Defamation Laws In Australia

Slander And Libel Laws In Australia

The Australian Defamation Act of 2006 was passed in an effort to promote uniform slander and libel laws in the country.

In short, the reforms addressed concerns regarding freedom of the press. The act also made it harder for large corporations to abuse defamation statues to silence critics.

Some of the more notable features of the legislation include:

  • preventing corporations with more than 10 employees (other than non-for-profit organizations or small businesses) from suing for defamation, addressing current community concerns that large companies could stifle legitimate public debate by beginning defamation action;
  • establishing a defense of “truth” to replace the previous defense of “truth and public benefit”;
  • reducing the time limit for bringing a defamation action from six years to one year (or three years if the court is satisfied an action could not have been brought within one year);
  • abolishing the awarding of exemplary and punitive damages in civil defamation proceedings; and
  • limiting juries to determining whether a person has been defamed, leaving the awarding of damages to judges.

Online Defamation & Libel Tourism In Australia

A significant Internet defamation ruling was made by the Australian High Court in the matter of Dow Jones & Company Inc v Gutnick [2002] HCA 56, which brought into question the appropriate jurisdiction for online defamation. The published material in question was downloaded in Victoria from a US. Website.  After much debate, the Victorian Supreme Court determined that the case could be heard in Victoria, even though the original material was generated in the United States.

Search Engine Defamation Leads To Big Payouts For Plaintiff

At the end of 2012, a claimant named Michael Trkulja won cases against Google and Yahoo! over captions that appeared under his name in image searches. The captions implied that Mr. Trkulja was involved in a crime; he was not involved in the crime with which his likeness was associated in searches and ended up winning several hundred thousand dollars from the search giants. (Link to the suit in the sidebar.)

Ripoff Report De-indexed From Yahoo! Australia

In May 2014, Yahoo!7 — Australia’s version of Yahoo! search engine — de-indexed Ripoff Report from its database. It is believed that a boycott by http://ripoffreport-victims-unite.org/ was the impetus for the de-indexing. That means Ripoff Report pages won’t show up in the search engine results pages on Yahoo! in Australia. For businesses dealing with Ripoff Report defamation, the news was greeted with great enthusiasm.

Australian Defamation Defenses

  • Truth;
  • Fair Comment;
  • Absolute Privilege;
  • Qualified Privilege;
  • Consent;
  • Triviality; and
  • Innocent Dissemination.

Fun Fact: In Australia, some jokes can be deemed defamatory.