CA rules England correct forum for Internet libel claim
The Court of Appeal has ruled that Don King’s libel action against Lennox Lewis and two other defendants over allegations made on an American website can be brought in the English Courts.
Upholding an earlier High Court ruling, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf (sitting with Mummery and Laws LJJ) held that English defamation law permitted a claimant with a reputation in this country to bring libel proceedings against publications on websites, even if the publishers were based in the US.
In what is likely to be seen as a set-back for those arguing for greater freedom on the Internet and a harmonisation of laws regarding liability for web publications, the Court of Appeal refused to recognise that any special rules applied to publications on the Internet.
Lord Justice Laws, giving the judgment of the Court, endorsed the approach of the High Court of Australia in Gutnick v Dow Jones in which Callinan J had observed:
“If a publisher publishes in a multiplicity of jurisdictions it should understand, and must accept, that it runs the risk of liability in those jurisdictions in which the publication is not lawful.”
The Court noted that any fundamental changes to liability for Internet publications would, as the Law Commission had previously reported in its December 2002 Scoping Study, require an International treaty to harmonise defamation laws around the globe.
Following a settlement with Lennox Lewis, Don King’s action will continue only as against Judd Burstein, Mr Lewis’ US Attorney.
5RB’s Desmond Browne QC and Matthew Nicklin appeared for Don King. James Price QC and Justin Rushbrooke appeared for Lennox Lewis and the other defendants.
Click here for the full 5RB case report.