Articles Developments in PIL Scholarship

Symeonides on Choice of Law in Infringement of Personality Rights Torts

Symeon Symeonides (Alex L. Parks Distinguished Professor of Law at Willamette University – College of Law) has made available on SSRN a draft of his paper on Choice of Law in Torts Arising from Infringement of Personality Rights that is being published in the 6th issue of the Revue de droit des affaires internationales/ International Business Law Journal.

The abstract of the article reads as follows:

This Article is a contribution to a conference held at the University of Paris-V on the localization of injuries in international or multistate torts, including those arising from cross-border infringements of personality rights, such as defamation or invasion of privacy.

The Article necessarily takes for granted the European Union’s rules on jurisdiction and choice-of-law and proposes a new choice-of-law rule for infringement of personality conflicts, which were excluded from the scope of the Rome II Regulation of 2007.

The proposed rule would amend Article 7 of Rome II, which at present covers only environmental torts. The amendment would reverse the starting point of the choice-of-law process by making the lex loci commissi the default rule, calling for the application of the law of the state of the injurious conduct or omission. However, the amendment would also authorize the application of the law of the state of the resulting injury (lex loci damni) if: (a) the occurrence in that state was objectively foreseeable, and (b) the claimant formally and timely requests the application of that law.

The paper focuses particularly on infringements committed through the internet. These are seen as difficult because of the ubiquity and borderlessness of the internet and a number of additional factors, which include considerable differences among various countries substantive law, jurisdiction, and choice of law.

Symeonides is arguing that in the localization of damage in cross-border torts concerning infringement of personality rights the localization of the injury should not be the only determinative factor in choice-of-law decisions in these conflicts. According to the author a number of additional factors besides the locus of the injury should guide these decisions. These are the place of the injurious conduct, the parties’ domiciles, the place of their relationship if any, and the content of the laws of each contact state (for more sophisticated enquiries). Several objections can be raised against these additional factors given that they cannot be easily compressed into simple black-letter rules that would be in line with the aim of the Rome II to deliver legal certainty and predictability in the EU. The author discusses them in relation to each additional factor. However, the approach followed by Article 7 Rome II for environmental damages may present the legislator with this possibility given that several EU Member States follow it for choice-of-law rules concerning infringement of personality rights giving the victim the possibility to choose between two to four applicable laws. For the time being, Rome II expressly excluded from its scope non-contractual obligations arising out of “violations of privacy and rights relating to personality, including defamation” (Article 1(2) letter (g) Rome II).

The last part of the paper provides suggestion for replacing the present wording of Article 7 Rome II with a provision that would be broader and would cover cross-border torts such as human rights violations, infringement of personality rights as well as all other torts not covered by special provisions of Rome II.

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