Tilting European Libel Laws

We’re watching with increasing alarm the European Commission’s ‘Rome II‘ proposal to harmonise laws relating to non-contractual obligations across Europe. Its ramifications for libel, defamation, and privacy laws, could have a startling effect upon European publishers, including online publishers.

Under its latest draft, the country where an alleged defamation or libel occurs is the country whose laws would be used, but the court case would take place in the publication’s home country. That’s fine is both the plaintiff and the publisher are in the same country. But, for example, if a resident of Madrid claims that a German publication has defamed him, the proposal would mean that the German courts must use Spanish libel laws. Although there is an exception to this rule if the ‘applicable law’ is contrary to the ‘fundamental principles’ of the court’s host country, the draft is cause for concern among European publishers.

We can image what fun Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi could have with ‘Rome II’ jurisdictions as plaintiff or defendent.