Issue 3, 18th December 1995: Legal, Decent, Honest and Better?
ExNet On-line:
Law

LAW

European links, law, and lawyers---on and off the Net

By Sonya Clarke.


Topical, Search Tools, Journals, Bodies, Back Issues, Other.

Computing, Science and Technology, SciFi, Sport(13th).


News

The Law Society has decided against altering its rules on cut-price conveyancing this week when it voted against withdrawing the cover of the profession's insurance from solicitors whose charges are below the limit. A wider discussion on the possibilities of raising standards in conveyancing practice has been agreed on.

The libel action brought by McDonalds has become the longest civil case in English legal history, totaling 199 days to date. It is expected to drag on until next summer and current costs of GBP10m may triple.

An EU-wide ban on cold calling can be expected if the demands of the European Parliament prevail and become legislation.

Allen & Overy will launch their bit of cyberspace this month.

The University of Central Lancashire is holding a seminar for solicitors and legal executives on Developing Legal Practice using Telecommunications on 31st January 1996.

Sweet & Maxwell now produce a legal information database on CD Rom.


Advertising

Advertising makes regular headlines. Current issues include the agreement reached by the Consumer Affairs Ministers of the European Union to embrace the concept of comparative advertising, which will mean many member states altering their advertising laws. To a degree, comparative advertising is already allowed in the UK under the 1994 Trademarks Act. Questions of acceptable standards in advertising generally, however, are frequently raised in the UK and elsewhere (Benetton, Calvin Klein et al) and may be so again when a controversial advertisement for Greenpeace reaches UK television screens in the New Year. Legal restraints and creative---or commercial---licence do not always coincide but any venture that advertises should have a working understanding of advertising laws.

UK advertising law comprises the common law restraints of defamation and intellectual property rights and the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988, which implemented EU Directive 84/450. The Regulations give the Director General of Fair Trading, the Independent Broadcasting Authority and the Cable Authority the right to intervene when a complaint of a misleading advertisement is received. An injunction to restrain publication of the advertisement is possible if it deceives or is likely to deceive any person and if this affects their economic behaviour or injures a competitor. Such intervention is only likely when all other options have failed.

Pre-eminent among these alternatives is the British Code of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion, which is issued and monitored by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The latest edition of the Code was published this year. The overriding concept is of general fair play and lawfulness (not unreasonably denigrating a competitor, not misleading the consumer, etc), decency (such as avoiding racially or sexually offensive material) and honesty.

As it is a self-regulatory body of the advertising industry, the ASA cannot fine an advertiser who breaks the Code. The ASA can only request that the offending advertisement be withdrawn. In practice, this works because of the strength of public opinion---remember the Benetton baby---and the fact that no magazine or broadcaster would carry an advertisement that broke the Code.

In these post-modern days, when most advertisements use familiar music or images, advertisers must take care not to infringe copyright. Advertising slogans are generally too short to be copyright works, so rival advertisers can copy each others' catch-phrases. The copying of brand names, however, will often infringe trademark legislation.

The relaxation of UK rules on comparative advertising means that the registered trademarks of others can be used provided that use is in accordance with ``honest practices.'' The limits of this definition have yet to be clearly defined by case law. A criticism of the new common position of the EU is that it is similarly ambiguous and its provisions contradictory. Comparative advertising should, therefore, be undertaken cautiously. The lengths to which the brand name of a competitor can be exploited are undefined.

In the UK, a general policy of good standards of advertising as advocated by the the British Code is the best track for any advertiser to follow. There can be a conflict between these standards and effective marketing, however. The Code outlaws the use of violent or shocking images merely to attract attention, but ultimately, even if an advertisement is withdrawn, controversy sells.


LINKS

Topical
Advertising Law Internet Site (with a US bias, run by Arent Fox), Lycos search on advertising law. Yugoslavia's War Crimes Tribunal (article on legal implications), Lawlinks (topical law materials by subject).
Search Tools (search by word)
WebCrawler, Yahoo, Lycos, InfoSeek.
Journals and Magazines
Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, Journal of Current Legal Issues (Newcastle University).
Bodies
Europa (information on the European Union), European Parliament (complete with maps, a history, and a description of its powers), Global Arbitration Mediation Association (legal forms and links to other legal sites), Intelligence and Counterintelligence Homepage (your guide to intelligence organisations the world over), Law Info (legal marketing service on the Web), The Law Society (professional body for lawyers in England and Wales), Lexis-Nexis (law-information services), Sweet & Maxwell (including the Crown Court Alerting System and case extracts), UK `Open Government' Server (CCTA Government Information Service), US House of Representatives Law Library (an unpredictable selection of sources---the UK Library ranges from the Magna Carta to transcripts of Neville Chamberlain's Poland speeches in 1939).
Back Issues
1995 November: 2 (Unfair Dismissal), October: 1 (Software Patents).
Other links
Yahoo law section, Advertising Law Internet Site(with a US bias, run by Arent Fox), Law Enforcement Home Page (amusing examples of American neuroses), Jeffrey Dahmer's Brain (complete transcript of the battle between criminal psychology research and Dahmer's dad for anyone suffering OJ withdrawal). Legal Insanity Homepage---some of the weakest jokes on the Internet, even for lawyers, by Pinellas County Judge Steven Rushing.

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Copyright (c) ESL 1995.