HRH Charlie has won a very interesting UK court victory against the Mail on Sunday snoozepaper which obtained seven of his confidential journals and intended to publish the juicy bits. The ruling is interesting because firstly it upholds the right to privacy and strikes down any right to publish stolen documents even if they are theoretically in the public interest. Also interesting is that another legal argment used was that the diaries were copyright and that publishing them without permission was therefore a breach of copyright law. It will be interesting to see how this holds up in subsequent cases but given that "dealing in stolen goods" is an offence in most countries and that copyright is also strictly enforced in most English speaking countries, it would seem that this ruling could have a lot of rather interesting consequences.
My fertile imagination sees that in fact not just civil but criminal proceedings for such crimes could very well succeed with the right jury, and journalists or publishers who are found guilty of such felonies will find their lives and livelihoods significantly impacted. "Dealing in stolen goods" and/or "comissioning and profiting from a crime" are the sort sof offence that usually get pinned on criminal bosses and they tend to not All sorts of things like visa applications, the ability to be a company director, or to vote or to stand in some elections are affected by having a criminal record with such offense on it.
Personally, despite believing that secrecy is generally bad, I am all in favour of newspapers losing the default "publis interest" defense. It seems to me that up until recently the general assumption has been that "public interest" justifies printing anything and that therefore suing a media site for printing confidential items was always going to fail. This may no longer be the case and it occurs to me that many leakers and their journalistic abettors should be very very nervous about the ramifications of this ruling, especially combined with the Plame-case fall out in the USA.
That is the good news. The bad news is that the blogosphere, especially the UK blogosphere, will need to take note of this case as few bloggers are likely to be able to fund a defense.