How to break the law automatically through the Internet

, posted: 8-Apr-2006 14:00

This Friday, I wrote in the weekly FryUp email newsletter for Computerworld about a slip-up that the Commerce Commission made when it sent out a media release.

The release seemed pretty straightforward at first. It was about wood preservative chemicals company Koppers Arch Wood Protection getting slapped with a record $3.6 million fine by the Commission for participating in a cartel. I raised an eyebrow at the size of the fine, but I don't cover wood preservative cartels so didn't think more about the release.

Eleven minutes after the release hit my inbox, one of those Microsoft Exchange recall notices appeared in there too. Those futile notices are dimes a dozen so I didn't pay much notice to it.

The next message however got my attention however. It said:

The naming of remaining defendents other than Koppers Arch is subject to a suppression order - please note that other defendants as named in our release *CAN NOT BE NAMED*. These are the companies named in the final para before the background. All other material in the release is correct and can be used.
My apolgies for this situation.
Xxxx Xxxx
Communications Manager
Commerce Commission

Wow. Now I know that there are lots of sites that aggregate releases and simply run them as-is when they appear. Some publish them automatically even, and since this was a record-size fine, the release would've attracted a good deal of attention.

In other words, if the media release from the Commerce Commission had been published by anyone - and I don't know if that happened - it would have been contempt of court and possibly a spell in jail.

Luckily, the Commission today sent out another message stating that:

The High Court confirmed late yesterday that defendant companies in the ongoing cartel prosecution CAN be named.
The defendant companies involved in ongoing proceedings are Osmose New Zealand Limited, TPL Limited, and Nufarm Limited.

... so even if the release ran in its original form this Friday, people should be in the clear.

Close shave though.

Other related posts:
Video: Kim Dotcom and Mathias Ortman at the IITP Mega breakfast
Two-factor authentication broken
The problem with naming and shaming

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