Commentary on Chiranuch verdict-Bangkok Pundit

June 1, 2012

Round-up of commentary on Thai web editor’s suspended sentence

Bangkok Pundit: May 31, 2012



BP has already blogged on the eight-month suspended sentence and 20,000 baht fine (about $633) given to Prachatai web editor Chiranuch yesterday and have also previously blogged on intermediary liability under the Computer Crimes Act (i.e where you are liable for comments made by others on your site). For background on both issues, please see those posts.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn [Associated Press]

CPJ have released a statement entitled “Conviction in Thailand undermines Internet freedom”…

BP: On the subject of malicious posters, BP moderates comments – the Computer Crimes Act was the main reason that BP decided to moderate. A couple of years ago there was a long comment that BP was reviewing which was critical of reds and Thaksin (fairly normal and perfectly legal arguments) but then the last 2 sentences and somewhat randomly, the person said something which would clearly be viewed as lese majeste. Now, if BP had been less vigilant and just read the first few paragraphs and approved it, who knows what would have happened…

Human Rights Watch have released a statement [as did]Google…in English and Thai…[and] Bloomberg:

The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group founded by Google, EBay Inc. (EBAY), Skype, Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) and Yahoo! Inc., said last year that Thailand’s Computer Crimes law may deny Thais access to online services such as social networks and web forums. A draft bill to replace the legislation uses vague language and fails to meet international standards, the Washington-based Center for Democracy & Technology said in a March report.

BP: Google and the other companies also have their own interests (just like BP!). Google has sites that enable users to create material and post comments, .e.g. YouTube, Blogger, Google Plus etc. Google’s statement about “transparent rules” is a clear statement that Google wants a notice period which exists in other jurisdictions. For example, in the US online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act exempts Internet intermediaries from copyright infringement liability provided they follow certain rules. Wikipedia has an example of how the takedown procedures would work:

. Alice puts a video with copy of Bob’s song on her YouTube.

. Bob, searching the Internet, finds Alice’s copy.

. Charlie, Bob’s lawyer, sends a letter to YouTube’s designated agent (registered with the Copyright Office) including:

. contact information

. the name of the song that was copied

. the address of the copied song

. a statement that he has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

. a statement that the information in the notification is accurate

. a statement that, under penalty of perjury, Charlie is authorized to act for the copyright holder

. his signature

. YouTube takes the video down.

. YouTube tells Alice that they have taken the video down.

. Alice now has the option of sending a counter-notice to YouTube, if she feels the video was taken down unfairly. The notice includes

. contact information

. identification of the removed video

. a statement under penalty of perjury that Alice has a good faith belief the material was mistakenly taken down

. a statement consenting to the jurisdiction of Alice’s local US Federal District Court, or, if outside the US, to a US Federal District Court in any jurisdiction in which YouTube is found.

. her signature

. If Alice does file a valid counter-notice,YouTube notifies Bob, then waits 10-14 business days for a lawsuit to be filed by Bob.

. If Bob does not file a lawsuit, then YouTube must put the material back up.

BP: This is a much better alternative (yes, yes, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have intermediary liability, but in a perfect world we would have free beer…). At the moment, there is no requirement of notice (i.e you don’t have to even know the comment exists). The above system sets up a process. You can simply remove the comment once you receive a notice OR if you want notify Alice as per above.

Reporters Without Borders have also released a statement entitled “WEBSITE EDITOR CONVICTED OF LÈSE-MAJESTÉ BUT SPARED JAIL TIME” [BP: Umm, don’t think that headline is correct; it was not lese majeste]. [And] New York Times [and] Reuters.

BP: As blogged and tweeted yesterday, BP doesn’t think you should take this case as setting a precedent. Sulak was charged with lese majeste for some comments he made after the 1991 coup. He left Thailand. In the end, he was acquitted.

An acquittal in a lese majeste [case] is rare (an estimated 94% conviction rate), but his case became a cause celebre internationally just like Chiranuch’s case this time around.

While Chiranuch didn’t get an acquittal a suspended sentence can be seen as a compromise where it reinforces the law, but the outrage is muted as she didn’t get a custodial sentence.

Would someone whose case received less public attention get the same result?


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