Tilting at Windmills: The Defamation Act 2013
23 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 2014
In April 2013, the Defamation Act was passed, the culmination of a four‐year political campaign. The legislation is intended to ameliorate the ‘chilling effect’ of libel law on scientists, online commentators, NGOs, and others. This paper considers the main changes wrought: reform of the main common law defences, changes relevant to scientific discourse and online speech, and revisions that will impact on process. It identifies areas where there will be problems of interpretation for courts, and suggests that the Act will fail to provide clarity for publishers keen to assess the legality of their actions. The paper also contends that more attention should have been paid to remedies (in particular, the desirability of discursive remedies such as the right of reply). The question is posed whether the Act addresses the core problem with libel law: the juridification and over‐complication of public sphere disputes, and the attendant cost of embroilment in legal proceedings.
Keywords: defamation, libel, defences, remedies, science, social media, right of reply
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