UPDATE: This bill is now a law.
A while back I wrote about the case of Simon Singh and his battle with chiropractors and the UK’s terrible libel laws. One thing I neglected to mention was a further ramification to the British legal system when it comes to libel laws – the possibility and practice of something called libel tourism.
Let’s say I wrote a book called Osama bin Laden is a Big Stupid Jerkface for an American publisher. And in it, I wrote about why I think bin Laden’s a big stupid jerkface. Then someone who didn’t like me saying that could obtain a copy of my book from a British distributor and then sue me under the UK’s jurisprudence even though both my publisher and I are American. That’s libel tourism.
Well earlier this week, the US Senate passed a bill regarding this issue which is now on its way through the House of Representatives. From the Agence France-Presse:
The measure would prevent US federal courts from recognizing or enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation that is inconsistent with the first amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.
It would bar foreign parties in such cases from targeting the US assets of an American author, journalist, or publisher as part of any damages.
And what makes this even better is that it was passed with unanimous consent, which means that both Democrats and Republicans were all like this:
The Committee to Protect Journalists is reporting that this law, which is co-sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), is in response to a book called Funding Evil by Rachel Ehrenfeld. Ehrenfeld was sued by a Saudi billionaire she accused of funding terrorism under British jurisprudence. She now hopes that this legislation will pass the House and set off a ripple effect both within the UK itself and in former British colonies which adopted their backwards legal system.