WRITTEN BY Laura McGee
Defamation is not just a matter for celebrities, it can significantly affect the ‘average’ person or small business. As the old adage goes: ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will permanently damage my career prospects and affect my wellbeing’. Okay, admittedly, this is not the precise proverb; however, in a legal context, it is an apt amendment.
At law, defamation is defined as a loss of reputation by information being published or distributed which is harmful to a person’s reputation in either a personal or professional capacity.
Defamatory material can take a variety of forms, including written, visual and spoken materials, such as news articles, social media posts, radio programmes and public addresses. Whether questionable material rises to the level of being defamatory, perhaps unsurprisingly, is an issue parties often have opposing views on.
Has defamation occurred?
For a claim for defamation to succeed in the ACT, you or your small business will need to show that:
Are there defences to defamation?
Yes. Valid defences to what would otherwise be defamatory material may exist, if the following applies:
You think you have suffered defamation, what next?
There is a strict requirement in the ACT to bring any action for defamation within one year.
You also cannot repeatedly sue. That is, you will only have ever a single cause of action for defamation against one person or entity. This means even if someone repeatedly publishes or communicates defamatory untruths about you, you can only sue once for the totality of this conduct rather than starting a new claim for each new breach of defamation laws.
What’s in a word? Don’t be confused over terminology: slander and libel do not have distinct meanings for the purpose of defamation.
There are different remedies available if you have a claim for defamation. If you have concerns about whether you have been defamed, or about your organisation’s compliance with publication content, please get in touch with our Litigation & Dispute Resolution team at BAL.