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US Congress strikes back at libel suits from abroad

I have just read an article here (with thanks to Glenn Reynolds) which reports some really good news:

FURTHER UPDATE: The New York State law has now gone national. A House bill declares that foreign libel judgments are unenforceable in the United States. And Arlen Specter, Joe Lieberman and Chuck Schumer want to go further still:

Indeed, the ACLU, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, the PEN American Center, the Families of the 9/11 victims, and many others support the Free Speech Protection Act, 2008 (S. 2977) sponsored by Senators Arlen Specter, Joseph Lieberman and Chuck Schumer. Their legislation would allow U.S. writers to bring a federal cause of action against those who bring libel suits against them, in foreign jurisdiction for writing that does not constitute defamation under U.S. law . The Specter bill, like King’s (H.R. 5814) would also bar enforcement of foreign libel judgments and provide other appropriate injunctive relief and damages by U.S. Courts.

This has been done to put a total stop on efforts of individuals who, just to invent a hypothetical case mind you, travel from Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom to sue a publisher in the United States. I can not imagine anyone doing something like that of course…

7 comments to US Congress strikes back at libel suits from abroad

  • Yee Haaa

    About time too. Although this does nothing to protect the rest of us not under US jurisdiction.

    Maybe Oz will do something about it too.

    Under Rudd? Yeah, sure.

  • Sunfish



    Senior Senator from NY Schumer???

    That worthless stroke actually did something right???

    I’ve heard of believing six impossible things before breakfast, but wow!

    (And now all we need are Bills of Attainder naming the CHRC…oh, wait…)

  • Otto

    Not enforcing non-US libel judgments in US courts seems perfectly reasonable. However, does creating a federal cause of action mean that plaintiffs can claim damages in the US for having been successfully sued for libel in another jurisdiction. Is that not a case of exorbitant jurisdiction?

  • Ed Snack

    Perhaps then the US will remove its claims of extraterritorial jurisdiction as well, like prosecuting people for offering legal services in their own country ? Fat chance I suppose.

  • Ed Snack,

    Fair point, but still, half a loaf is better than none. And this is a great half loaf.

  • Nick

    I think the most shameless example of a libel-tourist was Roman Polanski, a French citizen and fugitive from US justice, suing a US-based magazine, Vanity Fair, in a British court – and winning.

    As Ian Hislop so memorably said after Private Eye was once again walloped in the libel courts:

    ‘If this is justice – then I’m a banana!’

  • Texpatriate

    Could y’all tell me when, under British libel law, a thing us “published?” When it’s set in type, when it comes off the presses, or when it’s distributed in the market?

    Reason I ask: If a book is printed in the UK (or Canada, Australia, etc.), wholesaled to an American firm (Amazon, e.g.), retailed from an American e-commerce server, and shipped from an American fulfilment center that’s physically located in the UK (or elsewhere), then who gets jurisdiction?