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Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a modified version of H.R. 2765, the “Securing the Protection of our Enduring and
Established Constitutional Heritage Act,” (aka the “SPEECH Act”)
H.R. 2765 deters individuals from bringing a libel or defamation suit against an American in a country that has less protective free
speech laws. This increasing practice is not used to pursue legitimate
claims of defamation and libel, but to silence journalists,
publishers, authors as well as anyone else who seeks to exercise their
First Amendment right of Free Speech.
ACT! for America ( www.actforamerica.org...) has a history of aggressively and successfully working to defeat libel tourism and to protect every American’s
constitutional right to Free Speech. We have supported and helped pass
similar legislation at the state level in New York (“Rachel’s Law”), as
well as similar legislation in Florida, Illinois, Utah, Tennessee,
Maryland and California. It was time for the U.S. Congress to address
libel tourism protection at a national level as well.
ACT! for America is supportive of H.R. 2765’s provisions—namely banning enforcement of foreign libel judgments, and allowing authors to
request exoneration in court. However, we endorsed, The Free Speech
Protection Act introduced in the House as H.R. 1304, by Rep. Peter
King, and in the Senate as S. 449, by Sen. Arlen Specter, as we feel it
is stronger legislation.
The Free Speech Protection Act contains not only provisions included in H.R. 2765—namely banning the enforcement of foreign libel
judgments—but it goes a step further: The legislation would also
allow American authors and journalists to sue those foreign plaintiffs
here in the United States—something that we feel will be a strong and
successful deterrent to libel tourism litigation.
The bottom line: Legislation that codifies any of our constitutional rights is critically important, and passage of H.R. 2765
can certainly be categorized as a “score” for us on the constitutional
scoreboard. We remain hopeful, however, that stronger legislation, such
as the King/Specter Free Speech Protection Act, will be addressed and
ultimately passed into law during the next session of Congress.