Feeds

Libel reform campaigners seek £10k damages cap

Apology better than payout

Boost IT visibility and business value

English libel law imposes disproportionate restrictions on free speech, according to an independent report that recommends 10 changes to the laws. The Ministry of Justice said today that it will launch a consultation on defamation and the internet.

English PEN, a charity that promotes the human rights of writers and publishers, and Index on Censorship, a body that promotes freedom of expression, spent a year investigating English libel laws. Their joint report, Free Speech Is Not For Sale, was published today.

They say that England's libel law "was designed to serve the rich and powerful and does not reflect the interests of a modern democratic society." They have proposed 10 changes to current laws that they want the Government to introduce in a Libel Bill.

The authors say that the chief remedy in libel should be an apology, not financial reward.

"English libel law is more about making money than saving a reputation," says the report. "The courts should take the financial incentive out of libel law by capping damages at £10,000. If a claimant wishes to demand more then they would need to prove material damage such as loss of earnings."

The report also says that the definition of 'publication' is no longer fit for the internet age. "Each newspaper sold or website hit currently constitutes a new libel - the so-called multiple publication rule – a principle that renders online newspaper archives uniquely vulnerable to libel actions," says the report. That rule – known as the Duke of Brunswick rule – is the subject of a Government consultation that closes on 16th December.

The Ministry of Justice said it would "carefully consider" today's recommendations, according to the BBC.

The recommendations of English PEN and Index on Censorship

These have been reproduced from the report.

1. In libel, the defendant is guilty until proven innocent We recommend: Require the claimant to demonstrate damage and falsity

2. English libel law is more about making money than saving a reputation We recommend: Cap damages at £10,000

3. The definition of ‘publication’ defies common sense We recommend: Abolish the Duke of Brunswick rule and introduce a single publication rule

4. London has become an international libel tribunal We recommend: No case should be heard in this jurisdiction unless at least 10 per cent of copies of the relevant publication have been circulated here

5. There are few viable alternatives to a full trial We recommend: Establish a libel tribunal as a low-cost forum for hearings

6. There is no robust public interest defence in libel law We recommend: Strengthen the public interest defence

7. Comment is not free We recommend: Expand the definition of fair comment

8. The potential cost of defending a libel action is prohibitive We recommend: Cap base costs and make success fees and ‘After the Event’ (ATE) insurance premiums non-recoverable

9. The law does not reflect the arrival of the internet We recommend: Exempt interactive online services and interactive chat from liability

10. Not everything deserves a reputation We recommend: Exempt large and medium-sized corporate bodies and associations from libel law unless they can prove malicious falsehood

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.