(In other news, lawyers can be nitpicky and Apple fans hang on every word from Steve Jobs!)

The New York Times reports on attempts to prevent the publication of letters sent to the judge sentencing Scooter Libby. The line taken by Libby’s lawyers was that making the letters available to the media would mean they would end up on the Internet and bloggers would make fun of them. Like, duh. No shock that they failed and the letters were duly released, published, circulated and mocked.

Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, agreed that the letters had to be made public because of the serious issues involved, but said that the legal system must address the rapid spread of information online that, in the past, would be available only “in the dusty courthouse file.”

“The act of writing a letter in a much lower-profile case will be on the ‘permanent record’ of the Internet,” he said. “That is a difference, and it is totally sensible to think about if this is what we want.”

That is a point that recognises the difficulties without going over the top. (I should add that I have been wondering about this for a while – for example, in the context of the ‘fade factor’ and fair trials)