No Justice 2.0

US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan has admitted that most court members are clueless when it comes to technology.

I don’t know about you but it really worries me that someone who is potentially adjudicating on key issues involving intellectual property cannot or refuses to use the Internet.

I am all for old school ways of transferring confidential information particularly in light of recent hacks (If the government can be hacked I am sure the small law firm down the road can be) however, not being able to send an email is just inexcusable.

Technology is not retreating it is only advancing. It is time the justice system jumped on the Internet bandwagon.

It really isn’t that scary and could make legal professionals work-life a whole lot easier.


Crime for Infamy

Three American teenagers fatally shot Australian Chris Lane while he was on his morning jog.

Their motive was one that sent shivers down my spine; a sickening concoction of boredom and the need for attention.

When a tragic and senseless crime such as this occurs a question repetitively pops into my mind.

Should those who commit crime purely for infamy receive media publicity?

Particularly in the case of mass shootings, the media are too often saturated with images and details of the accused’s life leaving them instilled in our minds while the victims are faceless and nameless merely represented by a statistic.

Refraining from publishing details about an accused could act as deterrence to individuals who kill merely to make a name for themself. If the main purpose for the bloodshed was to be thrown into the media spotlight, then not identifying them would deprive them from the satisfaction they crave.

Forbes magazine Journalist Joseph Grenny takes this perspective even further. He suggests that hyped up media that centralises on the perpetrator not only gifts wanted notoriety but entices copycat crime by creating a competition like environment for criminally minded people.

He is pushing for more to be done by legislating on the issue. However, this view is one that is likely to be met angrily by freedom of speech and freedom of information activists. Not to mention media companies that profit enormously from such stories.

Media Ethics

There is no doubt that the Internet is changing the way journalists go about their jobs.

While this blog often concentrates on the impact that the media revolution is having on the law it is also important to acknowledge the change in media ethics.

Not too long ago everything written by journalists was subjected to editing multiple times before it was published. Social media and the Internet now allow for instant publication and this can sometimes result in the release of content that may not have throughly been thought through.

It is much easier to to write a post that may not take into consideration all of the verified facts or that may offend a victim or a victims family, than it is to pen a formal newspaper article.

Stephen Ward is pushing for an updated version of ethics to be taught to journalism students.

His article can be read here.

Too Much Information?

This week Melbournians have once again been saturated in media coverage of a criminal investigation.

The case of Siraboon Bung first came into the spotlight in 2011 when the primary school girl went missing on her way to school.

Police have allegedly found evidence in regards to the case and are in the process of carrying out a large search investigation.

There is no doubt that the rise of social media has seen an increase in the amount of intricate details that are released to the public. However, at some point it must be asked how much information is too much?

Do we really need to know what brand of machinery is being used to dig up dirt and cut down trees in the suspected crime location?

Personally I felt uncomfortable with the number of tweets published by numerous crime reporters on Twitter these last few days.

How many tweets are too many tweets?

Shield Laws in Action

Gina Rinehart has lost the legal battle in Western Australia to have information, in regards to a family dispute, subpoenaed.

Journalist Steve Penell from West Australia Newspapers wrote an article detailing the alleged dispute over 18 months ago. He cited confidential sources and the mining magnate sought to have the identity of these sources revealed, in a bid to sue for defamation.

This was the first time that Shield Laws have been property tested in Australia since they were introduced in 2011 under the Evidence Amendment (Journalist’s Privilege) Act.

The laws aim to protect the identity of journalistic confidential sources and give reporters the right to refuse testimony.

Before the 2011 amendment the courts could order for documents and sources to be revealed as they saw fit according to the case at hand. This often led to journalists being charged with contempt of court as they refused to do so, as ethically in the industry it is strongly discouraged. This was demonstrated in a string of cases including the landmark case of R v Harvey and McManus.

Janine Pritchard, the presiding judge on this case, set a strong precedent for the laws to be construed strictly. She stated that the presumption of journalistic privilege should “not be departed from lightly”.

For this reason the case has been hailed a win for professional journalists and is predicted to set the standard of the laws, not only in Western Australia but also across the nation.

However, the privilege outlined in the new Shield Laws is still not absolute and can be revoked by the courts if they can suffice the public interest test. This test questions whether the disclosure of sources is necessary for the administration of justice or whether it is more important to allow for the journalist to honour their promise of confidentiality.

It is important to remember that the Shield Laws do not provide a loophole that enables journalists to avoid giving evidence in court. The fundamental right to a fair trial will prevail in cases where the confidential information forms key evidence.

Despite this the laws do appear to create a fair compromise between journalistic ethics and the fair administration of justice.

To read more about the effect of the new laws visit this site.

Social Profiles After Death

I have never drawn up a will, mainly because I am a 22-year-old student that owns a couple of books and a dodgy car named Panda. However, I imagine that if I was to do so deciding whom I was going to leave my social media and email accounts to, would not really cross my mind.

Apparently, where your online information goes after you die is an important legal question to ponder.

At first this can seem quite odd, but once you start thinking about the amount of private information you hold in these accounts, it starts making a lot more sense.

As outlined in this video below, getting access to a loved one’s online profiles without instructions left in a will, can be quite a hassle. In some countries your personal information is just rendered public data, freely available to the online world without any consent.

The Internet has not only enabled information to be accessed by the touch of our fingers, but has created a whole new legal world some that are only now being realised.

Watch the video on Wall Street Journal Live.