Defamation on the Net

Well, it had to happen at some point. Who were they kidding, that this could go on checked forever and that the Net, now a haven for misfits, would continue to be, virtually lawless.

I can’t wait for the US govt. to take over the Net and declare it a terrorist zone. :D :D :D

I think this is a landmark case. At last the online media can be help accountable for their sensationalised reporting.

Does this mean that China can now sentence me to death for writing pro-Falung Gong (or whatever) shit on the internet?

I think this is a landmark case. At last the online media can be help accountable for their sensationalised reporting.[/quote]

I don’t think this the first time a court of particular country has ruled that the publisher of web article can be sued there regardless of the fact that the article was “published” in another country. The concern here isn’t being held accountable. The concern is that, allowing any country that so choses to take jurisdiction over anything published on the Internet has incredible potential for chaos. Obviously, a treaty is the only way to resolve it, but virtually every country will have to sign on to it or it will be meaningless.

Ah, silly little Australia, trying to feel important again…

LMAO!!! Oh man, I’m gonna sit and watch the ensuing spanking you’re likely to get for that one. :D :D :D

Dow Jones could always choose to have no business dealings with Australia and then who the f’ cares what Australia says. Instead of empowering countries, I would think this would cause them to be isolated. Why publish or deal in a country like Australia or England where the hand is dipped decidedly in favor of the offended?

And look at the Dutch. They pass a landmark ruling a day over the Internet, and everyone one of them has been ignored.

So Derek, are you excitied? I feel like I should buy you a throw rug that says, “I will sue you” in 47 languages.

Spank ! :wink:

Spank ! :wink:[/quote]

Wha? Is that all, Sean?

Maybe it’s all those commercials for Lager beer but I was expecting quite a bit more from Q23’s resident Aussie.

I would like to apologize to the rest of the world on behalf of those Australians who are not complete and utter idiots.
Please understand that we are a country which pays celebrities huge money from a magazine showing a blurry photo that may kinda-if-you-squint show their penis. More money than they would be paid compensation if it had been cut off.
Our defamation laws are out of whack and now we are making ourselves a laughing stock by trying to control the web.
Our government is a very controlling, conservative government. It’s a bit like its stance on gambling. Australians are not allowed to run gambling web sites because it’s immoral. Instead, our gamblers send their money to overseas sites. (And the government tries not to notice that the big money casinos in Australia supply an incredible amount of money from taxation.)
Same for porn- obviously its better that Australians send their money overseas than make it taxable here. Morons.

That was me. Liberal loyalists/ defamation lawyers may now start the attack.


Actually, not really. Being the quintessential rebel, I’m not sure that policing the Internet or passing these kind of laws is productive and in the spirit with which the Net was created (yeah, most of us were around back then. No really.


The fact remains - forgetting about the media, who I DO believe should be able to operate within their rights to free speech IN THE US - the Net has become a haven for a multitude of evil, wicked, mean and nasty time wasting wankers who have no DAMN business ANYWHERE near a computer. Let alone fresh air.

So, something has to be done and luckily for us, several cases in the US are setting this precedent for harrassment, libel and defamation. The problem being that because of the Internet, you have to drag your ass to them in order to sue them. And at the end of the day, all you’re likely to get out of it, is a slap on the wrist to them - and if you’re lucky, a court ordered cease and desist. Trust me, I’ve been there.

This fine gentleman and his firm, in addition to my NY attorney, was my first serious attempt in the case against that wanker in California who has dogged me for the eight or so years with all manner of harrassment and abuse, to the extent that no matter how of his sites I had shut down, he just springs up elsewhere. In the end, I just threw my arms in the air and figured I’d just let him have enough rope to hang himself before I took the fight to him via this firm, since they specialize in that sort of thing. I’ve since succeeded in getting rid of one of his cohorts - a kid who lived close to me (where I used to live until May this year) and who was the one first caught following my car around the neighborhood back in 2000. Apparently under orders from that aforementioned kook (its all documented on Usenet).

I’ve found that ignoring this guy and letting him come after me, has proven to be more effective in portraying who he is, than for me to continue to engage in a one-side skirmish online and which I can’t win outside of the court system.

The day I’m waiting for, is when he gets served - in much the same way this kid didn’t know what happened when cops showed up at his house.
That day will come. And will be a beautiful day in sunny San Diego, CA.

There is a VERY good reason why I haven’t posted on the Usenet since July 30th and even then, haven’t been involved in flames of any kind for almost a year before that. A very good reason indeed. I may seem to be stark raving mad, but I’m not stupid.

So yes, a ruling like this is a double-edged sword, but one cannot ignore the merits of bringing these morons to justice. Even magazines can be held accountable. And since some idiot can’t walk up to me in public and insult me to my face without the probability of getting the ass kicking of a lifetime, there is NO reason why he should be able to do it online and without fear of retribution. And THAT is why they do it. Because they have nothing to fear from their actions. Online it is far more easier to character assasinate someone than in order other medium, including television (since not very many people will record TV programs).

Here are some more resources related to this ruling. Yes, we have a lot of these archived for research purposes.

Internet user sentenced in Federal court

Online rant not always Free Speech

Report on Cyberstalking

Net speech isn’t all free - court decision

Courts frown on online bad mouthing

Defamation on the Internet - A study

Digital Defamation

Judge dismisses anonymous web posting suit

Lawsuit threatens anonymouse web chats

Libel on the Internet

Online anonymity faces legal challenges

Anonymous speech case - Bruce Fischman

So, in a nutshell; you reckon that little guys can’t say anything bad about big guys because they’ll be (deservedly) physically assaulted. Man, I thought the internet was created by weedy, nerdy guys just so’s they could give back all the shit that was loaded onto them in high school.
However, there are people who should have some meaningful consequences brought to them for their actions. Problem is, who is going to go to the effort of dealing with all of it without introducing ham-fisted measures?
I’ll put this in the too-hard basket and just ignore it. I like my freedom and I’ve been lucky enough not to be the target of any obsessive characters, so I’m not going to side with the censorship lobby.

I agree. Web sites will now need to set a policy of no international access and somehow take steps to enforce that. If you eventually set up a version for a particular country or region, I assume that means you are starting to do business there and have consented to jurisdiction.

I dug up a link to the full decision: Dow Jones and Company Inc v Gutnick [2002] HCA 56; 210 CLR 575; 194 ALR 433; 77 ALJR 255 (10 December 2002)

The Court really seems to brush over the idea that they are applying Austrailian law to someone with minimal contacts in Austrailia. Doesn’t Austrailia have a long-arm analysis?

Apparently discarding the difference between placing something on a website in a foreign country and actively building broadcast infrastructure in Australia, the Court writes, “It must be recognised, however, that satellite broadcasting now permits very wide dissemination of radio and television and it may, therefore, be doubted that it is right to say that the World Wide Web has a uniquely broad reach. It is no more or less ubiquitous than some television services. In particular, those who post information on the World Wide Web do so knowing that the information they make available is available to all and sundry without any geographic restriction.”

Well, if I published a US-only paper, someone could mail copies of it into Australia. After all, when I release a copy to the public, I know that I give up all control of that copy and it could be disseminated anywhere in the world. Nevermind that they are not utilizing any distribution mechanisms controlled by me or my company - if someone might possibly read it in Australia, I’m going to be forced to defend my foreign actions there - actions which may be perfectly legal where I am.

The Court’s reasoning seems illogical to me. First they talk about the “single publication” rule as a method to reduce the potential myriad of lawsuits in various jurisdictions, then they adopt a rule that creates a tort in every jurisdiction where a web browser could read the offending article, and justify it by relying on the plaintiff’s statements that he is only filing one suit (in the State of Victoria) and only seeks to remedy his reputation there in Victoria. So the plaintiff gets to pick where on the entire Earth he feels his reputation was damaged, and limit it to there? That seems to create the worst kind of forum shopping - inconvenient to the defendant, and the choice of law handed to the plaintiff/forum chooser.

Finally, the Court imposes a legal research obligation on all publications in the world. They claim they are not doing that, but I don’t see much of a distinction between knowing the defamation law in every country versus knowing the defamation law in every country where the subjects of an article might decide they have some reputation that has been harmed. How does that create any practical limit on the knowledge now required for any publication in the world? The Court wrote, “the spectre which Dow Jones sought to conjure up in the present appeal, of a publisher forced to consider every article it publishes on the World Wide Web against the defamation laws of every country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe is seen to be unreal when it is recalled that in all except the most unusual of cases, identifying the person about whom material is to be published will readily identify the defamation law to which that person may resort.”

Jason Levine is right, this needs a treaty. In the meantime, Dow Jones needs to call in the treaty specialists and try to argue that Austrailia is acting outside any existing treaty, and so lacks jurisdiction over Dow Jones. Sure, pass all the rulings you want, we’ll be here in New York giving you the international finger.

I’d also explore a counter-suit against the plaintiff. How about a suit for misuse of my property (contrary to the limitations on distribution intended by me, someone read my publication on a web browser outside the U.S.) in a fashion which created liability for me in Australia (any damages to plaintiff and costs incurred in defense)? Damages would be easy to measure, and of course I would file it in New York since I have Australian authority that explains it is OK to file where the harm allegedly occurs.

Better yet, let’s start a new country. All we need is an island somewhere. We’ll move there, pass a bunch of really strict defamation laws, and get rich suing foreigners in the courthouse we build next door. Oh, dang, it looks like someone else is already doing that. :twisted:

That’s wrong on several levels. First of all, you are never “forced” to defend your foreign actions in Australia – you can always choose to simply not enter Australia nor do business there.

Second, you’re overlooking that the plaintiff is an Australian, and Dow Jones, though an American company, chose to write about said Australian. Obviously an Australian would sue in Australia and not somewhere else. It’s not as if Dow was being randomly sued in some foreign country with no connection to their reporting.

Third, this is a typical tempest in a teapot. Demanding that a foreign company either defend themselves at court, possibly involving huge fines or compensation payments, or cease to do business in that country is absolutely nothing unusual. The United States of America do it all the time…

But that is exactly what happened to Dow Jones. The evidence listed in the opinion shows they didn’t do business in Australia, or have any business presence there, but the Court decided that since you could read the Dow Jones website from Australia, then they could be sued there. That is contrary to American jurisprudence, which requires “minimum contacts” in a particular jurisdiction before you can be sued there. If a company is not operating internationally, it seems absurd to require that they comply with another country’s laws. If their option is to not defend themselves and suffer a default judgment, then I expect that judgment would be enforced in the US under an applicable treaty.

So nobody in the world can write negatively about an Australian on the web? The problem here is that in the US, what Dow Jones wrote probably is not defaming. The Court hints at it in the opinion, but the First Amendment has driven the bar for defamation higher in the US. Here, a US company wrote an article in the US that is not defaming. When the subject of that article takes an action that brings a copy of the article into their country, then suddenly it is defamatory. In my mind, we are back to absurd again, and the chilling effect on news organizations in the US is strong.

It is hard to say what the impact will be. The companies concerned already are not part of US/Australia trade, so it may not impact that at all. It may result in the US isolating significant portions of the Internet from itself. If a website readable in another country is all that is necessary to take jurisdiction over a US company with no other contacts in the country, then the allowable foreign contacts will have to be kept very, very low.

Your words. Not mine. I never said, nor implied such.

There is a BIG difference between writing negatively about someone and outright defaming them. Thats what the ruling is about.

So what? That does not mean that they have to defend themselves at an Australian court. What do you expect to happen if they simply ignore the lawsuit, not having any business in OZ as you say? I expect nothing to happen.

That is contrary to American jurisprudence, which requires “minimum contacts” in a particular jurisdiction before you can be sued there. If a company is not operating internationally, it seems absurd to require that they comply with another country’s laws.

Doesn’t seem absurd to me at all, considering that they did “operate” internationally in a sense when they chose to report on an Australian. Also, I gather that this person was having business relationships with the United States that would be affected by this article.

How exactly should an Australian react against such defamation (assuming for a moment that this is an appropriate description) by a magazine written in Australia’s official language and easily read from there?

If their option is to not defend themselves and suffer a default judgment, then I expect that judgment would be enforced in the US under an applicable treaty.

Not at all! You can never be persecuted in one country for something that is only an offense in another country. Extradition treaties and the like only cover offenses recognized as such by both countries.

Popular example: the large number of US neo-Nazi websites which many European countries, especially Germany, would dearly like to shut down but which are protected by American law. So Germany has to wait until the offenders are stupid enough to enter the EU before they can request extradition. The Dow Jones case will be no different.

Not at all! You can never be persecuted in one country for something that is only an offense in another country. Extradition treaties and the like only cover offenses recognized as such by both countries.

I don’t think that’s quite right as a generalized proposition, though I think you may be correct in this specific instance. First, extradition is a criminal matter; we don’t generally extradite people to answer civil complaints (which I gather this one is). Second, I don’t think enforcing a foreign judgment comes down to “does the U.S. have the same law on its books?” (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.) There are different levels of deference given to foreign judgments depending on the country of origin. Suffice it to say, for example, the U.S. gives no deference to a judgment entered in Iran. The inquiry turns, at least in part, on the characteristics of the foreign judiciary.

Even at the highest level of deference, however, you still have to take your foreign judgment to a U.S. judge for enforcement. Which means he gets a crack at examining the ruling. The U.S. Constitution protects U.S. citizens whether at home or abroad. Amenability to suit strikes me as a fundamental due process issue, and so, to the extent the Australian ruling would violate due process, I doubt such a ruling would be enforceable here. There have been a spate of internet jurisdiction cases in the U.S. this year, and the growing consensus here seems to be that you’ve got to sue internet sites where the publisher is located or where the server is located. But I don’t think the issued is totally resolved, and I’ve been surprised before.

As to the idea that you don’t have to defend yourself and can simply take a default judgment, that’s hardly appealing. Assuming that Australia is like the U.S. in this regard, not paying on a judgment (default or otherwise) is bad mojo (don’t mean to get all technical on you :wink: ). As you note, it becomes a de facto Australian travel and business ban since you can’t risk putting yourself or a deal within reach of Australian jurisdiction. That’s not a joke. All of a sudden, every deal, every travel plan for executives has to be scrutinized. Not appealing at all.

(edited for further comment)

Sorry, my misunderstanding.