Academic Author Sues Journal Editor For Criminal Defamation Over Negative Book Review

from the which-hurts-your-reputation-more? dept

There are some people out there who appear to believe that anything they don’t like is defamation — or anything that makes them look bad, even if it’s true. Fortunately, that’s not the way defamation law works. But it doesn’t stop some from trying to use the law that way anyway. Kevin Carson writes in to let us know of a lecturer/author named Karin Calvo-Goller, who recently wrote a book on The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court. Another law professor, Thomas Weigand, reviewed the book for Global Law Books and didn’t feel it lived up to its potential. The review is a pretty typical book review. Hardly scathing.

But Calvo-Goller was apparently upset by it, and contacted the editor of the journal (another law professor) asking for the review to be suppressed on the grounds that the review might “have a negative impact on her ‘professional reputation and academic promotion,'” and that there were factual errors in the review that were libelous. The editor refused to take down the review, noting that he did not find the statements libelous (including detailed notes on why the statements were not, in fact, wrong), but did so in an extremely polite manner. He kicked it off with a very friendly opening to Calvo-Goller, agreeing how painful it is to get a negative review of one’s book (and relating his own experiences dealing with negative reviews) and warning her directly that:

I think, however, that your reputation would suffer even more if you emerged as someone who tried to suppress a critical book review of the kind published by That is my advice to you as a friend.

He also suggested, politely again, that if she disagreed with some aspects of the review, he would allow her to write up a response, which he would post alongside the review — something that almost no other book review sites would offer.

Calvo-Goller apparently chose not to heed this advice or accept the offer, and after a terse note demanding the review be taken down again, she sued the editor for criminal defamation in France, where the editor is now scheduled to stand trial later this year.

The editor, Joseph Weiler, has written up the whole saga (pdf), including the letters between the two. He concludes by pointing out how this lawsuit seems to go against all principles of academic discourse:

I believe that in the circumstances of this affair, her action of instigating a criminal libel case against me for refusing to remove the book review is misguided and inconsistent with the most fundamental practices of all academic institutions with which I am familiar and with traditional academic discourse.

It really is difficult to see how someone could think that a slightly negative review could do more harm to one’s professional reputation than filing a criminal defamation lawsuit against the editor who published that review.

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Comments on “Academic Author Sues Journal Editor For Criminal Defamation Over Negative Book Review”

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M.A.Bodine says:

Re: WHY auditor looks for foreign FRAUDS first.

those face tattoos of soCAL are not only a dead giveAway; CALifornia is much smaller than ALASKA. I recently listened to RAVEL and Brahms and Brandenburg concierto and her Passport expired near Hall of Mountain King while trying to pay her Fur Elise. Microsoft programs expert.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m a Vine reviewer for Amazon, and I’ve written less flattering reviews – I have a legal and IT background, and I’ve also written reviews for hundreds of books, because when they cost this much – $155 for Ms. Calvo-Goller’s book, it’s helpful to know what you’re getting. Many times, I’m the only reviewer because the books are incredibly obscure specialty titles.

You’ve probably never read The Socio-Economic Demographics and Legal Status of Etruscan Goat F–ers. Try finding that one on the shelves of your local Barnes and Noble.

Anonymous1 says:

I don’t know what’s more pathetic, her case or the fact that there are criminal liabilities in France for defamation. I wouldn’t show up for the trial either.
I would then write an even more scathing book review at the same time as thumbing my nose at the French courts.
Chances of extradition? Slim to none, IMHO.

P.S.Karin Calvo-Goller is a horrible author, and nothing she writes is worth anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Did I give a link to my reviews? First, I wouldn’t, because the law firm I work for doesn’t want or need publicity, and second, the link would be useless to anyone who wasn’t directly employed in our industry. My reason for commenting was to note that I write reviews for obscure legal books like Ms. Goller’s every week, and the reviewer she’s suing wrote a piece I consider to be factual and completely professional.

Burgos says:

Re: How did this lunatic earn a doctorate?

Ooops! I left the comment box empty. But as I was saying… from the author’s complaint to the review’s publisher:

Prof. Weigend’s statement: ‘augmented by references to the scant English-language literature available at the time of her writing’ (emphasis not in original) is factually false, it makes abstraction of over 1,000 references to relevant books and articles, and to some 300 references to the ad hoc Tribunals decisions and judgments.

The poor lady can’t read!

known coward says:

Re: Re:

Agreed this dispute needs to be taken to alabama.

“He’s lucky he’s getting sued in France. That way he’s less likely to get gunned down for defaming her character. That’s not a troll; we just had a professor gun down six people (three dead)for being denied tenure, and the core issue was that whole ‘professional reputation’ thing. “

danny bloome says:

There's more to come on this legal eagle story that has legs, as we say in the Adam Liptak one-sided newsroom. And Techdirt, Dr Calvo-Goller is a French citizen with a French passport, she is not Israeli. Please correct that quaint antisemitic punchy hed,

There’s more to come on this legal eagle story that has legs, as we say in the Adam Liptak one-sided newsroom. And Techdirt, Dr Calvo-Goller is a French citizen with a French passport, she is not Israeli. Please correct that quaint antisemitic punchy hed, can you? French, repeat, she is French. See below:

quote unquote: “***As a French citizen, I am supposed to know this and to behave accordingly.”

Dr Calvo-Goller wrote: “Yes, I would like to speak to the Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Jennifer Howard about the case.
I propose you ask me the questions by mail, I will answer promptly, if your questions reach me during the day. Should you have further questions, you can call me.

My husband, Dr. Michel Calvo, posted a comment on the web which contains more information.

The filing of a complaint against Dr Joseph Weiler at NYU is not about trying to have only positive book reviews, it is about responsible book reviewing and about factually true book reviews.

My mail box at the Academic Center of Law and Business, was flooded with an incredible amount of insulting mails and requests for information.

Until a judgment is rendered, it is considered not to be good faith practice to try and influence the outcome through the web or the press. ***As a French citizen, I am supposed to know this and to behave accordingly. Not so for Dr Weiler who is not French.

Looking forward to hear from you,

Karin (Calvo-Goller)

in response to:

Dear Ms. Calvo-Goller,
Danny Bloome got in touch with me and passed on this email address for you. Let me know if you would like to speak with the Chronicle about the Weiler case. I’ve had no luck reaching you through your Academic Center of Law and Business email address.

Thanks and best,

Jennifer Howard
Senior Reporter
The Chronicle of Higher Education
1255 23rd St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20037

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