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Martin Sorrell and the end of libel

Plenty of coverage in and out of the mainstream media today of Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of marketing behemoth WPP, and his out of court settlement in the libel case against two of his former executives.

He's accepted £120,000 in the settlement but is reported to be left with a legal bill of millions. A very, very pyrhhic victory - and not just from a financial point of view.

I'm not a massive fan of India Knight's columns, but she hit the gavel on the head in a piece in the Sunday Times:

...is it ever worth suing for defamation, especially in the case of blogs? Those that so wound up Sorrell were read by a minority of interested parties; as a result of the court case, the allegations that he found so distasteful are now known to millions.

Disturbingly for WPP shareholders, this case shows Sir Martin's lack of understanding of the new world we are entering and the rules, such as they are, that you have to play by. You don't win by legal or corporate might in the world of networks.

Like business models, like media, like copyright, like confidentiality, like - goshdarnit - everything, the rapid evolution of new forms of communication online are forcing us to rethink a lot of accepted ways of thinking and acting.  

But how do you re-think libel?

Clue: not with a code of conduct.

Disclosure: I don't know the answer. Yet.

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Our Victorian concept of Libel in this country just has to go soon. But I fear it will take a lot longer...

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