Don’t Like a Book Review? Sue! (In France)

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Photo: Academic Center of Law & Business; Brill Academic Pub

Author Karin Calvo-Goller didn't care for a review of her page-turner The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court, so she sued. The review, by University of Cologne professor Thomas Weigend, appeared on the Global Law Books site edited by NYU's Joseph Weiler. It was, according to the Times, "sober, technical and mild. Indeed it would not be hard to find a more caustic review on any given Sunday in this newspaper."

Don't try telling that to Calvo-Goller. Though it might seem odd to head to France to adjudicate a claim "concerning a review written in English by a German professor of a book written in English by an author living in Israel," she pressed ahead anyway. After all, she's a French citizen, and the French concept of defamation "views attacks on honor as a form of assault." The court will announce the verdict March 3.

Before instigating the proceedings, Calvo-Goller went to Weiler and demanded he take down the review. He refused and offered her a chance to respond. She didn't, and e-mailed him saying that what he had published "may cause harm to my professional reputation and academic reputation."

But so may her case, says University of Chicago law prof Brian Leiter. "The author has obviously done more damage to her reputation by making this criminal complaint than would have been possible by any book review, let alone the one in question," he wrote on his blog.

The book's only Amazon user review gives it a paltry single star and begins with the words: "If you have read this book, and are considering giving it anything but a glowing review, beware: a negative review may get you charged with criminal libel."

From a Four-Paragraph Book Review to a Criminal Trial in France [NYT]