Libel Tourism Law

This Publishers Weekly article reports President Obama’s signing of a libel tourism law. Libel tourism is the practice of shopping around the world courts for those that are more friendly to libel cases. So, instead of suing an American author in an American court, in the example given in the article, you’d sue them in a British court, which in the anecdotal case had remarkable results.

The premise of the new law is that such practices are a way to work around American authors’ first amendment rights, since those rights are of no particular concern to foreign courts. I presume that this may benefit print and  online publishers as well.

As a side note, shopping for courts is nothing new. It’s been long felt, for example, that certain federal district courts were hostile to patents. In local criminal cases, an accused may face a notoriously stern or lenient judge, depending on the luck of the draw. These examples, at least, occur under the same legal framework, unlike shopping for international courts.