UK libel laws can kiss my American ass

I’m going to serve it up like a top-shelf scotch should be – straight.

UK libel laws are fucking ridiculous.

If you’re a regular AYTPQ reader, you know this.  If, however, you’ve been living in Derbyshire’s Titan cave, read thisthisthis and keep reading this article to find out how fucking ridiculous they are.  To be fair, not everyone thinks these laws are bullshit.  Libel tourists love these laws more than I love Laphroaig 10 year old.

Picture it, America, 2009.  Some American – mouthing-off as we’re prone to do – posts a blog telling the world a company’s product claims are full of more bullshit than a Texas ranch.  The American has actual science on their side.  The company has nonsense, hurt feelings and UK libel laws on their’s.  The company files a lawsuit in the UK to shut-up the loud American.  The American isn’t too worried because…

First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

But the American comes to realize the First Amendment has a giant UK-libel-law-sized-hole.  “Congress shall make no law…” doesn’t mean that the pissed-off company can’t go after the American’s assets.  Now, that’s fucked-up.

So fucked-up my country’s federal legislators got together and said “The hell with that crazy UK libel tourism bullshit.”* eeThese 535 politicians – overwhelming (<99%) Democrats and Republicans – usually get on like oil and water.  Mudslinging, name-calling, knock-down-drag-out-fights – and that’s just when they’re deciding where to go for lunch, let alone when they’re drafting legislation.  UK libel laws are so fucking ridiculous, however, these politicians made nice.

They did this in the form of House Resolution (HR) 2765 and Senate Resolution (SR) 3518 – both dubbed “Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act” (SPEECH Act).  The HR’s author, Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN), explains the SPEECH Act in detail.

The SPEECH act was a legislation love fest – voice votes, relatively quick hearings and unanimous votes.  That should underline how fucking ridiculous UK libel laws are.  The SPEECH Act became US Public Law 111-223 when President Obama signed it into law on August 10, 2010.

Picture it, America, present day.  Same scenario as before, but US Public Law 111-223 allows the American to kick charlatan ass and keep their assets.  US courts are now prohibited from enforcing foreign libel judgments against US defendants if said judgements are inconsistent with the First Amendment and related US case law.

In case you missed it: The US passed a law to protect it’s citizens from UK libel laws. UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee (CMSCOM) Chairman John Wittingdale said it best:

“It is a humiliation that US legislators have felt it necessary to take steps to protect freedom of speech from what are seen as unreasonable incursions by our courts and we believe the government should address this as a matter of urgency.”     [read source article by Simon Singh here]

Your government seems to be addressing the ridiculousness of UK libel laws.   In a 7 January 2011 speech, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s indicated an overhaul of UK libel laws was on Parliament’s agenda – perhaps just months away.  Push your politicians to get it done in months for one simple reason – to stop us Americans from suing y’all in UK courts.

That’s right. Americans and our companies are still free to run amok in a “town named sue“. That’s fucked-up. To those Americans I say…

You should be fucking ashamed of yourself.  A right you enjoy is a right you are denying another because of their nationality?  That is some outrageous bullshit!

To the reform of UK libel laws, I raise my glass.  To current UK libel laws, you can kiss my American ass.

*They probably didn’t say that.  I suspect they used harsher language.
Journal of Are You Fucking Kidding [AYTPQ’s American affiliate]


Editorial Material and Methods: Alternating applications of Laphroaig 10 year old and Hendrick’s gin, followed by consecutive rinses of water and coffee.

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  32. Great article, yes it’s a very messy situation we have over here. One thing I’d like to point out is that libel law defendants are not eligible for legal aid. As libel trials generally begin with an estimated cost of £100,000 minimum and tend to run in to the millions very quickly this means that academics and independent journalists simply do not have the assets to hire lawer and have no legal recourse except to fold, withdraw the piece and cough up the requested damages. It’s pretty sickening.

    Here’s an example of a libel law abuse this week by the biggest law firm in the UK, Carter Ruck. In this case a simple libel filing has managed to fold an entire pressure group overnight.

    By the way great site, I’d like to submit a paper for your journal. File located here:

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