Nottinghamshire County Council this week abandoned its attempts to prevent one of its reports from being distributed on the Internet and agreed to pay most of the costs of the case. Its capitulation followed a sustained international free speech campaign by Net civil liberties groups.
The report into the council's mishandling of Satanic abuse allegations in the late eighties was published on the Web earlier this year to inform others in the field about the unreliability of the evidence. But the findings were an embarrassment to the council.
On June 2, it obtained a High Court order requiring a social worker and three journalists to remove the report from their Web sites. They were also ordered to remove any Web links pointing enquirers to sites overseas.
But the result of the injunction was to produce a rash of 'mirror' sites on the Net, outside the jurisdiction of British courts. For two months, the council circulated warning letters to overseas sites, threatening court action if they were not closed down. One mirror site operator in Canada complied, but others in the US and Australia refused, citing 'fair use' of copyright material, which is protected internationally, and the public interest in the subject.
However, the council appeared to concede that the mirror campaign had rendered its legal action counterproductive, and the formerly banned Web site was expected to be reposted this week at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~dlheb/jetrepor.htm