So, why did Brangelina really go after the News of the Screws?

Guy Adams

pitt jolie 418121t2 So, why did Brangelina really go after the News of the Screws?

What persuaded did Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to sue the News of the World for making-up stories about the demise of their marriage? In recent years they could, after all, have taken hundreds of gossip magazines, show-business websites, and tabloid newspapers to the cleaners for doing exactly the same thing.

The most widely-cited explanation is that Britain’s libel courts have no equal, in the civilised world, when it comes to protecting the reputations of the rich and famous. The “undisclosed” sum the couple (left) have now received from Rupert Murdoch’s scandal-sheet will make most rival Fleet Street titles think twice about going after them in future.

Another (possibly more exciting) theory was, however, outlined by an LA entertainment lawyer I lunched with this week. He reckons Jolie-Pitt’s motivation in bringing the case actually revolved around the potential leverage it might bring them in the American courts.

Under US law, it’s impossible to successfully sue for defamation unless you can prove that a title both published something that was untrue, and that it did so with malicious intent – in other words, you must convince a court that a news outlet went to print with a false allegation despite knowing that allegation was total cobblers.

Now that Brangelina have won their case in the UK, they will have a far better chance of doing just that: US news organisations who print made-up baloney about their relationship will now, after all, be ignoring a widely-reported legal settlement.

Whether this will be enough for Jolie and Pitt to win a defamation case, in a system that values free speech as an absolute, does of course remain to be seen. But it may give the National Enquirer and its American peers, who have been confidently predicting the couple’s divorce for years, at least some food for thought.

On a related subject, readers who are curious as to how such an awful load of old tosh ended up on the News of the World’s front page in the first place might want to look at when the original piece was published: Sunday, January 24th.

That was the day after John Terry won a famously ill-fated “super-injunction,” preventing the tabloid from reporting his various extra-marital dalliances. The England captain got his gagging order only a couple of hours before the NOTW went to print, leaving it scrambling for a suitably eye-catching new lead story. And the rest is history.

Ironically, both Terry and Brangelina share the same law firm, Schillings – they no doubt enjoyed a very profitable weekend.

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