The Swedish Supreme Court Decision on Freedom of Speech and the EU Data Directive

The Swedish Supreme Court has in a decision on the 12 June, 2001, decided that the EU data directive is partially unconstitutional. In particular, the court says that the act cannot be used to stop serious debate on the Internet.

The Swedish Supreme Court decision is not, to my knowledge, available in English, but it should be translated, there is interest in it. It is rather long and difficult to read, but the main principle is that the court says that the exemption for journalists, authors and artists should be interpreted so widely, that the personal information act should not be applied to any serious debate, even if the writer of the debate is not a journalist, author or artist.

The court reaches this conclusion citing both Swedish and EU constitutions. Of course, different people can have different opinions of what is "serious debate".

The actual case was a man who had been badly treated by the Swedish banks, and put up a web page critizing some named bank officials for their conduct as bank employees. In two lower courts, he was sentenced to fines, but the supreme court freed him.

The court decision is also of interest because the Swedish Supreme Court has usually not been political like the U.S. Supreme Court. But this decision shows that the Swedish court is influenced by U.S. customs and moving towards becoming more of a political/constitutional court, changing the interpretations of laws if they are unconstitutional.

The full Swedish text of the court decision can be found at

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Last update: 15-May-2002 by Jacob Palme E-mail:
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