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Ekstra Bladet agrees to pay Kaupthing substantial libel damages

The peculiar case of the Icelandic bank who brought a libel suit against a Danish tabloid in London was finally settled today.

Icelandic bank Kaupthing said in a press release that Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet had agreed to pay the bank "very substantial damages", and cover "reasonable legal costs", in an settlement reached between the two parties. Ekstra Bladet has also apologised for the series of articles deemed to be libellous, which appeared, among other things, to accuse Kaupthing of tax evasion, and agreed to carry an apology on its news site for a month.

Bent Falbert, editor-in-chief of Ekstra Bladet, has been fighting to reach an out-of-court-settlement with Kaupthing from the beginning as he was frightened of the staggering costs of fighting a libel case in England.

Today, Berlingske quotes Falbert saying: ”I want to encourage my colleagues in the media industry to be very careful with translating articles to English. A small newspaper might end up folding if it is to pay the legal expenses for such a trial."

But translating articles to English or not is not the key issue here. "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," Nigel Hanson wrote in Press Gazette just after the case surfaced.

"According to law, a statement is libellous where it is read," David Carr, a lawyer who's advised bloggers on libel issues, told me when I talked to him about the threat of libel tourism. The story of how Norwegian financial daily Dagens Næringsliv was sued for libel in London some ten years ago, on the basis of how copies of the paper could be bought in London, is a good example of how this may be interpreted.

Update 15/2: according to Berlingske 'sources on Iceland' say Ekstra Bladet was forced to pay roughly £100.000 in damages to Kaupthing. The bank's legal expenses are understood to have been £50.000 - £70.000.


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