Publishers Cheer Senate Libel Tourism Bill

July 19, 2010
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July 19 – July 25, 2010 Edition Publishers Cheer Senate Libel Tourism Bill

Washington, DC /AUTHORLINK NEWS/July 20, 2010– The Association of American Publishers (AAP) yesterday cheered Senate passage of bi-partisan legislation that will protect American authors and publishers from foreign libel judgments that undermine First Amendment free speech rights.

The SPEECH Act, which passed the Senate July 19 by unanimous consent, prohibits federal courts from recognizing or enforcing foreign libel judgments that do not pass First Amendment muster. The legislation also allows American authors and publishers to go into court and seek a declaration that such a foreign judgment is not enforceable in the U.S., and to do so even if no attempt has been made to enforce the foreign judgment.

The exploitation of plaintiff-friendly foreign libel laws as a weapon to silence American authors and prevent them from speaking out on issues of public concern began attracting public attention after U.S. author Rachel Ehrenfeld was successfully sued in England by a Saudi billionaire even though her book had never been published there. AAP supported Dr. Ehrenfeld in her legal efforts to have the judgment thrown out by a U.S. court, and played a key role in lobbying for federal legislation. Similar legislation passed the House last year.

“We’re very pleased with the Senate’s action,” said Judith Platt, AAP’s director of Freedom to Read. “As we told Congress, these foreign libel judgments not only deprive American authors and publishers of their right to speak, they deprive our citizenry of their right to be informed. The legislation passed today will significantly reduce that chilling effect.”

The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry. AAP’s approximately 300 members include most of the major commercial book 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, post-secondary and professional markets, scholarly journals, computer software and electronic products and services. The Association represents an industry whose very existence depends upon the free exercise of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

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