Congress Acts to Reduce Libel Tourism
President Obama signed HR 2765 into law today, providing defendants with a new arsenal of defenses against the enforcement of foreign libel judgments obtained in jurisdictions with much less stringent libel laws than those in the United States. The law renders libel judgments inconsistent with the First Amendment or limits placed on personal jurisdiction under the Due Process clause unenforceable in the United States. Importantly for numerous websites, the law also extends protection to judgments that are inconsistent with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, providing an important risk-reducing defense to internet companies that display user-submitted content worldwide.
Beyond rendering those foreign judgments unenforceable, the act also provides that a United States person against whom a foreign libel judgment is entered may bring a declaratory judgment action in district court (complete with nationwide service of process) to declare that the judgment is unenforceable—even before the foreign plaintiff attempts to enforce the judgment. In addition, if a party successfully defends against a foreign plaintiff’s attempt to enforce the judgment, it may recover attorney’s fees.