"Don't Shoot the Messenger?" The UK and Online Intermediary Liability

G. Sutter (UK)


Internet, content, websites, hosting, intermediary liability


UK society has long moved away from the ancient tradition of holding the messenger responsible for the content of the message. However, as the internet became established as a popular media during the 1990s, it became often difficult to identify and trace the source of material made available online. There remains, however, a need to control certain types of internet content, such as obscenity, copyright infringement and defamation. The paper considers how the UK has responded to the situation, and traces the evolution of an identifiable strategy for the control of online content by placing certain obligations upon internet intermediaries. An analysis of the manner in which the same issues have been addressed by the USA is also made in order that the potential benefit of the application of an alternative approach to some of the issues the UK faces may be considered. The paper concludes that while there is certainly room for improvement in the UK strategy for dealing with intermediaries as regards third party provided content, it remains to be seen just how effective the current approach may prove in practice.

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