Tuesday, May 26, 2009 Mulvaney v. Betfair - High Court holds that hosting defence is available to chatroom operators Can a chatroom operator rely on the hosting defence under the E-Commerce Directive? In the first Irish case to consider the scope of the Directive and the Irish implementing Regulations the High Court has held that the answer is yes - an answer which may have significant implications for Irish sites hosting other types of user generated content.
The case - Mulvaney v. The Sporting Exchange (trading as Betfair) - involved plaintiffs who claimed to have been defamed by material posted on a Betfair chatroom by Betfair clients. The plaintiffs brought proceedings against the posters themselves and also against Betfair as the operator of the chatroom, claiming that Betfair was therefore liable as a publisher of the defamatory statements.
Betfair sought to rely on the hosting defence in Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive as implemented by Regulation 18 of the implementing Regulations. Two issues therefore arose: whether Betfair could rely on this defence notwithstanding the gambling exclusion in the Directive / Regulations, and whether in relation to the chatroom Betfair could be said to be a host.
As regards the gambling issue, the court took the view that whether or not Betfair's main function (as a betting exchange) was covered by the exclusion, the chatroom was not directly connected with that activity and as such it could be treated as a distinct activity for the purposes of the Directive.
The court then considered whether Betfair could be considered to be a host in respect of the chatroom, or more precisely whether it was an "intermediary service provider who provides a relevant service consisting of the storage of information provided by a recipient of the service". Here the court relied on Bunt v. Tilley to hold that Betfair was an "intermediary service provider" and, in a remarkably short ruling, held that it fell within the hosting defence: 5.10 Betfair submitted that, in the present case, it is the third parties who provided the information in question, i.e. the allegedly defamatory comments, and that Betfair stored this information on its servers that hosted the Chatroom. Betfair submitted that this service was provided at a distance by electronic means and at the individual request of the recipient of the service. It is submitted by Betfair that it, therefore, acted as "hosts" of that information for the purposes of Regulation 18 of the 2003 Regulations.
5.11 At Recital 20, the E-Commerce Directive states that:-
Tuesday, May 26, 2009Mulvaney v. Betfair - High Court holds that hosting defence is available to chatroom operators Can a chatroom operator rely on the hosting defence under the E-Commerce Directive? In the first Irish case to consider the scope of t