Thin-Skinned Author Sues Book Reviewer For Damaging Her Reputation With Bad Review

Apparently in France the legal concept of defamation treats attacks on honor as a form of assault. Karin N. Calvo-Goller, an Israeli author, is taking a German book reviewer to court in France over a four paragraph long negative review on Global Law Books, a New York Web site associated with The European Journal of International Law. The crime committed in the review? “Harming her reputation”:

The reviewer, Thomas Weigend, a law professor at the University of Cologne, adopted a measured and patiently condescending tone. He said the book “meticulously covers all relevant topics,” and he praised its occasional “analytical nuggets.” But he faulted the book for “rehashing the existing legal set-up” and questioned Ms. Calvo-Goller’s “conceptual grasp” of some matters.

Ms. Calvo-Goller responded by demanding that the review be deleted.

“I am aware of the extent of freedom of expression under the First Amendment,” she wrote to the site’s editor, Joseph Weiler, a law professor at New York University. “However, the extent of that freedom ends where its exercise damages the reputation of an individual.”

Brian Leiter aptly noted the obvious:

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

Your Thoughts (as long as I deem them not damaging to my reputation, of course)?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • ZB

    Calvo-Goller is making one of those disturbing arguments that inappropriately conflates an argument, text, or belief system with human beings. Why should her argument reflect herself to a degree that one could not comment on the former without implicating the latter?

  • Bob

    If this was a US case, it would be pretty cut-and-dry: You’re not liable for defamation for publishing what is obviously your opinion. What will be a heckuva lot more interesting is how the jurisdictional issues will shake out. How does an Israeli author sue a German professor employed at a French university for a review published on a US website? Where does jurisdiction lie, if anywhere at all? My OPINION is that the case seems to be so without merit that it’s not worth the time spent to answer that question. Heck, it wasn’t even worth my time spent commenting on it.


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