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Australia’s highest court ruled Friday that New York-based Dow Jones & Co. can appeal a lower court decision that allowed an Australian businessman to sue over an article published in the United States and posted on the Internet. Analysts say the court’s ultimate decision could have far-reaching ramifications for the global publishing industry. In August, the Supreme Court of Victoria state ruled that Melbourne businessman Joseph Gutnick could sue the company for defamation in an Australian court over the article published in an online version of Dow Jones’ Barron’s business magazine. Gutnick, a mining magnate, claimed the 7,000-word article portrayed him as a schemer given to stock scams, money laundering and fraud. The state court decision opened up the possibility that publishers and Internet sites were potentially open to litigation in any country that allowed defamation cases. Friday’s ruling by a judge of Australia’s highest court allows for the possible reversal of the state supreme court decision. A date has yet to be set for the hearing. Appearing in court for the Dow Jones, attorney Geoffrey Robertson argued that the Victoria Supreme Court ruling meant anything published on the Internet could be subject to litigation in 191 countries and would have a significant impact on freedom of speech in cyberspace. He said the matter should be heard in New Jersey — where the article was printed — rather than in Victoria, where it was downloaded. Lawyers for Gutnick had argued the case should be heard in his hometown of Melbourne since people in Victoria were able to access the Internet to read the article, thereby defaming him where he is best known. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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