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Defamation Act 2013 receives royal assent

After much parliamentary wrangling, the Defamation Bill has become the Defamation Act 2013.   The Act codifies and consolidates much, but by no means all, of the existing libel law.  It also represents a shift in favour of freedom of expression, arguably at the expense of the protection of reputation.  Key features include:-

-The introduction of a requirement on claimants to show that a defamatory statement has caused 'serious harm'.  Additionally, corporations will need to show serious financial loss or the likelihood of serous financial loss.

-The codification of the common law defences of justification (renamed 'truth'), Reynolds qualified privilege/responsible journalism and honest opinion.

-A framework for claims relating to online publication and the interplay between website operators and third party contributors.

-The removal of the presumption in favour of the right to a jury trial.

-Protection for peer-reviewed statements in academic journals.

-Measures to discourage libel tourism.

-The introduction of a 'single publication rule' removing indefinite liability for continuing online publications (which would become statute-barred after a year).

-The ability of a court to order that an unsuccessful defendant publish a summary of its judgment.

The Act requires the introduction of regulations to determine the applicability of a defence upon which, in certain circumstances, website operators will be able to rely.  It is anticipated that website operators will have a defence if a third party contributor is identifiable to the claimant or if the claimant has failed to serve a proper notice on the website operator.

The Act is not yet in force, pending implementation by a statutory instrument.

A full analysis of the Act will be published on Brett Wilson LLP's blog in due course.


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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.