Tuesday, April 17, 2007

J-Lo heads to London to sue

You can understand J-Lo and Marc Anthony being a little upset at being accused of being "caught up in a heroin scandal" on the basis of little more than an ages-old photo of Anthony stood next to someone on trial on drugs charges.

But is it really on to sue The National Enquirer in the UK courts?

Lawyer Paul Tweed told AP news agency the case would not be held in the US due to legal difficulties. "The First Amendment restrictions in US libel law make it virtually impossible for international celebrities or other high-profile individuals to sue successfully," he said.

"But with the advance of the internet, and with US publications now extending their distribution network into Europe, they must subject themselves to libel laws in these jurisdictions."

Leaving aside the details of the case, this is just the latest in a run of libel tourism cases, where complainants choose to fight not in the country where the libel was committed, but in the nation where they stand the best chance of victory. Sometimes, the publication may have only sold a handful of copies in the jurisdiction where the case is brought, but it's enough to justify the location of the action.

It's good news for British lawyers - the notoriously pro-complainant stance of the UK courts makes us an attractive venue for this sort of action - but it's hardly a fair basis for a legal battle.

And if the main justification for bringing a libel case is to restore a sullied reputation in open court, how can it possibly help to hold that court case thousands of miles from where the main audience who saw the original article reside? If you call my mother a moose in a bar in Vancouver, how does it balance things for you to apologise in public in Croydon?

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