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The distinction between slander and libel has been abolished in Australia and the publication of defamatory matter of any kind is actionable. In the past, defamation was divided into two categories – libel and slander. Defamation is a communication or statement made from one person to at least another that harms the reputation of an identifiable third person, and where the communicator has no legal defence. In Australia, the law of defamation is complex – it is best to speak to a lawyer. Defamation actions can be very costly, difficult to defend and in cases where a cause of action is successful, substantial monetary damages can be awarded.

Libel and Slander in Australia

Libel is the publication of defamatory matter in permanent form. On the other hand, slander is the publication of defamatory matter in non-permanent form. Something defamatory that is printed in a newspaper or book was called libel, but the same thing, if spoken, was called slander.

Broadcasting Services Act and Limitation Periods

Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth), the publication of defamatory matter over radio or television is deemed to be in permanent form and is, therefore, libel. For the purposes of the law of defamation, the broadcasting or datacasting of matter is taken to be publication of the matter in a permanent form under Section 206.

The Act also provides a statutory defence to an Internet Service Provider who carries/hosts Internet content in Australia and who was not aware that they were carrying/hosting a defamatory publication.

For material published after 1 January 2006, you must commence defamation proceedings within one year of the publication. The court has a discretion to extend this period for up to three years if the plaintiff can show that it was not reasonable to have commenced an action within the one year period.

Action against Slander, Libel and Defamation

You may have a cause of action against the person responsible for defaming you, and you can also sue anyone involved in publishing the false information (for example a publisher or a newspaper). If a cause of action is successful, you may be awarded money to compensate you for damage to your reputation, your hurt feelings and any economic loss you have suffered because of the defamation. For businesses, corporations and companies, injurious falsehood is likely to apply. Injurious falsehood refers to statements that may cause reputational damage, however, it usually refers to the reputation of a business and not an individual.

LegalVision cannot provide legal assistance with this topic. We recommend you contact your local law society.

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