Opinion: “Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill 2010: a distorted view of the public interest?” Alastair Mullis and Andrew Scott

7 07 2010

This post is an abridged version of a paper which will appear in the journal Communications Law later this year and which can be read here in draft.

The desire to avoid the hassle and expense associated with libel actions can sometimes restrict publication of the outputs of investigative journalism, and stifle important scientific and medical debate. Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill, which is to receive a Second Reading in the House of Lords this Friday, seeks to address these concerns by revising many elements of the law of libel. As we have stated elsewhere, however, we are sceptical as to whether the substantive law of libel contributes significantly to the existence of the perceived problems. In contrast, the sheer cost of fighting libel actions – especially with the opportunities for legal pressure and gamesmanship that this allows both sides – can be a real problem. This is exacerbated by the fact that the procedural aspects of libel actions are in some respects unnecessarily extenuated. Yet, the current Bill is spectacularly silent on these pre-eminent concerns. Read the rest of this entry »

US Freedom of Expression and Media Law Roundup 7 July 2010

7 07 2010

An interesting example of how far the US media thinks “First Amendment Protection” should go is found in a New York Times editorial lamenting the fact that the the Supreme Court has refused a petition for certiorari (that is, leave to appeal) in the case of Pirate Investor LLC. v. SEC. The case concerned a claim for securities fraud against the publisher of a financial newsletter who promised a hot stock tip, based on inside information, to people willing to pay US$1,000.  The tip was a bad one and the Securities and Exchange Commission sued for securities fraud.  Read the rest of this entry »