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08 September 2010

A COMMUNITY COUNCIL deleted an article from its website after threats of legal action from South Lanarkshire Council.
However, the council told the Gazette this week that the threat had never related to the article; it in fact related to a distorted version of the council's logo used on Douglas Community Council's website.
The latest confrontation comes against the controversial background of opencast mining in the Douglas Valley.
It involves an article and a logo appearing after liaison meetings were held over the Poniel and Mainshill Opencasts.
The council wrote to Douglas Community Council and to individual members of the local group about the website's contents.
Members were surprised by the action, especially as the article could still be found at its original source, the Coal Action Scotland website.
Douglas Community Council had reposted it, on its own site, with a link to the Action Group website which is where the material originated from.
"I can understand where South Lanarkshire Council is coming from," said Douglas secretary Tom Cronin this week.
"But what then is the point of having a website if you are not providing information?
"The whole membership is surprised. It is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?"
The article, on the Coal Action Website, was about liaison meetings between the community, Scottish Coal and South Lanarkshire Council.
Mr Cronin said this week that the community council reposted the article, with a line attributing it to the Coal Action group.
"We reprinted it and stated that it was an article which appeared originally on the Coal Action website. We clearly stated: 'this is the opinion of this group'."
Tom believed that a disclaimer on the Douglas website, stating that it was not responsible for third party contents, would have been enough to cover the group.
So he and fellow members were shocked to hear from the council.
"There was an intimation that there would be the opportunity to take the community council to court if it did not remove the article from the website," he said.
"The council did threaten legal action if it was not removed."
Members held a meeting and then removed the article from the Douglas website.
"We thought this was nonsensical, as it was on the other website," Mr Cronin said.
"It is not as if it has taken it off the internet; if you want to read it, you can still access it and read it."
However, South Lanarkshire Council said this week that the threat of action had not been about the article, but about a logo which accompanied it.
The image showed the council's logo superimposed with that of Scottish Coal.
The council said it also had "issues" with the content of the article but legal action had been mentioned only in connection with the distorted logo which was also no longer on the website this week.
A spokesperson for South Lanarkshire Council said: "It is untrue to say we threatened Douglas Community Council with legal action for defamation.
"We are fully aware that as a local authority there is no precedent which allows us to raise legal proceedings for defamation.
"After ignoring previous correspondence, we wrote to all community council members to inform them they were in breach of copyright for the distorted way they had' used our logo on the website without permission.
"One of the numerous letters we sent was to inform them that they were in breach of copyright and the offending logo should be removed immediately or we would take legal action.
"No legal proceedings have been raised against Douglas Community Council or any of its members in connection with this matter."

Carluke & Lanark Gazette

See links to two online news articles on this matter from Jonathan Mitchell QC below

Click on link below to read the initial letter from SLC Chief Executive Archie Strang

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