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Media Law
Who Will Control the Gates of Cyberspace?
For the 300 or so melbourne-based brokers, analysts and business high-flyers who subscribe to U.S. financial weekly Barron's, an article in the online edition last October had a spicy local flavor. "Unholy Gains," about the alleged manipulation by Melbourne mining magnate Joseph Gutnick of U.S. charity stocks for his own advantage, was probably read by many of Barron's 550,000 online subscribers. The story was also read by Gutnick-who filed suit in the Victorian Supreme Court against publisher Dow Jones, in response, he told Time, to "outrageous, malicious, false and libellous comments that I was connected with [jailed Melbourne money launderer] Nachum Goldberg."

Last week, Gutnick won the right to have the defamation suit heard on his home turf and not, as Dow Jones had wanted, in New Jersey, where the media giant's Web server is located. While the ruling is neither novel nor unexpected, media lawyers say it could have an important impact on the type of material published online. Justice John Hedigan's finding puts Internet publishers around the world on notice that they can be sued under Australia's strict defamation laws. "The most restrictive regimes could end up setting the agenda for other countries," says Blake Dawson Waldron partner Robert Todd. That, he says, could lead publishers to "start censoring the material they send out."

Dow Jones says it will ask Australia's High Court to transfer the case to the U.S.-where freedom of the press is protected by the constitution. Such a finding, Gutnick says, would be "an affront to individuals trying to defend their good names because it would [theoretically] allow publishers to transmit their material from places where there are no courts or libel laws and no one could do anything about it." While each side is entitled to shop for the jurisdiction that offers the best hope of success, the outcome will help to decide who sets the rules on the free-wheeling Web.
-Leora Moldofsky

Canine Control
Putting the Bite on Strays
The hip-hop hit who let the dogs out struck a sensitive chord with the 40,000 residents of Apia, Samoa, who compete for sidewalk space with at least 500 mangy strays. Skinny dogs scavenge around market stalls, roadside trash bins and the kitchen of the local hospital, fighting over food scraps. Their howling keeps townsfolk awake at night, their snaps and snarls frighten solitary walkers (several of whom are bitten each year), and their sickly appearance distresses visitors. Says Tourism Minister Hans-Joachim Keil: "They wonder why we allow this."

From now on, Samoans won't. Last week, the government launched a campaign to rid the capital of what Keil calls "an eyesore and a public nuisance" and reclaim the town for two-legged residents. From Sept. 10, police will systematically seek out and shoot all obvious strays. At the same time, dog owners will be urged to register their pets, leash them in public, and revise their relaxed attitude to neutering: 10-dog households are common, says Joan Welch, president of the Animal Protection Society, which has been promoting dog-population control for years. The program "is a real breakthrough," she adds. And one that should have other dog-bothered Pacific towns pricking up their ears.
-Elizabeth Feizkhah

Moments in Time
In 1975, as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser won a landslide victory over Gough Whitlam, Time reported on Indonesia's invasion of east timor, which last week held a historic election:

Just before dawn, seven Indonesian warships knifed into the waters off Dili, a faded coffee port that serves as the capital of the Portuguese colony of East Timor. Minutes later the ships' guns lit up the night sky. Indonesian marines with full packs and battle dress charged ashore from assault boats, while planes arced overhead dropping paratroopers. Within a few hours it was all over but the mopping up-and that apparently was bloody. Ham radio operators 400 miles away in Australia picked up the last faint pleas from a lone transmitter: "Women and children are being shot in the streets. We are going to be killed. Please help us. Please..." Thus was one more remnant of Portugal's colonial empire lost ... Lisbon severed diplomatic relations with Jakarta following last week's invasion. It also called upon the United Nations to "protect the territorial integrity" of East Timor. From Jakarta, Indonesia's foreign minister Adam Malik coolly dismissed the Portuguese protest, insisting that Indonesian troops had landed in Dili "at the request of the people of East Timor."
-Time, Dec. 22, 1975