Defamation Act 2013

The Defamation Act 2013 is a legislation enacted in the UK to reform and modernise the law of defamation. The Act introduced several significant changes to defamation law, aiming to strike a balance between protecting reputation and upholding freedom of expression.

Libel tourism: The Act sought to address the issue of libel tourism and abuse of defamation law by corporations by introducing provisions that require claimants to demonstrate that England and Wales is the most appropriate jurisdiction for the case to be heard, considering factors such as the extent of publication and the connection of the claim to England and Wales.

Single publication rule: The Act introduced a single publication rule, which means that a limitation period of 12 months for bringing a defamation claim starts running from the first publication of the defamatory statement, even if it is subsequently republished as long as the manner and form of subsequent publication are not substantially different from the original publication.

Internet publication: The Act addressed issues related to defamation on the internet, making it clear that the operator of a website or other online platform will not be treated as the publisher of user-generated content unless they fail to comply with certain procedures for identification, notification, and removal.

Defences to defamation: The Act redefined and expanded upon various common law defences available to defendants in defamation cases such as honest opinion (previously fair comment), and truth (previously justification). It also introduced new defences such as publication on matter of public interest and peer-reviewed statement in a scientific or academic journal. It also provided a mechanism for website and search engine operators to defend themselves against defamation caused by defamation statements posted by internet users.

Privileges: The Act codified the existing privileges available in defamation law, such as absolute privilege for statements made in parliamentary and court proceedings and qualified privilege for statements made in the public interest or for the protection of a legitimate interest and academic freedom. These privileges are not limited to statements in relation to the UK context but also information that would attract similar privileges anywhere in the world. For example, proceedings of US Congress and courts would also enjoy the same privileges.

The Defamation Act 2013 aimed to modernise defamation law in the UK and strike a balance between protecting reputation and safeguarding freedom of expression. It sought to address concerns over trivial claims, the impact of online publications, and the jurisdictional issues related to libel tourism.
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