Who may sue?
The rules for who may sue are generally the same as under United States law, but with a difference: a deceased person’s estate may not sue for defamation, but relatives of the deceased may be able to sue if the defamatory statement includes them as well as the deceased.
Who may be sued?
Anyone taking part in the publication of the defamatory statement can be sued.
What the plaintiff must prove:
In order to win a libel case, the plaintiff must prove that the statement was defamatory, that the statement referred to the plaintiff, and that the statement to be seen by a third party was published by the defendant.
What the defendant must do:
Australian law provides three main defenses to authors: truth, fair comment, and privilege. Truth is a complete defense. Australian jurisdiction protects ‘fair comment’ on issues of public interest, but in order for this to be a valid defense, the comment must be based on provable facts, concern a matter of public interest, and be made without malice. Innocent dissemination is a defense for those who are not authors, publishers, or printers.
Successful plaintiffs may receive rewards for damages and inductive relief.
British Libel Law
England’s Libel Laws are regarded as ” plaintiff – friendly ” due to the fact that British courts do not have the First Amendment protections to consider and apply the way that United States courts do. Many questionable statements that would receive English libel verdicts would not even be actionable in the United States.
Differences in the United States and British Libel Cases
The Burden of Proving Truth
British common law ” presumes in the plaintiff’s favour that the words [ in suit ] are false, unless and until the defendant proves the contrary.” Along with the burden of proving truth comes the threat of being assessed with aggravated damages if the defendant’s attempts to prove truth fails. The British requirement that the defendant proves truth is in direct conflict with the First Amendment principles of the United States. In Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. v. Hepps( 1986 ) the Supreme Court held that under the First Amendment, ” the common law presumption that defamatory speech is false cannot stand when a plaintiff seeks damages against a media defendant for speech of public concern.” The plaintiff must prove fault on the part of the defendant in American libel cases.
Britain’s Strict Liability Standard
In 1964, the United States Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan created the policy of ” actual malice ” in determining liability in libel cases. In America ” actual malice ” provides an exception for publishers who publish content that is false, but believe it to be true when they publish it. In England, however, ” under common law a publisher is liable for any false statement of fact, even where the publisher honstly believed the statement to be true at the time of publication and acted in accordance with reasonable standards of journalism.
Public officials (different from public entities) may sue for libel under Britain’s strict liability system. For example, British politicians, unlike American politicians, can file libel suits against reporters, publishers, etc. for misinformation.
Canada’s fragmented judicial system creates a lack of uniformity in the laws governing media liability. Each territory and province has its own defamation laws.
What is defamation?
A defamatory statement exists if the publication tends to lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the estimation of those who are commonly referred to as ‘right thinking’ members of society.
Who can sue?
Any individual may sue for defamation.
Corporations, including nonprofit corporations, may sue for any defamatory statement which affects their property, goodwill, financial position, or reputation.
How much time does a plaintiff have to sue?
In most of the provinces and territories in Canada, a defamed person has three months to file a notice of intention to sue after the defamatory material has come to his attention. Plaintiffs must give seven days notice of their intention to sue in the case of a newspaper, or fourteen days in the case of a broadcast. Time given to commence court action is two years in most territories and provinces.
The defenses to defamation action are truth, fair comment, and consent.
A successful plaintiff in a defamation suit can ask for an unlimited amount of money as damages. Also, plaintiffs may request and receive aggravated and punitive damages as well.
French judges are pressed to juggle the principle of freedom of expression and print with individual rights and reputation.
What is defamation?
French law recognizes six main elements of defamation: allegations or imputations, falsifying specific and precise facts, attacks to honor or reputation, identification of particular individuals, publication, and bad faith.
What are the time limits?
A defamation suit must be initiated within three months of the publication of the statement.
Who can sue?
Only those directly affected by the statement can sue. Corporations can sue, although if an individual employee or officer is the real target, the company cannot sue. Sometimes defamatory statements are aimed at several individuals, in which case each person identified may sue separately. Defamation of the dead is not punishable, although if the goal of the defamation is to harm the deceased’s family, the family may sue. Religious or ethnic groups may sue if the intention of the statement is to arouse racial or religious hatred.
Cost to litigants
Both plaintiffs and defendants can receive legal aid if they possess inadequate financial resources. Corporate entities and commercial companies are excluded from this privilege.
The defendant can use pleas of truth, good faith, and privilege. Truth is an absolute justification, except in criminal or civil cases where the matter is protected under the law of privacy, more than ten years old, or subject to amnesty, rehabilitation, limitation or successful judicial appeal. Defendants who are unable to establish truth can present evidence of good faith, such as: belief in the truth of the statement, deadline pressures, desire to inform the public, the use of the word “allegedly”, or that the statement originated from another source.
Germany’s defamation damage awards are lower that those of the US and other countries. The German media enjoys constitutional freedom of expression, which limits the effect of libel claims against them.
Criminal defamation law in Germany recognizes three distinctions: insult, slander, and malicious defamation. Insult is an attack on the plaintiff’s honor which tends to lower the victim’s reputation to society at large. Slanderous statements must have been communicated to a third party and must lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking members of the community. The malicious defamation offence concerns the deliberate and intentional dissemination of false factual statements that are either defamatory or cause harm to the person.
Defenses for both civil and criminal defamation suits are: truth, legitimate public interest, and comment and critical opinion. Although truth is a good defense, it is not always a complete defense. Legitimate public interest is a defense which applies solely to statements of fact. German courts look favorably on defense pleas where public interest issues are at stake.
There is a strong emphasis on corrections of publishing errors through retractions and apologies. Damages are regarded as a secondary remedy.