Foreign Libel Courts Open for Business

When Americans think about reasons to visit Britain, what usually comes to mind is seeing old castles, eating scones, and drinking tea. But, for celebrities at least, there's another excellent reason: taking magazines to the cleaners! Apparently Jennifer Lopez, Harrison Ford, and Britney Spears are all indulging in "libel tourism," which was inaugurated in 2000 when London-based Russian émigré Boris Berezovsky (more here) took action against Forbes for portraying him as "a brutal thug and crook."

According to Belfast "solicitor" (sounds so much better than "lawyer," no?) Paul Tweed, who seems to have enthusiastically applied ambulance-chasing tactics to this particular niche of the law, various celebrities as well as Russian oligarchs are currently gearing up to sidestep free speech-enshrining US laws by suing, or threatening to sue, publications via Britain's Royal Courts of Justice.

As he advised a audience of Hollywood lawyers yesterday, an effective strategy for "obtaining a speedy and satisfactory resolution for US plaintiffs has been the threat or implementation of multi-jurisdictional proceedings." However, New York State has passed legislation to protect writers and publishers here, so our gossipmongers and defamers can go about their business unimpeded, for now.

Invasion of the Libel Tourists [Independent]