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Defamation Liability Notes

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Tort: Defamation - Liability Introduction + General Principles

- Defamation: to protect c. from untrue statements that harm his reputation. (cf. malicious falsehood: untrue statement that does not damage reputation but does harm). balance between 2 interests:

1. public interest: freedom of expression.
? large variety of defences: to protect d's freedom of expression.

2. private interest: maintaining reputation.
+ Human Rights Act 1998: Art 10 ECHR - guarantees freedom of expression vs. Art 8 ECHR - right to private + family life.

- Definitions:
[Winfield]: publication of a statement which reflects on a person's reputation and tends to lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally or tends to make them shun or avoid him. Sim v Stretch [1936]: [Ld Atkin]: statement which tend to lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally, and in particular to cause him to be regarded with feelings hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear and disesteem.

2 Torts: Libel + Slander

- Libel: statement in some permanent form - e.g. pictures, printed words etc. ? actionable per se. radio + TV - s166 + s201 Broadcasting Act 1990. public plays - s4 Theatres Act 1968. waxworks - Monson v Madame Tussaud's Ltd [1894]: waxwork of c. placed in chamber of horrors; c. had been tried for murder but acquitted ? [Ropes LJ]: statues, caricatures, effigies, chalk marks, signs, pictures also.

films - Youssoupoff v MGM Pictures Ltd [1934]: film suggested c. had been raped by Rasputin internet - Godfrey v Demon Internet [1994]. inc. social networking (even if semi-private) - Applause Stores Productions Ltd v Raphael [2008].

- Slander: statement in temporary/transitory form ? actionable only with proof of special damages (but 4 exceptions). transient forms: e.g. spoken word, gestures, mimes, impressions, noises. debate: audio stored on CD, tape, DVD ? [Winfield]: libel; vs. [Street]: slander (libel inherently visual). 4 exceptions - slander actionable per se if:

1. imputation of imprisonable offence: Gray v Jones [1939]; Webb v Beavan [1883].

2. imputation of having contagious/unsociable disease: Bloodworth v Gray [1844].

3. imputation of unchasity of adultery in female: s1 Slander of Women Act 1891. Kerr v Kennedy [1942]: inc. suggestion that c. is (sexually active) lesbian.

4. imputation of unfitness for trade, profession or appointment: s2 Defamation Act 1952. e.g. Jones v Jones [1916]; Hopwood v Muirson [1945]; McManus v Beckham [2002]: Victoria Beckham told customers in shop that David Beckham's autograph for sale fake.

Locus Standi: Who Can Sue?

- Natural + legal persons can sue. natural persons: but not dead - if c. dies before trial, action dies with him. corporate bodies: where statement defames corporate reputation. McDonalds Corporation v Steel [1999]: McDonalds succeeded in libel suit vs. environmentalists.

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