Doormat-ologist needed

Peter Fairbrother zenadsl6186 at
Mon Sep 13 16:15:49 BST 2010

Charles Lindsey wrote:
> On Sat, 11 Sep 2010 02:00:20 +0100, Peter Fairbrother 
> <zenadsl6186 at> wrote:
>> Charles Lindsey wrote:
>>> On Wed, 08 Sep 2010 13:00:04 +0100, Peter Fairbrother 
>>> <zenadsl6186 at> wrote:
>>>> Both "in transmission", and having "been transmitted", Clear as day.
>>>>> the law cannot be intending to make a distinction between whether 
>>>>> someone has bothered to read them or not.
>>>> It *doesn't* make any such distinction. That's the point.
>>>> If they are stored in a system - whether public or private - which 
>>>> has been used to transmit them, so that the recipient can access 
>>>> them, then they are "in transmission". It makes no difference 
>>>> whether the recipient has already accessed them or not.
>>>  I think not. If the "doormat" doctrine has any validity at all (and 
>>> I believe it does),
>> So do I.
> Then is is clear your understanding of the word "doormat" differs from 
> mine (and from Lord Bassam's, too).

Here's what Lord Bassam had to say about doormats. A few minutes before, 
he had said that the possible "means" included private telecomms systems:

     The definition of "interception" is limited to interception
     of a communication in the course of its transmission by certain
     means. To take one example, a letter which has been delivered
     through a letterbox and is lying on a doormat is no longer in the
     course of its transmission -- it has, after all, arrived -- because
     it is no longer being delivered by the public postal service into
     whose care it was entrusted.

Afaict the comment above is the only time he used the word doormat in 
the debate.

> By definition, the "doormat" is the first entity encountered by the 
> message after is arrives at the intended "address".

Not by definition it isn't! Suppose the dog grabbed it on the way down ...


>> Incidentally, that includes both a copy in the system and a copy which 
>> is out of it. Both copies are "the communication". Both copies are in 
>> transit for s.2 purposes.
> This is where the Act does not cover all the possible scenarios. 

Can you suggest a scenario which it doesn't cover?

> I think 
> a Court would be bound to recognise that different copies of the message 
> were in a different status of "being in transmission", 

But the Act doesn't talk about messages, or copies, it talks about 

A letter can be a communication, and it obeys the everyday laws of 
physical objects - for instance it can only be in one place at once.

For electronic messages though, the latter doesn't apply - there can 
(and often will) be many copies of the message around. To say that only 
one of them  is the communication would be to deny that the others are.

And it's not the status of a copy which matters for section 2(7) - it's 
the status of the communication.

> since I can see 
> no other way in which the Act can make any sort of sense. 

Hope that has made it clearer.

People can have problems with these sorts of concepts, they make 
traditional everyday assumptions like "a communication is in only one 
place or state at a time", or "once it has been delivered it cannot 
still be in transmission" - but afaics the writers of RIPA didn't have 
those problems.

For example, s2(7) talks about communications which have been delivered 
still being in transmission. A traditional letter can't do that - but an 
electronic communication can.

-- Peter Fairbrother

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