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Web hosts’ defamation liability restricted

Friday, September 19th, 2014

In a significant Court of Appeal decision (see Murray v Wishart), hot off the press, the judges have unanimously ruled that a third party publisher (the owner of a Facebook page that contained comments by others) was not liable for other people’s comments simply because he “ought to have known” that they contain defamatory material […]

I am not a bully, says Nick Smith. And if you call me one, I’ll sue you.

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Conservation Minister Nick Smith is being accused of political interference for trying to discourage NZ Fish and Game from publicly advocating for cleaner lakes and rivers. Now he’s threatening to sue those who made the claim.
Now, I don’t know what happened at the meeting, and it’s clear there are different recollections of exactly what went […]

Is Whale Oil a journalist?

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

More specifically, is Cameron Slater entitled to the same privilege to protect sources that other journalists have?
As the NZ Herald reports, the owner/operator/author of NZ’s most widely read blog is being sued for defamation. The plaintiff has formally asked him whether he knows the name of his source. (You might have thought that the answer […]

Editorials undefended against defamation suits?

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Here’s a surprising thing about the Defamation Act 1992. It removes the right for editorials to argue honest opinion (what used to be called “fair comment”).
You ought to be sceptical about that claim. It sounds absurd. Editorials are the very epitome of fair comment/honest opinion. They are written on the assumption that the defence applies. […]

Defamation ruling not very appealing

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Reading the Court of Appeal’s decision in Smith v Dooley [2013] NZCA 428, you get the feeling that the High Court blundered in all the ways it’s possible to blunder in a defamation case. Lang J couldn’t even correctly work out what the words meant. And even if he’d got that right, he couldn’t tell […]

Has the Harrassment Act just swallowed the law of defamation?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

In a landmark judgment, a court has ordered a blogger to indefinitely remove more than a hundred posts and comments attacking the reputation of a lawyer, and not to write about her again.
The decision (Flannagan v Sperling DC Waitakere, 4 June 2013, Harvey DCJ, CIV 2012-090-986) may have opened up a cheap highway through the […]

Defamation and satire

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Memo to anyone thinking of suing or threatening someone else for defamation after that person made fun of them.
It’s not that the law clearly protects humorous speech and satire. That question is a bit vexed. It’s defamatory to say something that brings another person into ridicule. So it looks like that is fairly easily satisfied. Actually, those […]

Defamation damages against anonymous Facebook troll(s)

Monday, March 18th, 2013

The High Court in Northern Ireland has awarded defamation damages against a defendant known only as “a person or persons adopting the pseudonyms Ann Driver and Alan Driver”.
“Ann” and “Alan Driver” had smeared the plaintiffs’ reputations on Facebook. The INFORRM blog suggests that his/her/their true identity was never established, and the judgment will only bite […]

In my opinion

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

The UK’s Court of Appeal has once again overturned a High Court ruling that a publication was stating fact, not opinion.
The guidance that the courts give on this elusive distinction is so useless that it seems that often the only way to tell whether something is a statement of fact or opinion is to take […]

Are host ISPs liable for bloggers’ defamation?

Monday, February 18th, 2013

The answer now appears to be: “yes, after they’ve been notified”.
The English CA has just delivered judgment in the appeal against Eady J’s decision in Tamiz v Google. In that case, Eady J had continued a movement away from what seemed to be the first-principles position: that ISPs hosting blogs are publishers at common law, […]

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