Nottinghamshire County Council Strikes in Australia
The controversy over the availability of the UK JET Report on the Internet still continues but this time in Australia. They have recently threatened Dr Michael Baker, one of the Electronic Frontier Australia board members who is maintaining a mirror site of the report in Australia.
This follows the recent attempts of the Nottinghamshire County Council to limit the availability of the report anywhere on the Internet. They tried successfully in Canada and Germany but it was Professor Peter Junger who challenged them and did not comply with the County Council’s desire for its removal on the ground that the Council holds the copyright.
Dr Michael Baker <email@example.com> followed the steps taken by Professor Junger and decided not to comply with the demands of the Nottinghamshire County Council. Dr Baker in his letter (see below) stated that:
‘It is also my position that, were you to seek an injunction from a court of competent jurisdiction requiring me to remove the report from my web site because of your County Council’s claim of copyright, even if it could establish that claim, my publication of the report on my web site is “fair use”.’Dr Baker’s letter continues to say that:
‘I initially set up my mirror site <http://pobox.com/~mbaker/mirror> as my part in protecting freedom of speech on the Internet and as a demonstration of the futility of trying to suppress information on the Internet. However the report that your County Council is trying to have disappear, is an important document in its own right that must be available to family therapists, police departments, departments of social welfare, and lawyers throughout the world.’Yaman Akdeniz, head of the Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) group stated that:
‘There are currently 33 mirror sites and every time the County Council tries to stop the publication of the JET Report, their action spawns another dozen mirror sites.’
‘This case is reminiscent of the unsuccessful attempts of the UK Government to stop the publication of the Spycatcher novel in 1986 in Australia which involved the memoirs of Peter Wright, a senior officer in MI5 from 1955 to 1976. Spycatcher was also published in the USA and Canada following its initial publication in Australia. As in the case of Spycatcher it is proving impossible to stop the publication of the JET Report; the genie is out of the bottle.’Notes for the media:
The Notts CC letter and Dr Michael Baker’s reply are both available at:
<http://pobox.com/~mbaker/mirror/mckay.html> and <http://pobox.com/~mbaker/mirror/reply.html>
Broxtowe Case involved Britain’s largest ever prosecution of multi-generational incest in which the defendants received sentences of up to ten years is being made available on the Internet in the hope that an informed readership will be able to draw its own conclusions.
The version of the report published on the World Wide Web in the public interest identifies neither the victims nor the family at the centre of the Broxtowe Case. The author of this version, John Gwatkin, formerly an Area Director for Notts Social Services, approves its publication and has a written a special introduction which is also on the Web Site.
The principle that domestic courts will not enforce a foreign penal or public law is sometimes described as a rule of public international law, and, at other times, as one of private international law. Dicey and Morris, The Conflict of Laws, 11th ed. (1987), vol.1, pp 100-101, state the principle in these terms:The Court also stated that:
"English courts have no jurisdiction to entertain an action:
(1) for the enforcement, either directly or indirectly, of a penal, revenue or other public law of a foreign State; ..."
The rule is associated with a related principle of international law, which has long been recognized, namely that, in general, courts will not adjudicate upon the validity of acts and transactions of a foreign sovereign state within that sovereign's own territory. The statement of Fuller C.J. in Underhill v. Hernandez (1897) 168 US 250, at p 252 that:
"... the courts of one country will not sit in judgment on the acts of the government of another done within its own territory"
Spycatcher contains material concerning the operations of the British Security Service which might well sustain a finding that publication is in the Australian public interest. By way of illustration there is material which, if true, indicates that the freedom of Service operations from political control and supervision should be qualified, that the Service has been penetrated by foreign agents and that the Service engages in unlawful activities when the means are thought to justify the ends. These are matters of public interest to Australia because ASIO has a close and co-operative relationship with the British Security Service.The following is Dr Baker’s letter to the Nottinghamshire County Council which can also be found at <http://pobox.com/~mbaker/mirror/reply.html>
1 July 1997
C P. McKay,
Nottinghamshire County Council
Nottingham NG2 7QP
Dear Mr. McKay,
I have received an Email message sent by John Gass <firstname.lastname@example.org> which is purportedly from you. As I have no Email address for you I am replying via John Gass’s Email address and will have copies posted to several mailing lists, including Fight Censorship.
The subject of the Email was a report (the JET Report) which describes how social workers in your County Council’s Social Services Department lead sexualy abused children into fabricating stories of their having been subject to ritual satanic abuse. I can understand that your County Council wishes to limit access to the report.
In the Email the claim is made that the Nottinghamshire County Council has copyright in the report despite the fact that its main author deems it in the public interest that the report be published, and the fact that it is apparently already a public document. The Email also, correctly, states that the report is on my web site (at http://pobox.com/~mbaker/mirror/). However you ignore the fact that both my web site and I are not located in the United Kingdom.
The Email also contains the threat: “I therefore give you notice that unless the report is removed from the Website forthwith and for the avoidance of doubt within 24 hours of receipt by you of this mail The Nottinghamshire County Council will issue such Court Proceedings including injunction proceedings or take any action as may be appropriate.”
My initial reaction was to comply with your demand. However on further consideration I decided to just ignore what appear to be empty threats, given that the “Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988”, which is quoted in the Email, only applies to actions taken in the United Kingdom. As Professor Junger has already pointed out to you “that Act specifically provides that copyright holders’ exclusive rights apply only to ``acts in the United Kingdom’’”.
However as Professor Junger has made very public his intention not to be coerced into removing the report, I have decided to do likewise. It is apparent from the press reports that your actions are engendering that your efforts to suppress the truth about what happened at Broxtowe have had something other than the effect that your County Council wanted. Headlines like:
News.COM - U.K. child abuse witch-hunt exposed
Wired News - Ritual Abuse Posting Sparks Furor
News.COM - Drop Report, Brits tell Canadian Site
MSN News - Satanic abuse freedom case goes global: Council threatens Canadian “mirror” site with legal action over publication of child abuse report.
MSN News - Freedom battle over child abuse leak: Journalists defy legal attempt to prevent Internet publication of Broxtowe child abuse files
UK Press Association - Abuse report on the web despite court order
News.COM - Governments strive to keep lid on the Net Salon Magazine - U.K. tries to censor the Internet: “An embarrassing report about a bungled satanic abuse investigation brings out the British blue pencil brigade.”
The Convergence - Modern-day sheriffs of Nottingham are at it again
News.COM - Britain pursues banned report
Wired News - Little Pig, I’ll Blow Your Site Down
Wired News - UK Activist: Let 1,000 Mirror Sites Bloom
The Convergence - Naughty, naughty, Nottingham: Legal threats from embarrassed British bureaucrats force Canadian to take controversial report offline
Such publicity can not have been what you wanted. After all, no one would have mirrored the Broxtowe report at their sites on the World Wide Web had you not sought to prevent its original publication. There are at least two dozen web sites where the report is mirrored, not one of which would have existed if you had not sought to suppress its original publication on the web. For those of us who are opposed to governmental censorship of information on the World Wide Web, this reaction is gratifying. I doubt that it is so for your County Council.
It is also my position that, were you to seek an injunction from a court of competent jurisdiction requiring me to remove the report from my web site because of your County Council’s claim of copyright, even if it could establish that claim, my publication of the report on my web site is “fair use”.
The report is a compilation of facts, even if the allegations of satanic rites that it discusses were fictions. As the United States Supreme Court made clear in _Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc._, 499 U.S. 340 (1991): “the copyright in a factual compilation is thin.” Since your County Council desires to suppress the work, rather than to publish and sell it, they have suffered no damages from the posting of the report on my web site; since I am making the report available as a public service and receive no compensation for doing so, I have received no profits from that posting: facts that go a long way toward establishing that my posting of the report is fair use. But the most important fact is that the report that your County Council wants to suppress is a document whose publication may assist in the prevention of further abuse of children by public authorities who subscribe, for whatever reason, to fantasies about satanic rites. As the report says: “We have to consider the damage that may have been done to the children in working with them on the basis that they had been involved in experiences such as the slaughter of sheep and the killing of babies that had not actually happened. What has been done to [Mary] by convincing her that she was a child murderer who had indulged in acts of cannibalism or that she might kill again if she did not feel guilty?”
I initially set up my mirror site <http://pobox.com/~mbaker/mirror> as my part in protecting freedom of speech on the Internet and as a demonstration of the futility of trying to suppress information on the Internet. However the report that your County Council is trying to have disappear, is an important document in its own right that must be available to family therapists, police departments, departments of social welfare, and lawyers throughout the world. It is an important historical document, especially in its tracing the spread of satanic hysteria to sources in the United States.
More importantly the publication of the report may assist the forces of reason in rejecting the evil that once infected the social workers of Nottinghamshire. That is, after all, why one of its authors, who is a social worker himself, felt that it should be published.
I am not, by the way, insensitive to your claim that: “Some of the young persons named in the Report are the subject of deemed care orders made in accordance with the provisions of the Children Act 1989. The Nottinghamshire County Council has Statutory and Common Law obligations and duties to those young people. It is in acknowledgement of those Statutory and other Common Law obligations and duties that The Nottinghamshire County Council is taking the steps mentioned in this letter.” But I am afraid that I do not believe you. The report, after all, has been carefully edited to hide the identity of the young people who were the victims in this sordid affair. In any case, even were I to try to suspend my disbelief the fact remains that I agree with the authors of the report when they say: “we do not consider that suspending disbelief should also mean a suspension of commonsense or the use of critical faculties.”
I shall therefore not comply with your demands.
Dr Michael Baker.