Starmer dumps doormat?

ken k.brown at
Tue Jan 18 13:30:11 GMT 2011

On 15/01/2011 17:48, Peter Tomlinson wrote:

> ...I think that I want
> something stronger in law, something that responds to the very
> nature of these voicemail messages (and of emails)

It seems hard to define the limits of such a law in a way that 
doesn't make quite normal behaviour illegal.

I have a phone on my desk. Once I've listened to a message on 
it, that message is, pretty much, a sound recording in my 
possession, just like the CD or DVD. Is it illegal to listen to 
that recording without permission?

I have a pile of CDs and DVDs on a shelf behind me, and various 
bits of equipment capable of playing them. Dozens of people have 
some sort of legitimate access to this office.  If one of them - 
say the person sitting next to me - picks up one of my CDs and 
plays it have they broken a law?

If I have a CD in my computer and walk away leaving the machine 
on, has someone who restarts it and listens to it broken a law?

If Peter is keeping his phone messages on his computer, 
presumably they are backed up. Maybe even on to the same media 
as his music MP3s or JPEGs. Does one law apply to one kind of 
content and another to another?  If I am looking at the contents 
of a recording and suddenly find out that it includes private 
messages, does the alw require me to stop reading or listening 
there and then and seek permission to go on? Morality and 
decency do require that I think - if I find a personal letter in 
the pages of a book I have been lent I ought not to read it - 
but does the law require it? Should the law require it?

If a guest in my house turns on my TV to watch it I suspect they 
haven't broken any laws, even though I have given no explicit 
permission. Its the sort of thing that reasonable people might 
assume is implied by the invitation to spend time in my house. 
Most peopel might assume such an invitatiom does not imply 
permission to listen to recorded phone messages. But were I to 
record broadcast TV programmes, and they watched such a 
recording, without asking, should they have they broken a law? 
My TV is at least as much a computer as my desk phone is. Does 
CMA apply to it?

Lots of phone messages are kept in the servers of the phone 
company rather than on the customer's equipment.  If it is 
illegal to listen to those without explicit permission, is it 
illegal for someone watching my TV with permission to use a 
"play it again" service without explicitly seeking my permission 
for that? If it is pay-per-view, then they will have taken money 
oput of my account, but loads of them are free. Does that make a 

It gets more complicated the more I think about it.

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