February 16, 2010

Packed with extra pages and packed with quality – this is also an issue that should make you think. What’s more, you will have to go to the SCL web site to see a number of excellent pieces that did not make it this time around. 

I claim little of the credit; I have had the considerable advantage of being able to borrow some of the themes and ideas of the SCL Policy Forum. I have also benefited from some very speedy reactions to recent developments – special thanks go to Duncan McCall QC and George Woods for their speedy coverage of BSkyB v EDS and to Jenny Skilbeck for her even speedier reaction to Uniplex

It is not really polite for an editor to pick favourites but it’s not as if these articles are my children – more like great-nieces or the children of long-standing friends. But the articles that tend to appeal to me most are those that make me think – very often because they provoke me into working out why I disagree with all or some of what is said. And certainly not everyone will agree with what is contained in this issue.

I doubt for instance if those engaged in volume copyright litigation will agree with Andrew Murray’s piece on that topic – for that matter, I am not entirely convinced myself – but I trust that they will respect it as a statement of a view that is very widely held, couched in terms that enable debate rather than mere slogan swapping. I am sure too that the UK IPO will not agree with Jonathan Palmer’s analysis of their position on computer program patents and that the data protection jobsworths will find something to moan about in Joel Harrison’s lament on the topic of transfers to data processors – it cannot have been easy to address such topics with such wit and focus but both have succeeded admirably.  

I suppose not everyone is going to agree with Chris Reed and Graham Smith on the nature of the flaws in computer and communications law. I found that I agreed with both of them – which is tough when you consider that their views are in essence diametrically opposed. Both articles are so convincing however that I flipped from one view to the other depending on which of the pieces I had last read. It is no exaggeration to say that these articles are required reading for anyone who seriously wants to grapple with the foundations of IT law. 

I am beginning to wallow in self-congratulation. But it really is a very strong issue. Enjoy.

 Justice Delayed

I’m often with Tony Hancock in thinking that the heroic lass Magna Carta may well have died in vain. Amid the various comments on BSkyB v EDS, I saw little comment on the delay that ensued between the close of argument and the judgment – by contrast the proceedings themselves seem to have gone along at a brisk pace. I suppose most of those commenting on the case have to appear in the Technology and Construction Court and are bound to feel uneasy about appearing to criticise Mr Justice Ramsey when they might well be hoping for a sympathetic hearing soon.

But it does the reputation of the TCC no good when those engaged in IT at the sharp end see an unexplained delay of 17 months. The last words in anger were uttered on 30 July 2008, although further documentation was provided in the month or so thereafter; the judgment was issued on 26 January 2010. It may be that there is a good explanation for that delay beyond the complexity of the case itself; if so, the explanation should be revealed. It doesn’t make the law look good in the eyes of the IT profession when the legal process takes such a long time to tell the IT community that they should not make wild promises about delivery and then fail to fulfil them. Since, ‘save in exceptional circumstances’, the TCC commits to handing down judgments within three months, pots and kettles spring to mind – even though I accept that these were exceptional circumstances indeed.