Yet Another Case About The Jurisdiction Over Internet Libel Charges

from the not-this-again... dept

This is a legal question that’s going to keep showing up: is a news publisher liable for libel laws in countries other than where they publish, if they publish on the web? A few years ago, an Australian court ruled yes, saying an Australian man could sue Dow Jones in Australia over a story they wrote and hosted in the US. Last month, a similar case got some attention, but this time, because the person who felt wrong lived in Saudi Arabia, but sued in the UK because they have stricter libel laws. This, of course, demonstrates the real problem with leaving this jurisdictional question open: people will jurisdiction shop to find one with more favorable laws. The latest case adds another twist. A former UN official accused of various “sexual and financial transgressions” is suing the Washington Post over their stories on the subject in Canada. A Canadian court has said this is okay. In his defense, he does live in Canada. However, he didn’t move there until three years after the article was published. Either way, these types of cases are going to become increasingly common, and certain locations will build up reputations for (a) allowing internet libel cases that originated elsewhere to be heard there and (b) for regularly siding with the individual making the accusations.

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Comments on “Yet Another Case About The Jurisdiction Over Internet Libel Charges”

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Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

Why not simply make up a list of the biggest offenders (countries like Australia, The U.K. and Canada apparently, who allow frivolous cases like this to plug up their courts) and simply deny access to them based on there laws? When disclaimers start popping up saying ?Because your country is backwards and stupid, you are not allowed to view this content?? People will be pissed, and laws will change.

Michael Roberts of the (profile) says:

Well, the Internet libel does have universal exposure two all jurisdictions that are plugged in...

The Internet is a good thing, justice is a good thing, all good things are subject to abuse, including both Internet and justice. I know just how debilitating and anguishing Internet smear campaigns and online libel can be because I help its victims are living. The Australian High Court ruling cited in this article is, I believe, one of the most common sense rulings I have read. the victim of libel was an Australian, the publication although originating in the United States was made available to Australians, the damage to the victim’s reputation was sustained in Australia. The Australian High Court explains this perfectly in the case called Dow Jones & Co. Inc. v Gutnick: Here is a little snippet:

“If people wish to do business in, or indeed travel to, or live in, or utilize the infrastructure of different countries, they can hardly expect to be absolved from compliance with the laws of those countries. The fact that publication might occur everywhere does not mean that it occurs nowhere.” (per Callinan J at para 186)


“the spectre which Dow Jones sought to conjure up in the present appeal, of a publisher forced to consider every article it publishes on the World Wide Web against the defamation laws of every country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe is seen to be unreal when it is recalled that in all except the most unusual of cases, identifying the person about whom material is to be published will readily identify the defamation law to which that person may resort.”

Regards, Michael Roberts of

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