Media Law: Defamation, Copyright, Etc

23633 words 95 pages

MEDIA LAW - 2007


1. Why a law of defamation?

Every member of society has an interest in retaining his or her personal reputation and standing. All members of the community also have an interest in a free flow of information and communication. There is a tension between these two interests.

The law represents a balance between personal interests in reputation on one hand and community interests in free speech and an uninhibited flow of information and opinions on the other.

The law of defamation in Australia has, until recently, lacked uniformity. Given the advances in technology and the growth of national publications, the pressure for uniformity gained
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A company cannot sue for injury to its feelings or for allegations of crimes it cannot physically commit (although such allegations may reflect on individual officers and allow them to sue personally). Unincorporated associations cannot sue, as they have no separate legal existence.

The new Acts restrict the types of corporations able to sue for defamation. In particular, a corporation now has no cause of action for defamation unless:

• the objects for which it is formed do not include obtaining financial gain for its members or corporators; or

• it employs fewer than 10 persons and is not related to another corporation

and the corporation is not a public body: see Defamation Act 2005 (SA) section 9.

The position appears to be that councils and government departments cannot sue for defamation at all (although individual officers will still be able to sue): Derbyshire C.C. v Times Newspapers Limited [1993] AC 534; Ballina S.C. v Ringland (1994) 33 NSWLR 680.

In Goldsmith v Bhoyrul [1998] QB 459 it was held that a political party could not sue for defamation. The court applied a principle that in a free and democratic society, it was contrary to the public interest to permit those who held office in government or were responsible for public administration to sue in defamation. It went on to rule that this principle applied to a political party


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