Less than a week after a judge dissolved his injunctions against the Web site Wikileaks.org, the Swiss bank that was suing the site has decided to drop its lawsuit against the Web site, its users and its Internet host. Paul Elias of the Associated Press writes about it in his story. Bank Julius Baer’s decision to back off its attempt to shut down Wikileaks comes less than a week after a California federal judge dissolved his injunctions against the whistleblower’s Web site.
Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy, who appeared before the judge last week to argue against the injunctions, said: “Although the bank’s notice of dismissal warns of the possibility that the bank may bring the same lawsuit in some different court, we are confident that judges in such future cases will have learned the basic lesson taught by the proceedings in federal court in San Francisco – that a prior restraint should not be used against free speech no matter how serious the plaintiff’s claim of wrongdoing may sound, especially when those whose First Amendment interests are at stake have not been able to appear in court to explain the flaws in the plaintiff’s case.”
Public Citizen was one of several organizations that intervened in the case.
The Wikileaks case caused a furor on the net. In the Huffington Post, Clay Shirky writes about the difficulty of striking a balance between not fettering free speech and not allowing the improper publication of slanderous materials or trade secrets.
The question here is not whether we want to increase the ability of every employee able to violate trade secrets. Thats the situation we have today, and short of wholesale internet censorship it is the situation we will have from now on. The question is how (or whether) we can continue to carve out an exception to free speech for cases like Julius Baer without doing more harm than good. So many of our legal traditions around media assume scarcity, commercialization, and professionalization that our sudden lurch to a world of abundant, free, amateur media is going to threaten many existing social bargains, not just the the ones around trade secrets. Judge White’s original injunction was a particularly bad solution, but that’s no guarantee that there is a good solution to be easily had.