'Libel tourism is a threat to all web publishers, and something we'll se a lot more of in times to come'
Norwegian media reprimanded for failing to give people the right to reply

A different twist on libel tourism

The web has made the world so much smaller, and in my last post I focused on one of the flipsides of this: the 'spectre of libel tourism'. But the global nature of the web has only exacerbated a problem that is just as much result of a globalised world where reputation has become a global commodity.

'Libel tourism' is equally a threat to broadcasters – the European Broadcasting Corporation (EBU) has lobbied for more uniform European regulation on this for years, unfortunately without much success – and, while researching this topic, I stumbled across an incident where an old-fashion print newspaper was involved. Back in the nineties (the newspaper's correction appeared in 1997), Fiba Nordic Securities Ltd, later called CI Nordic Securities Ltd, sued Dagens Naeringsliv, Norway's biggest financial daily, for libel in London.

The rationale, it seems, was that you could buy the newspaper in London ( I say it seems, because the memory of both the person in charge of the journalistic side of the affair, and the man who dealt with the legal side of it, was a bit flimsy on this point, but they both told me the same story independently of each other, so I think we can assume this was the rationale). In any case, Dagens Naeringsliv's legal team managed to negotiate an out-of-court settlement, and thus a British court case was prevented.

Which brings me to this analysis by Nigel Hanson (via Roy Greenslade), that appeared in The Press Gazette a few weeks after the Kaupthing/Ekstra Bladet story surfaced:

"What is interesting in the Kaupthing case is that an editor whose newspaper is aimed primarily at Danish speakers now feels it may be “dangerous” to translate and publish in English online. Actually, a claim could just as easily have been brought against Ekstra Bladet in London if news stories written in Danish were accessed by Danish speakers here, but perhaps English poses a greater risk because so many more potential readers speak English.

"It would be a bad day for freedom of expression and information if the UK’s claimant-friendly libel laws led to any reduction of English-language content on the internet."


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