"Website is curbed in Oxegen row", Evening Herald, 26th July 2006

LEGAL THREAT: MCD stung by criticism

Website is curbed in Oxegen row

Evening Herald, 26th July 2006

by Mark Hilliard

MCD has sent a solicitor’s letter to a popular website after several users criticised conditions at the Oxegen music festival.

Concert goers had flooded the site with numerous allegations relating to a range of anti-social incidents in the camp sites.

But shortly after the contentious observations appeared, Boards.ie told its users that a legal communication had been received on behalf of the promoter warning against any further defamatory comments.

The move sparked outrage and criticisms of MCD itself, leading the system administrator to completely close down all debate on the subject.

An official posting simply stated that it was “closing this thread before it slips in the wrong direction.

“Apologies to those who just want a good discussion, but despite being asked not to post any more (perceived) defamatory remarks about MCD and Oxegen they just keep coming.

“Although I am not happy to do so, this thread is being closed with the best interests of this forum’s users and of the other 70,000 users of Boards.ie.”

The initial legal communication appeared mid-week and warned the system administrator against publishing any content that might be seen to be defamatory or libelous.

It is unclear how accurate the criticisms were regarding the event but MCD were unhappy about it publication of material it deemed to be defamatory.

A spokesperson for MCD said: “As this is an ongoing legal issue we have no comment to make.”

Requests by users of Boards.ie for the publication of the original legal letter were treated with caution by the system administrator.

It stated: “There is to be no discussion of MCD or Oxegen on this thread. Any poster who tries to discuss either will get a week’s ban and this thread will be locked.”

But the move has in turn sparked furious debate.

The argument evokes memories of the recent scandal surrounding Ratemyteacher.ie in which students gave on-line reviews of staff in Irish schools.

However, music industry sources have insisted that MCD have no difficulty with fair and balanced criticism and comment on events but that in this case the matter was sparked by very serious, unsubstantiated allegations.

I have little more to say on this MCD issue at the moment (thanks to Vexorg who has mainly been dealing with it), and as I’ve blogged, we have had a number of other legal threats issued against us recently.

We still feel that users are responsible for their own comments (just as someone on the radio [Edit: Andrew says below that radio stations are liable :(] would be responsible for stuff they say, without the communications channel being liable). However, we will happily remove defamatory messages as soon as we are notified of them as they obviously must be deleted, but we’d prefer if these legal proceedings aren’t issued as we don’t want the actions of a few people to ruin this service for 70,000 others.

Does Google get a legal letter for every defamatory message posted on its Google Groups service? With millions of users it must happen all the time…

More at boards.ie (Discussion of MCD and their concerts = completely banned this week – boards.ie), Indymedia Ireland (Oxegen, Poxegen: The Modern Rock and Roll Experience.), P45 (MCD covering up allegedly), Irish Independent (How we feared for our lives at Oxegen . . . festival-goers relive their nightmare), Blurred Keys (MCD threatens Indo and board.ie over Oxegen music festival campsite claims), Soundtracks for Them (Beware The MCD Hoover.) You can also search Planet Journals for Oxegen.

18 thoughts on “"Website is curbed in Oxegen row", Evening Herald, 26th July 2006

  1. I despair, I really do.

    Thanks for posting all the coverage links John.

  2. Actually, I’m not sure radio is a good analogy to use – generally a radio station will have some liability for statements made on air. The generally used analogy for those seeking to establish online forums as neutral purveyors of information is to the telephone, where eircom, for example, aren’t liable for defamatory remarks made over their network.

  3. “music industry sources have insisted that MCD have no difficulty with fair and balanced criticism and comment on events”

    An interesting formulation by the journalist. Who are these “music industry sources”? Would they happen to be connected with MCD by any chance? I would think it odd that any of MCD competitors would feel the need to go on record extolling MCD’s commitment to “fair and balanced criticism and comment”.

  4. Is closing down the discussion the only way to go? What about offering MCD the opportunity for right of reply – that would ensure fair and balanced coverage wouldn’t it? I also think the way in which this issue is being dealt with by MCD and the legal profession deserves to be spoken about – perhaps without the details of the comments etc but its a legitimate issue in its own right.

  5. Unfortunately, trying to remove elements of a lengthy discussion [such as the one about Oxegen] is quite difficult (if the thread had only five posts it might be possible to remove the defamatory parts, we did this in the IPL case). If MCD had replied to the original thread, with the level of anger being expressed it would probably have just disintegrated into a slagging match. In any case, their legal missive insisted that we should remove the thread.

  6. more on the bigger Oxegen picture in the irish times today


  7. John,

    With limited resources you have no option but to do what you did. I’d have done the same.

    It’ll be interesting to see how long this story stays on Unison – will MCD carry through with their threats?

    I’m surprised they’ve left given the related court case coming up.

    From the Sunday Tribune:

    “RTE has decided to fight Martin Cullen’s libel claim against the station arising out of lewd suggestions made about the transport minister and his former advisor, Monica Leech, by a caller to Radio One’s Liveline programme last year.

    Despite issuing an immediate on-air apology to Cullen and Leech, RTE has decided to contest the libel case. Legal observers say the minister and his former advisor have an “open-and-shut case”.

    Defending the action is likely to cost the national broadcaster thousands of euro in licence payers’ money.”

    RTE may be carry the can because it may be deemed that they should have had a time-delay on the broadcast. It seems harsh to me. RTE have sought to join the person making the comment in the action – he’s the one that should pay. There can be analogy’s drawn with discussion boards / blogging platforms etc…

  8. Regarding the Irish Times bit:

    One possible refuge for disgruntled fans was the very busy Boards.ie messageboard. But that site’s administrators decided they were playing with fire and banned all mention of MCD, Oxegen and even, bizarrely, forthcoming MCD shows. Discussions have continued on the Thumped, Cluas and Electric Picnic forums.

    Not so bizarre when you get a legal threat from MCD; the article didn’t mention that that was the reason we stopped discussions on their events.

  9. Spam-Unfriendly July 30, 2006 — 7:38 pm

    > Not so bizarre when you get a legal threat from MCD; the article didn’t mention that that > was the reason we stopped discussions on their events.

    wow, the letter from the legal people said you couldnt discuss ANY mcd shows?? thats pretty heavy man

  10. on the idea of right to reply, would I be the only one who feels that MCD lost any notion of that right the moment they began with such heavy handed tactics? blah, this bugs me so much.

  11. > the letter from the legal people said you couldnt discuss ANY mcd shows??

    No, but it was easier as any discussion on MCD could flow back to Oxegen.

    Neil, exactly!

  12. I’m inclined to think that considering the totally unreasonable stance taken by MCD on this issue that they deserve to loose all of the (Quite substantial) publicity generated by boards.ie. And rather than bemoaning the fact that they are unable to discuss the procucts and services offered by MCD, the users of boards.ie may want to reconsider whether a company with a legal policy as drachonian MCDs deverves their custom at all.

  13. Have your say – uncensored.. free speech..

  14. Pingback: Blurred Keys
  15. Well I’ll be aiding the boards legal case if required. Until MCD back off from this legal action any money that I would have spent on MCD gigs will be going to the boards.ie fund instead. 70K users is a lot of people and if even a small proportion did the same they might change their tune (pun intended).

  16. Good to see this story continues to have legs, today the Sunday Tribune has a full page on the saga. Boards.ie gets due coverage within it. Naturally if I have to stick my hand in my pocket I will.

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