It’s out with the old and in with the new for English and Welsh libel as a result of the Defamation Act.
- The need for the claimant to prove the statement caused serious harm or is likely to cause serious harm;
- The need for a profit-making operation to prove the statement caused serious financial loss or is likely to cause serious financial loss;
- The need for the claimant who is not domiciled here to prove the courts here are the right place to take the action;
- A single publication rule: the limitation of 1 year applies to the first publication of the statement complained of, not subsequent publications of it; and
- A defence of “truth”; the statement is “substantially true”
- A defence that the statement is in the public interest; and
- A defence that the statement is in a peer-reviewed scientific or academic journal.
- The defence of justification;
- The Reynolds defence;
- The defence of fair comment to be replaced by honest comment
The overall picture is now:
- The claimant must prove:
- The statement was published
- What it means
- It was sufficiently published
- They were identified
- It is defamatory of them
- They were seriously damaged or are likely to be seriously damaged or, if trading for a profit, were caused serious financial harm;
- The defences are:
- It is substantially true;
- It is an honestly held opinion;
- It is on a matter of public interest;
- It is in a peer-reviewed journal;
- It is a privileged statement because it is the report of a court action etc.
- The statement was published
Still to be resolved by the courts as they apply this new Act are:
- What does “serious harm” mean; and
- What does ”substantially true” mean.
But don’t forget that the old unreformed law still operates in Northern Ireland and much the same in the Irish Republic.
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It’s all very well for the new Defamation Act to be enforced in England and Wales with its new stronger defences. But libel is always a race to the bottom: where can the claimant/plaintiff sue and have a higher chance of winning? The answer now is in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
The Northern Ireland Executive has decided not to implement the new Act in Ulster. And the Irish government has shown little interest in changing its law on libel which is like the old law in the UK.
The focus for libel tourism will therefore shift to Belfast and Dublin.
The implications for all publishers are:
- Don’t just rely on the new Act but realise that your material is published in Ulster and the Republic as well;
- Keep your guard up on libel because the old provisions which have been abolished in England and Wales are still operating throughout Ireland, north and south.
I explain the highlights of the news act in my post: Libel: out with the old and in the new in Defamation Act 2103
Reed Elsevier’s first quarter 2013 statement is encouraging reading. Not only for RE’s shareholders but for the whole sector of publishers and information providers.
Revenue growth was in line with 2012 which was 4%. Even better, underlying profit growth in 2012 was 6%.
The shareholders are getting a sweetener: £181 million has been spent buying shares back. This boosts the share price. And another £219 million is to be spent in 2013 buying back yet more shares.
The Legal Division is the weakest with an expectation of subdued growth. RE expects modest growth in the Scientific, Technical and Medical Division. And it expects good growth in the Risk Solutions and Business Information Divisions.
Another swallow May 22nd?
I know that one swallow does not make a summer. But as I write the sun is shining and I’m optimistic. The next swallow may be spotted on May 22nd when Future Publishing announces its interim results.
The importance of brand reputation was re-enforced for me yesterday in a trip to the Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon.
Our informed and entertaining host Ben Swann had us list major sporting events. Test Cricket, The Olympics, The World Cup and other events went on the board. And what is the difference between them and Wimbledon fortnight? The lack of a scandal.
Other events blighted
Think of the Tour de France: drug taking. Think of Test Cricket: match fixing and betting. Nearly every other world sport event has its dark side.
With its very English tradition Wimbledon seems to have avoided all of this. It’s about strawberries, cream and champagne. But the prize money is large.
One of the nice things about Wimbledon is that it has no sponsors. It has suppliers, such as Rolex and IBM, but it is not the Emirates Tennis Championship, or at least yet.
What may keep it in its present form is that it is a club, run by a handful of members.
The only real scandal I can find about Wimbledon is a pair of red knickers worn by a French player in 2007.
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Excellent cover this week from Country Life. It has all the elements:
- the image of the cottage;
- the innuendo in “Somewhere for the weekend”;
- the announcement that Prince Charles will be a guest editor;
- chocolate; and
Plus all that property porn in 61 pages. It should fly off the shelves.
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Let’s try again to get rid of “churnalism”: the rewriting of press releases masquerading as news.
Here’s my five ways to do it:
1 Look for patterns in the news flow. A company launches a product: who has launched a product like this recently? So instead of the intro being “So-and-so launched a new gizmo this month…” it becomes “So-and-so is the third vendor into the gizmo market…”
2 Get your own quote from some authority and put that high up in the story. “So-and-so’s launch of its new gizmo this month was met with disbelief by experts…”
3 Look for what’s missing. “So-and-so’s new gizmo launched this month lacks the power of…”
4 Give the story forward spin by getting experts to predict what will happen next rather than what has just happened. “The gizmo market will attract more competition now that So-and-so has launched its product this month, says…”
5 Use the social media contributions by users as part of your news: what is the most read online story; what is the best comment or tweet etc.
Yes, all of these take a bit more time. But the quality is better. And the morale of the writers is better. Oh, and the readers are served better as well.
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The British public does not trust online demands for personal information even from government. A survey out today shows that only 37% of the public are happy to provide personal information to government. And it’s less for banks and shops: 34% and 30% respectively.
The figures also show how Internet access is unequal by class and age. 74% of C2DEs have Internet access compared with 91% of ABC1s. That’s a big gap.
The gap is even wider for age: 51% of those over 65 have Internet access compared with 91% under that age.
The government wants to make all government services digital. But how can it when so many of those over 65 and in the C2DE classes who use most public services don’t have access?
There is only one mention of the creative industries in the Red Book accompanying this week’s Budget.
Only one, for an industry which generates £70,000 a minute for the UK economy.
Only one, for an industry which employs 1.5 million people.
Only one, for an industry which accounts for 10% of UK exports.
Here it is:
1.141 In addition, the Government is providing further support for the creative industries. The UK represents a global centre of excellence in digital media production, including visual effects. To further support this high-tech and export-oriented sector, build capacity and support growth:• the Technology Strategy Board will design and launch a new competition of up to £15 million inviting consortia bids to support digital content production through partnerships with industry, including specialist SMEs, educational research facilities and training providers;• funding for the Skills Investment Fund will be increased to £8 million each year over the next two years, with Government match-funding voluntary industry contributions to support skills development in the UK digital content sectors; and• the Government will launch a public consultation on options to provide further support for the visual effects industry through the tax system.
That’s your lot, in a 122-page document.
Yet the Department for culture, media and sport says: “With the right support, they [creative industries] have the potential to bring even more benefits to our culture and economy.”
It seems that one part of the government is not talking to another.
Game on! There’s a horrible term in training: gamification. It means turning training into games. That way, apparently, people learn faster, with more fun and what they learn sticks. You can also test through games if people have got the point.
So we have a game: at least in beta mode. It is Keep it Legal, a game to test your knowledge of media law.
The smart bit
The engine for the game was built at the University of East London by Dr David Dorrington. Here’s the smart bit: the engine pulls the questions and detail of the game from a file. So now that we have the engine, we can make other games by changing the file it uses.
Play Keep it Legal and tell us what you think. Also tell us what other games you think would be useful. There are known bugs, in the best tradition of Microsoft launches. Some of the text rolls out of the boxes and the lucky cards are not coming up. But have a go and get the general idea.
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