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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @02:57PM (#33384170)

    Isn't there a statute of limitations in the UK on libel/slander? I know that if a case is brought more than 2-3 years (depending on type of libel/slander and state), a judge would laugh it out of the courtroom.

  • 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!
  • by logjon ( 1411219 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:00PM (#33384232)
    Regardless of statute of limitations, a judge in any state in the US would laugh it out of court on merit alone.
  • 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.

  • Why care? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:22PM (#33384496) Journal
    Perhaps it is my lack of understanding of law but I fail to see why any firm should care about being sued in a foreign court when they have no presence in that foreign country. First there was the UK spam filtering company sued in the US, now there is this reverse case. Why did the US congress even need to pass the SPEECH act? Aren't US companies protected from UK laws by merely being in the US and not the UK just as the reverse applies? Isn't this what sovereignty means? The only exception would be extradition but that only applies to criminal, not civil cases.
  • 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:Pot meet kettle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:29PM (#33384578) Homepage

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

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:39PM (#33384714)

    Thats funny, while I've lived in the Great Plains, the Pacific Northwest, western Florida and now Alaska, I never pretend that I know what other parts of the US are like. The US is very different as you go from place to place, there is no "American culture" despite what MTV and Hollywood would have you think.

    The government is mostly the same, the banks and restaurants are generally the same and there is a common language(s), but thats about it. Some parts are white, some red, some black.

    Getting on a plane in Portland OR and getting off it in Atlanta and going downtown felt more different than when I went from Tel Aviv to Munich.

    John Keegan said in Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America, that as a European coming to the US, he felt the great unifiers were restaurant chains and brands. Applebees, Dennys, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Taco Bells everywhere gives Americans a sense they are in the same country. At least as much as the flag does

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

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:42PM (#33384766)

    Indeed. Especially when the rest of the post is basically pandering to the audience at hand. It's a persecution complex - people love to feel like the underdog.

    If this site was run by Baskin Robbins I have no doubt there would be people here posting:

    "I know I'll be modded down for saying this, but I've got karma to burn. Ice cream is fucking awesome!"

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

    by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @03:55PM (#33384974) Journal

    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 enough to put you off saying what you think do you really have true freedom of speech?

  • 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.

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

    by KahabutDieDrake ( 1515139 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @04:02PM (#33385100)
    Come to Portland, OR. The culture shock will astound you. Having lived on both coast, and parts of the south, I can honestly say that you don't have any idea what you are in for. In a lot of ways things are the same. But in a lot of ways, they are very very different. For me it's always the little things that screw with my head. For instance, going from Seattle, WA to Tennessee. The people in TN were VERY polite and more than willing to stop and help a stranger, something you are less likely to encounter on the west coast. Also, no one ever seemed to be in a hurry down there. Where as up in the NW, everyone is always in a hurry even when they don't have anywhere to be. I'm sure there a million other little things, but it all adds up to some serious culture shock. Not on the scale of going from the US to the EU, but that's a different ball game entirely.
  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @04:03PM (#33385116)

    Something like that yes. I believe what you have to show is damage to reputation, which means you have to show that you had a reputation to damage, and that that reputation has been damaged (eg, if you have a reputation in one area, but the libelous words were spoken elsewhere to someone who'd never heard of you, that wouldn't count).

    Whether your reputation was based on a lie or not, and the libelous words uttered were actually, you may be correct in that that is somewhat considered secondary ... the damage is damage. However, what the court awards you for the damage is likely to be affected by this. You may win the case but only be awarded £1 + legal costs. The problem is that the legal costs are likely large enough that even if the court say you don't have to pay damages, you're still ruined. This is why it desperately needs change, because it is just a weapon for the rich.

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

    by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @04:06PM (#33385168) Homepage Journal

    Every city has its character, and sometimes it's easy to get overwhelmed by it. Finding something eminently recognizable and comfortable can be of huge psychological benefit, even if it's just a place where you know what you can get to eat.

    I've been to a number of major cities around the US: Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, New York, Newark, and Miami are but a few. (I know some of them are major more in a regional context than a national one.) On occasion, I've found myself looking for a burger place I recognize from somewhere I've been. This applies also (and sometimes more strongly) to smaller locations, like the North Carolina Outer Banks or Virginia Beach, where sometimes very little is familiar. Grabbing onto some small factor can provide something to ground oneself, and then be able to figure out the next steps from there.

  • Re:Pot meet kettle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raftpeople ( 844215 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @04:58PM (#33385926)
    You are looking a little foolish with your comments. The USA is included because it is a country. This is a poll of people in various countries rating their opinion of all of the other countries.

    Go back and read the document to understand what they are measuring.
  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:09PM (#33387514)

    We hate your vacuous, amoral culture which acts like it is better than everybody else .. We hate that you push one-sided 'treaties' on us which shoves your copyright down our throats to protect your movie and record industry.

    If your culture doesn't know how to Just Say No, and isn't vacuous and amoral enough to say, "fuck what that other asshole undeservedly wants," then maybe we really are better. At least my liars are pretending to represent me. What excuse are you accepting from your people?

  • by bk2204 ( 310841 ) <> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @07:42PM (#33387782) Homepage

    I don't know about the UK, but in the US courts don't take kindly to having their time wasted. Lawyers that pursue obviously baseless and meritless cases can be the subject of an ethics complaint to the bar association. And when the person referring your case to the bar association is a sitting judge, that doesn't look so good.

  • by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @10:47PM (#33388834)

    I'm by no means a huge fan of the US, I moved away and I'm not in any particular hurry to move back, but for god's sake.

    • No one sane still believes in manifest destiny, to be perfectly honest the primary purpose of manifest destiny in the first place was probably just to allow settlers to wipe out the natives without feeling overly guilty about it, and while other countries didn't have a name for it, former colonies all over the world can attest that pretty much every European power has had the same attitude at some point. The US is also, largely speaking rather isolationist in nature and would, for the most part, rather not deal with the rest of the world let alone meddle in it.
    • Most people are vacuous and amoral, which is why they consume all that crap everywhere in the world, Americans might produce it, but everyone else wants it. As for being only slightly aware of what's going outside your own borders, that's a universal trait. The only reason Europeans are remotely multicultural is that you can drive for an hour and see three different cultures, you're still totally hopeless when it comes down to understanding any culture you can't drive to just like everyone else in the world.
    • Most Americans don't want AFACT anymore than most Europeans do, media companies all over the world however(not just in the US) want them though and they're lobbying governments everywhere to pass them. If your government isn't representing you, vote in a new one.
    • Everyone is like this with "free" trade, they want trade to be free for their goods but not for others. The US is actually pretty good about not putting up too many protectionist tariffs.
    • Americans are somewhat crass in their "if it makes you money and you don't get caught you're good" attitude, but worship of capitalism is hardly unique to the US, nor is(or was) worship of Brittney Spears.
    • The UK was as bad or worse when it came to the whole GFC garbage, and globalization is a reality whether you like it or not, and the Greeks played plenty of asset tricks(even if they were helped in doing so by American companies).
    • US foreign policy is incredibly short sighted, and they do have a tendency to fall for the "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" line when they're trying to avoid their own casualties.
    • In the 2004 election, the one where Bush did best, voter turn out was around 60%, and only 64% of those people voted for Bush, so at his peak, only 38% of the American people voted for Bush(not even counting the people who aren't eligible to vote).

    A lot of Europeans have a belief that because they know an awful lot about other Europeans that they're multicultural, even if they haven't a clue about anyone from further afield. They believe that because their film industries make depressing cultural movies that even their own people don't want to watch that they have a superior culture. They believe that they're not responsible for the things the ass hat who runs their country does because they didn't vote for him, but that all Americans voted for the ass hat who runs theirs.

    The US has more than its fair share of failings, but at least they're fairly open and honest about them as opposed to pretending.

  • by lpq ( 583377 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @10:56PM (#33388870) Homepage Journal

    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 on showing people doing illegal things....

    So, why in all this talk about freedoms are there so many limits on sexual content in the media in the US?

    Are americans really free to show their own porn movie on their front porch where anyone can watch? I don't think so.... How about putting on a free show? Nope...lewd and lascivious behavior! So much for that freedom of expression thing -- if it doesn't involve violent fighting words, it's fair game for censorship. OR if you are 'a student' (on public school grounds) you aren't really allowed freedoms of everyone else (where does it say you only get constitutional rights when you are 18?)

    The US is pretty twisted -- not that I'm saying it's any worse than any place else, though.

    But real freedom of expression? In the US? That's a laugh. Free to insult & criticize isn't the same thing as freedom of expression.

  • by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Friday August 27, 2010 @09:22AM (#33391570)

    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. []

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

Federal grants are offered for... research into the recreation potential of interplanetary space travel for the culturally disadvantaged.