NEWSPAPER publishers have won a court appeal, allowing them to keep old or archived items online, without being in contempt of court if the content becomes the subject of a trial.
The NSW Court of Appeal decision overturns takedown orders in relation to online articles about Fadi and Michael Ibrahim.
It sets an important precedent relating to suppression orders, as publishers have been frustrated in the past with the extent of court-ordered takedowns, which have forced the removal of archived items from non-news sites, because the content had been aggregated by search engines such as Google.
The court ruled that the suppression order prior to a jury trial, involving the Ibrahim brothers and a third man, Rodney Atkinson, was futile because of the scale and global nature of the internet.
The decision overturned a ruling in March by District Court judge James Bennett, who ordered that all articles containing references to “any other criminal proceedings” or “unlawful conduct” involving the three men be taken down from the internet. This was to avoid the possibility of jury members finding online reports that might influence their views of the accused.
News Ltd group editorial director Campbell Reid told News Now the ruling was an overdue triumph for common sense.
“I hope this decision establishes a foundation for other jurisdictions when cases like this are raised in the future.”
Fairfax Media Metro division editorial director Garry Linnell said the decision is probably the only realistic and common sense one that could be taken.
“It’s a classic and increasing example of something like the justice system, which is so rooted in traditions and laws harking back centuries, trying to come to grips with technology that appears every few minutes.”
The appeal bench ruling is the first time a major court has found that internet content is essentially beyond the court’s control. Outside of Australian news sites, there are thousands of references to the Ibrahim brothers and Atkinson on the internet that have been aggregated by search engines throughout the world.
The appeal panel also found that broad suppression orders that encompassed international companies were invalid because overseas website hosts might be unaware they were publishing material that had been suppressed.