Doormat-ologist needed

Charles Lindsey chl at
Tue Sep 14 22:53:27 BST 2010

On Mon, 13 Sep 2010 16:15:49 +0100, Peter Fairbrother  
<zenadsl6186 at> wrote:

> 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.

If the message is addressed to some separately addressable entity within  
the private telecommunication system, then that might affect the point of  

But if the message is addressed to bassam at, then the electronic  
equivalents of the butler are merely forwarding agents within Lord  
Bassam's computer setup. The doormat is reached as soon as it arrives at  
the entry port to his system.

>>> 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?

The one where some copies have been delivered, and even read, whilst other  
copies are still in the POP3 mailbox whence the recipient can subsequently  
retrieve them (again); and where, in that scenario, you have to decide  
whether a SOS's warrant or a PACE warrant is needed to access some  
particular copy.
>> 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  
> communications.
> 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.

And why not the same with electronic communications? A copy of a  
communication, even if made electronically, is no different from a  
photocopier immediately behind Lord Bassams letterbox which makes multiple  
(but exact) copies of each letter. They are all physical objects like you  
say, and they are therefore separate communications, and may be disposed  
of differently.

Even electronic copies are different physical objects, because they are  
composed of different charges/areas-of-magnetisation/whatever. It is even  
possible for them to be different due to harware failure, or to Received  
headers and the like added in transit to record the route taken by that  
particular copy. Lord Bassam's analogy can apply just as well.
> 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.

But I deny that there is such a thing as THE communication. They are all  

Charles H. Lindsey ---------At Home, doing my own thing------------------------
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