Friday, December 11, 2009

Britain considers revising defamation laws to stop "libel tourism"

Sarah Lyall has a front page story in the New York Times about English libel tourism, Friday Dec. 11, “Britain, Long a Libel Mecca, Reviews Laws,” link here.

Parliament is considering requiring the plaintiff to show that harm in England before bringing suit, under England’s “one hit” system that has attracted suits against books with very few sales in Britain and even web sites viewable in Britain. Judgments could be obtained against foreigners, who then could not enter the country. The US is considering refusing to recognize British libel judgments, as do many states.

In Britain, the defendant has the onerous of proving truth; the presumption is that the plaintiff’s complaint of falsity would hold. In the US, the plaintiff must prove beyond a 51% chance that the statements are false, malicious, and recklessly disregard the truth. In the US, it is possible to libel oneself, , which can lead to bizarre situations with implicit content.

Scotland has its own system.

British libel law was drawn up in the 19th Century along the lines of Victorian society.

The story mentions several famous plaintiffs, such as Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz, Incelandic businessman Jon Olafson, and NMT Medical Company in Boston.

In the US, despite much stricter rules, “SLAPP” libel suits have been very troublesome in some areas, like those filed by real estate developers in eminent domain cases.

Attribution Wikipedia link for picture of Parliament

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