French Defamation Law: A Legal Introduction

French defamation laws
Slander and Libel Laws in France

According to the Law on the Freedom of the Press of 1881, in France, defamation is defined as:

“…any allegation or imputation of an act affecting the honor or reputation of the person or body against whom it is made.”

French Defamation Law: Defendant-Friendly, For The Most Part

In contrast to the French privacy law, French defamation law is more defendant-friendly, due to the numerous procedural formalities that must be followed by the claimant. The claim must be lodged within a period of three (3) months, starting from the first publication or broadcast. Once the period of three months has expired, no legal action can be taken. For Internet publications, the 3 month period starts once the publication is first posted.

Criminal & Civil Defamation In France

In general, French defamation laws confer jurisdictional rights for any publication in France. The claimant can either bring a civil or criminal action, but the Public Prosecutor must be notified — in either instance — before the first court hearing. Otherwise, the claim is rendered void.

Although the damage award cap — generally speaking — is less for a civil libel or slander conviction, the process is quicker. Defendants only have three months to appear before a tribunal, and just ten days (from receiving notice) to file evidence in their defense. It’s up to the defendant to prove if a statement is true, instead of a plaintiff having to prove a statement is false.

Do U.S. Citizens Have To Pay If They Lose A Foreign Defamation Lawsuit?

Do U.S. citizens have to pay damages if they’re found liable under French defamation laws? The quick answer: According to the SPEECH ACT, it depends on whether or not the person or company would have been found liable in a U.S. court.