Tilting at Windmills: The Defamation Act 2013

23 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2014

See all articles by Alastair Mullis

Alastair Mullis

University of Leeds - School of Law

Andrew Scott

London Business School - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: January 2014

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Mullis, Alastair and Scott, Andrew, Tilting at Windmills: The Defamation Act 2013 (January 2014). The Modern Law Review, Vol. 77, Issue 1, pp. 87-109, 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2374207 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-2230.12057

Alastair Mullis (Contact Author)

University of Leeds - School of Law ( email )

Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

Andrew Scott

London Business School - Department of Economics ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom
+44 20 7706 6780 (Phone)
+44 20 7402 7875 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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