Defamation

What is ‘defamation?

If somebody publishes or spreads false information about you, your reputation might be damaged. This is called ‘defamation’, and it is against the law. The law protects your reputation by not allowing false information about you to be published. If it is too late, and the information has already been published, you can sue the person who has defamed you and the court may award you damages (money) to compensate you for the damage done to your reputation.

When will something be ‘defamatory’?

First, at least one person (other than the person who is being defamed) has to see or hear the false information.

Second, the material must be such that if an average person saw or heard, it, that person would think less of you. For example, it can be defamatory for someone to:

  • say you are dishonest or disloyal,
  • ridicule you,
  • accuse you of committing a crime, or
  • say you have a disease.

It may also be defamatory for someone to imply something negative about you.

What if you have been defamed?

You can sue the person responsible for defaming you, and you can also sue anyone involved in publishing the false information (for example a publisher or a newspaper).

If the court finds that the information was false and defamatory, you may be awarded money to compensate you for damage to your reputation, your hurt feelings and any economic loss you have suffered because of the defamation.

If you believe that you are about to be defamed, you can bring an urgent court action to stop the material from being published.

If you believe you have been defamed and you want to take the matter to court, you should get the advice of an experienced lawyer, as defamation law is complicated.

What are other ways of dealing with defamation?

You can approach the publisher/author directly and request that they do not publish or write the defamatory material.

If the material has already been published, you may:

  • do nothing,
  • ask for an apology, or
  • ask the publisher to publish an apology or clarification.

Defences to defamation

Publishing something which might seem defamatory won’t be against the law if:

  • the information is substantially true,
  • the information is published with the consent of the person being defamed, or
  • the information wasn’t very important and it is unlikely that the person’s reputation will actually be damaged.

 

This page was last updated October 2009.

What is ‘defamation?

If somebody publishes or spreads false information about you, your reputation might be damaged. This is called ‘defamation’, and it is against the law. The law protects your reputation by not allowing false information about you to be published. If it is too late, and the information has already been published, you can sue the person who has defamed you and the court may award you damages (money) to compensate you for the damage done to your reputation.

When will something be ‘defamatory’?

First, at least one person (other than the person who is being defamed) has to see or hear the false information.

Second, the material must be such that if an average person saw or heard, it, that person would think less of you. For example, it can be defamatory for someone to:

  • say you are dishonest or disloyal,
  • ridicule you,
  • accuse you of committing a crime, or
  • say you have a disease.

It may also be defamatory for someone to imply something negative about you.

What if you have been defamed?

You can sue the person responsible for defaming you, and you can also sue anyone involved in publishing the false information (for example a publisher or a newspaper).

If the court finds that the information was false and defamatory, you may be awarded money to compensate you for damage to your reputation, your hurt feelings and any economic loss you have suffered because of the defamation.

If you believe that you are about to be defamed, you can bring an urgent court action to stop the material from being published.

If you believe you have been defamed and you want to take the matter to court, you should get the advice of an experienced lawyer, as defamation law is complicated.

What are other ways of dealing with defamation?

You can approach the publisher/author directly and request that they do not publish or write the defamatory material.

If the material has already been published, you may:

  • do nothing,
  • ask for an apology, or
  • ask the publisher to publish an apology or clarification.

Defences to defamation

Publishing something which might seem defamatory won’t be against the law if:

  • the information is substantially true,
  • the information is published with the consent of the person being defamed, or
  • the information wasn’t very important and it is unlikely that the person’s reputation will actually be damaged.

 

This page was last updated October 2009.