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liability

It might not look much but Australia has just thrown a huge spanner in the works of international internet retailers who want to operate in their market. Whether it sets a precedent remains to be seen but, if so, cheap goods sent from overseas might have to be a lot less cheap. At the heart of this is unproven conduct by Wiggle Limited, a UK company, which the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) found to be in breach of Australian law. This is a significant extra-territorial application of domestic law - and it also interferes with the right to include a choice of law and choice of jurisdiction clauses in international contracts. And as if that's not enough, the ripples reach into call-centre operations worldwide.

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In general, newspapers have taken the view that if people sit in the pub, read headlines and/or articles and then discuss them that the content of that discussion is entirely outside the responsibility of the newspaper. That has been tempered with laws, rules and regulations that cover inflammatory content of one kind or another but so long as the original article stays within the lines of the permissible (no matter how close it comes), the view has held pretty much intact for generations. But if the article is on the internet and the discussion is not within a handful of people muttering into their beer but is available to the entire connected world, and the means of making that discussion available is owned and operated and controlled by the newspaper, is that a material difference? An English court decision is opening the door for it to be so and the ultimate consequence could be full responsibility for all on-line publishers including social media.

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I've been embroiled in a bit of a dust-up with a couple of people over a reply I made to a comment on a post on LinkedIn. The original question was actually interesting and I looked forward to a fascinating discussion around it. But what it proved to me was that we have a major problem with language where technical terms are used in a non-technical manner and those using them are not aware of the risks that using the terms can bring. One, which has long been a bug-bear of mine, is "partner." Let's be very clear about this: in business terms, a partnership is not something to be entered into lightly or wantonly. Get it wrong, and the consequences can be horrible.

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