The government has published proposals which will exempt small blogs from the effects and dangers of exemplary damages if we don't join the new watchdog. Full details can be found here but in a nutshell..
The amendments clarify the government’s position on small blogs by further defining the exemption for blogs that are classed as ‘micro-businesses’ - business with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover below £2 million. This is the definition used by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Despite not falling under the definition of relevant publisher, any publication that is exempt as a micro-business as a result of these amendments could still choose to join a regulator and receive the legal benefits otherwise only available to relevant publishers in the regulator. That means protection from exemplary damages. It also means that use of the arbitral arm in the regulator will be taken into account by the court when awarding costs.
This seems a good thing I think; but it doesn't seem an equitable thing - as it applies to blogs but not other small forms of media. As Big Brother Watch has been pointing out...
The amendment makes clear if you’re a multi-author blog with a turnover below £2m, you won’t be considered a ‘relevant publisher’ for the purposes of exemplary damages and cost protections. This is an important clarification.
However, the drafting only protects either ‘incidental’ publishers of news-related material, or multi-author blogs. So someone who is not a blog, who publishes news-related material on a regular basis, remains in scope even if their turnover is £10,000.
In other words, if you’re a small, local newspaper with 3 staff and a turnover of £100,000 then you’re still a relevant publisher, but if you are a £1.5m turnover blog with 8 full time staff you’re not.
I’m sure this isn’t what the drafters meant to do; but it’s where they ended up. So more more to do.
Legislate in haste; repent at leisure….