Wick Communications

Let’s go libel touring!

In Media law on 27 Aug 2010 at 8:22 am

Continuing our weeks’ long tour around the virtual courthouse, we come to the strange outpost known as foreign libel court.

It seems that some international readers have been taking offense at the writings of American authors and then taking their case to court … foreign court. The term “libel tourism” has been around since at least 2005, when a Saudi billionaire sued New York-based author Rachel Ehrenfeld in a British court over her book Funding Evil. Ehrenfeld ultimately lost the case and was ordered to pay £10,000 and legal costs.

The reason writers are being sued elsewhere is because other countries don’t have the same reverence for free speech we enjoy. There is no First Amendment – and none of the so-called Section 230 protections afforded Internet Service Providers here either.

Well, earlier this month the good guys scored a victory. President Barack Obama signed the Speech Act, which forbids federal courts from recognizing foreign libel judgments that don’t jibe with our own First Amendment protections.

This is one of those things that isn’t likely to hit home in Wasilla or Ontario. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to keep abreast of any change in libel law, for obvious reasons.



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