Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will be going on trial for defamation in Italy at a trial beginning next year.
The American cyclist faces six years in jail if found guilty of criminal defamation is being sued by Italian cyclist Filippo Simeoni. In 2003, Armstrong called Simeoni a liar in the French newspaper Le Monde.
In a preliminary hearing, Armstrong’s lawyers had questioned the court&rsquos jurisdiction over the case, but this was unsuccessful. In other words, as far as this non-lawyer can tell, it’s another one of those Internet jurisdiction trials that online publishers including bloggers should be worried about:
“The judge decided that even though Armstrong’s comments were published in France the act of defamation against Simeoni occurred when Simeoni read the newspaper via the internet,” the Italian rider’s lawyer Giuseppe Napoleone told Reuters.
The Italian court is effectively claiming global jurisdiction over anything that is published on the Internet. Echos of the Australian forum-shopping case against Dow Jones, the still-simmering French Nazi memorobilia case against Yahoo!, and the de facto Australian gag on the Guardian web site.
All of these have been civil cases, but it seems that defamation is actually a criminal offense in Italy, so the stakes are higher here. Hopefully, the Italian judge will look at Canada’s more sensible approach.