Melon Farmers Original Version

Libel Tourism

UK prosecutions of books published abroad

1st September

 Offsite: Dirt Doesn't Stick...

US based TechDirt feel protected from British libel claim by newly enacted SPEECH act

See article from


12th August

Update: Special Relationship...

Barack Obama signs law snubbing UK libel judgments

President Barack Obama has signed the SPEECH Act into US law, a move designed to protect US writers and reporters from England's controversial defamation laws.

The Act, tabled by Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, makes libel judgments against American writers in foreign territories unenforceable if they are perceived to counter the First Amendment right to free speech.

The Libel Reform Campaign has expressed concern that our reputation is being damaged internationally due to our restrictive, archaic and costly libel laws which cost 140 times the European equivalent.

The coalition government has said it will table a draft Bill to reform our libel laws in January 2011 after the campaign led by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science. The campaign has 52,000 signatories to its petition and all three main political parties committed in their general election manifestos to libel reform.

Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship said:

The US's response to our libel laws has already played a key role in advancing the campaign for reform in the UK. I'm hopeful that the government's draft bill will address the issue of libel tourism, which has a clear chilling effect on freedom of speech, and make it harder for claimants from outside the EU to bully publishers, NGOs, bloggers and investigative journalists into silence.

Síle Lane, Public Liaison of Sense About Science said:

As other countries move to protect their citizens from the chilling effect of our libel laws we urge bloggers, science writers, NGOs and small publications facing threats and bankruptcy to keep up the pressure on the Government to ensure that the proposed draft libel bill brings the meaningful change that is so urgently needed.


29th July

Updated: Special Relationship...

US legislation to snub UK libel judgments passed by Senate

The US senate has passed legislation to protect US journalists, writers and publishers from libel tourists — litigants who sue Americans in foreign jurisdictions which place a lower emphasis on free speech

The legislation was specifically designed to negate the threat of English laws, amid claims that the UK has became an international libel tribunal. One case in particular incensed US politicians, that of New York based academic Rachel Ehrenfeld who was sued in London despite only 23 copies of her book, on the financing of terrorism, being sold in the UK.

The bill, co-sponsored by Democrat Patrick Leahy and Republican Jeff Sessions has broad cross-party support. If passed, the proposal will prevent US courts from recognising foreign libel rulings that are inconsistent with the First Amendment.

The Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Bill will now go before the House of Representatives.

Update: Passed by the House of Representatives

29th July 2010. From

The United States House of Representatives passed a Bill aimed at shielding US journalists, authors and publishers from libel tourists who file suit in countries where they expect to get the most favourable ruling.

Lawmakers approved the measure, which now goes to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The bill had such widespread support from Democrats and Republicans that it was passed on a voice vote in Congress.

Based on article from

The legislation will prevent US federal courts from recognising or enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation that is inconsistent with the first amendment and will bar foreign parties from targeting the American assets of an American author, journalist, or publisher as part of any damages.

Campaigners for more liberal libel law in Britain said they hoped the new law would influence the Government as it prepares a draft reform bill for publication in January.

Padraig Reidy, a spokesman for the Index on Censorship, said: It's a vindication of our argument that English libel laws in their current state do not encourage or protect free expression. The fact that Britain's best ally feels the need to protect itself from the English libel courts demonstrates the need for reform.

Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Congressman who drafted the bill, said it was vital that Americans' rights are never undermined by foreign judgments.


2nd May

Update: For American Eyes Only...

National Enquirer website not available in Europe

If you are a European resident and you cannot access the National Enquirer to read the breaking story about Obama's alleged affair with Vera Baker, try surfing with or any other anonymizer that works.

For various reasons, the National Enquirer is blocking European IPs. For example, in Britain, they block IPs because any publication that publishes in the UK is potentially liable to be sued.

Regardless the reasoning behind the European IP ban, the message displayed by the National Enquirer is at least questionable. A Page unavailable/under construction message is confusing and misleading. Correct would be to read the content of this website is not available in your area .


15th October

Update: British Freedom of Speech Belittled...

California passes a law to ignore UK libel judgements

The state of California has banned libel tourism in an effort to resist the influence of British judges.

Its governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law which will allow its courts to refuse to enforce libel judgments handed down in London.

He acted following alarm in the U.S. that powerful individuals use British courts to silence criticism and prevent investigation of their activities around the world.

California legislators said their courts must have power to block libel judgments from Britain which has become a jurisdictional Mecca for the rich and famous .

And in a verdict deeply embarrassing for the British government, they said the libel tourism law must be passed to pressure foreign jurisdictions like Britain to change its laws to place greater protections on free speech .

The California law means that courts in all the most important U.S. cities now have laws to shield Americans from damages and gagging writs ordered in the High Court in London.

New York and the state of Illinois have already passed libel tourism legislation and other states, including Florida, are in the process.

The California law gives its courts the right to refuse to enforce defamation judgements made abroad unless it is shown that the foreign court had the same or better freedom of speech protection than is given by the US constitution.


18th September

Update: Pay Per Click...

Ministry of Justice consults on reining in online libel

Proposals for radical changes to UK libel laws aimed at updating them for the internet age have been published.

Online publishers currently face the prospect of fresh legal action every time an article is downloaded, even if many years have passed since it first appeared. Newspapers and civil liberties campaigners complain the effect is to drastically limit freedom of speech.

Changes to the law could involve the abolishing of the 160-year-old multiple publication rule , which allows for a new libel claim with every click, providing it is made within a year.

That could be replaced with a single publication rule, allowing only one court action against defamatory material, to prevent open ended liability.

A consultation paper published by the Ministry of Justice also suggests increasing the limitation period of claims to three years after discovery of the article. Publishers of online archives and blogs might also be given a defence of qualified privilege against offending article after the year time limit had expired. They would face action only if they refused to publish a correction on the offending web page.

Media lawyers say the effect of the multiple publication rule has been to make London the libel capital of the world with litigants claiming here against publications based all over the world on the basis of web-based literature.


16th June

Update: Tourism Down...

US law to ignore UK libel judgements passes first step

A bill in the US to stop libel tourism has been passed by the House Judiciary Committee, the first step to becoming law.

Sponsors of the bill say it has been designed as a way to protect US journalists from libel suits in foreign courts which do not have the same protections for free speech as the US constitution.

Libel tourism is a growing phenomenon, where people travel to the UK to sue for material which would be protected elsewhere.

Congressman Steve Cohen is one of the sponsors of the bill, which aims to prohibit recognition and enforcement of foreign defamation judgments. According to Cohen, who is chairman of the Commercial and Administrative Law Sub-committee, UK libel laws are stifling free speech. He said in a statement: Libel tourism threatens to undermine the principles of free speech because foreign courts often don't place as difficult a burden on plaintiffs in libel cases.

Press Gazette understands that the bill is expected to come up for a vote in the full House of Representatives on Monday. No amendments will be allowed and the bill will require a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority in order to be passed. The bill would then need to be approved in the Senate.


21st February

Update: The Free Speech Protection Act...

Protects US writers from claimant friendly UK libel laws

I A US bill aimed at protecting American journalists, writers and publishers from libel tourism cases brought against them in foreign courts has been introduced into the United States Senate.

The Free Speech Protection Act is being sponsored by Senators Arlen Specter, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The bill is aimed at protecting journalists and publishers from libel suits in foreign courts which do not have the same protections for free speech as the US constitution. The measure would give federal courts the power to bar the enforcement of foreign libel judgments if the material at issue would not constitute libel under US law.

It is also aimed at actively deterring libel tourism cases brought in foreign courts by permitting American defendants to counter-sue under certain circumstances.

Companion legislation is expected to be introduced into the House of Representatives.

Specter said: Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of expression of ideas, opinions, and research, and freedom of exchange of information are all essential to the functioning of a democracy, and the fight against terrorism.

There is a real danger that American writers and researchers will be afraid to address the crucial subject of terror funding and other important matters without these protections.

The UK has become a popular venue for libel tourism defamation cases. Claimants from around the world have sought to take advantage of what are seen as England's claimant-friendly defamation law. English law, unlike that in the US, does not require a claimant to prove falsity or actual malice.


9th January

Comment: Dangerous Hypocrisy...

Denis MacShane in the Private Eye spotlight

The new Private Eye has also got an interesting item, with Denis MacShane MP sounding off about "libel tourism", with foreign crooks sueing in England to take advantage of English libel laws in respect of articles published overseas.

MacShane is also a keen supporter of the Dangerous Pictures Act, which will put British people in jail for just looking at material produced quite legally in more enlightened countries.

An early entry for the Caiaphas Prize for Hypocrisy 2009?

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