Last week we saw Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) lose its appeal to overturn a privacy action in the French courts by actor Olivier Martinez.

Martinez successfully sued the publishers of the Sunday Mirror in 2008 over an article that was published online about the actor’s then relationship with Kylie Minogue, saying that it negatively affected his reputation in France.

Mirror Group in turn argued that French courts had no jurisdiction to impose a ruling on articles published on the Sunday Mirror website, since it was hosted in the UK and the article was in English.

Yet in a landmark decision, the European Court of Justice ruled against MGN, meaning that European publishers can now potentially be sued from anywhere in the EU for articles published online, not just the place where the publication is read.

This case acknowledges that it makes more sense for a publisher to be sued in the place where an individual’s reputation lies, providing further credence to the importance of this as a measure of worth, and reinforcing the idea that the web has increasingly fewer geographical boundaries.

As Magnus Boyd, Partner at Carter-Ruck explains, this case also makes some important judicial points: 

First, because posting defamatory content online allows it to be accessed and read around the world by an indefinite number of readers - this will increase the damage caused. But also that posting defamatory content online also means that it is very difficult to locate just where the damage to a reputation has occurred and, by extension, it is very difficult to mitigate the damage done.

Both of these points are likely to used by those looking to increase the amount of damages awarded in cases like these, and as a consequence we might see a rise in situations such as this – from both individuals and businesses alike.

In terms of protecting yourself from a situation like this, let’s briefly consider the role of analytics. Many publishers monitor their traffic religiously, looking at how many people visit their website or blog, from where, for how long and much more. 

“Online publishers really need to invest in such software that can identify, preferably on an article-by-article basis (rather than a page-by-page basis) how much traffic they are attracting,” added Boyd.

This will become increasingly valuable as it could be used in defence of the claims above and used to demonstrate that, in reality, the exact number of visits to a particular story might be far fewer than feared. 

(Image via steakpinball's Flickr)

Vikki Chowney

Published 31 October, 2011 by Vikki Chowney

Vikki is head of community at TMW. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+

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Comments (5)

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

It's quite easy to set that tracking up within Google Analytics (or any other web analytics tool) to see the number of views of all instances of an article, plus its shortened 'homepage'/'category page' versions.

Oddly, *not* setting it up in an Analytics system may be advantageous for the biggest sites, as it would falsely low-ball the number of viewers of any given piece of content. A homepage/news category page on a large site will be viewed by dozens of countries every day (& thus a snippet of most 'high-profile' articles), but individual articles will have far less of a spread of geographical views.

almost 7 years ago

Vikki Chowney

Vikki Chowney, Head of Social at TMW

Indeed Dan, though it's a risky business deciding to go either way - don't you think?

almost 7 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

hiya, Vicky, Google analytics (& most analytics systems) gatheres the second one as standard, along with country breakdown, etc.


almost 7 years ago

Vikki Chowney

Vikki Chowney, Head of Social at TMW

Yes Dan, but your point was that it would be advantageous to *not* set it up to measure in this way. My response just noted that it's risky to do this since it would be fairly obvious that a publisher was trying to get away with not giving accurate figures.

Really, if a publisher is doing something they shouldn't be, when it comes to analytics - they're damned if they do, damned if they don't!

almost 7 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

Smells a bit like the 'EU cookie directive', non? i.e. a little bit crazy, unenforceable and just a smidgen French-backed?

I'm not against providing legal protection online in cases of libel, defamation etc but the practical implications of this ruling (like the 'cookie directive') are nigh on impossible to compute sensibly?

If the French courts are trying to gauge 'online opportunities to see' as a count value for the possible 'damage' then how about social media mentions? How about RSS? How about appearances in search results? How about forwarded emails? How about the appearance in news or other aggregators? etc. etc.

almost 7 years ago

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