Tweeting from the courtroom

When the iiNet copyright case resumes before Justice Cowdroy in the Federal Court on 2 November 2009, twitterers can follow coverage of the case via 140-character “tweets” on Twitter.
 
Justice Cowdroy made Australian court reporting history when he allowed journalists in the courtroom to report on the proceedings via “tweets” posted on the social blogging site from their laptop computers, on the premise that it did not interfere with the proceedings.  Ordinarily, under Order 10 Rule 9 the Federal Court Rules, a person must not use a communication or recording device where a hearing is taking place, except with leave of the court.
 
The Australian reported Justice Cowdroy stating: “On the basis that Twittering does not distract or interfere with the conduct of my court, I personally have no objection to its use”. “I believe that the public has a legitimate right to be fully informed of proceedings, particularly proceedings such as (the iiNet case) which have attracted considerable public interest.” His Honour noted that “Twittering can serve to inform the public in a more speedy and comprehensive manner than may be possible through traditional media coverage.”

However, some news providers remain concerned that reporting via instant news feeds removes their ability to have the content signed off by legal advisers, for issues such as defamation, privacy or contempt. Justice Cowdroy’s decision also raises similar implications where the proceedings have confidentiality orders in place, which might be inadvertently breached by Counsel or witnesses in the case in open court.  As journalist Liam Tung of ZDNet tweeted-in-cheek from the iiNet trial:

#iitrial “[witness under cross examination] slips – mentions a domain name registrar that should be kept confidential. can’t mention or i might get booted.”

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