Defamation is the catch all term for libel (a published defamation) and slander (generally spoken words which are not recorded). Broadcasts, plays put on in public and publications on the internet are libels.
Beware Social Media! Tweeting, Facebook postings are all "publication" for defamation purposes. Re tweeting a defamatory tweet can make you equally liable as a publisher of a defamation. Commenting or sharing a post on Facebook is also a publication.
I have set out below an introduction to defamation law which I hope you may find helpful.
NOTE: The information below is an introduction to this complex field. It is not intended to replace specific advice and, necessarily compresses some legal issues for ease of understanding .
In business terms the most obvious defamation is to suggest that a competitor is insolvent - or similar words e.g. "gone bust”, "gone under”. Tim has advised on a number of such cases, acting for victims and offenders.
Other allegations would include illegal behaviour on the part of a business; poor quality goods or services; that a business is under investigation by the authorities; that it has evaded tax; that it is corrupt.
Allegations against directors of a business may also defame the business as well as the individuals concerned.
The limitation period for defamation is one year which may be from date of publication or from date of loss. The Court may extend the time - but this is rare.
Defamation is governed by a pre-action protocol and usually begins with a letter written in compliance with the protocol's terms. This needs careful preparation and to be written for the specific allegations in each case.
Where a defamation is being repeated urgent action may be needed to obtain an injunction. This may be on notice or where absolute urgency is required "ex parte” i.e. without notice to the Defendant.
When considering whether there has been a libel the Court may consider the words on their face (the literal meaning); an inference which may be drawn from the words; an implication which can be drawn from the words; innuendo which can be drawn from the words.
Proof of actual damage is not necessary in libel cases. There will be a presumption that the Claimant has suffered loss.
Where a finding is made in favour of the Claimant the following may be awarded: an injunction; damages to compensate for injury to reputation; damages to compensate for hurt feelings; damages to restore the Claimant's public reputation. Aggravated, Special and Exemplary damages may sometimes be recovered.