New libel law affords more protection to those criticizing companies
I’m not a lawyer, but I did study law in England (not as glamorous as it sounds) and so have always had a layman’s fascination with legal topics.
So, it makes sense that I would be intrigued by England’s new libel law, known at the Defamation Act 2013. If I understand it correctly, the law aligns itself closer to those we have in the US, in that it makes it harder for a plaintiff to claim libel, without first going through some extra steps, then also proving actual financial damage was inflicted.
According to Gorkana…
Previously, the fear of legal action was enough to prevent publication of information that could be considered justifiable criticism. It was relatively easier for a company or individual to begin and win libel proceedings as the burden of proof was on the defendant. Libel tourism had become a problem as wealthy magnates around the world asked the English courts to “silence the critics”.
Now, anyone bringing a libel case has to prove it has inflicted serious harm on their reputation. In the case of a company bringing a case, managers have to prove financial loss as a direct result.
PR professionals in England hope that the changes will reduce the number of incidents where companies try to squash any attacks on their reputation by means of threatening libel action. In addition, companies will have to first approach those making the criticism, before applying pressure to the forum or blog host.
“Section 5 of the new act aims to require complainants to first take action against the author of an internet article where possible – rather than the discussion board or social network hosting the material.”
Any UK readers wish to weigh in on this?