Australian travel franchise Flight Centre has commenced proceedings against Datalex, an Irish web developer, alleging breach of contract and misleading or deceptive conduct. It’s a pretty standard commercial dispute, with a slight twist: a non-existent product. The facts run something like this: developer promises to deliver customised Fancy New Booking System by a certain date, said system currently being used by Big Co X, Big Co Y and Big Co Z; date passes with no sign of said FNBS; plaintiff learns that FNBS is somewhat less advanced than hoped — that it doesn’t, in fact, yet exist, and it turns out X, Y and Z have never heard of it either; plaintiff pays more money for developer to finish building aforesaid FNBS, or ends up getting someone else to do the job; everyone winds up in court. Allegedly.
[Datalex] said its product was being used by large travel agencies such as American Express, Trailfinders and Thomas Cook. … Flight Centre signed a ”master licence and services agreement” with Datalex to provide the database and booking engine … Datalex had said it could deliver within 12 months. … Flight Centre alleges it subsequently discovered [that] Datalex … products were not being used by large travel companies. It says several severe defects in the travel agent sales tool were evidence the product was still being developed - a fact Datalex later conceded. Flight Centre also accuses Datalex of delivering the product late and without all the required functionality.
In a speech delivered at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism in London last week, Sir David Eadycalled for an end to nationalised approaches to litigation arising from internet communications:
What is plainly required is an international agreement to govern communications on the web and, in particular, to determine whether they are to be regulated by an agreed set of supra-national regulations or, if not, to provide a generally acceptable means of deciding which domestic law should apply to any offending publication. But clashes of law are undesirable and will only come increasingly to sour international relations. I would characterise this as essentially an international problem deriving from technical advances. It is obviously not a specifically English or UK issue.
The full speech (bizarrely entitled ‘Strasbourg and Sexual Shenanigans: A Search for Clarity’) is well worth reading. It provides an engaging and erudite overview of the history of media regulation in the United Kingdom, and gives a nuanced account of some of the issues facing courts and legislatures when setting the balance between the rights to freedom of expression and private life.