For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Claire O'Brien, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

Senate Passes Bill Protecting International Free Speech

WASHINGTON - In a
welcome step for free speech, the Senate today passed a bill that will
prevent litigants from using foreign defamation laws to restrict the
free speech rights of Americans inside the U.S.

 
The
bill, the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established
Constitutional Heritage Act or SPEECH Act, addresses the phenomenon
called "libel tourism," which allows a foreign plaintiff to sue an
American author or publisher in countries that have free speech
protections that do not match those afforded under the First Amendment. A
party seeking libel damages may bring a claim in any jurisdiction where
the allegedly libelous communication was published and then enforce the
judgment inside the U.S. With the ease of electronic communications,
publications by American authors are now routinely seen outside the U.S.
This bill would bar enforcement of such judgments in the U.S. unless
the facts would have warranted a similar judgment under our First
Amendment standards.
 

A
different form of the bill was passed by the House in June and the House
and Senate will now work to resolve the differences between the two.
 

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The
following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, American Civil
Liberties Union Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel:

 

"By
passing this bill, Congress has made it clear that free speech
restrictions in foreign countries should not chill or restrict speech
rights of Americans at home. Our cherished First Amendment rights are
bedrock principles of our democracy and should be protected fiercely
within our borders. Passage of the SPEECH Act will make sure freedom of
expression will be protected overseas. We encourage the House and Senate
to work swiftly to adopt a final version of the bill to send to
President Obama for signature."
 

To read the ACLU's letter
supporting the SPEECH Act, go to: www.aclu.org/free-speech/aclu-letter-senate-support-hr-2765-securing-protection-our-enduring-and-established-cons

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