Multilingual business document translation services, deposition translations and and courtroom translations come in handy in the context of libel and defamation cases. We’ve blogged about legal translation services spanning various jurisdictions in defense of freedom of speech. The concept of freedom of speech is one that differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and thus is an area where potential international legal issues often arise. For example, in the US the First Amendment liberally protects the individuals’ right to free speech. However, in the EU, the equivalent right is balanced against such interest as national security, crime prevention and the protection of reputation.
Of particular interest is the last point – balancing the right to free speech against the right of protection to one’s reputation.
In a recent case involving an international publication*, this issue was raised with the challenge that a defamation is committed in the place of publication and that the publication occurs in the place of receipt rather than the place of transmission, thus, a cause of defamation may arise in several states or countries and, due to choice of the local laws, be subject to several state and national legal regimes. Specifically at issue was the publication of Craig Unger’s book House of Bush, House of Saud. Sheik Mahfouz threatened to sue the publisher’s UK division for defamation and the publisher agreed to cancel publication. However, the US division refused, noting that US courts have held UK libel judgments unenforceable due to legal differences between the two countries’ laws of libel and defamation.
The result of such differences in law leads to people becoming what some refer to as ‘libel tourist” – meaning they will shop around a claim to the jurisdiction with the most favorable rules. In the case at hand, this meant that Mahfouz filed in the UK knowing that under their laws the case would likely get the intended result. However, as these are international publications with a wide distribution, this leaves publishers in other jurisdictions vulnerable to liability claims – particularly when foreign language editions are involved. And defense of such claims requires worldwide professional legal translator services in common and exotic foreign languages.
*Source: David Partlett and Barbara McDonald “International Publications and Protection of Reputation: A Margin of Appreciation but not Subservience?”