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Legal Threat Demands Techdirt Shut Down 346

Posted by timothy
from the slapp-in-the-face dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this month, the US approved a new law to fight against so-called 'libel tourism,' the practice of suing US companies in foreign jurisdictions (quite frequently, the UK) which do not have the same level of free speech protections. The new law, the SPEECH Act, may now get put to the test, as lawyers for a guy named Jeffrey Morris in the UK, who was upset about some comments on a 2004 blog post on Techdirt, have demanded the entire site shut down due to those unidentified comments."
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Legal Threat Demands Techdirt Shut Down

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  • So much for... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheMidnight (1055796) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:00PM (#33384226)
    people crying that free speech here isn't as free as that in Europe. It's not true! It's legal in the U.S. to be racist, homophobic, a Holocaust denier, to be for or against abortion, or any other issue. Hell, it's legal to film sex and sell it here! In Europe, there are a lot of places it's not legal to be any of those things. While they're hateful positions that we can silence by not giving any attention to, the fact you can speak anything without fear is our greatest treasure, in my opinion. In several places in Europe, you go to jail for denying the Holocaust. You go to jail for preaching against homosexuals from your pulpit.

    I'm sure I'll be modded down for saying it, but it needs to be said. Free speech is damn free in this country, and I'm glad we're going to even further lengths to protect it!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      people crying that free speech here isn't as free as that in Europe. It's not true! It's legal in the U.S. to be racist, homophobic, a Holocaust denier, to be for or against abortion, or any other issue. Hell, it's legal to film sex and sell it here! In Europe, there are a lot of places it's not legal to be any of those things. While they're hateful positions that we can silence by not giving any attention to, the fact you can speak anything without fear is our greatest treasure, in my opinion. In several places in Europe, you go to jail for denying the Holocaust. You go to jail for preaching against homosexuals from your pulpit.

      I'm sure I'll be modded down for saying it, but it needs to be said. Free speech is damn free in this country, and I'm glad we're going to even further lengths to protect it!

      Our libel laws in the UK are one thing I truly detest and wish I could have what you Americans do. There's not much else I prefer in all honesty, but you guys got freedom of speech down cold.

      • Re:So much for... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dyingtolive (1393037) <brad,arnett&notforhire,org> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:07PM (#33384292)

        There's not much else I prefer in all honesty, but you guys got freedom of speech down cold.

        Well, long as it's not more than four words from a lyric out of a RIAA owned song.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Roger W Moore (538166)

        Our libel laws in the UK are one thing I truly detest and wish I could have what you Americans do.

        Really? You object to being required to be able to prove that what you said is true if it causes someone damage? Personally I think it puts the responsibility in the right place. If you cannot prove that what you are saying is true then why are you presenting it as fact?

        There's not much else I prefer in all honesty, but you guys got freedom of speech down cold.

        As a brit who lived in the US for several years you ought to try it before making comments like that. Remember that the freedom to say something does not imply freedom from the consequences of saying it and if those consequences are severe

        • Re:So much for... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by interval1066 (668936) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:05PM (#33386042) Homepage Journal

          "As a brit who lived in the US for several years you ought to try it before making comments like that. Remember that the freedom to say something does not imply freedom from the consequences of saying it and if those consequences are severe enough to put you off saying what you think do you really have true freedom of speech?

          Even if I weren't an American who's lived in Europe (amd Asia) for many years I still feel eminently qualified to ask you: Isn't it possible that there can possibly be consequences for things you have not said or done yet this (really unique) attitude you're espousing can lead to completely innocent people being taken to court? Does the old adage "Sticks and stones" really hold no weight with you people? Do you really believe that not being allowed to say what you want make your society better? I really feel bad for you, you don't even seem to understand this rather simple but important political freedom. For all the things you might say about American society, my freedom to write "President Obama sucks" is considered so sacred here I can't even describe it. And you refuse to understand it even a little. That is what Americans find so bizarre about Europeans.

          • So people are free to say hateful things...

            And other people are free to respond like those at Columbine.

            Is that the freedom American worship? The freedom to cause hurt to the level that people go off and kill 20-30 people in revenge?

            Free speech for violence....

            I would tend to like to see some limits, but understand why not having any is better than having someone else decide what those limits might be, though we do have limits, on people viewing or showing *legal* things like having sex, but have no limits

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by vegiVamp (518171)
            Don't tase me, bro. Remember that guy's freedom of speech ?
          • Re:So much for... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Xest (935314) on Friday August 27, 2010 @05:29AM (#33390208)

            Try talking about how all cops are pigs and deserve to die when there are police around. Try talking about how you think it'd be justice for America's crimes in the middle east if a bomb blows up your plane at an airport. Try talking about how you think al qaeda are spot on in blowing up the twin towers in new york.

            In fact, try talking about a gag order issued by the FBI and give details about it:

            http://www.daniweb.com/news/story304255.html [daniweb.com]

            Presumably with your assumption of freedom and believe that people shouldn't be able to say what they wish, you're against a ban of teaching creationism in science class? Surely a teacher with strong religious believes, no matter how invalid should have the right to speak to their class about those beliefs if free speech is to sit above all else?

            Feel free to read from here down to the bottom of the article to get yourself plenty more examples that demonstrate that no, you don't always have free speech in the US:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States#Types_of_restraints_on_speech [wikipedia.org]

            No, your freedom of speech in the US is as much a fantasy as it is in Europe. Sure certain European nations ban things the US doesn't, but there are other things where it works both ways- public talk sympathetic to the Nazi's might be banned in some European countries for example, but those countries don't infringe civil liberties with things like warrantless wiretaps. You seem to be suggesting there's no situation in which limits on freedom of speech can improve society, but in the context of one specific case for example do you really believe the interest of society is better served by the Phelps group being allowed to spout the stuff they do publicly more so than it being banned so that people such as grieving parents of deceased soldiers don't have to face it on funeral day?

            Ultimately the American viewpoint comes down to a deeply embedded paranoia of government, there's a fear that if they accept that some speech being banned does in fact improve society, there's a fear that it will lead to a slippery slope and be used negatively against legitimate speech, so the American solution is to simply pretend that you have and must keep free speech at all costs, all the whilst using less direct methods of stifling speech you don't like. In contrast, in Europe, we're just upfront about what is unwanted and unacceptable in a modern civilised society- but still just as cautious of the slippery slope problem, and it is precisely that caution that means despite having laws against hate speech in public and so forth, we're still not living in brutal dictatorships, and in many parts of Europe, are even more free than the average American citizen.

            The problem with American viewpoints like yours, is that you basically believe America's own bullshit- land of the free, a global symbol of respect for civil liberties and all that. Yet this is the country that's performed torture, extraordinary rendition, the country that has bans on abortions, that's grossly homophobic even at the state level, that allowed warrantless wiretapping and so forth. It's like the couple that appear fine as if they are the perfect couple in public, but where the husband beats her when they're at home in private, the public face Americans feel they must put on, is quite different to the reality of US laws and actions. You can keep telling yourselves America is all well and good and that it's citizens are completely free, but that wont stop the rest of the world being able to see that that really just isn't the case. That is what Europeans find so bizzare about Americans.

        • Re:So much for... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@NoSPaM.pitabred.dyndns.org> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @05:10PM (#33386100) Homepage

          You have perfect freedom of speech. The government, you know, the guys with the laws? They won't do anything to stop you from saying whatever you want. In Europe, you have both governmental AND social pressure. US, it's only social pressure. It's also why we somewhat protect anonymous speech, so people can say what needs said without knee-jerk consequences.

          • Re:So much for... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:49PM (#33387308)

            They won't do anything to stop you from saying whatever you want.

            Except if there's money involved and potentially an over-the-top cost lawsuit. Or asymmetric contractual obligations. Or fraud. Or patents. Or copyright. Or "think of the children". Or terrorism. Or "national security". Or a verbal threat to the president. Or shouting "fire!" in a theatre. Or...

            Face it, the US obsession with so-called "free speech" is bizarre. The amount of free speech available in the US is pretty much the same as any modern western democracy. Yes, you can probably foam at the mouth about lots of things but only problem is, the glaring exception is that anytime anything important is involved, like money, that so-called freedom-of-speech goes out the window.

            Sorry, but being able to talk however you like about unimportant things isn't very important. Really. And in addition actions speak louder than words.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by 2obvious4u (871996)
      Just don't write fiction about child molestation and you're fine, even the US has its limits on free speech.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        or try and bring home some Japanese manga with any girly bits in them on anyone who isnt obviously 110 years old.

      • by BlueStrat (756137)

        Just don't write fiction about child molestation and you're fine, even the US has its limits on free speech.

        Wait, what? As far as I'm aware, writing a fictional story is not illegal in the US regardless of subject.

        Otherwise, the government has been ignoring blatant lawbreaking as seen here;

        http://www.literotica.com/ [literotica.com]

        http://www.asstr.org/ [asstr.org]

        Strat

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MBGMorden (803437)

          Stories I think are clear. However, laws have been passed which prohibit the display of a fictional illustration depicting child pornography. At one time a law was drafted (not sure if it ever passed) which declared it illegal to display pornography in which the subject APPEARED underaged even if she physically was not. Little Lupe fans still haven't been (successfully) prosecuted yet though, so I'm doubting enforcement on that law if it passed is 100% . . .

    • Re:So much for... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ADRA (37398) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:13PM (#33384398)

      But Oh my god, don't show nudity on public TV! That's just obscene!

      • by Cyner (267154)

        That which is publicly available and privately available are two very different things. Besides, there are only a handful of public TV channels; Cable isn't "public" (under most circumstances); nor is Satellite TV. And i can attest, we do have channels with porn all day long.

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        Public TV no, but the subject itself isn't completely banned. Anyone who wants to see nudity doesn't have to look far.

        That said, I have seen a few (usually right wing extremists) who have called for a complete ban on it. I think a few jurisdictions do so though. Kinda like the dry counties in the south where prohibition lives on even now.

    • Re:So much for... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:24PM (#33384530)

      Actually, California is the only state with a precedent (people v. Freeman) on record differentiating the production of pornography from prostitution, it's one of the reasons that the vast majority of porn made is the US is made in California. When you think about it, the distinction doesn't really make much sense; paying for sex is illegal... unless you film it with the intent to sell the video, in which case it's fine.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MBGMorden (803437)

        In parts of Nevada where prostitution is legal, I'd wager that the (admittedly flimsy) distinction doesn't need to be made at all.

      • by corbettw (214229)

        I think the difference is that all participants in pornographic sex are being paid to perform. If you hire a hooker, it doesn't suddenly become legal to pay here to have sex with you if a camera's involved.

        Of course, there's nothing stopping you from setting up your own dummy corporation and "paying" yourself to perform in your own videos.

    • Re:So much for... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cgenman (325138) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:46PM (#33384826) Homepage

      It's even legal in the US to be Jeffrey Morris, though he will now go down in the internet archives as a complete prat whom you should never do business with.

    • One of the fundamental requirements for a free market is an informed consumer with choices.

      One could interpret matters like this as suppliers trying to keep their dirty laundry quiet, trying to keep consumers in the dark, keep them from making fully informed choices. Obviously if available information is clearly incorrect that needs to be fixed, but it's also not clear that that's the case here.

      Most people have been looking at this from a freedom-of-speech point of view, and that's valid. But there are ot

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      It's legal in the U.S. to be racist, homophobic

      Not just legal...highly encouraged.

  • huh (Score:5, Informative)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:01PM (#33384240) Homepage
    Test? What test? The Act pretty solidly protects techdirt from the UK parties seeking to enforce a judgment in the US. It doesn't protect them overseas though, but as long as they don't have assets in a country where the judgment can be enforced they shouldn't have a problem. But you're not going to see some dramatic legal case where this is tested.
  • "So, uh, yeah, go ahead and sue. And tell them they can rule that I need to shut my site down. Oh, wait, what country were you in again?"
  • Jeff Morris (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:08PM (#33384302) Journal

    Is a fucking asshole.

  • Pot meet kettle (Score:5, Informative)

    by Neil Watson (60859) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:08PM (#33384310) Homepage

    It would seem a strange turn since the USA allowed a one of its firms to sue a foreign entity not that long ago: http://www.spamhaus.org/organization/statement.lasso?ref=3 [spamhaus.org]

    • by santax (1541065)
      Well, they also found it normal that copyright didn't go for 'foreign' products. A lot of early writers, musicians, filmmakers and inventors found out about that one. They also find it normal to get the world to sign ACTA, even if a 'bit' of pressure (read: threat) is used... And yet the USA wonders why about 90% of the people in the world hates the country. Now this will probably be mod down to troll by the same people that say they have such great free speech, completely ignoring the fact that a large par
      • Re:Pot meet kettle (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rijnzael (1294596) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:29PM (#33384572)
        Actual research [worldpublicopinion.org] disagrees with many of your generalizations. And yeah, the US has considerable freedoms related to free speech while having significantly many other problems. Still, I somehow doubt you've ever lived in the US and are getting all your information from those same people who fed you that 90% fabrication.
        • by santax (1541065)
          Have looked at the participating countries? Lol.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by santax (1541065)
          Btw, it's called in your own paper as the Obama effect... Do that same 'research'(poll lol) again. This time without the USA please. That is not research, it's a freaking poll.
          • Re:Pot meet kettle (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Rijnzael (1294596) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:55PM (#33384966)
            You're right, asking people how they feel about the US in a representative manner is a fundamentally flawed way of establishing a country-by-country perception of the US. And we should totally exclude those things which make people view the US more favorably. Gosh, what was I thinking. /s
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by santax (1541065)
              You don't ask the USA how the rest of the world thinks about them... That will fuck up such a great 'scientific research'. How do you think this poll would come out with Bush still as president and without the USA being able to participate? Do you really think it would be better? I know you guys are sometimes a bit ignorant, but trust me mate... go here on the streets and ask what people find about the USA politics. Then be a man and admit you were wrong. But having said that, feel free to keep your head in
      • by blair1q (305137)

        Still better politics than France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan, China, Australia, Somalia, Russia, and the Pirate Bay.

        But that ain't saying much...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That's a terrible example. Spamhaus conceded jurisdiction by responding to the claim in US court. What they should have done was to contest the Jurisdiction. I assume they thought they were going to win and only upon realizing they were likely to lose did they run away to the UK.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rijnzael (1294596)
      Yes, that first case was clearly a failure of the justice system. I'm glad to see it was struck down on appeal, but the fact that a law firm needed to take it on pro bono to see the idiocy of the complainant is very disconcerting indeed.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      it's even stranger since the USA recently used European legal actions as evidence when threatening open prosecution of a major American corporation:

      http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1726603/ftc-intel-announce-settlement [theinquirer.net]

  • It just goes to show (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:11PM (#33384356)

    How mankind absolutely cannot recognize the fact that he lives in a global society, and that the internet is a global medium. I'm currently writing this post from Costa Rica where, as a born Canadian citizen and an adopted British and EU Citizen (my mother is Scots) I hold legal residency, and have for 20 years.

    It's unfortunate that the ignorance of different laws and customs among those (supposedly) smart people we elect to represent us and judge us leads to this kind of mess. Why can the US enforce it's own very restrictive copyright laws and extradite people from oh, I don't know, Australia for example, to face criminal copyright infringement charges; only to turn around and then prevent its citizens (real or corporate) to be shielded from other countries' laws?

    A decision must be taken: to enforce either the weakest possible or strongest possible law in every case, in order to avoid the arbitrariness not doing this would lead to; or to disconnect the internet.

    • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:16PM (#33384428)

      Why can the US enforce it's own very restrictive copyright laws and extradite people from oh, I don't know, Australia for example, to face criminal copyright infringement charges; only to turn around and then prevent its citizens (real or corporate) to be shielded from other countries' laws?

      Because the leaders of Australia went "Oh, go ahead, here he is! We'll even send a police escort with him, and pay for the plane tickets!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by swanzilla (1458281)

      Why can the US enforce it's own very restrictive copyright laws and extradite people from oh, I don't know, Australia for example, to face criminal copyright infringement charges; only to turn around and then prevent its citizens (real or corporate) to be shielded from other countries' laws?

      Because, the rest of the world can suck it!

      [cracks Budweiser]

      USA! USA! USA!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      Because not all of mankind lives in a global society. The rich and mobile do, but the majority of humans don't have that luxury.

      Nations still exist because the majority of the peoples that live in nations want their nations to continue, they don't want to live in a global society. That is true even in the rich and mobile nations.

      Who in the EU wants social laws and punishments to be leveled from EU norms to strike a balance with Saudi Arabia, Iran or the People's Republic of China?

      Hell, ask Canadians in Brit

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Ask Quebec if they want to be a sovereign country they go hell yeah. Ask the east coasters if they want to join the US and they hmm. Might not be bad.

  • IANAL, but isn't there any kind of jurisdiction regarding stuff like this. Why is a law needed for, "Courts that have no jurisdiction here can't have jurisdiction here."? From the ISP's perspective: 1. The ISP is American (I assume), and 2. The client is American, and 3. If the client and/or ISP haven't broken any American laws why should they use a UK cease and desist for anything other than toilet paper? If the client and/or ISP HAVE broken American laws, the person should sue using the American court s
    • I believe because the person who commit the libel was in the UK at the time.

      • Ok, I can see how that person should be able to sue for damages in the UK courts then (which the defendant could probably ignore unless he plans to travel to the UK in the future), but I still don't see how that should get the site that's no where near UK jurisdiction shut down.
  • As much as I'm against filtering at all, if your country/government doesn't like what's said in another country, it's up to your country to filter it out.

    We aren't going to bend to your will or around your laws when on our soil, Mr. Dickhead in the UK. Don't like my opinion and what I have to say? Know what that sounds like? It sounds like a tough break for you.
  • by kaptink (699820) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:16PM (#33384432) Homepage

    The story looks to be about this post http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20041001/0941211.shtml [techdirt.com] regarding Jeftel in which the company is called out for being a spam sham. This guy doesnt exactly look like the next Richard Branson :) Jeftel.com doesnt exactly resolve to a legit operation either. Just a default holder page. Is this guy just pissed for being caught out? What a douche

  • Great, just great.. the solicitors are from Leeds too. My home town, it'd only be a relatively short walk to get to them in town too.

    Thanks Addlestone Keane Law, great way to help the international reputation of Leeds.. for fucks sake. This is going to go streisand effect, I just know it.
  • You are a flaming asshole. Please to go fuck yourself.

  • by paiute (550198) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:48PM (#33384864)

    "It is entirely possible that the lawyers were unaware of the SPEECH Act, but it does seem like a law firm making legal threats in a foreign country should be expected to have researched the legal barriers to making such a claim before using billable hours to make threats they cannot back up."

    The law firm doesn't care if their threats are stupid:

    Client: I want to sue!
    Attorney: Well, you don't have grounds and probably can't win.
    Client: I don't care! I want to sue!
    Attorney: Okay. (Now with a clear conscience, turns on the clock.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929)

      Note that "clear conscience" actually means "sufficient warning given to client to avoid liability in eventual malpractice lawsuit".

  • by blair1q (305137) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @04:00PM (#33385058) Journal

    The Internet is not an open-air medium. I am not broadcasting anything to you, as I would by speaking it audibly into airspace or transmitting it into the electromagnetic aether.

    I am placing words on a server with a known location. In order for your precious subjects to come across my words and be offended/libeled/scandalized/blasphemed by them, they have to find the server, access it, request the information, decode it, and present to themselves it on their equipment.

    And likely their request has to cross an international boundary to reach the server.

    Therefore, what I type into my computer that they are not allowed to read in your country is not for you to stop me from posting, nor for you to stop the server from serving. It is for you to tell your subjects not to read, if you choose to have laws that make certain forms of speech illegal in your country.

    That's quite aside from the fact that it is likely that making such things illegal makes you a freedom-hating tyrant who can just fuck off.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @06:37PM (#33387172) Homepage Journal

    I dislike the US trying to tell the UK what Constitution it should have, particularly as the US has actively condemned any interference by other nations in the US' legal system. (Including, I might add, efforts by the UN to prevent a Mexican being executed. Seems to me the death penalty is just a tad more severe than the UK's libel system -- even after factoring in listening to the lawyers.)

    I doubly resent this clamp-down because the US has profited greatly from countries like the UK exporting civil cases to the US where the US' laws would be better for the plaintiff. Indeed, the US actively encourages lawsuit tourism when it is the money-maker. I'm sorry, but double standards don't wash.

    If the US wants to impress anyone with this effort, then it must cut both ways. If they want other nations to respect US Constitutional rights, the the US has to respect its international obligations as well. That includes not letting the RIAA order "DeCSS Jon"-style stormtrooper action, not pressuring India to drop all action against American companies over Bhopal, not pressuring other nations to come up with bogus charges against people like the owner of Wikileaks, honoring the warrant against the 22 CIA agents in Italy for kidnap, etc. Further, if they want cases that are fundamentally American in nature to be heard in America, they must prohibit cases that are fundamentally the property of those nations to hear those cases.

    The reality is, we know damn well that the US won't ban foreign lawsuits and will continue to infringe on the sovereignty of other nations. As, indeed, will all other nations. It's not uniquely a US problem. However, just considering the US, it is insanity to have these kinds of one-way barriers. That infringes on freedom far more than the libel cases ever did, especially given the sheer magnitude of some of them. (Any one of the ones I noted are way worse than all of the libel cases exported from the US combined.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by St.Creed (853824)

      I'm still waiting for the extradition of the pilots who murdered a load of Italian civilians. My ski-teacher was one of the first responders and still has nightmares. The people inside were crushed like grapes.

      It's been 12 years, but everyone in North-Italy who was skiing in the region at the time knows what happened. And noone forgets it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavalese_cable_car_disaster [wikipedia.org]

      Stuff like this, makes it REALLY hard to take the US govt. serious when they request extradition for criminals.

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