Defamation

Defamation: Do you think you may have been defamed by someone (or the victim of what used to be called ‘libel’ – or ‘slander’)?

Has your small business been defamed?

Have you suffered embarrassment and humiliation as a result of what has been said or published about you?

Has your business lost customers or suffered a loss of revenue or business as a result?

If so, you (and/or your business) may have a viable claim in defamation against the person responsible.

Legislation in South Australia

The Defamation Act of 2005 (SA) abolished the traditional distinction between libel (which meant to defame someone in writing) and slander- (which meant to defame someone by the spoken word). Nowadays, both are included under the general term ‘defamation’ – regardless of how the defamatory statements or comments are published.

The objects of the 2005 Defamation Act are—

(a) to enact provisions to promote uniform laws of defamation in Australia; and

(b) to ensure that the law of defamation does not place unreasonable limits on freedom of expression and, in particular, on the publication and discussion of matters of public interest and importance; and

(c) to provide effective and fair remedies for persons whose reputations are harmed by the publication of defamatory matter; and

(d) to promote speedy and non-litigious methods of resolving disputes about the publication of defamatory matter.

(see section 3)

Damage

It is not necessary for the person (or business) which has been defamed to have suffered what the law calls ‘special damage’ (eg actual monetary loss) in order to bring a claim as a result of the publication.

Section 3 of the Act expressly states that defamation is actionable without proof of special damage.

The law presumes that if you have been defamed, you are entitled to ‘damages’.

Social Media

In addition to the traditional forms of defamation (e.g. publication in a newspaper or on television and radio- or words spoken at a public meeting), modern technology and social media in particular means that publication of defamatory comments about others has become much more common, perhaps because people do not realise that e.g. a Facebook post or an online review can amount to defamation.

A Defamation Claim?

Defamation is a complex and technical area of the law. Many people defame others (or businesses) without realising they have done so- or that they might face legal action as a result.

Time Limit

If you are unsure about your position- you should get advice before it is too late. Unlike other civil claims (where the time limitation period is much longer) a defamation claim has to be brought within 12 months of the publication of the defamatory matter.

If you would like to know more about your rights about Defamation or Defamatory comments, contact us to make an appointment to see Debra Lane.

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