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The Singapore Democrats recently received a letter from a law firm, Bindman and Partners, to its webhosts threatening legal action if an article originally published in the Financial Times was not removed from the SDP website. We reproduce it below. Readers can draw their own conclusions after reading it.
It is of interest whether the Financial Times and other websites that posted the piece were similarly threatened.
11 August 2004
75 Science Park Drive
02-06/08 Cintech II
Singapore Science Park I
And by fax on 0065 6773 9389
We act for the Medical Protection Society. We understand that you are the Internet Service Provider for the site named above. This site contains an archived Financial Times article which is attached to as a link to the accompanying e-mail and in hard copy to this letter.
The article states that the MPS suggests that foreign doctors should not work in Singapore and claims that this recommendation could set back Singapores efforts to attract medical researchers and become a leading biomedical centre.
The plain meaning of the words complained of and highlighted in the attachment is that MPS adopts the views of the doctors quoted and recommends that doctors should avoid Singapore. There is a suggestion of racist motivation or, at the very least, ill conceived and improper advice likely to cause serious damage to legitimate and worthwhile aims in Singapore.
The allegations are accessible in this jurisdiction and the laws of England and Wales therefore apply to the publication in this jurisdiction.
ISPs are generally entitled to rely on the statutory defence provided in s.1 of the Defamation Act 1996 which applies to those who are only involved as operators of or provider of access to a communication system by means of which the statement is transmitted, or made available, by a person over whom he has no effective control. However, Godfrey v Demon Internet established that ISPs may not rely on that defence and will be liable for damage caused by defamatory material appearing on any site access to which is provided by the ISP if access to the defamatory material is not prevented immediately after the ISP has been made aware of its existence.
The purpose of this letter is to give you notice that you are storing and/or disseminating defamatory material published on the site above and to require you to remove the material, or to prevent access to the material in this jurisdiction, at once. Following receipt of this letter, you will no longer be entitled to rely upon the defence at section 1(3)(e) of the Defamation Act. There is no other defence available to you. If you continue to store and/or disseminate the material following receipt of this letter, our client will look to you for damages as the publisher of the material. Damages are likely to be substantial.
We should be grateful for your confirmation by return that the article complained of is no longer accessible from this jurisdiction. Checks on the site will be made regularly. We look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.
Bindman & Partners