“Libel tourism” legislation

by Walter Olson on July 23, 2010

The intention of protecting American authors from overreaching foreign defamation suits certainly seems a good one. But what about the details? Howard Wasserman, who has raised various objections in the past, finds the bill that just passed the Senate “a dramatic improvement over earlier versions.” [Prawfsblawg]

{ 3 comments }

1 Dennis 07.23.10 at 8:32 am

I’d rather see the clawback provision. Treble damages. “The amount of the foreign judgment as damages, treble damages, and consequential damages from the foreign judgment.”

And maybe US Felony Civil Rights charges against the claimant and the foreign prosecutor.

2 Aaron Worthing 07.23.10 at 10:38 am

Dennis agreed.

I think treble damages is a very good idea. just hoping to get your money back is not enough, because there is still that uncertainty.

i would also wonder about whether they willl have things like citizenship requirements. do you or the defendant have to be american citizens? otherwise we could end up having foreigners come into our courts suing each other over events that arguably we have no stake in. like if a british subject, living in britain, allegedl libel by another british subject living in britain when the libel was made, then is there a case?

and i can see the argument both ways. on one hand, if we say yes, we will cover those cases, we are in essence imposing our standards of American free speech on the world. Which on one hand is not respecting our jurisidicitonal limits, but on the other hand might in effect increase speech around the world.

Last thought. Could the other country then turn around and come up with their own law?

Like say Britain comes up with a law that says, if you win an American suit like that, then the loser has a cause of action for using American law to undermine the protection of one’s reputation. This could get ridiculous quickly. Still presuming there is no rat in the details, it sounds like it will be of some good.

3 Dennis 07.23.10 at 3:59 pm

I don’t see that we’re imposing our standards on anyone. If a book is published in the UK, then UK libel laws applu, and God bless you. But if the book is published in the US, then don’t you try to suppress the rights of Americans.

Like say Britain comes up with a law that says, if you win an American suit like that, then the loser has a cause of action for using American law

In the end, I suppose it comes down to diplomacy and war. I doubt we’d go to war over a libel suit, but if a country doesn’t protect its citizens, then it has no excuse to exist.

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