Kaare M. Risung
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Tel +47 23 01 18 33
In October 2009 a user under the pseudonym "The Finder", posted
a message on the website www.dinside.no as a comment to an article
about the discovery of protected cultural monuments.
"The Finder" stated that he had a rune stone in his garage which supposedly was from 1150. Pursuant to Cultural Heritage Act, objects dating from before 1537 shall be reported and handed over to relevant authorities. "The Finder" communicated via the discussion forum that he wanted to sell the rune stone. In February 2010 the local police district went to court to obtain the IP address and thus the identity of "The Finder".
The Court of Appeal ruled that the website www.dinside.no had to state the IP address of the anonymous user to the police. The decision was appealed to the Supreme Court. There, www.dinside.no argued that the identity of "The Finder" was protected with reference to source protection. The website www.dinside.no, owned and operated by the Aller Group, brought a fundamental support from the Norwegian Association of Editors. The prosecuting authority, on the other side, argued that "The Finder" had a clear economic motive to post the message and used www.dinside.no as a marketplace. Hence, the prosecuting authority continued, source protection could not be argued in relation to a person who had committed a gross violation of the Cultural Heritage Act.
The Supreme Court found that the identity of "The Finder" was protected pursuant to relevant provisions on source protection. However, the Court dissented 4-1 and stated that "The Finder" deliberately used the debate forum to gain purchase for the rune stone. According to the dissenting judge, such behavior weakened the weight of source protection.
The result of the ruling was that the request from the police to obtain the IP address, and thus the identity of the "The Finder", was not taken into account.
The case has some significance for the operation of Norwegian websites. The case also provided interesting arguments regarding liability for statements posted on a website. The Supreme Court assumed that the website was subject to editorial responsibility. If not, the outcome may have been different. The ruling might have relevance for, however cannot automatically be applied to, liability for statements expressed in social networks and Internet communities.