Category: Community Interest

Publish and be damned (or possibly lose your house!)

I attended the presentation by Digital Rights Ireland at TechCamp Ireland recently and while I was impressed by the presenters and what they had to say, I honestly felt a lot of it was scaremongering to get support.

In a one-to-one after the presentation, TJ McIntyre told me that simply by publishing an article, you can lose your house. “It doesn’t matter if the article is defamatory or not – if someone decides to take a case against you, the cost of solicitors and barristers will run into the tens of thousands. Very few bloggers can afford that.” And if you have no house or tangible assets? I asked. Then, the courts can make an arrangement to have the amount deducted from your salary until it is paid off, TJ informed me. They are very flexible like that. He’s just trying to scare-up a few more clients, I thought!

Then, a friend contacted me – we’ll call him John for the sake of this post – but he’s really a reasonably well known blogger in Ireland. John told me he had received a cease and desist letter from a Dublin law firm, regarding some posts he had made earlier this year about a company we’ll call XYZ co. XYZ co. seemingly treated their employees badly, a few court cases were taken, reports were published in the media and questions were even asked in the Dáil (the Irish parliament). In all this, John simply published what was happening (often re-printing articles from the mainstream media) on his blog.

The cease and desist letter was followed by a summons to the Four Courts.

Now John was really worried. On legal advice he pulled any posts pertaining to XYZ co. from his blog. When I asked him on IM what happens next he said:

17:15:00 John: then i send the lawyers a nice letter saying well i am not really interested in entering into legal proceedings regarding this matter, and the “offending” content has been removed. then sit tight and see what their next move is
17:16:46 trftry: And if anyone on the blogosphere notices the posts’ removal and asks where they have gone?
17:17:27 John: well becuase otherwise i will be in the dock, and to be honest without any support from people, I can not afford to be a test case.
17:17:54 trftry: I understand that
17:18:14 trftry: But how will you react to people’s questions when they arise?
17:18:23 John: i will tell them the truth
17:20:11 trftry: On your blog?
17:20:20 John: if asked, yes.
17:22:01 John: there is no other option for me tom. without the free assistance of lawyers, and some method of insurance for myself in teh event of a negative outcome, i would be pretty mad to continue. i would have expected the law to be a little more progressive in the matter, but from what i am being told, it doesn’t seem to be
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17:23:19 John: i would be a very just person, but without support, my hands are tied.
17:24:06 John: of course people will be interested in why the posts are gone. and i will tell them. i owe it to myself and others to give reasons why, but at the end of the day, since the law is stacked _against_ me, i will not win.
17:24:29 John: of course it is wrong, and unjust, and i hate it, but what other options are there for me?
17:24:49 trftry: I have no idea John

Before John took down the posts, I went through them. I felt John had been very careful in his posts to make sure he didn’t defame anyone and yet he had to remove them on threat of legal proceedings and he’s still not confident that that will be the end of it.

The law on defamation in Ireland is stacked against bloggers (against all publishers really but bloggers for the most part don’t have the means at their disposal that mainstream publications would have). I suspect Ireland is not alone in this.

This raises a couple of issues;

  1. Bloggers are blissfully publishing articles completely unaware of the potential legal consequences and financial implications and
  2. There are no guidelines for bloggers in this regard – on two fronts i) what constitutes a defamatory post and more importantly ii) what to do in the event you are accused of publishing one.

What can be done? In the immediate term, I think bloggers will have to rigourously self-censor or face the very real risk being brought before the courts (with all the expenses that implies). In the longer term, we need to agitate for a reality check in our laws on libel and defamation. The best way to do this, I imagine, is through supporting the work of Digital Rights Ireland – hopefully, they will have some suggestions for us on this matter in the very near future.

UPDATE:
Digital Rights Ireland have a very useful libel pamphlet on their site with advice for bloggers and web hosts on defamation in blog posts and blog post comments (something we often forget about).

Link Cosmos

Is clean, cheap energy in the pipeline?

A report in Friday’s Guardian tells of a new form of clean, cheap energy production – which has academics fighting over quantum theory!

Basically, the new form of energy production, called hydrino energy, breaks the rules of long accepted quantum theory and so while it might work in practice, it doesn’t appear to work in theory! Hydrino energy was invented by Dr. Randell Mills, who claims to have built a prototype power source that generates up to 1,000 times more heat than conventional fuel and Dr Mills says that his company, Blacklight Power, has tens of millions of dollars in investment lined up to bring the idea to market.

Andreas Rathke of the European Space Agency has been one of the most vocal critics of the idea behind hydrino energy:

In a damning critique published recently in the New Journal of Physics, he argued that Dr Mills’s theory was the result of mathematical mistakes.

Now another theorist has joined the debate: Jan Naudts of the University of Antwerp in Belgium argues that the Klein-Gordon equation of relativistic quantum mechanics does indeed permit the existence of a low-energy hydrino state! Via.

If the academics can put their arguments aside and allow this new energy source to be developed, hydrino energy has the potential to yield enormous benefits globally. In the first place, it doesn’t produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, so it would benefit the environment and secondly, it has been calculated that hydrino energy would cost around 1.2 cents (0.7p) per kilowatt hour. This compares to an average of 5 cents per kWh for coal and 6 cents for the next cheapest large scale energy source – nuclear energy.

There are still many unanswered questions with respect to hydrino energy – can it be scaled up? Is it viable? and not least of which is how does it work?

Oil companies stand to lose big time if these questions can be answered positively. With oil reserves dwindling, and their reputations lower than ever, perhaps the oil companies would do well to invest heavily in this technology!

Irish Primary School curriculum soon to be available online

The Examiner reported yesterday that the Primary School curriculum will “soon be available online”.

According to the article:

The Government and private sector have joined forces in a project to post subjects online.

‘Teachnet’ will train 50 teachers in web-technology to develop material for schools everywhere.

I guess “soon” is a relative term. How long is it going to take them to hire and train 50 primary teachers – never mind for those 50 to put the curriculum online?

Lets be honest, the entire curriculum will never be online, not unless they massively change the curriculum – but this development is to be welcomed. It is a (small) step in the right direction.

Eventually every child in Primary School will have a networked desktop, and will submit their homework through the school’s extranet. Parents will be able to login and trace their child’s progress etc. We have a long way to go in Ireland before we reach that stage, though – we need to construct proper school buildings first!

Where to eat in Glengarriff

If you find yourself in the beautiful West Cork town of Glengarriff and you are looking for somewhere to eat, I can heartily recommend you stay well away from Casey’s Hotel Glengarriff.

I was there last weekend with my wife, my son and my wife’s nephew and we had lunch there – the food was vile and the service was appalling.

For instance, I ordered fish and chips – not too much wrong you can do with that, I thought – wrong! The fish was completely tasteless and the chips were so greasy that even the ketchup I tried to put on the chips to disguise their greasy taste, couldn’t stick to the chips and kept sliding back off they were so greasy!

We were asked to pay for our meal after ordering it – i.e. before it was delivered to the table, we had to pay for it! They are obviously used to people refusing to pay because of the poor quality of the food.

The table was dirty when we arrived – no problem there, I asked one of the staff to clean it – he grudgingly cleaned half of it and left the rest filthy.

Just behind the eating area are kept empty soft drink bottles – this attracts hordes of bees/wasps who then buzz around you and your food as you try to eat.

The lunch for the four of us (three and a half really – my son is just over two years old!) was €41.60

In short, Casey’s hotel has no redeeming qualities that I could find.

If you are looking for somewhere to eat in Glengarriff, eat anywhere but Casey’s Hotel.

Edited to correct the spelling of Glengarriff!

3 Ireland about to launch

3 Ireland is about to launch with a range of services and handsets which are likely to put serious pressure on the current O2-Vodafone duopoly.

On Morning Ireland this morning, 3’s Commercial Director for Ireland, Stephen Pilkington, announced that their 200 anytime minutes offering would be priced at 25 euro per month – that is around half of Vodafone’s price for a similar offering.

Guys, if anyone in 3 Ireland is listening, slip me a cool handset and I’ll post lots of great reviews – shhh, just between the two of us, ok?

UPDATED:
The new 3 Ireland site has launched – it includes an online store to buy your new handset online – head on over to check out their offerings!

Risk Equalisation – BUPA Ireland wins round one

Risk equalisation, according to the Health insurance Authority, is

a process that aims to equitably neutralise differences in insurers’ costs due to variations in the health status of their members. Risk equalisation results in cash transfers from insurers with lower risk members to insurers with higher risk members.

In other words, under risk equalisation, BUPA Ireland would pay a subsidy to the VHI to compensate it for having a greater number of high risk subscribers.

Irish Health Minister, Mary Harney, decided not to trigger the controversial risk equalisation payments in the health insurance market at this time.

According to the IrishHealth.com website:

If risk equalisation had been triggered, BUPA, which has a younger and less high-risk patient profile, would have had to pay the VHI up to 34 million euro in compensation.

BUPA Ireland’s Managing Director Martin O’Rourke, commenting on the decision recently said:

This is good news for consumers. We have always said that risk equalisation makes competition unviable

As I am a BUPA Ireland member – if this keeps my health insurance costs down, I am happy with this decision!

Mrs ESTHER ROBERTS – is a scammer!

I received the following 419 scam email yesterday:

From:Mrs ESTHER ROBERTS
Address:Avenue 44 Rue 12 Treichtown
Lot 87 Marcory Cocody 1863
Abidjan,Cote D’Ivoire,West Africa

Respectfull one,

Good a thing to write you. I have a proposal for you-this however is not mandatory nor will I in any manner compel you to honour against your will.

I am MRS.ESTHER ROBERTS,46 years old and the wife of late MR.ROBERTS MARTINS. My late husband was a highly reputable and respectful business magnet in our country and other West African countries during his days.

It is sad to say that he had passed away last year.I had my first and only son Elvis when i was 26 years old and as at then we were happily married.Before his death on September 22 2004, he called me before he died and told me that he had a sum of 19.700,000 US DOLLARS (NINETEEN. SEVEN MILLION USA DOLLARS)kept in a security company in (AFRICA) for safe keeping for me and my son for us not to suffer after his death.

He also said that the security company does not know the content in the safe Box.He decleared it to the company as family treasure and used my son’s name ELVIS to Deposit the Box as his only child for next of kin. He also explained to me that I should seek for a foreign partner in a country of my choice where I will transfer this money to and use it for investment purposes,so that me and my son will not suffer in the near future.

I want you to assist me in retrieving this box from the security company and then transfering the box to your country or any country of your choiceand act as a beneficiary of the fund in the said box, and also to make use of the fund in the box for an investment purpose on a very lucrative and profitable business ventures in your country or any country of your choice.
I am just a widow and a refugee in a country i don’t have family nor friend and i really don’t know what to do.Now I want you to assist me in retrieving this box that contains this fund and transfering it to you in your country. This is because I have suffered a lot of set backs as a result of incessant political crisis in my country LIBERIA and even here in Ivory coast.The death of my husband actually brought sorrow to my son and i.

Dearest one,I am in a sincere desire of your humble assistance in this regards .Your suggestions and ideas will be highly regarded.

Now permit me to ask these few questions:-
1. Can you honestly help me as your sister or partner?
2. Can I completely trust you?
3. What percentage of the total amount in question will be good for you after the money in the box is in your possesion?

Please,Consider this and get back to me as soon as possible on this my private e-mail

Thank you so much.And God bless you

Best regards,
Mrs.ESTHER ROBERTS& SON,ELVIS.

& son Elvis? – I love it! Now we know where he has gone to.

Esther’s email address is esther_robert0021@yahoo.com in case anyone wants to scambait her.