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UK bloggers uncaged with new libel law

October 13, 2006

Justin Patten and I have discussed that UK’s strict defamation laws may be stymying UK law bloggers. Well, perhaps no more.

Bob Ambrogi reports:

Yesterday’s House of Lords ruling easing British libel law is being hailed by news organizations for bringing English journalists closer to the freedoms enjoyed by reporters in the United States.

As reported by The Times of London, five law lords unanimously ruled in favor of a public-interest defense that more closely resembles the ‘actual malice’ standard applied in U.S. libel cases involving public officials and public figures.

The law lords ruled that The Wall Street Journal Europe satisfactorily established that the article in dispute was both of public interest and written responsibly. The law lords said that judges should look at the opinion as a whole when deciding a libel case and not just at the defamatory statements standing alone.

The Times, UK’s national newspaper, explained earlier UK defamation law:

Britain’s libel laws have traditionally favored the plaintiff — so much so, in fact, that plaintiffs often made substantial efforts to sue for libel in Britain when possible, even when a media organization is based in another county. Before Wednesday’s ruling, plaintiffs only had to prove that false statements were published, and the statements were damaging to their reputation in order to prevail.

If we can get the guys in wigs to loosen up laws relating to journalism in the UK, maybe we can get the get the guys in the grey flannel suits to uncage bloggers in large law firms in the States. ;)

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