Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3
[note on the legal implications of publishing anonymous letters in newspapers]
A case of some interest to writers and publishers of anonymous newspaper correspondence recently came before the First Division of the Court of Session, Edinburgh. Mr W. Cunningham, a Stirling town councillor, claimed £1,000 damages from the publishers of the Stirling Observer, for publishing libellous letters and articles charging him with receiving bribes, &c. Before the Lord Ordinary he made application for an order to recover the original MSS. of the letters, as he had reason to believe that the defendants either wrote them or procured them to be written; but Lord Fraser refused the application, on the ground that defendants having accepted the responsibility of the letters, plaintiff was not entitled to recover them.—This decision was reversed by the Lord President. It would not do, he said, for newspaper proprietors to deceive the public by writing and publishing letters as if these had been written by bonâ fide third parties and were a true indication of public opinion. It might be that the production of these letters might disclose the authorship by third parties who were not represented in the case. It was not desirable that this should be so; at the same time he could not say that he had much sympathy with writers of anonymous letters containing calumnious statements, and he thought they would not have very great reason to complain if, to further the ends of justice. it became necessary to drag them from their lurking-place.—The other judges concurred.