On 14 December 2012 the Ministry of Justice commenced an informal consultation seeking views on the content of the Regulations to be made under clause 5 of the Defamation Bill concerning the new defence for website operators. These Regulations will establish the notice and take-down procedure that website operators will have to follow in order to be able to rely on the new clause 5 defence. Continue reading
Clause 5 of the Defamation Bill is entitled “Operators of Websites”. Its purpose is to provide a new defence for website operators in circumstances where the claimant can pursue his claim for defamation against the person who posted the statement. It has been extensively debated on this blog and elsewhere. On 19 December 2012 it was one of the clauses considered by the House of Lords Grand Committee. Continue reading
Just a few days before the Defamation Bill receives its line-by-line scrutiny in the House of Lords Grand Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has published its report on the Bill.
The report centres on what the Joint Committee considers to be the key elements of the Defamation Bill that impact on human rights, being the proposed codification of the Reynolds defence in clause 4, the new defence for website operators in clause 5, and the proposed single publication rule in clause 8. In this post, I follow on from my previous postings about internet libel and clause 5 (see Part 1 and Part 2) by commenting on the Joint Committee’s recommendations as to clause 5. Continue reading
It is wrong to treat free speech as being a superior or primary right in a democracy as some reform campaigners have. Many of the values underpinning free speech – truth, individual autonomy and development, the maintenance of a democratic society – also underpin reputation itself. We should value robust protection for reputation for many of the same reasons that we value free speech itself. Continue reading
An interesting proposal has slipped quietly into the mix for consideration during the House of Lords Committee stage deliberations on the Defamation Bill. During the Second Reading debate, Lord Lester mooted a possible alternative to the clause 4 defence of responsible publication on a matter of public interest. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has pressed the Government on the desirability of the new alternative. In our view, the proposal – developed by Sir Brian Neill (pic) – offers an opportunity both to improve the operation of the existing common law defence and to ‘tidy up’ aspects of the existing Bill. Continue reading
This is the second and concluding part of a Note on the Defamation Bill. The first part was published on Inforrm on 20 June 2012.
Clause 6: Privilege for Peer-reviewed Academic or Scientific Publication
We have serious reservations about clause 6 of the Bill which provides a form of qualified privilege to statements published in scientific or academic journals that have been subject to a peer review process. Continue reading
We are two academic lawyers who specialise in the area of libel and media law more broadly. We have been much engaged in the policy debate on libel reform, and have been critical of the approach reflected in the Defamation Bill and its earlier iterations. Our appreciation of the problems in this area chimes very much more strongly with the general theme surrounding costs, procedure and access to justice for both defendants and claimants that emerged strongly during the Second Reading debate.