Publishers Cheer House Passage of Libel Tourism Act

October 2, 2008
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October 2 – October 9, 2008 Edition

Publishers Cheer
House Passage
of Libel Tourism Act

Washington, DC/9/30/08–The Association of American Publishers yesterday cheered the passage of legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives late Saturday that would make it harder for “libel tourists” to threaten American authors and publishers with foreign libel suits aimed at undermining their First Amendment rights. The bill, H.R. 6146, which was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), and co-sponsored by a number of House Judiciary Committee members including Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), would prohibit US courts from recognizing a foreign defamation judgment “based upon a publication concerning a public figure or a matter of public concern” unless the court determines that the foreign judgment satisfies the free speech and free press protections guaranteed by the First Amendment. H.R. 6146 is substantially similar to the Libel Terrorism Protection Act adopted earlier this year by New York State. The Senate has yet to take action on libel tourism legislation.

The House-passed bill acknowledges that while US courts will generally enforce foreign judgments as a matter of comity, “…comity does not require that courts enforce foreign judgments that are repugnant to our Nation’s fundamental constitutional values, in particular its strong protection of the right to freedom of speech.”

AAP President and CEO Pat Schroeder expressed thanks on behalf of the publishing industry to members of Congress for focusing attention on the serious problem of libel tourism, and called passage of H.R. 6146 a “strong and encouraging step forward.” “Libel tourism is an insidious threat. It seeks to intimidate and silence American authors and deprive us of vital information on issues of public concern. I hope we can build on H.R. 6146 with hearings in the new Congress that will shine a light into this dark corner,” Mrs. Schroeder said.

The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the US book publishing industry. AAP’s more than 300 members include most of the major commercial publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies. AAP members publish hardcover and paperback books in every field, educational materials for the elementary, secondary, postsecondary, and professional markets, scholarly journals, computer software, and electronic products and services. The protection of intellectual property rights in all media, the defense of the freedom to read and the freedom to publish at home and abroad, and the promotion of reading and literacy are among the Association’s highest priorities.

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