One of the things that makes America great is how difficult it is to sue for libel here. The prosecution in a libel case must prove several things in order to survive in court. So many times when a libel case would be effective in other countries, for example the UK has almost the exact opposite burden of proof, people claiming libel merely resort to threats from their lawyers. For example:
So the first thing the prosecution must prove in a libel case is that the alleged libel has been published. Usually, this is very easy. All it involves is waving around the actual newspaper or book in court. But this is talking only about a “defamatory domain.” Is http://glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com/ an example of a published statement, or is it merely a code one can use to access published information? That’s not an easy question to answer, and I don’t think there is any precedent set.
Next the prosecution must prove that the prosecutor was named in the publication. Again, this is normally very easy, but the same problem arises. Is there such a person as glennbeck? Isn’t his name Glenn Beck? Remember, they’re just talking about the internet domain and are ignoring the actual content of the website.
And I’m pretty sure the reason that they are ignoring the content of the website has to do with the third thing they must prove, which is that the published statement caused provable harm. This is usually where most libel cases collapse, because it really is difficult. You can’t just prove that your profits or whatever went down after the libellous statement was published, you have to prove an actual causal relationship. And what makes that difficult in this instance is that content of the website, and even just the “defamatory domain,” is clearly meant to be satirical. Glenn Beck’s attorneys would have to stand up in court and with a straight face claim that some people took the claim that he raped and murdered a young girl in 1990 seriously, and therefore stopped watching his show, which in turn meant lower ratings, which in turn meant less ad revenue. And each of those things would need to be documented somehow.
Lastly, Beck’s attorneys would have to prove that whoever registered the domain was “at fault” in making the statement that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990, which I heard he probably did. This is protection for journalists who were simply in error with reasonable cause and couldn’t be held responsible for someone else’s deception. This is also an area where the defendant in this case should emphasize the satirical nature of the statement (even though it’s TOTALLY TRUE) and that a reasonable audience couldn’t possibly take it at face value.
The best part about how the burden of proof is on those claiming libel in the US is that it almost always makes them look like the whiny little bitches they really are. Instead of the chilling effect UK libel laws generate in the press where reporters and management have to do a cost/benefit analysis of running a certain story even if it’s true, we get celebrities who are the subject of such stories calculating the cost of pursuing a lawsuit with the purpose of shutting up a media outlet which will almost always only get more attention as a result of such a lawsuit. And it’s not surprising that Beck and his attorneys would make such a gross miscalculation. I heard that ever since Beck started huffing paint in 1985, his math skills haven’t been so sharp.