New York's move to protect authors living in the state from frequently spurious libel actions abroad is good news for free speech. Congress should follow suit.
"Libel tourism," the practicing of filing libel suits against books one wishes to suppress, is a lamentably common practice, and is especially prevalent among the friends of Saudi despots, who file their suits in British courts, where the libel laws disadvantage publishers and controversial ideas. This sorry episode, reported by Roger Kimball, should be kept in mind:
Last summer, Cambridge University Press announced that it would pulp all unsold copies of its 2006 book Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World by Robert O. Collins, a professor emeritus of history at the University of California, and J. Millard Burr, a retired employee of the State Department. Why? Becuase Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi banker, filed a libel claim to quash the book. According to a story in The Chronicle for Higher Education , Cambridge instantly capitulated, paid "substantial damages" to Mr. Mahfouz, and even went so far as to contact university libraries worldwide to ask them to remove the book from their shelves. They seem to have been successful in their request: I have searched high and low for the book in academic libraries and public libraries and have found that, although it is listed as "not checked out," it is nowhere to be found.
Suppressing books he doesn't like seems to be a hobby of Mr. Mahfouz's. His web site lists successful actions against three other books Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan, Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden and Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed–and How to Stop It. As Robert Spencer explained in The Washington Times, one notable feature of Mr. Mahfouz's legal actions is that he has sued various American authors in Britain, where libel laws favor the plaintiff.
Now, if we could get New Hampshire to enact a similar law protecting writers from meritless prosecutions by phony "human rights" commissions abroad.