Island of Guersney moots becoming a "libel haven" where rich & powerful can sue & silence critics

Former MI5 agent and Guernsey native Annie Machon sez, "In the teeth of all the anti-SOPA and -ACTA demos, the Channel Island of Guernsey is proposing it become an offshore libel tourism haven for image control. The lawyers see this as a potentially huge revenue stream, much as the tax haven laws have been or the island over the last 3 decades."

The idea is that rich people could register their perpetual "image rights" in Guernsey, and sue people who hurt their feelings. I'm not clear on how they enforce their judgments -- does anyone know what sort of reciprocal arrangements Guernsey has with other territories for collecting on civil judgments from its courts?

Jason Romer is the managing partner and intellectual property specialist at the large "wealth management" legal firm Collas Crill. According to his firm's website, he also, coincidentally, sits on the island's Commercial IP Steering Group and the Drafting Sub-Committee, and is thus conveniently on hand to ease the new legislation through the States.

Also coincidentally, he appears to be an enthusiastic advocate of Eady's infamous "super-injunction" regime which has had such a chillingly expensive effect on the British media in the last decade.

So, if this law is passed, anyone, anywhere around the world will be able (if they can afford it) to register their "image rights" in Guernsey. These rights can even last indefinitely after the original owner's death.

This means that anyone, anywhere, who feels that their "image" has been inappropriately reproduced/copied/traduced/pirated - the correct legal terminology is hazy - can then sue through the Guernsey courts for redress. This could potentially be a powerful new global tool for the suppression of free speech. As public outcry swells internationally against the US IP laws, SOPA and PIPA, and across Europe against the utterly undemocratic ACTA, this new law is a giant leap precisely in the wrong direction.

A new threat to media freedoms (Thanks, Annie!)


      1. My mad scientist laugh didn’t quiver your bones with instant fear? My team of deranged porpoises to capsize the island plan wasn’t implicit?

        Gah! I knew those “Learn to Strike Total Fear Into the Hearts of Minions in 30 days or Less” salesguys were shysters.

  1. Let me go on record as stating that Tiger Woods is not the best golfer ever, that George W. Bush was a lousy President, and that Obama isn’t a whole lot better.  

    Figured I’d get that out of the way before those opinions become actionable.

      1. And Rupert Murdoch is a miserable ancient troll whose companies produce bogus news and he should’ve been denied US citizenship.

        Whew!  Got it in just in time.

  2. I guess nobody’s heard of the Streisand Effect… especially when Anonymous gets involved. 

  3. Fine, but please clarify this to me. You got  an judgement by a court of Guernsey. But how can you enforce this claim in another country? This little island is not a part of the UK neither the EU. Maybe I am stupid but what is the benefit of such a kind of judgement if there is no law enforcement treaty between Guernsey and any other country in the world.

    1. Maybe it’s like those countries that print collectible money? A corporate collect-em-all game?

      (note: this isn’t a serious idea. I have the same questions as you about the original matter)

    2. You don’t always need a treaty.  Some courts will enforce foreign judgments as a matter of international comity, so long as the participants were afforded an adequate measure of procedural due process and so long as it doesn’t grossly conflict with the enforcing country’s public policy.  It’s actually an interesting question whether U.S. courts would enforce judgments like these.  With rich and powerful plaintiffs, I’m not so sure they wouldn’t.

  4. As a former resident of the island this is probably nothing more than what it seems – a way to get rich people to part with their money by offering them something they think they need.

    Guernsey is a crown dependency, so it has a Royal Court, giving it a connection to the UK legal system, and thereby, the EU courts. At least, that’s the way I look at it. However, any judgement handed down by a Guernsey court is most likely to be appealed into non-existence in higher courts.

    By the time that happens, however, the island will have extracted its pound of flesh. It all seems a little pointless for anyone other than the Guernsey States, who stand to make money out of it.

  5. Oh, noes!

    I want to be a law-abbiding citizen, you know, so I’d really like a database that let us know who we cannot mock. It’s not like they are going to be mocked anyway, or that anonymous will go after them. No, no, honest, I just want to know to avoid getting in trouble. Wink, wink.

    1. You can always mock the poor and defenceless. The British press does. News International may have a vacancy.

  6. Eh, I’ll just register my own image there, and then anybody who claims I’ve committed libel is smearing me.

  7. I always wonder what kind of childhoods people like Jason Romer had that made them turn out to be such crappy people.

  8. This is a ridiculous conspiracy theory, which ironically, completely ignores the actual conspiracy that the law is intended to support.

    Guernsey has no interest in milking touchy millionaires for injunctions and damages which the rest of the world will ignore.

    This is simply an extension of the existing tax haven scam: by recognising image rights in Guernsey, global image rights can be assigned to a Guernsey-based corporation, and consequently the revenues are taxed in Guernsey rather than in some other jurisdiction where corporation taxes are greater than zero.

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