The Washington Post on Friday endorsed legislation to protect American writers and publishers from "libel tourism," the recent practice of bringing libel suits in foreign courts where the burdens of proof are far more lax than here at home.
The Post editorial noted testimony earlier this week at a House subcommittee hearing about Rachel Ehrenfeld's unfortunate experience in British courts. Neither she nor her accuser live in England and her book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It, wasn't even published there. But because copies of the book were bought via the Internet, a court granted jurisdiction and damages to one of the subjects of Ehrenfeld's book.
Legislation backed by U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) would allow American judges to bar foreign libel judgments from being enforced in the U.S. without first meeting constitutional protections and established case law. The editorial notes authors and publishers who have prevailed in American courts could even counter-sue "libel tourists" for bringing foreign litigation.
"The lawmakers were right to include this last provision, but they should be careful to make sure that it would not have the unintended consequence of weakening jurisdictional defenses that U.S. citizens have in foreign courts. It would also help immensely if Britain strengthened free-speech protections in its laws. It is encouraging that some British lawmakers are considering that."
The entire editorial can be seen here.