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International Forum shopping for libel suits
Posted by: McQ on Monday, August 20, 2007

Does this bother anyone else?
In late July, Cambridge University Press announced it was destroying all its remaining copies of Alms for Jihad, a 2006 book exploring the nexus of Islamic charities and Islamic radicalism. At the same time, Cambridge asked libraries around the world to stop carrying the book on their shelves. The reason? Fear of being sued in a British court by Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire who ranks as one of the world's richest men—and whose suspected links to terrorist financing earned him a mention in Alms for Jihad.

Cambridge issued a formal apology to bin Mahfouz, and posted a separate public apology on its website. The latter read in part:
In 2006 Cambridge University Press published Alms for Jihad written by J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins which made certain defamatory allegations about Sheikh Khalid Bin Mahfouz and his family in connection with the funding of terrorism. Whilst the allegations were originally published in good faith, Cambridge University Press now recognizes that the information upon which they were based was wrong. Cambridge University Press accepts that there is no truth whatsoever in these serious allegations.
Therefore, "To emphasize their regret, Cambridge University Press has agreed to pay Sheikh Khalid substantial damages and to make a contribution to his legal costs, both of which Sheikh Khalid is donating to the charity UNICEF."
A little book burning is good for the soul I guess (burning, pulping, withdrawing, whatever).

Why is this a problem? Because of British libel laws. They're markedly different than US laws:
More than two years ago, the London Times warned that "U.S. publishers might have to stop contentious books being sold on the Internet in case they reach the 'claimant-friendly' English courts.
Why is that a problem?
In America, the burden of proof in a libel suit lies with the plaintiff. In Britain, it lies with the defendant, which can make it terribly difficult and expensive to ward off a defamation charge, even if the balance of evidence supports the defendant.
IOW, it ends up being cheaper to withdraw the book and pay off the plaintiff than it is to pursue the suit. And that's especially true if the plaintiff is a Saudi billionaire.

Asks Duncan Currie, the author of the article:
So why hasn't this become a cause célèbre for American publishing firms and journalists?

"There's been very little mainstream media coverage" of the Alms for Jihad story, observes Jeffrey Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Bonus Books (which published Funding Evil). This lack of outrage is "absolutely appalling," [Rachel] Ehrenfeld says. "They are burning books now in England, and we are sitting here doing nothing." As for her own legal struggle, she says, "It's been a very lonely fight. It still is."
Rachel Ehrenfeld has had her own dust up with Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz and has managed a sort of victory, or at least, a precedent which may end this sort of attack:
In a case more relevant to the Alms for Jihad spat, bin Mahfouz sued Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, over her 2003 book Funding Evil, which painted a detailed picture of how money travels into the coffers of terrorist groups. Funding Evil, for which ex-CIA director James Woolsey penned the foreword, was billed on its cover as "The book the Saudis don't want you to read." Ehrenfeld fingered bin Mahfouz as a financier—whether deliberate or not—of al Qaeda, Hamas, and others.

He quickly sued her for libel in England, and Ehrenfeld chose not to contest it. A British judge then ordered Ehrenfeld to repudiate her statements, apologize to the Saudi magnate, pay him over $225,000 in damages—and destroy copies of her book. Instead, she chose to fight this ruling in the U.S. court system.

Ehrenfeld argues that the verdict cannot be enforced here because she is a U.S. citizen who published her book in America, where bin Mahfouz would not have won his libel case. (Bin Mahfouz's lawyers originally secured British jurisdiction by showing that Funding Evil could be purchased—and read—in Britain via the Internet.) In June, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Ehrenfeld could challenge the British libel decision in a U.S. court, thus setting an important precedent.
Note the emboldened parenthetical line. If it can be purchased in Britain or read over the internet, it is fair game in British libel court. And while it is nice to be able to challenge the decision in a US court, it doubtless will have no effect on the British ruling. But it sure could cut down the amount of reading material with even a smidge of controversy in the good old UK. Why sell there if publishing or selling your book there risks an expensive court battle you're most likely to lose from forum shopping libel claimants who use the fact you're guilty until you prove yourself innocent under the British system?

I looked for Ehrenfeld's book on line to see if it was available to read. It wasn't a long or extensive search but I couldn't find it. I assume if it is an ebook, you can purchase it as such and of course, it's available world wide from Amazon. Two simple solutions I see for the "internet" angle are to refuse to sell a book to any mailing address (or domain) in the UK.

But that still doesn't change the fact that this is all just basically wrong. Libel should be something to be proven, not assumed. And forum shopping to force such action as that taken by Cambridge (Yale, as I understand it, has refused all such demands from Mahfouz, but then it is an American school working in a different legal atmosphere) just rubs me the wrong way anyway.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Actually, the idea of a UNIVERSITY engaging in this kind of cowardice is more repugnant to me.

Written By: shark
URL: http://
If I were on the Board or Trustees of Cambridge, I would not be voting in favor of putting the entire institution on the line to fight this.

That said, this is total BULLSH*T, we didn’t create laws and rules that expand free speech in order to some backwards third world country’s (UK) laws cancel them all out.

How’s about we send in a Ranger team and apply a little extraordinary rendition on this Saudi pimp? I mean if you’re ever going to use a nasty little tool like this, why not on this guy?

Oh yeah, we generally suck up to these guys as if they owned to world.

Seriously, this may be a job for Larry Flynt. I am sure he could find some that he could print about this guy that would incite a libel suit.

This really, really, frosts my arse.

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
The book is here on Amazon. From the Publisher’s Weekly review:
Without money, especially laundered U.S. dollars, there would be no terror, and this lively, well-documented primer reveals the sources, the amounts and the armed terror organizations they support. Not surprisingly, the author of Narco-Terrorism is at her best on the ironies of the West’s appetite for drugs, which terror groups exploit for funding, arms and recruiting those who would undermine a degenerate Western society.
I thought this was interesting because of this Washington Times article.From the Washington Times article:
Lending credence to Mr. Brown’s concern, an El Paso, Texas, law-enforcement report documents the influx of "approximately 20 Arab persons a week utilizing the Travis County Court in Austin to change their names and driver’s licenses from Arabic to Hispanic surnames."
It is time to be vigilant and rebuff efforts to intimidate book publishers and authors and to support those like Yale Press.
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
But it sure could cut down the amount of reading material with even a smidge of controversy in the good old UK.
I believe that’s the point. Hear no evil, see no evil & speak no evil and we can pretend we live in a paradise.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
"Seriously, this may be a job for Larry Flynt."

Why is it that I feel a bit queasy and disappointed that we can rely on a pornographer to do the right thing? Obviously sex is a better motivator than freedom.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

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