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Icelandic bank takes Danish tabloid to court - in London

Kaupthing has sued Extra Bladet for libel at a London court after the Danish tabloid, in a series of articles about the Icelandic economy, accused the bank of being tax dodgers. (via Berlingske, in Danish).

The rationale for suing in London? Extra Bladet translated the articles to English and published them on its website. This, according to Kaupthing's lawyers, who argue that the articles are highly libellous, means the offence took place in England.

The bank has previously brought an unsuccessful complaint against the tabloid to the Danish press complaints commission.

It's the first time ever that a Danish newspaper is being taken to court in another country for publishing defamatory articles on its news site.

Extra Bladet's editor-in-chief, Bent Falbert, told Berlingske: "It's quite interesting that someone can take us to court in another country for something we have written on our news site. That means we could just as well have been sued in Los Angles or Bejing where you also can sit and read English texts online. If that is the criteria, it's dangerous to use English texts on a news site."

However, a quick Google search showed me that this case is not without precedence. In May 2005, Rachel Ehrenfeld, an Israeli-born author now living in New York, was sued at the high court in London by a Saudi billionaire after she made allegations about him in a book on terrorism. She was sued in London on the basis that 23 copies were bought by individuals in Britain via internet booksellers.

There might be many more examples of this of course, but it was new to me, and Extra Bladet is still shell-shocked, working feverently to reach a settlement before the case goes to court. Not that they don't believe they have a good case, but the sheer cost of an English trial compared to a Danish one is so daunting that even in the case of victory the legal expenses alone would be enough to bankrupt a smaller newspaper...


They should win costs if their case is good.

An English court is unlikely to appreciate being manipulated this way so the plaintiff who loses is very likely to have costs awarded against them.

The problem for the Danish paper though, is the initial cost of lawyers.

One of the complaints against the British courts taking this sort of case on (I believe it was only made possible in about 1995) was that, say Iran's government might wish to sue someone for blasphemy in England. Watch out Danish cartoonists!

Indeed. That would be a very scary scenario, but hopefully also one that would make people wake up to the absurdity of British courts taking on such cases.

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