Some days you just want to give those Court of Appeal judges a great big hug. This is one of those days.
Those lovely judges have backed up a fair comment defence for a review of an opera in the Evening Standard. The composer, Keith Burstein, took to his lawyers over a review of his opera “Manifest Destiny”.
The review said “I found the tone depressingly anti-American, and the idea that there is anything heroic about suicide bombers is, frankly, a grievous insult.”
Burstein had argued that this accused him of being “a sympathizer with terrorise courses” and that he “actively promotes such belief in his artistic work.”
The High Court had given him the verdict and damages. Now the Court of Appeal has overturned that judgement. The ruling says the words are plainly comment and that no reasonable jury could treat them as a statement of fact.
We should not forget that comment can be “pungent and offensive.” And that the “fair” in “fair comment” does not mean you have to be fair, in the sense of being “just, unbiased, equitable, legitimate, in accordance with rules,” as the OED says.
It means “it is fair to comment”, you are allowed to comment.
Burstein has to give back the damages he won in the earlier round and pay the Evening Standard’s costs.
Now that’s fair.
If only those judges had been around for the Liberace case in 1959.