The internet and libel action
Libel is one of two possible acts of defamation. A defamatory statement will be treated as libel if it is published in a permanent form. In past cases it was decided that libel can be a picture, a newspaper article or a sculpture, to name a few. Slander, on the other hand, is a temporary publication, such as verbal communication. If a verbal communication is broadcasted however, it is no longer slander because it lives beyond the moment.
When it comes to defamatory statements which are transmitted over the internet, libel will almost always be the appropriate label. The main issue with regards to internet libel is that the law distinguishes between primary and secondary publishers. As a primary publisher of libel the defendant can only claim the defence of justification (that the statement alleged to be defamatory is in fact true). As a secondary publisher a second defence is available. A secondary publisher can also claim to not have reasonable grounds for suspecting the statements are false.
When it comes to the internet, libel is published by the party which has control of the website on which it was broadcast. In the case of user-generated content, the primary publishers are held to be the users, and the secondary publishers are the parties which operate the website. A further defence for those parties is that they were unaware of the statement at all. This can usually be relied on successfully, unless the injured party had specifically asked for the content to be removed. A secondary publisher may be compelled by the courts to release information regarding the primary publisher’s identity, so that the injured party can proceed with a claim against that party.
If you have been accused of internet libel or you would like to bring a claim, a specialist solicitor can help. The relevant law is quite complex and the procedures are archaic, which may prevent you from bringing a claim, but may help you avoid litigation.
If you would like to obtain legal advice on the internet, libel, or related law, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local specialist Defamation Solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local specialist Defamation Solicitors please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.
- Last Updated on 11/10/2012