before the rest of us -- and even removed all risk by making sure he didn't have to invest his own money to score the dividend.

Perhaps someone should have told Patrick O'Brien that he'd be more likely to collect his money if he'd chosen to sue a few ISPs instead of a poor operator. Still -- at least he's giving it a go -- right?

UAE Beats New Zealand To The New Economy
Yes, that tiny little Arab state has announced that it is building an "Internet City" which, it says, will become a world center for e-commerce.

This venture has the backing of "big names" such as Oracle.

They're encouraging overseas investment by offering a total exemption from tax for those companies that are willing to set up shop there and clearly they are very serious about moving their tiny nation into the "new economy."

So let's see ... that's Ireland, Finland, Israel, Scotland, Malaysia and now the UAE who have all pulled out a very significant lead on New Zealand.

Clearly the UAE is very much aware of the commercial risks associated with heavily relying on a single commodity for your export dollars -- as New Zealand is with its primary produce. How would we cope if there was an outbreak of something like the "mad cow disease" epidemic that shut down the UK's meat exports?

While our politicians are still doing nothing but talking -- the bulldozers have already started rolling in Dubai and the necessary changes to the tax laws have been passed.

How can the people of New Zealand let this ridiculous situation continue?

Great Response!
Thanks to all those who responded to yesterday's call for setting up a resource for would-be new-economy entrepreneurs.

I'm still wading through the emails and hope to reply to everyone over the weekend. Suffice to say -- we seem to have more than enough people ready, willing, and able to help.

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Load in new window UK ISP coughs up damages in Godfrey libel case
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