Prof. Joseph Weiler of NYU, and Editor-In-Chief of the European Journal Of Law, has contributed an incisive editorial regarding charges that he defamed an author through an unfavorable book review:
…I was summoned to appear before an Examining Magistrate in Paris based on a complaint of criminal defamation lodged by the author. Why Paris you might ask? Indeed. The author of the book was an Israeli academic. The book was in English. The publisher was Dutch. The reviewer was a distinguished German professor. The review was published on a New York website.
Beyond doubt, once a text or image go online, they become available worldwide, including France. But should that alone give jurisdiction to French courts in circumstances such as this? Does the fact that the author of the book, it turned out, retained her French nationality before going to live and work in Israel make a difference? Libel tourism – libel terrorism to some — is typically associated with London, where notorious high legal fees and punitive damages coerce many to throw in the towel even before going to trial. Paris, as we would expect, is more egalitarian and less materialist. It is very plaintiff friendly.
The piece provides a dramatic window into a case that could have a chilling effect on the academic freedom of reviewers around the globe. The verdict will be delivered March 3rd.