airport - David Bachar - November 19 2010
Passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport. Photo by David Bachar
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A Justice Ministry memorandum could empower courts to order Internet service providers to disclose the identity of online commenters accused of defamation or copyright violations.

The memorandum, released yesterday for consultations, suggests establishing a pre-trial process that would allow accused commenters to agree to have their identity exposed without going to court. If the commenter declines, the accuser could ask a court to order the ISP to disclose the person's identity.

The commenter would have 20 days to inform the court whether he agrees to have his identity exposed. The court may demand the ISP reveal the user's identity if it believes there is a basis for a complaint, such as accusations of libel or a copyright violation.

The memorandum would have to be passed into law in order to take effect.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that by law, it could not order an ISP to reveal the identity of an online commenter accused of defamation. The current law does not allow the court to order a third party, such as an ISP, to expose a person's identity, and the justices called on legislators to change this.

However, the justices stressed that anonymous expression was important, since it contained two important basic rights - the right to freedom of speech and the right to privacy.