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Wednesday, April 05, 2006 

News of the Screws loses, but appeals: Injunction extended 24 hours. UPDATE: Farrer sends confirmation.

UPDATE: Farrer & Co have sent over their confirmation of the verdict, that until 4pm tomorrow the injunction stands:

Click for bigger version or:
PDF version of the above letter.

In their application for a new injunction, lawyers acting for the News of the World argued that publishing the two images, one a passport photograph and the other showing the reporter in Arab robes, threatened Mahmood's safety, his ability to continue his undercover investigations, breached copyright and was unfair and unlawful under the data protection act.

However, Mr Justice Mitting declined to grant a new injunction. "It's more likely than not that this claim in a full trial would fail. Accordingly I am obliged to refuse the injunction sought," he said.

But while Mr Justice Mitting ruled against the paper, he allowed a fresh injunction while it appealed his decision. The appeal is due to be heard tomorrow.

Whose breach of copyright? Does Mahmood own the copyright to a photograph of his passport? The photo of Mahmood in flowing robes was apparently taken by a victim of one of his stings, so I find it doubtful that person would have any problem with his photograph being published. The judge also sees right through the Screws' spurious claims that the photos threaten Mahmood's safety:

The News of the World barrister Richard Spearman QC said Mahmood had received many threats from the subjects of his investigations and that his safety would be in danger if the photographs were published.

"I disagree," Mr Justice Mitting said. "For the photographs of Mr Mahmood to be of any use to such people they would have to have a whole package of further information about his whereabouts and his habits.

Mr Justice Mitting added that the true purpose of the application was not so much to protect Mahmood "but the protection of his earnings capability and publication of his investigative journalism and his utility to his employers in that respect".

The high court judge said it was "debatable" that the reporter acted in the public interest because he was not an officer of the state, such as a police detective.

He rejected the claim that the passport photograph had been taken for a private and domestic purpose, as Mr Spearman had argued.

The claims that Mahmood is subject to death threats seems to date back to 2002, according to this BBC news article:

In 2002 he was said to have received a death threat in which a £100,000 contract was put on his life.

The injunction itself is also vague, which has caused confusion and bemusement in newspaper newsrooms:
The injunction issued on behalf of the newspaper by law firm Farrer & Co - taken out to stop MP George Galloway from publishing Mahmood's picture - includes the line: "Nothing in the order shall of itself prevent any person publishing any photograph or image lawfully in the public domain."

This wording is unusual in its inclusion of the word "lawfully", which is not normally used in injunction instructions.

It is unclear whether "lawfully" is a reference to the newspaper believing that pictures sent yesterday by Mr Galloway to MPs, members of the House of the Lords and the royal family, are unlawful.

And if "lawful" pictures of Mahmood can be published, then what makes them "lawful"?

Mahmood's picture is freely available on the internet and has already been published in the national press - in April 2001 the Observer caused a stir by publishing a shot of the journalist alongside a report about his exposé of Sophie Wessex's indiscretions.

However, since Farrer & Co issued its injunction last night, some websites have been removing Mahmood's picture.

It can be argued that the photograph that Obsolete and others published was definitely in the public domain, seeing as it was freely available on the internet. Whether it was "lawfully" in the public domain is another matter.

The only reason I have removed the photograph of Mahmood is because I prefer to be safe rather than sorry, whether this site is hosted in the United States or not. The last thing I want is any possible legal action. Thankfully, and to their credit, many other bloggers have taken it upon themselves to publish the photos of Mahmood, as detailed below and in the comment on the previous post. Curious Hamster over at a Big Stick and a Small Carrot has also posted the photograph. It's one thing to try and gag George Galloway, but take on the bloggers over something as slight as this, especially when it involves the hypocrisy of a "investigative" journalist who craves privacy but who denies it to his victims, and you've got a battle on your hands. This is something that the law firms and their litigious clients are going to have to learn in the new media climate.

Update: The monkeys over at Wikipedia have been at the Mahmood entry. It doesn't mention this blog, but hey, I think the injunction has promoted it enough.

Note to self: It's spelled
injunction, you idiot.

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I look forward to seeing the picture up again soon....as soon as it does I too would like to post it on my site...time they got what they deserved.

I believe the injunction refers to two photographs and not images that may have been created by an individual such as the one on a blog which goes by the initials r m .

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