Reykjavík District Court ruled yesterday that Valitor – the company which manages Master Card and Visa in Iceland – must open payments from its costumers to DataCell, the company which manages donations to Wikileaks.
As reported, Wikileaks faced a number of financial obstacles in 2010. When Master Card and other companies began to block payments to the site, Icelandic hosting company Datacell began allowing Visa card-holders to donate to Wikileaks via the company.
However, Visa banned its card-holders from donating to Wikileaks, and Ólafur Sigurvinsson, the director of Datacell, was far from pleased. “I have confirmed today,” he told Mbl.is at the time, “that I can support Al-Qaida, the Ku Klux Klan, buy weapons and drugs and all kinds of porn with my Visa card. There is nobody investigating this, but I cannot support a human rights organisation which is fighting for freedom of expression.” Speaking to radio station Rás 2, Ólafur added, “This is a very serious breach, and not just of the contract that we have [with Visa] … now card-holders cannot decide for themselves where they spend their money.”
Viðar Þorkelsson, the director of Valitor, said that he had no opinion one way or the other of the work that Wikileaks does. Rather, Valitor contended that Datacell did not reveal right away that they were allowing a “payment gateway” for Visa card holders to donate to Wikileaks via Datacell. Datacell owner Ólafur Vignir Sigurðsson denied these allegations, contending that Datacell made it clear from the beginning that a payment gateway was open, and that money was going to be directed to Wikileaks.
As a result of the ban, Datacell announced then that they were planning to take Visa to court for breach of contract; specifically, for not fulfilling the wishes of its clients. That trial began late last month and, RÚV now reports, the court has found in DataCell’s favour.
The court ruled that Valitor must open its customers’ payments to Wikileaks within 14 days, or face a fine of 800,000 ISK for every day the payments remain closed. Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, the lawyer for DataCell, told reporters that the ruling was a victory for freedom of expression, stating that if Valitor decides to appeal, “it will be for political reasons; not legal reasons. If I were Valitor’s lawyer, I would not advise appealing.”
In the legal decision of the court on this case, posted online, the courts state that DataCell had informed Valitor that they were serving as a payment proxy to Wikileaks, and that the contract Valitor has with its customers is very clear on how they can use their money.
There is as yet no word on whether or not Valitor plans to appeal.