The Internet and the First Amendment

Publication Date01 May 1998
AuthorDouglas W. Vick
public services such as education, the National Health Service or even the
He concluded, that it is ‘unlikely’ that Parliament intended ‘cash
payments to be made by way of damages’ to persons who, in breach of a local
authority duty have not ‘received benefits in kind’.
Whether Parliament may have intended a private law right to compensatory
damages for breaches of sections 21–26 NAA 1948, for individuals who suffer a
loss of money, rather than a loss of benefits in kind, has not been put to the test in
the cases of Sefton’s elderly. Moreover, despite the intuitive reaction that there
should be a readily available remedy for the recovery of money wrongfully
charged by a public authority, the absence of a developed common law right to
restitution in such cases
and the non-enforceability of remedial decisions reached
by the ombudsman, give continued cause for concern about the accountability of
local authorities and the rights of citizens to remedial justice.
The Internet and the First Amendment
Douglas W. Vick*
A recurrent theme of legal debate in post-War America is how principles derived
from an eighteenth-century Constitution should inform the resolution of the
fundamental social, political, and economic problems of the late twentieth century.
Recently, one focus of this debate has been the international computer-based
communications systems exemplified by the Internet. Many believe that the
Internet is the precursor to a communications revolution that will allow the easy
and inexpensive exchange of information and ideas on a global scale. Anyone with
access to the Internet can communicate rapidly with anyone else in the world with
similar access, either on a one-to-one basis, or by transmitting messages that can be
read by thousands or even millions of people. The Internet has already had a
tremendous impact on scientific and academic discourse, allowing the near-
instantaneous exchange of information. It has also provided countless individuals
with an unrestricted forum for self-expression. But the benefits of this system of
communication have not come without cost. As with any communication medium,
the Internet can be abused, for example by those intent upon infringing intellectual
property rights, making pornography available to minors, disseminating hate
speech, or defrauding or misleading others. The Internet poses new challenges for
policymakers who wish to discourage such abuses, both because the technological
attributes of the Internet make effective regulation difficult, and because
potentially harmful messages can be disseminated from virtually anywhere in the
world, raising unprecedented jurisdictional and enforcement problems.
61 ibid 26.
62 ibid.
63 In Woolwich Equitable Building Society vInland Revenue Commissioners [1993] AC 70, for the first
time, English law unequivocally recognised the existence of a common law right to recover money
exacted under an ultra vires demand by a public authority. However, the limits of this general right
have not been explored.
* Stirling Media Research Institute, University of Stirling.
The Modern Law Review [Vol. 61
414 The Modern Law Review Limited 1998

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