Notice to Britain

To avoid any potential confusion, here is a notice to Britain and my British readers (all 10 or so of them):  I do not consider myself, my statements, or this blog to be subject to British law, and in particular your libel law.  Now, since I am an American citizen living and publishing in Arizona, you may be confused why this clarification is necessary.  If so, note this article, via Captains Quarters.

The decision today, by Mr Justice Eady, has cleared the way for a libel trial in London sometime this year [against Arnold Schwarzenegger]

Miss Richardson alleges she was libelled by Schwarzenegger and two
campaign workers in an October 2003 article in The Los Angeles Times,
which also appeared on the internet.

The trial is going forward in London later this year.

Let me say that there are many, many things wrong with the tort system in the US, but one of the things we have done right is consistently protected free speech rights (at least until McCain-Feingold), and part of this protection has been resistance to onerous European, and particularly British, libel laws.

The obvious result, if this type of suit becomes successful and pesky, is of course for media to start blocking Internet traffic from British URLs.  Maybe this is a secret plan to have just this happen, so the Beeb can get their monopoly back.

UPDATE:  (via Overlawyered.com)  It appears that US litigator Samuel Hirsch is making his own interpretation of US libel law by suing Morgan Spurlock, the maker of the film "supersize me".  Though one could argue that the film ostensibly was on Mr. Hirsch's side (Mr. Hirsch makes a living in part by suing McDonalds for his clients who lack the ability to control their eating habits), it caught Mr. Hirsch on film making some comments he would rather not have been made public:

Ostensibly, this would make
Mr. Hirsch a prime ally in Mr. Spurlock's quest to edify the nation as
to the adverse affects of eating junk food. The film, however, was not
flattering to Mr. Hirsch in his brief cameo. In his only appearance on
camera, Mr. Spurlock asks Mr. Hirsch about his motivation for being
involved in the McDonald's litigation. Mr. Hirsch's reply? "You mean,
motive besides monetary compensation?" He then added, "You want to hear
a noble cause?"

Mr. Hirsch is suing for

Negligence, Unauthorized Use
of Likeness, Disparagement to Reputation, and Defamation of Character,
Fraudulent Inducement, False Misrepresentation, Damage to Business
Reputation.

Mr. Hirsch must know that he stands little chance of winning in US court, particularly since the film used his own words against him.  So this is intimidation, pure and simple.

It is interesting to note that McDonalds, the main target of the film, has not been dumb enough to sue Spurlock, no matter what they thought of the film.  And imagine if George Bush had tried to sue Michael Moore for the same stuff.  Suits like this are intimidation to shut down criticism, and it is good and right that they cannot win in the US.

 

  • dearieme

    Our English libel laws are indeed odious: we also have a system whereby you can go to court to get a judicial order to prohibit a newspaper publishing various things about you. A defect in this latter procedure is that the Scottish papers can publish gaily, irrespective of what the English courts say. Yippee.

  • http://azjetsetchick.blogspot.com Kory O

    It's all about the publicity. He gets his name in the paper, maybe gets a few more really fat kids to sue Wendy's, and all he has to do is pay a little to his secretary to type up the paperwork.

  • Max Lybbert

    I always understood that in the English-speaking world "truth is a perfect defense against libel." That is, if you can prove what you said was true, then it isn't libel in any way. There goes the defamation of character claim.

    However, the unauthorized use of likeness is a little harder. If the attorney is considered a public official, or the movie is considered news reporting, or the attorney knew or should have had the common sense to figure out he was being taped for later playback, that claim will be dismissed immediately. Otherwise, he may have a case.

    If the movie brought in enough dough to fund a countersuit (such as "misuse of a legal process" and related "tortious interference with trade" claims), then this could hurt the attorney more than it helps him, especially if it gets media attention. And we know how well the media reports what the media does.