Libel Tourism - Why English Courts are still the preferred venue for many international claimants


In this article, Michael Axe takes a look at a number of recent court decisions in the field of international and internet-based libel.

England's defamation laws are considered by many to be amongst the most "claimant friendly" in the world, and as such, the English Courts are a popular forum for bringing international libel claims. To bring a libel claim in England, a claimant will normally need to be able to show that:

a) the defamatory statement was published in England, and,

b) the claimant has a sufficiently close connection with England (for example, they have established a significant reputation in England and/or they have substantial financial and commercial interests in England).

The increase in online publications over the last decade or so has made it easier than ever to establish that a defamatory statement has been "published" in England, because under English law a defamatory statement is "republished" every time it is accessed via the internet (the so-called "internet publication rule"). This rule means that as long as the website in question has been accessed by visitors based in England, it may be possible to bring a libel claim in the English Courts even if the parties involved are themselves based abroad, the website in question is operated from abroad and the primary/original publication of the defamatory statement occurred abroad.

The English "internet publication rule" is in stark contrast to the libel laws of other countries; for example, the US has the "single publication doctrine" which states that only the original publication of an allegedly defamatory statement gives rise to a claim, and so any additional copies (available either in printed form or online) do not give rise to any additional claims.

The "internet publication rule" can be of particular concern to any parties who maintain an archive of online material, as illustrated by a number of recent cases which are considered in this article.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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