The Honorable David A. Paterson
Governor of the State of New York
Albany, New York 12224
Dear Governor Paterson:
On behalf of the more than 300 corporate members of the Association of American Publishers, many of whom are located in New York, we are writing to ask that you move with all dispatch to sign into law the “Libel Terrorism Protection Act,” unanimously passed by the New York State Legislature on March 31.
This legislation gives authors and publishers the means to defend the free-speech rights they enjoy as Americans and as New Yorkers. These rights, guaranteed by the First Amendment and the New York State Constitution, are being seriously undermined by “libel tourists,” who cynically exploit plaintiff-friendly libel laws in foreign courts in an attempt to silence speech they do not like. These individuals use their vast financial resources to bring foreign lawsuits in order to intimidate into silence U.S.-based authors who write about sensitive but vitally important subjects such as the funding of terrorism. Even if they do not attempt to enforce the foreign libel judgment in New York, its very existence can – and has – silenced the kind of reporting that our laws are designed to encourage and protect.
While several of the most recent high-profile examples of libel tourism, such as the Ehrenfeld case, involve judgments obtained in England by Saudis implicated in the funding of terrorism, the threat is even wider and more insidious. The sale of books over the Internet exposes New York authors and publishers to the danger of being sued almost anywhere in the world, and libel tourist litigation remains a threat in any country where our strong constitutional protections for speech are absent. The “Libel Terrorism Protection Act” prohibits enforcement of a foreign libel judgment unless a New York court determines that it satisfies the free speech and press protections guaranteed by the U.S. and the New York State constitutions, and it amends New York’s long-arm statute to allow courts, under certain circumstances, to exercise personal jurisdiction over non-residents who obtain foreign libel judgments against New York residents in order to grant the type of declaratory relief that Dr. Ehrenfeld sought but was unable to obtain.
The U.S. book publishing industry applauds the vision and courage of the Legislature in acting so decisively to protect the free speech rights of New Yorkers, and we look forward to celebrating the signing of the Act.
Patricia S. Schroeder
President and Chief Executive Officer