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The law of defamation is governed by the Defamation Act 1996 (the “Act”) and has been enhanced by an abundance of case law which together set out the following summarised points:

§ Definition;

§ Types of defamation; and

§ Criteria.


Although no definition has been formulated by the Act itself, legal opinion and authority has offered definitions which may be summarised as:

‘Any publication, whether spoken, written or otherwise, to a third person which is false and has the affect of adversely affecting another’s reputation.’

Types of defamation

Libel and slander distinguish the law of defamation where it may take the different forms of publication either in transient form by the spoken word, gestures (slander); and where publication exists in a permanent form such as the written word, printed, or broadcast over the television, radio or indeed the Internet (a combination of broadcast and printed form).

It is an important note that in respect of libel there is no requirement to show that there has been suffered any loss or injury as a result of the statement. Libel is actionable per se.

Criteria for libel

There are three criteria that must be proved in order to satisfy a court that defamation exists. They are:

1. The statement must be defamatory. Such a statement will be regarded despite any intention of the author. A statement may alternatively give rise to a secondary meaning apart from any first sight innocent interpretation. This type of statement is known as innuendo when considered together with additional or extrinsic facts that is known to the reader.

2. The statement must refer to the aggrieved party either directly or indirectly. It is therefore a requirement that the one who claims defamation must be able to point to their identification within the publication.

3. The final requirement is to show that publication was exposed to a third party. There are various interpretations that assist in identifying publication to a third party, none of which blur an ordinary common sense meaning.

The test that is to be applied will be whether a reasonable person would react to the statement in such a manner so as to have a lower opinion of the one who made the statement.

About the Author

Lawdit Solicitors offer services and advice for litigation, commercial contracts, Intellectual Property and IT legal agreements. We are experts in commercial law with a heavy emphasis on Intellectual Property, Internet and e-commerce law. Lawdit is a member of the International Trademark Association, the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates and we are the appointed Solicitors to the largest webdesign association in the world, the United Kingdom Website Designers Association.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-04-25 21:36:28 in Legal Articles

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