The number of online defamation cases brought to English and Welsh courts has more than doubled in the past year, a new report has said. In the year up to the end of May, 16 defamation claims were made with regard to comments made online. This is in contrast to just seven such claims last year, the report said, according to the …
We don't need any more concrete proposals
"Free speech campaigners said that amendments to the draft Defamation Bill should include "concrete proposals to stop legal threats against internet hosts bringing down entire websites," a spokesman for the Libel Reform Campaign said, according to the BBC."
Perhaps I'm missing something. (My first language is English rather than legalese, so it is perfectly possible.) But presumably it is already the case that no web-site is stupid enough to edit someone else's remarks and then present them as though they were original. That requires much more effort and judgement than the safe alternatives of either publishing as-is or refusing to publish at all.
If we now add a "conduit" defence in the new law then it will be common knowledge in legal circles that all such cases are groundless and therefore anyone bringing one is knowingly wasting the court's time and deserves to bear all costs and be marked down as a vexatious litigant for good measure.
Even if that isn't enough to stop some idiots, they'll only be able to do it once.
(Icon: I Am Not A Lawyer, but this is the closest icon I could find.)
Defamation laws definitely need reform.
The reform of the defamation laws is long overdue.
The powerful, infamous and rich have always had sufficient political influence to ensure the defamation laws both existed and benefited them. It's time this changed.
Defamation laws make commentators--everyone (except idiots)--timid, and self-censorship becomes a way of life in a society with strong defamation laws.
Take these these El Reg posts for example. They can't be put online until vetted in case of a potential defamation issue. A better defamation environment, say, would allow all posts to be posted and then removed if found offensive without the risk of a law suit. (Retractions, etc., would be easier.)
That said, it's also essential that rumour, innuendo, outright lies and spite aren't allowed to destroy someone.
Defamation is always a complicated balancing act between 'free' speech and the dignity of the 'defamed'. It will remain so irrespective of any reforms.
Actually it's the flip....
...if the posts are moderated and the found to be defamatory, then they are are MORE liable to being sued, than just allowing unmoderated posts as they are deemed to be taking an active role in the publishing.
Publish 1st, dammed later is why we have such a crap gutter press in this country. It's better to call someone a peado / terrorist / rapist and sell 20 million papers, then if it's not true, print a 5 line apology on page 32. Never mind the persons life may be ruined, what with the old no smoke without fire.
Re: Actually it's the flip
I think that depends on what the court reckons is the unit of communication.
If the court reckons the individual post is the unit, then a moderation that simply accepts or rejects individual posts (as here on El Reg) would be safe. El Reg is "simply a conduit" for those that are accepted and obviously those that are rejected don't defame anyone.
But if a court reckons that you and I are having a conversation (with, like, replies and shit) then the removal of any one post (such as my groveling apology for mis-understanding you) DOES alter the overall impression that other readers would have of me and presumably counts as "editing the overall communication" rather than simple rejection.
I presume the El Reg moderator who examines this reply knows what El Reg's understanding of the law to be. Perhaps they'll chip in.
Wow with a whole 86 cases in the last year we really need to update these laws asap and damn the expense!
and that's a fact.
The law is yet again outstripped by technology.
1) is it true that the "number of online defamation cases brought to English and Welsh courts has more than doubled in the past year" or that the number of defamation cases reported by Sweet & Maxwell's Lawtel and Westlaw products has increased by that amount? That has been the methodology in past years. Not every case is reported; not every reported case is reported by Lawtel and Westlaw.
2) more generally, where's the insight and analysis in this article? is this a good thing, a bad thing, an insignificant thing considering how few cases there actually are and how few disputes ever go to court?
What's the fricking point in having articles supposedly written by people from law firms (Pinsent Masons) when they're simply rewrites of other media articles which are themselves rewrites of a press release? Where's the accuracy and insight you'd expect from a professional in the field?
How Dare They!
I imagine that they don't dare expand or expound too much for fear of being found to be defamatory, inflammatory, libelous,slanderous, scurrilous, scandalous and more! But here I grow confused...do the defamation cases listed here account for all cases of slander and libel? I can't seem to find a distinction between defamation and slander (spoken) and libel (written, etc)
Given the small numbers involved it is also the case that a single active litigant could easily produce two and threefold increases.
I agree - very poor analysis by another bunch of grandstanding lawyers.