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American Authors to be Protected from Foreign Libel Judgments Inconsistent with First Amendment.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | July 23, 2010

No. 483

The New York Times reports that the U S Senate unanimously passed a statute protecting American authors from libel judgments obtained overseas in jurisdictions where it is easier to get a verdict.  The House has passed a similar bill and is expected to adopt the Senate version.  The provision would become effective after the President signs the enacted bill.

The Times reports that in some places, such as Britain, the burden is placed upon the Defendant in a libel action to prove truth.  Of course, as all law students past the second year know, the Supreme Court set the standard for libel involving public figures in the iconic case of NY Times v.  Sullivan, 367 US 254 1964). There, the Times had reported an untrue fact that would have been libelous under prior law. However, the Court held that the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press would be chilled if the press had to be concerned about a fact innocently reported about a public figure turned out to be false.  In order to obtain a libel verdict, a public figure must prove malice by the publisher of the false statement.  While this standard of proof presents substantial difficulties for a plaintiff, cases do occur where this burden can be met.

According to the report in the Times, a U.S. author could prevent enforcement of a foreign libel judgment if it was adjudicated under standards that were not as strict as those mandated by the First Amendment.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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