In a case that establishes that in Great Britain Internet service providers are publishers and liable at law for what they post, Laurence Godfrey, a physicist and university lecturer, received libel damages from Demon Internet Ltd. in an 11th-hour settlement with the ISP March 31 (Godfrey v. Demon Internet Ltd., 4 All E.R. 342, 1999, settlement reached 3/11/00). An initial ruling in March 1999 had held that Demon would be held liable because it had been put on notice. Demon Internet, which at the time of the postings was the largest ISP in Great Britain with over 90,000 subscribers, agreed to pay Godfrey more than $24,000 in damages and an estimated $320,000 in legal costs. Demon’s costs were estimated to be in the same range. The case had been scheduled to come to trial on April 3 in High Court in London, but the court was notified that Demon had apologized and agreed to pay damages and legal costs.
One of the services Demon offered was access through its news servers to a newsgroup for those interested in Thailand’s political and social affairs. In January 1997, a message appeared on this bulletin board posted by an unknown user and made to look as if it came from Godfrey. Gordon Bishop, Godfrey’s counsel, told the court that the message was “squalid, obscene, and defamatory.” The court decided that the posting was so offensive that it would not reveal it to the public.
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