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Sunday, 14 February 2010 17:30

The truth is what you say it is

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Sometimes, parties to a 'private agreement' will agree to make public statements in support of it that are substantively different to the actual terms of that agreement.

Rumours abound of "out of court settlements" between warring parties that include clauses binding the parties to make public statements quite different to the substance of the agreement.

For instance, I recall reading tales involving a variety of so-called "scandal sheets" which are want to (lets just say) assist the truth to journey in an unusual direction.

When challenged on this, particularly by celebrities in dire need of elevation back to the rarefied air of the A-list, the newspaper in question would never permit the legal action to actually proceed to court.

Instead, an out-of-court settlement would be reached between the parties.  Of interest being that, so the rumours go, the public statements made by both parties to the effect that the newspaper's opinion prevailed were wildly at odds with the actual agreement which was quite the contrary.

As I have heard it told, the newspaper will pay MORE to the 'victim' in order to achieve the desired outcome; that both parties privately agree that the defamation case was successfully proven but that in public they don't.

In the context of Minor Celebrity vs. Scandalous Newspaper, the advantages to both parties are quite clear. Read on for these advantages.


For the newspaper, the main advantage is the hope that other celebrities will be less likely to bring similar legal action in the future: "we're big and tough; no-one can successfully sue us."

For the celebrity, there are two quite distinct advantages.  Firstly the increased money (of course) and secondly, the ability to play the victim; "you all know what was said, I tried to convince the nasty newspaper to retract, but they refused."

One can only assume that similar situations occur elsewhere; that the public statements related to out-of-court settlements in a variety of cases bear little resemblance to the specific details of the settlement.

With this in mind, one can only wonder if the recent Nintendo settlement with a young Australian accused of making the latest Super Mario Bros Wii game available online fits this description of a publicity mismatch.

Unfortunately, we will probably never be able to find out for sure.

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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