You say you'd rather that people could work on "the real issues". So would I. The problem is that the stupidities of our culture are based on ignorance. This ignorance is not innate to the human character, which is fundamentally ruled by reason and love. It is maintained SOLELY by the use of censorship and the converse practice of forced indoctrination.
These "McLibel 2" were not glorious because they attacked McDonald's at great cost. They are glorious because they DEFENDED the right of free speech, the right to re-examine every issue that touches upon our daily lives. Just as McDonald's seeks to deter every would-be activist with the threat of a [pound]60,000 judgment against them, so they have deterred every would-be corporate censor with the threat of a [pound]12 million legal battle, that generates nothing but bad press. But their position is not the same as that of McDonald's morally, because McDonald's was "defending" itself from MAYBE a few small errors of fact on a small bale of leaflets, while the McLibel 2 were defending themselves from an arbitrary court process that sought to steal all their worldly goods - or their freedom (they had that choice).
You regret the cost. Well, we all should regret the cost. But it's like regretting the cost of the bullets the Nazis had to fire to shoot at our grandfathers. Yes, the money - surely - could have been better spent. But by whom?
The Oprah Winfrey case, a sort of American McLibel, is summarized in the 'corporate censorship' section of my site, Censored In Chicago.
P.S. Unless I'm dreadfully misinformed about the nature of "franchises", I think that if McDonald's went belly up tomorrow, the local retailers could continue doing business as if nothing had happened, except possibly for the loss of some services they relied on McDonald's to do for them. At worst (or is it best?) they could tear down their golden arches and establish a look and menu they'd think of on their own.