The Defamation Act 2013 – Part 2

Phil Gorski

Phil Gorski

Part 2 of our blog looks at two more aspects of the newly-arrived Defamation Act 2013:

Libel Tourism

This practice, which has achieved some notoriety over the years, involves foreign claimants bringing libel proceedings in England when there’s only a tenuous link between the claim and this country.  The law now states that the courts will not hear a claim unless ‘of all the places in which the statement complained of has been published, England and Wales is clearly the most appropriate place in which to bring an action…’.

The intention of this part of the Act is clear – libel tourism is a bad thing and it should be prevented unless there’s good reason not to – but there is enormous scope for interpretation of the words ‘most appropriate’ and, with courts increasingly reluctant to entertain claims only slightly connected to this country before the Act came into force anyway, it will be a case of waiting to see how things change, if at all.

User-generated Content

This section, section 5, was the subject of lengthy debate in parliament and is designed to provide additional protection to the operators of websites which feature, for example, forums or ‘comment’ sections.     Some protection already exists, most notably s.1 Defamation Act 1996 (which remains in force), but the Act provides a further way in which website operators can avoid a claim where they did not themselves post the defamatory statement.

At its simplest the section does provide a very useful defence to a website operator: where the person who posted the statement can be identified well enough for court action to be started against them the website operator has a defence.

Where the poster cannot be identified there is a procedure which, if it’s followed, means the operator has a defence too.  It won’t be for everyone – it’s complicated and could be expensive and time-consuming – but where for example an operator would rather do something other than roll over immediately a complaint is received, it does provide an alternative course of action.

We’ll look at further changes in the third and final part of this blog coming soon.

Phil Gorski
Commercial Dispute Resolution Department
0113 2279 318

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