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Legal Threat Demands Techdirt Shut Down 346

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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  • huh (Score:5, Informative)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> 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.
  • 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: []

  • by kaptink ( 699820 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:16PM (#33384432) Homepage

    The story looks to be about this post [] regarding Jeftel in which the company is called out for being a spam sham. This guy doesnt exactly look like the next Richard Branson :) 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

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:21PM (#33384484)

    Not sure but I do know our libel laws here are in desperate need of overhaul, and many are campaigning for this. We have one of (if not, the) highest libel costs in the whole of Europe, making us a very attractive place for libel tourism, as often is the case whether you're guilty or not doesn't matter, merely defending the court action can be enough to bankrupt you, especially if it's against somebody who has the money to throw at it. I know that can be true in many areas of law, but such is the cost of defending libel cases here in the UK, that the effect is far more exaggerated.

  • Re:Pot meet kettle (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rijnzael ( 1294596 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:29PM (#33384572)
    Actual research [] 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.
  • Re:Pot meet kettle (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rijnzael ( 1294596 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:30PM (#33384596)
    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.
  • Re:So much for... (Score:3, Informative)

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:33PM (#33384636)

    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% . . .

  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:55PM (#33384972)

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

  • Re:So much for... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Splab ( 574204 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @04:11PM (#33385244)

    As far as I know, most of Europe has free speech, but you are accountable for what you say - and I'm pretty sure it isn't much different in the US, I bet that if you walk up to an officer of the law in the US and tell him you have a bomb and will detonate it, you are in for a good spanking.

  • Re:Why care? (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Murdoch ( 102085 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @10:41PM (#33388810) Homepage Journal

    The overwhelming majority of lawsuits never go to trial. But the cost of simply responding to a lawsuit can be staggering. Prior to the enactment of the SPEECH Act, the owners of TechDirt could ignore Jeffrey Morris and his U.K. attorney, and not respond to their lawsuit. However, were Morris to actually file suit in a U.K. court, and TechDirt did not respond, the court would more or less automatically find for the plaintiff by "default judgment."

    You got that part--the question you're asking is, "so what?"

    Read the letter from the lawyer at the TechDirt article: Addlestone (the lawyer) makes plain that he will litigate in the U.K., win a judgment--and then promises to pursue "relief" in the U.S. courts. That's the threat.

    Once they win in the U.K., they can file suit in the U.S. to collect on a judgment issued by a court in the U.K. Before the SPEECH Act, a U.S. court would, at the least, hold a hearing to determine whether the suit has merit. That--by itself--would involve major legal fees. Large enough fees that TechDirt would probably be wiser to offer a settlement, paying Morris (and his attorney) cash to go away.

    The SPEECH Act changes that: Morris and his attorney can go into court in the U.K., get a judgment, and bring their judgment to the U.S. Where a judge will simply throw them out of court--potentially awarding attorney's fees to TechDirt.

  • Re:So much for... (Score:3, Informative)

    by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @12:03AM (#33389148) Homepage Journal

    That is not expressing an opinion, or an artistic expression, or anything else to do with free speech: it is a potentially damaging hoax. It is no more free speech than forging a document is.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin