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Dow Jones has appealed a court ruling giving an Australian mining magnate the right to sue for defamation over an article published in the United States and posted on the Internet. The landmark ruling could have wide-ranging implications for publishers and Internet sites that post articles in the 190 nations that allow defamation cases, media analysts said. New York-based Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and other financial publications, filed an appeal Tuesday. “We filed an appeal on Tuesday on a case that could have major impact in the way media companies operate throughout the world,” said Steven Goldstein, vice president of corporate communications for Dow Jones. “We do not believe that Australia is an appropriate venue for a case involving a story that was published in New York.” Last month, the supreme court in the southwestern Australian state of Victoria ruled that businessman Joe Gutnick could sue Dow Jones under Australia’s tough defamation laws. Gutnick claimed that a 7,000-word article that had appeared in the online version of Barron’s portrayed him as a schemer given to stock scams, money laundering and fraud. A hearing was held in Victorian Supreme Court in June to determine where to hold the trial. Geoffrey Robertson, a lawyer for Dow Jones, argued that the case should be heard in the United States because the article was first published in New Jersey and intended for a U.S. audience. Gutnick said the case should be heard in his hometown, Melbourne, since people in Victoria were able to access the Internet to read the article — thereby defaming him where he is best known. Justice John Hedigan ruled Aug. 28 in favor of Gutnick. No date was set for Dow Jones’ appeal, but it could take up to a year to be heard unless the company seeks a priority hearing. American media companies — many of which publish around the world — have the most to lose from the ruling, said Andrew Kenyon, a media law specialist at Melbourne University Law School. In the United States, defamation laws tend to favor the publisher over the plaintiff. Media companies may not find it so easy to defend itself abroad, he noted. British “Commonwealth countries like the U.K., Canada, Australia have a similar defamation law and it’s fairly hard to defend things. In America, particularly for public figures they have to prove an awful lot more to get their case,” he said Wednesday. Kenyon said judges in other countries, particularly in the 54 former British colonies comprising the British Commonwealth, may not necessarily use the judgment as a precedent, but would certainly look at it. “It’s persuasive. They would be interested,” he said. “It wouldn’t bind them, but if it goes to the high court, then that would be very persuasive in the U.K. and Canada, for example.” Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Australian Internet Industry Association, said the ruling has huge ramifications for Internet companies as well. “The presumption now is that when you post any article on the Internet, you will be required to comply with the local laws of all the jurisdictions anywhere in the world that it can be downloaded,” he said. “That means basically that you can’t protect yourself,” he said. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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