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GreenNet CSIR Toolkit Briefings

Biwater Case

Written by for the
, 2002.

Biwater Plc, April 1998 the British transnational company threatened two APC members, GreenNet in the UK and SangoNet in South Africa with legal action involving very punitive damages unless they immediately removed certain items from their servers.

The target of Biwater's action was a campaign by the South African Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU) against water privatisation in South Africa. SAMWU operates a web site on SangoNet and was also publicising its campaign via the LabourNet web site on GreenNet. Biwater's legal threat represented an attempt to censor debate on an issue of great public importance in South Africa.

Tens of millions of people are without a regular water supply there and a major debate was taking place on how to tackle this. As one of the companies trying to win a contract for the South African water supply, Biwater had a multimillion pound interest in seeing water privatisation go ahead and in presenting itself as a suitable company to obtain the contract.

Although GreenNet and SangoNet initially had to remove the threatened material because they did not have the resources to fight Biwater in the courts, a successful campaign was eventually mounted to defend the material by 'mirroring' it on other APC sites around the world. This took advantage of variations in libel laws in different countries and the problems involved for Biwater of bringing simultaneous legal action in a number of countries.

For more information on the case, see http://www.apc.org/english/rights/europe/cases/biwater.html

The GreenNet Internet Rights Project

GreenNet is the UK member of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and is leading the European section of the APC's Civil Society Internet Rights Project. The primary goal of this project is to provide the resources and tools necessary to defend and expand space and opportunities for social campaigning work on the Internet against the emerging threats to civil society's use of the 'Net. This involves developing ways and means of defending threatened material and campaigning, as well as lobbying to ensure a favourable legal situation for free expression on issues of public interest.

Until recently, the social norms of Internet communities, together with a very open architecture based on supporting these norms, regulated the Internet, and was responsible for its openness. The main forces of regulation now, however, are the business sector and government legislation. Corporations and governments are pressing for fundamental changes in legislation and in the architecture of the Internet. Unless challenged, these moves could radically change the nature of the 'Net, making it a place of oppressive controls instead of freedom and openness. It is in this context that APC's Internet Rights project is being developed.

This briefing is one in a series that document different aspects of work and communication across the Internet. Although written from the perspective of the UK, much of its content is applicable to other parts of Europe. There is continuing work on these issues, as part of the European project. If you wish to know more about these briefings, or the European section of the APC Civil Society Internet Rights Project, you should contact GreenNet. You should also check the APC's web site to see if there is already a national APC member in your country who may be able to provide local help, or with whom you may be able to work to develop Internet rights resources for your own country.



Free Documentation License

Copyright © 2001, 2002 GreenNet and Paul Mobbs. Further contributions and editing by Gill Roberts and Karen Banks. The project to develop this series of briefings was managed by GreenNet and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1or any later version (see for a copy of the license).

Please note that the title of the briefing and the 'free documentation license' section are protected as 'invariant sections and should not be modified.

For more information about the Civil Society Internet Rights Project, or if you have questions about the briefings, contact ir@gn.apc.org.

 

The purpose of the 'toolkit briefings' is to explore areas relating to the use of the Internet and Internet rights. The briefings cover a wide range of issues of general and specialist interest. They are available as web pages, but also in Acrobat and other file formats so that they can be printed and supplied as hard copies.

Within the briefings there are a number of conventions regarding links:
  • Links in blue are links to other web pages or web sites.

  • Link in purple are links to the footnotes that accompany the particular briefing you are looking at.

  • Links in green are links to the glossary and cross-referencing index page to the toolkit briefings - following these links will provide you with a short definition of the term being used, and also links to other parts of the whole series of toolkit briefings where the same term is discussed.


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    Biwater Case
    When: 01/01/1970
    Where:
    Who:

    Biwater Plc, April 1998 the British transnational company threatened two APC members, GreenNet in the UK and SangoNet in South Africa with legal action involving very punitive damages unless they immediately removed certain items from their servers.

    Contact:
    Related link:


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    GreenNet CSIR Toolkit Briefings

    Biwater Case

    Written by for the
    , 2002.

    Biwater Plc, April 1998 the British transnational company threatened two APC members, GreenNet in the UK and SangoNet in South Africa with legal action involving very punitive damages unless they immediately removed certain items from their servers.

    The target of Biwater's action was a campaign by the South African Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU) against water privatisation in South Africa. SAMWU operates a web site on SangoNet and was also publicising its campaign via the LabourNet web site on GreenNet. Biwater's legal threat represented an attempt to censor debate on an issue of great public importance in South Africa.

    Tens of millions of people are without a regular water supply there and a major debate was taking place on how to tackle this. As one of the companies trying to win a contract for the South African water supply, Biwater had a multimillion pound interest in seeing water privatisation go ahead and in presenting itself as a suitable company to obtain the contract.

    Although GreenNet and SangoNet initially had to remove the threatened material because they did not have the resources to fight Biwater in the courts, a successful campaign was eventually mounted to defend the material by 'mirroring' it on other APC sites around the world. This took advantage of variations in libel laws in different countries and the problems involved for Biwater of bringing simultaneous legal action in a number of countries.

    For more information on the case, see http://www.apc.org/english/rights/europe/cases/biwater.html

    The GreenNet Internet Rights Project

    GreenNet is the UK member of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and is leading the European section of the APC's Civil Society Internet Rights Project. The primary goal of this project is to provide the resources and tools necessary to defend and expand space and opportunities for social campaigning work on the Internet against the emerging threats to civil society's use of the 'Net. This involves developing ways and means of defending threatened material and campaigning, as well as lobbying to ensure a favourable legal situation for free expression on issues of public interest.

    Until recently, the social norms of Internet communities, together with a very open architecture based on supporting these norms, regulated the Internet, and was responsible for its openness. The main forces of regulation now, however, are the business sector and government legislation. Corporations and governments are pressing for fundamental changes in legislation and in the architecture of the Internet. Unless challenged, these moves could radically change the nature of the 'Net, making it a place of oppressive controls instead of freedom and openness. It is in this context that APC's Internet Rights project is being developed.

    This briefing is one in a series that document different aspects of work and communication across the Internet. Although written from the perspective of the UK, much of its content is applicable to other parts of Europe. There is continuing work on these issues, as part of the European project. If you wish to know more about these briefings, or the European section of the APC Civil Society Internet Rights Project, you should contact GreenNet. You should also check the APC's web site to see if there is already a national APC member in your country who may be able to provide local help, or with whom you may be able to work to develop Internet rights resources for your own country.



    Free Documentation License

    Copyright © 2001, 2002 GreenNet and Paul Mobbs. Further contributions and editing by Gill Roberts and Karen Banks. The project to develop this series of briefings was managed by GreenNet and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1or any later version (see for a copy of the license).

    Please note that the title of the briefing and the 'free documentation license' section are protected as 'invariant sections and should not be modified.

    For more information about the Civil Society Internet Rights Project, or if you have questions about the briefings, contact ir@gn.apc.org.

     

    The purpose of the 'toolkit briefings' is to explore areas relating to the use of the Internet and Internet rights. The briefings cover a wide range of issues of general and specialist interest. They are available as web pages, but also in Acrobat and other file formats so that they can be printed and supplied as hard copies.

    Within the briefings there are a number of conventions regarding links:
  • Links in blue are links to other web pages or web sites.

  • Link in purple are links to the footnotes that accompany the particular briefing you are looking at.

  • Links in green are links to the glossary and cross-referencing index page to the toolkit briefings - following these links will provide you with a short definition of the term being used, and also links to other parts of the whole series of toolkit briefings where the same term is discussed.


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    Biwater Case
    URL:
    Area of interest/expertise: Expression and Defamation,
    Brief description: Biwater Plc, April 1998 the British transnational company threatened two APC members, GreenNet in the UK and SangoNet in South Africa with legal action involving very punitive damages unless they immediately removed certain items from their servers.
    Contact email:


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