Defamation Laws in the U.K. Starting To Get A Hard New Look

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Defamation Laws in the U.K. Starting To Get A Hard New Look

Fri Feb 29, 2008 @ 12:51PM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Bigben Is so-called "libel tourism," when defamation claims are filed in countries like Britain with plaintiff-favoring laws, coming to an end?

That's the belief of a columnist for The Guardian, pointing out that members of the New York State Assembly have proposed a new law called the Libel Terrorism Prevention Act that would allow New York courts to declare such foreign judgments unenforceable unless the country in which these rulings are made had free speech protections similar to the First Amendment.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes that libel tourism "has become a lucrative trade for London lawyers," mostly with harmful consequences. Seeing the writing on the wall, the writer believes it is time for comprehensive legislation in the country, what he calls a new Fox's Libel Act:

"This would provide a statutory defense of public interest. It would remove the burden of proof from the defendant. It would end the nonsense of a person from one foreign country suing in London a person from another over something published in a third country. And better still, it would assimilate libel to slander, where the plaintiff must show actual material damage suffered."

Whatcroft, however, ends his column by noting that there might not be the political will to pass such legislation, as defamation laws have been exploited by politicians for years.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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