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August 30, 2006

The globalisation of media law?

At present I think I probably know naff all about media law. That’s supposed to change over the next year as I enjoy myself (ha ha ha) studying it. But something that looks set to be an interesting new topic is whether media law can possibly respect national boundaries given the internet.

This story’s come about because of an investigative piece in the New York Times yesterday which revealed far more about the current British terror inquiry than U.K. newspapers would be allowed to print, for fear of prejudicing the suspects’ trial.

The New York Times took the unusual step of putting an IP address filter on users trying to access the story, but of course it doesn’t take a genius to find a way around it. The story Details Emerge in British Terror Case will lead many British users to a page explaining the legal reasons for blocking the page. But… some British users will find their internet is routed from abroad and will be able to see the page with no problems. And other, more inquisitive souls (Would I?!) can just go and use a proxy server to get around the block.

Even better, other newspapers have actually reprinted the article in full on their website, but without even attempting to block the content from British eyes.

So surely the answer is to create an agreement between countries that journalism which could prejudice a trial abroad would be prevented from going online.


It wouldn’t work. Can you honestly see the American First Amendment lobby really getting bothered about whether their newspapers might say something that inadvertantly makes a foreign juror better informed about the case they might have to deliberate on? Not a chance. And even then, if the prosecution do their job properly then they should inform the jury far better than a foreign newspaper could ever manage.

So while the global harmonisation of media laws might seem a good idea on the surface (and I’m sure the EU will catch on to it if they haven’t already), in reality they’re a waste of time. Juries will simply have to be selected more carefully if the legal system is worried about jurors having seen or heard too much about the case in advance, as attempting to fence in internet content on a territorial basis is doomed to fail. It simply wasn’t built with territorial laws in mind, and can’t be bent to fit a flawed system.

August 29, 2006

My geeky summer project

Tetbury Online - Then and NowHaving spectacularly failed to find a job this summer (and buggering off to Thailand instead), my quest to spend the next year living above the poverty line has led me to give my existing website a serious jolt up the rear.

The plan is to make Tetbury Online profitable, five years after it was set up. So far it's probably cost a fair bit in domain names, not to mention time. But now it's time to turn it into a business, hopefully creating a little bit of pocket money for my year at Cardiff Uni. You never know, I might just be able to afford to eat.

The plan is to attract advertising from local businesses, charging upwards of £3 per week for space on the right of the homepage. For this, they'll get to reach 400–500 users, which compared with the local magazine is a bargain (circulation of 4,100 – £100 for a front page ad). I'm going to start targetting the businesses who already appear to spend a large amount on marketing, as the prices I'm charging will probably seem relatively tiny compared to what they're used to. There's also a bookshop which might bring in a small income by getting commission from

Most of my time so far has been spent on revamping the site. Much of it is nearly five years old, and some of the vital information is utterly useless. To be honest the website's been a liability more than anything else for the past 12 months. I've completely changed the graphics to make them a little more Web 2.0, although the real techies will be disappointed to hear there's not even a whiff of Java, php or anything else remotely complicated. It's just pure HTML.

The site's got a number of new features, such as a kids section, clever local maps from Google, a shiny new Message Board, and a worryingly large business directory which has probably taken most of my time.

I'm moving hosting companies to make the site easier to edit from Cardiff and also to cut out the annoying pop–up ads that I think were caused by my free hosting solution. Sadly it means I'm going to be paying at least £60 a year in hosting costs alone, so the need to make money is greater than ever.

If I can attract even a few adverts I should be able to break–even. But what I'd really like to do is turn the site into a profitable business which'll help get a mortgage in a few years time. Double the number of hits with pieces in the local newspaper and by improving the site's reputation, and it might just be possible!

The new site will go online in the next fortnight (hopefully!), so take a look now and compare it with the new site soon.

EDIT: The old site's gone offline already, so expect to see a placeholder any day now…

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Tetbury Online

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