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Internet Defamation, Freedom of Expression, and the Lessons of Private International Law for the United States


Laura E. Little


Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

December 10, 2012

European Yearbook of Private International Law, Vol. 14, 2012
Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-03

Abstract:     
This article reviews current developments in U.S. conflict of laws doctrine pertaining to transnational internet defamation cases, including personal jurisdiction, choice of law, and recognition of judgments. To resolve personal jurisdiction and choice of law issues in internet defamation cases, U.S. courts have adapted rules from the non-internet context with relative ease. Reported cases tend to concern domestic internet disputes between U.S. entities, with few plaintiffs attracted to U.S. courts for the purpose of litigating cross-border defamation claims. Although the U.S. serves as a magnet jurisdiction for many types of litigation, two liability-defeating laws render the country inhospitable to defamation claims: (1) the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment speech protections and (2) a statute affording immunity to internet "providers or users" for information "provided by another content provider." Perhaps because of these provisions litigants are largely inspired to go elsewhere. The resulting libel tourism has prompted important U.S. developments pertaining to enforcement and recognition of foreign defamation judgments. Thus, for conflict of laws matters pertaining to internet defamation, it is judgments law that reflects the greatest activity and most profound change.

After reviewing personal jurisdiction and choice of law trends, this article describes legal developments pertaining to internet defamation judgments. The article critiques lawmakers’ adherence to First Amendment exceptionalism in regulating internet defamation judgments and identifies flaws reflected in state libel tourism statutes and the federal libel tourism statute, the SPEECH act of 2010.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: internet, defamation, conflict of laws, choice of law, private international law, SPEECH Act, libel tourism, judgment recognition and enforcement, foreign country judgments, First Amendment exceptionalism, public policy exception, personal jurisdiction, choice of law

JEL Classification: K41, K42, K49

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Date posted: December 12, 2012 ; Last revised: January 10, 2013

Suggested Citation

Little, Laura E., Internet Defamation, Freedom of Expression, and the Lessons of Private International Law for the United States (December 10, 2012). European Yearbook of Private International Law, Vol. 14, 2012; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-03. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2187449

Contact Information

Laura E. Little (Contact Author)
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )
1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-8955 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)
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