• “Anything that tends to lower the reputation of an individual amongst right thinking people or damages them in their trade or profession.”
  • Anything negative in a broad sense.
  • Examples:
    • Hypocrisy
    • Having an affair
    • Acting in an unprofessional manner
  • “At the heart of libel law is getting it right.”
    • Extreme requirement to be able to prove what you print.
  • Information has to be published to a third party to be libellous.
    • I.e., private emails not subject.
    • Substantial publication?
      • If published to a small group, less damaging
        • Jameel v. Dow Jones (2005)
          • Wall Street Journal allegation was seen by 5 people.
            • “It would be an abuse of process to commit so much of British law to such … when so little is at stake.”
  • Burden of Proof
    • Claimant — that the article was published to a third party, claimant is reasonably identifiable and the article is defamatory
    • Defendant — that the statement was true.
  • Libel laws apply equally on the Internet as it does to other formats.
    • Are search engines considered publishers?
      • Metropolitan International Schools v. Design Technica, Google (2009)
        • Case thrown out because Google was a facilitator and not a publisher.
      • ISPs also exempt
    • Godfrey v. Demon Internet (1999)
      • Academic asked for defamatory article be taken down, Demon took 10 days to comply.
      • Demon Internet able to argue “innocent dissemination”
        • Same argument as a newsstand not knowing what’s in every periodical
        • However, one notice of defamation is given, then on the hook.
          • Demon had to pay £15,000 in damages, but +£200,000 in legal
  • Limitation period — 1 year from publication date.
    • If on the Internet, however, publication continues until 1 year after article is taken down.
  • Since introduction of conditional fees, anyone can sue for libel
    • Lawyer can take on case and take fee from defendant, in addition to an “uplift” fee due to risk inherent in taking case on.
  • Repetition rule
    • If you’re repeating just what has been said elsewhere, you’re still on the hook.
    • Plus you can’t defend it since you have no evidence!
  • defamatory statements
    • Libel — published in a permanent form. Broadcasting considered libel.
    • Slander — Transitory statements
      • Victoria Beckham implied items in shop were fake and press reported it; successfully sued for £45,000 in losses.
  • Injunctions are rare
    • Rule against prior restraint
      • If a publisher plans to prove a statement is true then should not be banned from publishing.
      • Law accepts in the law of libel that courts do not stop publication except in rare and exceptional circumstances.
    • Bonnard v. Perryman
      • Bonnard established that “The right of free speech is one which it is for the public interest that individuals should posses, and indeed, that they should exercise without
  • Damages

    • Special damages where you can prove actual loss, plus damages for loss of general reputation.
  • Individuals

    • Not the dead
    • Groups of individuals
      • Showing a photo of identifiable people at club attached to article on drug use could lead to this.
    • Who is reasonably identifiable?
  • Companies
  • Not public authorities/political parties