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    Customs and culture

    Which laws govern defamation/libel in the EU?

    Topic

    Which laws govern defamation/libel in the EU?

    Comment
    I'm curious about the European laws on libel / defamation. The underlying situation is that a blogger in Luxemburg has posted some information on his blog which might be defamatory, against a resident of California.

    Which libel/defamation laws would apply in this case? The laws of Luxemburg? The laws of the EU ? Or US laws (specifically the State of California)?

    Are the European defamation/libel laws a matter for the individual EU countries? Is defamation governed by each country's laws? Or by EU statutes?

    Thank you.

    (Please note that I asking just as a matter of personal, theoretical interest. I have no personal involvement in the situation and am not asking for legal advice. I will not rely on this information for any purpose other than personal curiosity.)
    Authoreric (new york) (63613) 06 Aug 09, 01:44
    Comment
    Without doing any research on it, from the deep dark recesses of my mind I seem to remember, that there were some libel cases not that long ago (well, within the last 10 years, say), where it was held that the Claimant could sue under the laws of the country where the libellous/defamatory information was accessible. Thus, in the case of a local newspaper, any claim would probably have to be brought under the laws of the jurisdiction where it was published- in the case of the internet, however, you could be tried almost anywhere.

    Therefore, as the potentially defamed party, I would first check whether the comments are available in my home jurisdiction (legitimately- i.e. that access is not normally blocked for residents of that country), then whether they would constitute a case of defamation under (in this case) Californian law, and if so, I might consider commencing proceedings in California.

    Alternatively, if I fancied a trip to Europe, I might bring proceedings in Luxembourg- if nothing else, that would simplify enforcement if I was successful.
    #1AuthorRichard (236495) 06 Aug 09, 05:58
    Comment
    @Richard: Thanks for your thoughts. I also remember something like that. I find this stuff interesting, and wish that I remembered it better. (In my next life I may be a lawyer.) Internet law is changing a lot of things.

    By the way, though my connection with this case is quite limited, the person that I have the sympathy with is not the California person who's offended at how this person was described, but the blogger in Europe who made the critical remarks, whose blog I've been reading for awhile. The California person was making unsubstantiated claims for a "cure" for a certain medical/psychological condition, and the blogger called the person a crackpot. (You can see I'm deliberately obscuring the identifying details...) My interest springs from this - it's just triggered my curiosity in the laws of the various jurisdictions and how they might apply in a case where the parties are located in different countries. Also, I'd be curious whether this would be only a civil case (the offended person could sue the blogger for damages), or also potentially a criminal offense (criminal libel).

    I have a pretty good sense of how it would proceed under US law, but the fact that the blogger is in Luxemburg obviously complicates things (in an interesting way).
    #2Authoreric (new york) (63613) 06 Aug 09, 06:35
    Comment
    Hmmm-

    Have a look at this case (I won't say that anyone called anyone else a crackpot, but...)
    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/338/jun03...

    Private Eye has been reporting on it for a while, & the libel ruling appears somewhat bizarre (with a bit of research one should be able to find the actual case as well, rather than just the report in the BMJ journal).

    But as far as the jurisdictions go, I believe that you are able to sue in the country where you are being libelled (which, in the day & age of the internet, might be anywhere).
    #3AuthorRichard (236495) 06 Aug 09, 07:15
    Comment
    @Richard: You wrote "I won't say that anyone called anyone else a crackpot"

    First, if they are proposing unfounded theories of a cure, and trying to take people's money, wouldn't you say that impolite criticism is justified (such as calling them a crackpot)?

    But even if not, the issue here is not really "is it OK to call someone a crackpot?", but rather: if you do, should there be legal penalties? Should it be possible for someone to be fined or to be successfully sued for monetary damages for being rude (calling someone a crackpot for unsubstantiated theories)? There are many actions that are impolite or embarrassing or even professionally damaging but which do not subject someone to legal penalties. (In this case, someone is claiming a cure without any evidence that it works. My belief is that someone else should not be legally prevented from stating that publicly, even if the first person is professionally damaged reputationally or by loss of income.)

    Thanks for the link.
    #4Authoreric (new york) (63613) 06 Aug 09, 14:16
    Comment
    Well, I'm not a libel lawyer, so I couldn't possibly comment- but personally I wouldn't call someone else a crackpot (although I might suggest that they resemble a vessle with a superabundance of fissures... ;) ).

    Certainly in a case where it has already gone to court, I would be careful- after all, they're all Macadamias...
    #5AuthorRichard (236495) 06 Aug 09, 15:14
    Comment
    Richard - Forgive me if I'm examining a witticism too closely... but what do you mean by your Macadamia reference?

    (I'll laugh at it as soon as I understand it - I promise!)
    #6Authoreric (new york) (63613) 07 Aug 09, 04:55
    Comment
    eric, I wonder if he is saying they are all nuts.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macadamia
    #7Authorsnickerdoodle (262368) 07 Aug 09, 05:12
    Comment
    snicker - I think you're right.

    Hahaha!
    #8Authoreric (new york) (63613) 07 Aug 09, 05:19
    Comment
    As far as I know the EU does not really have laws. The EU works on the basis of treaties between countries and can issue "regulations" (whatever the correct term for officially binding rules is that are on a lower level than laws). However, the EU can introduce new laws in the sense that it can tell the member states to set up new laws in their own national territories (which they must do because of the international treaties that govern the EU).
    Provided this is correct, your defamation case would be a Luxemburgian and not an EU matter. (Unless it is considered a matter of fundamental human rights, in which case the European human rights court would come into play. But this is a different story.)

    #9AuthorLondoner(GER)07 Aug 09, 08:39
    Comment
    @ 9
    You have to decide between EU regulations which are self-executing and do not require any implementing measures by the member states(they are so to speak EU laws) and EU directives which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result.
    #10Authorpat07 Aug 09, 09:18
    Comment
    As pat said, EU regulations are in fact laws (and generally take precedence over national law). I believe they would have actually been called laws if the EU Constitution had been ratified. However the EU can only make laws where they have competence, and I don't think the member states have confered authority to pass laws on defamation.
    #11AuthorMikeE (236602) 07 Aug 09, 21:53
    Comment
    As far as the original question goes: The libel laws of Luxemburg apply.
    The EU is group of individual countries. It does no law enforcement of its own and the Europäische Gerichtshof is more like the Bundesgerichtshof.
    #12AuthorCJ unplugged07 Aug 09, 23:49
    Comment
    @CJ: You wrote "the Europäische Gerichtshof is more like the Bundesgerichtshof."

    I don't understand your point, since I don't know what the Bundesgerichtshof is. It sounds like you're saying the Europäische Gerichtshof is more like the Bundesgerichtshof and less like some other court? Can you clarify for me?

    Thanks.
    #13Authoreric (new york) (63613) 08 Aug 09, 01:44
    Comment
    Ich denke, CJ meint, der EuGH http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Court_o... ist eine letzte Instanz, die in Berufungssachen entscheidet, wie der BGH http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Court_of... bei Berufungssachen aus niedriegeren deutschen Instanzen (LG, OLG etc.).

    Die Rolle ist aber noch etwas anders, und im Wiki Link ganz gut erklärt:

    The ECJ is the highest court of the European Union in matters of Community law, but not national law. It is not possible to appeal the decisions of national courts to the ECJ, but rather national courts refer questions of EU law to the ECJ. However, it is ultimately for the national court to apply to resulting interpretation to the facts of any given case. This allows even the lowest of courts to refer question of EU law for a decision, although only courts of final appeal are bound to refer a question of EU law when one is raised before it. The treaties charge the ECJ with ensuring the consistent application of EU law across the EU as a whole, in an attempt to avoid different national courts interpreting and applying in different way.

    Das Thema Pressefreiheit vs. Beleidigung ist aber denke ich ohnehin nicht im "scope" des EuGH, wie schon Londoner geschrieben hat.
    #14Authormuzu08 Aug 09, 09:58
    Comment
    @muzu:

    Vielen Dank für die gute Erklärung. Ich interessante mich für den entwicklenden Bereich des Gesetzes der EU und für die Beziehung zwischen EU-Gesetz und den nationalen Gesetzen und Gerichtsystemen der verschiedenen Staaten der EU, aber weiß nicht viel darüber.
    #15Authoreric (new york) (63613) 08 Aug 09, 15:23
    Comment
    Schau mal hier, Eric, da ist das europäische Gesetzgebungsverfahren beschrieben. (Sprache kannst du oben rechts auswählen.)
    #16Authorbluesky (236159) 08 Aug 09, 20:25
    Comment
    Noch einmal zur Ausgangsfrage:
    Das Ganze ist eine Frage des luxemburgischen rsp. amerikanischen internationalen Privatrechts (IPR). Wie die Dinge dort geregelt sind, weiß ich nicht. Aber um einmal ein Gefühl für die Materie zu bekommen, sind vielleicht die folgenden Seiten (zum deutschen IPR) ganz hilfreich:

    http://www.bmj.bund.de/enid/Publikationen/Int...

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internationales_...
    #17AuthorButazon (608459) 08 Aug 09, 21:50
    Comment
    @muzu: Danke, Du hast einigermaßen auf den Punkt gebracht, was ich meinte. Der EuGH entscheidet nicht direkt in irgendwelchen Fällen, sondern wird als letzte Instanz angerufen und ist damit dafür zuständig, die Rechtsauslegung zu klären.
    #18AuthorCJ unplugged08 Aug 09, 22:55
    Comment
    De EU hat im Strafrecht nicht viel zu sagen.
    Hier geht es auch nicht um das IPR (#17), sondern um das Strafrecht und da muß man den Täter erst einmal in der jeweiligen Jurisdiktion haben, bevor man richten kann (von Ausnahmen abgesehen).
    Wenn also das, was der Blogger in Luxemburg gemacht hat nach dortigem Recht strafbar ist, kann er belangt werden; ist es nur nach kalifornischem Recht strafbar, müßte er dort hinreisen, um verhaftet zu werden.
    Das ist jetzt etwas verkürzt, führt aber vielleicht zur Frage zurück.
    #19Authorjudex (239096) 08 Aug 09, 23:07
    Comment
    Hier geht es auch nicht um das IPR (#17), sondern um das Strafrecht

    Um beides. Und die zivilrechtlichen Konsequenzen können durchaus die gravierenderen sein.

    Instruktiv:

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/07/15/ce...

    Ein Zitat aus der verlinkten Seite:
    "Though libel is a civil rather than a criminal matter in this country, the consequences can be much graver than most criminal convictions. I would rather go to prison for a few weeks for committing a crime than spend five years fighting a libel case, then lose my house and my savings. It is better to be caught mugging than to be caught speaking freely."
    #20AuthorButazon (608459) 08 Aug 09, 23:33
    Comment
    Wenn ich mich recht entsinne kommt es in so einem Fall darauf an wo die Beleidigung publiziert wurde. Im falle des Internet ist also die entscheidende Frage wo der Server auf dem das ganze publiziert wurde steht.

    Dementsprechend sind dann auch die Gerichte mit dem jeweiligen (nationalen/regionalen) Recht zuständig.
    #21AuthorTartarus09 Aug 09, 10:14
     
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