Publishers accused of libel should only be sued in the country where their outlet's main audience is, according to new rules approved by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on July 6.

BRUSSELS (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Publishers accused of libel should only be sued in the country where their outlet's main audience is, according to new rules approved by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on July 6.

This is expected to reduce the practice of "libel shopping," where defamation suits are filed in the country within the European Union that has the harshest laws.

The parliament said that if it was not clear where the main target audience was -- for example with Internet publications -- the law of "the country in which editorial control is exercised" applies.

They said that "the language of the publication or broadcast" and the "sales or audience size in a given country" should be taken into account when determining where the principle audience exists.

The vote is a setback to the European Union's executive body, the European Commission, which proposed a formula under which the law of the country where the damage occurs would apply.

But the European Publishers Council welcomed it. "This is a victory for press freedom," EPC director Angela Mills Wade said.

The European Federation of Journalists, which also praised the vote, had warned that allowing plaintiffs to shop around "would cause chaos and endanger press freedom."

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