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New Defamation Bill clears key hurdle

24 April 2013

After lengthy public debate, the Defamation Bill was yesterday passed by the House of Lords. The bill is intended to rebalance defamation laws in favour of freedom of expression.

Some significant provisions introduced include:

  1. companies must show that a publication has caused, or is likely to cause, substantial financial loss before they can claim
  2. a defence for website operators if it was not them who posted the statement – provided they cooperate in identifying the statement maker
  3. an effective limitation period for internet-based publications of one year from their first publication

A proposed amendment which would have prevented companies providing public services from suing in defamation has not been passed. Nor has there been any statutory restriction placed on public bodies funding actions by their employees.

The bill may not fundamentally change the underlying principles of defamation. But claimants will need to take advice, and perhaps consider alternatives (combining legal options and practical options) for successful reputation management.

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