Friday, July 23, 2010

A Victory for Writing

New York Times
July 22, 2010

It is a rare achievement these days for the Senate to pass anything of real substance by a unanimous vote. But an important bill that protects Americans from the whims of foreign libel judgments was passed earlier this week by unanimous consent. Once it passes the House and is signed into law, it will provide a safeguard to authors and publishers threatened with ruinous foreign judgments.

In the United States, a plaintiff alleging libel must prove that a statement is false and defamatory, and public figures have to show that a writer acted with actual malice in making a false statement. But these protections, rooted in the First Amendment, do not exist in places like Britain, Australia and Singapore, where the burden is often on the author, once accused of libel, to show that a statement is true.