Here follows Buys’ response to what was probably a lot of flak from the public (myself included). One of the forums on which a lot of comment was made was http://www.myadsl.co.za.

By Buys Incorporated Attorneys

Members of the public have been contacting our firm after certain media reports claimed that Buys Inc. Attorneys are representing Telkom in their current dispute with hellkom.co.za, telkomsucks.co.za and others. We wish to use this opportunity to clarify some of the confusion.

1. As one of the very few South African law firms that specialise exclusively in Internet and IT law, Buys Inc. provides legal services to a very wide range of local companies. One of these companies is Telkom who we have advised on many IT law issues in the past. Click here to view our full client list.

2. Telkom does not use us exclusively and regularly instruct other law firms to act on their behalf. In the dispute with hellkom.co.za and telkomsucks.co.za, Telkom elected to instruct Adams & Adams Attorneys.

3. Towards the end of last week Telkom requested a legal opinion from Buys Inc. on a very specific legal issue related to the current dispute. Our opinion was delivered to Telkom on Friday night.

4. Like all other law firms we are bound by a duty of confidentiality towards our clients and the advice we give them. When the press requested our opinion on the current matter we declined to comment because i) Telkom is one of our existing clients and ii) requested our views on a very specific legal point.

5. Like all law firms, we provide legal opinions based on the law. As stated in our code of conduct, we cannot allow our personal views to jeopardize our professional integrity and independence. Click here to view our Code of Conduct.

6. When we provide legal opinions to clients, we neither support nor endorse their actions. The fact that the actions of some of our clients are not popular with a certain section of the public is something we cannot control or change… that’s the job of PR agencies, not lawyers!

7. For example, have a look at the ITWeb page that contains the recent article on the Telkom matter (see http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/telecoms/2004/0408161134.asp). There are three Telkom advertisements on the page – one at the top, one next to the article and one at the bottom of the page. Does that imply that ITWeb supports Telkom? No. Does that imply that ITWeb’s reporting is not objective? I doubt it.

8. Another appropriate example is that of a medical doctor caring for a patient. Does the doctor endorse the views of the patient by providing medical advice? No. Does the doctor make a moral judgment before attending to the patient? No.

9. Buys Inc. supports freedom of speech but we also believe that constitutional freedoms should be used within the boundaries of the law. Like most other human rights, freedom of speech is not absolute. Those who host websites where the public may comment on topical issues should be encouraged and supported by all. If these websites operate within the boundaries of the law, they would probably succeed in their attempts to change things for the better. But if they operate in such a manner that they fail to acknowledge the legitimate rights of those they criticise, they cannot claim the moral high ground and is no better than those they attack.

10. In summary: i) Buys Inc. was not asked to take legal action against hellkom.co.za or any other person ii) Buys Inc. provide legal opinions to many companies, including Telkom, and would continue to do so and iii) like all lawyers, we do not endorse a certain course of action by providing a legal opinion to a client.

And the response to the above from users at Myadsl.co.za:

Im pasting a copy of Buys reply from the MyADSL’s News Page. http://www.mybroadband.co.za/news/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=248 which follows on below or click the link above.

First of all,
http://www.hellkom.co.za/ is being represented by http://www.salaw.co.za/ or Michalsons. They have offered their services for free. And perhaps everyone would like to drop these guys a mail to thank them for their support. Their email address is info@michalson.com . I dont know anything about these people yet, but they seem suitably qualified for the job at hand. It is really fantastic to see some real support in South Africa.

Also we need to take time out to thank Gregg Stirton for taking the first step and deciding to stand his ground against Telkom. mad@hellkom.co.za He is the real hero for taking so much of his time in creating the Hellkom Website. One must just view the Vents page and see the unhappy customers. At least they have some place to air their views and let off some steam and read the facts and info page. These are the people Gregg is doing it for. They are the SA Public.

Furthermore, to Buys Inc, I had a chat with RPM rpm@myadsl.co.za creator of the MyADSL website http://www.myadsl.co.za/. He said you guys were very pleasant to him. And you cleared the air on the matter at hand. This is very noble of you and we appreciate the straightforwardness and honesty. Perhaps I was a bit upfront on the matter, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I hope no offence was taken. At least you are up to speed on the current situation. I read your reply and It was very well written and thought out.

However, all been said and done, this does not let Telkom off the hook. They need to make some piecemeal offerings and do so very soon. The time for stalling is over.

Best regards,
Gary Hart