PinkNews.co.uk, the gay news website that published an unedited version of a photograph of the footballer Ashley Cole and the radio DJ, Masterstepz may face legal action from the News of the World.

Notification was received from solicitors acting for the News of the World this morning stating that they reserve the right to commence third party proceedings against the site in relation to the libel claims of Mr Cole.

The proceedings refer to an article titled, “Internet rumours “name” bisexual football star” in which the website discussed the News of the World story, “Gay as you go” and rumours circulating across the internet speculating on the identity of the individuals concerned.

PinkNews.co.uk reproduced the pixelated version of a photograph that the News of the World claimed to be a Premiership footballer and a well known music industry figure. It then compared this version to a photograph freely available on the internet showing Mr Cole and Ian Thompson (DJ Masterstepz) at a party.

The article led with the following disclaimer: “PinkNews.co.uk has no evidence to suggest the identity of the footballers described in the News of the World’s exposĂ©. This article explores the media hysteria relating to these allegations and the impact that the internet has had in rumour spreading.”

PinkNews.co.uk today received notification that News Group Newspapers, the publishers of the News of the World and the Sun were reserving their rights to issue: “third party proceedings/ and or commence proceedings under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978″ in relation to the proceedings commenced against them. In addition, in the event that proceedings are issued against News Group Newspapers arising from publication on PinkNews.co.uk, News Group newspapers reserved their rights again under the Civil Liability (Contribution)

Act 1978.

PinkNews.co.uk editor, Benjamin Cohen defended the story, he said: “PinkNews.co.uk behaved in a responsible way in its handling of the Ashley Cole story. At no point did we claim that Mr Cole was gay.”

“All that PinkNews.co.uk did was to publish what it believed (and subsequently emerged) to be the original version of a photograph edited by the News of the World.”

Mr Cohen added: “News Group have merely informed us of their rights to bring proceedings, as yet, no proceedings have been issued.”

PinkNews.co.uk has appointed Stock Fraser Cukier to represent them.