Defamation Act 2013 - A boost for free speech

02-May-2013  |  Copyright & Media Law, Technology, Media & Communications


The UK's Defamation Act 2013 will likely benefit the media, intermediaries and scientific and academic publishers. Company claimants are likely to find it difficult to succeed if they have been defamed.

For winning claimants, the court has the power to order defendants to publish a summary of its judgment and/or to order an intermediary to remove and stop distributing a statement.

Click here to read Taylor Wessing's view of the likely practical implications of the new Act

Key points include:

  • All claimants must prove serious harm to their reputation
  • Company claimants must prove serious financial loss
  • A less technical honest opinion defence
  • A new defence, replacing Reynolds privilege, for publication on matters of public interest if the defendant reasonably believed that publishing the statement was in the public interest
  • New privilege defences for:
    • Peer-reviewed scientific or academic articles
    • Fair and accurate reports of:
      • Press conferences held anywhere in the world
      • Scientific or academic conferences
      • Peer-reviewed scientific or academic articles
  • Expanded privilege defences for fair and accurate reports of:
    • Public meetings held anywhere in the world
    • Material issued to the public for or on behalf of a legislature or government or an authority performing governmental functions anywhere in the world
    • Documents made available by a court or judge anywhere in the world
  • A single publication rule (for the purposes of calculating the one year limitation period)
  • A presumption that defamation actions will not be tried by a jury
  • A prohibition on defamation actions against non-European defendants unless the court is satisfied that England is clearly the most appropriate place to bring an action.

Two new defences for intermediaries (in addition to the section 1 and Regulation 19 defences):

  • For an operator of a website which did not post the defamatory statement complained of
  • For a person who was not the author, editor or publisher of the statement complained of, where it is not reasonably practicable for an action to be brought by the claimant against the author, editor or publisher.

The main provisions are not in force yet, but they are expected to come into force soon.

Click here to see the Defamation Act 2013

Click here to see the Explanatory Notes to the Defamation Act 2013

Contacts Timothy Pinto