Defamation law in NSW has seen a great take-off in recent years.
The reason for this twofold – large publications such as newspapers and media outlets are getting sued for defamation and there have been record payouts, and now social media has led to many smaller cases clogging the defamation list as a result of publication through Facebook and other platforms.
Greg Martin has lectured in defamation law at Western Sydney University. He believes:
Uniform defamation laws were introduced in Australia in 2006. Since that time, social media has opened up the platform for people to sue each other in relation to defamation. Unfortunately, social media is basically unpoliced. Personal posts and comments often get published, which may have an effect on somebody’s reputation.
The cost of a defamation lawsuit is very high, almost always exceeding $100,000.00, and careful consideration must be given before commencing any proceedings. Possible defences include truth and qualified privilege.
The law really does need to be reformed urgently, because whilst all the states and territories agreed in 2006 to uniform defamation laws, based upon the NSW model, this was before the advent of social media which enables everybody to become a publisher.
There are two immediate changes which could be made to reduce the amount of defamation currently being litigated in NSW courts. The first is to reinstate a firm cap on damages. The second is to set a serious harm threshold to winnow out trivial claims. There should also be a time limit of one year imposed on online publications, as there is on offline publications.
New defences such as a public interest defence should also be considered.
A thorough review into Australia’s defamation laws was commenced in June by NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman. The matter is currently before the Australian Law Reform Commission for further modification, and it is to be hoped all the states and territories can agree upon changing the laws to prevent defamation lawsuits such as the recent case of a doctor suing another doctor in Albury in relation to an abortion clinic. It was a sad and terrible case.
Recently, there have also been record payouts to actress Rebel Wilson and to cricketer Chris Gayle. The cost of running each of these cases would be in excess of $200,000.00, so it is not an easy jurisdiction.
If you want more information about the review into Australia’s defamation laws, have a look at this article in the Sydney Morning Herald.
If you believe you have been defamed, or if somebody else alleges that you have defamed them, then call Greg Martin on 02 9687 9322.