Libel Watch: Negative Book Review Draws Defamation Suit

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Karin Calvo-Goller has reportedly filed a defamation lawsuit over a negative review of her book, pictured above. (Credit:

Author Karin Calvo-Goller reportedly filed a defamation lawsuit in France over a review of her book The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court, New York Magazine reported.

The review was written by Thomas Weigend, a professor at the University of Cologne and was posted on Global Law Books, and the lawsuit is against both Weigend and Global Law Books’ editor, Joseph Weiler.

Calvo-Goller “demanded” Weigend remove the review but “he refused and offered her a chance to respond.  She didn’t, and e-mailed him saying that what he had published ‘may cause harm to my professional reputation and academic reputation.”

The New York Times reported on the case, noting that the Parisian court “will decide” on the case this month.  According to the Times, Calvo-Goller’s’s suit in France is “a country with almost no connection to the book or the review.”

The review, see here, is “four paragraphs long” and was posted in 2007, according to the Times. “It was sober, technical and mild. Indeed, it would not be hard to find a more caustic review on any given Sunday in this newspaper,” the Times commented.

Weigend “adopted a measured and patiently condescending tone. He said the book ‘meticulously covers all relevant topics,’ and he praised its occasional ‘analytical nuggets.’ But he faulted the book for ‘rehashing the existing legal set-up’ and questioned Ms. Calvo-Goller’s ‘conceptual grasp’ of some matters.”

Further, the Times commented, “France is an odd place to adjudicate a claim concerning a review written in English by a German professor of a book written in English by an author living in Israel. The book was, moreover, published by a Dutch firm. The review was published on a Web site in New York. True, Ms. Calvo-Goller is a French citizen.”

As StinkyJournalism has previously reported, the U.S. passed a law last year that would keep foreign libel judgments from being upheld in the U.S. if the ruling wouldn’t hold up in U.S. court.  But, the Times noted “while the law makes it hard for plaintiffs to collect foreign libel judgments, it can do nothing to expunge a criminal conviction abroad.”

Hollywood Reporter commented on the case, wondering: “Is France usurping Britain as the tourist destination of choice when it comes to suing for defamation?”

As Hollywood Reporter explained in France, “Although the monetary upside is far less lucrative (reported to be a maximum fine of 12,000 pounds) for a libel conviction, the process is much quicker. Defendants have just three months to appear before a tribunal, and have just ten days from receiving a notice to file evidence in defense. It’s up to a defendant to prove a statement is true, like in England, instead of a plaintiff having to prove a statement is false, like in the United States.”

We are contacting the various parties involved for comment.

UPDATE: 3/4/2011 11:44 AM EST: See more on this story here.

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Libel Watch: Negative Book Review Draws Defamation Suit

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