And it beginnings. The first proper post, because, of course, introductory posts don’t actually count. Oh, and I also thought I’d throw in a picture of a lovely beach. It’s on Padre Island, Corpus Christi TX if anyone out there is at all interested.
Defamation. It’s just a simple word, yet it invokes so many different thoughts. For lawyers the first thought is probably “money!!!” (to be fair, that is probably their first thought on most things… Don’t I paint a cynical picture of the legal world?) or “what has my client supposedly done now?” For celebrities it conjures up terrifying images of a long court case and their face across the fronts of many papers, scandalous affairs and pictures they wished they’d never taken or they never knew even existed. Yet, for most people defamation doesn’t mean anything other than quite literally being defamed. Most famously said by Lord Atkin in Sim v Stretch “a statement which tends to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right thinking members of society”. If we’re getting into the nitty gritty of it defamation is a statement about a claimant which is defamatory and has no legal justification.
I learned about defamation for the first time last year in the Law of Torts. However, this week we had to put a different spin on it. We had to think about how defamation and the media go together. Thus, we all made up silly scenarios about famous singers, politicians and our lecturers being involved in some form of defamation. Because, obviously that is what law students do… We’ve got to have our fun somewhere… For instance, is it defamatory to tell someone, and them alone, that they are a dirty cheat? No it isn’t, as long as no one else heard it. However, if you posted a blog stating that your ex is a dirty cheat (when they weren’t, or well they could be dirty but not a cheat and vice versa, well I think you get the drift) then that would be defamatory.
The statement has to be about someone, namely the claimant, otherwise they wouldn’t be suing I guess… You never know, though, there are some odd people out there, putting it nicely. This statement must be defamatory, so something that makes a reasonable person think badly or lower their opinion of another. A quick aside here, a reasonable person is often referred as the man on the Clapham omnibus, which comes from an old case. It basically means you or me. Anyhow, back on point, there is also a bit which is “without legal justification”. This means that you don’t have an excuse, simply. Did you have consent? Was it true? Is it your honest opinion? All of these defences are listed within the new Act.
Defamation is split into two types: Slander and Libel. Libel is more permanent in nature and often involves something in writing, though it is not limited to that. Whilst slander is of a more temporary nature and is often the spoken word, though again not limited to that. The big thing at the moment is the new piece of legislation that was put into force on the 1st January 2014. This offered a bit of a shake up to the law of defamation through the re-naming of certain defences. However, the thing bit that got most lawyers interest were the sections to do with the internet. That big bad black hole full of information that is full of hundreds of thousands of potential claims in defamation and that probably isn’t even much of an exaggeration. Section 8 (s.8 if you’re abbreviating it like legal peeps do) is the new Single Publication Rule changed the law in the most notable way. Now the time limitation starts with the first publication, whereas before it was renewed with each publication. This is an important section because it seriously limits the time in which a claim can be made. It was previously believed that the single publication rule was renewed, in a sense, each time the publication was made. However, now it is only from the very first publication. So you better get in there quick! I guess, a slight public policy reason (judges do like their public policy reasons, not that they would let you know that) as the potential for defamation cases will rise due to social media. Therefore there needs to be a way of cutting back or capping the cases so that the courts do not clog up. Or, if your a cynic, making less work for the judiciary.
My whole opinion on defamation is don’t say or do something that isn’t true and could be construed as mean. Hey, just be nice to everyone and it’ll all be dandy. Now wouldn’t that solve a lot of issues in the world? Like world peace!
On that note, peace!
Until next time,