Defamation and the Law in the wake of the Rebel Wilson case
DEFAMATION AND THE LAW
IN THE WAKE OF THE REBEL WILSON CASE
We know Rebel Wilson to be a famous Australian actress to have been involved in major Hollywood films such as Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids. However, Rebel Wilson has been seen on our television screens for another reason outside of Hollywood. The popular actress is suing for defamation in the Supreme Court of Victoria. Rebel Wilson is suing Bauer Media, the publisher of Woman’s Day, over a series of articles published which depict her as a serial liar, who had lied about her real name, age and upbringing. Rebel Wilson claims that as a result of the publication of these articles she had been sacked from two feature films and was unable to secure work.
In light of the lengthy trial before the Supreme Court, many people are interested in what “defamation” is really about and what requirements are needed to consider in making a claim for defamation.
What is defamation?
Defamation occurs when a person is or has been subjected to slanderous, defamatory or libellous comments or publications, which can damage their reputation.
Defamation law deals with protecting a person’s reputation. It is a personal right of action which enables an aggrieved person to seek compensation for damage suffered to their reputation as a result of the comment or publication made about them.
Any person who is the subject of a defamatory publication or comment can sue for defamation. However, section 9 of the Defamation Act 2005 (Vic) restricts the rights of corporations to sue for defamation. Only certain not-for-profit corporations, and corporations that employ less than 10 employees can sue for defamation.
The requirements to make a defamation law case
To consider making a claim for defamation, you must be able to prove the following:
The material that the plaintiff (the person who claims to have been defamed) consider to be defamatory must be “published” to at least one other person. The material can be written, spoken or illustrated;
The defamatory material “identifies” the plaintiff, either directly or indirectly. The plaintiff does not need to be specifically mentioned, but it has to be sufficient enough to allow someone to infer that the material relates to the plaintiff; and
The material must contain “defamatory” content against the plaintiff, regardless of whether it was published intentionally or not.
How do you prove publication of the defamatory material?
To pursue a defamation claim, you must provide proof of the defamatory statement. You need to prove that the person you are accusing of making the defamatory publication or comment participated in some way in the chain of communication of the offending material to third parties.
When are words considered to be “defamatory”?
Words are defamatory when they convey a meaning about a person which lowers that person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of the community, or if it causes the person to be ridiculed, avoided or disliked by member of the general public.
When should you sue for defamation?
Time is of the essence if you wish to make a claim for defamation. For material published after 1 January 2016, you must make a claim within one year of the publication.
Seeking legal advice
Time is of the essence when it comes to defamation law. If you or your business are the subject of potentially damaging comments or publications, you must seek legal advice. Further, if you are aware of possible defamatory material being published, Judicate Lawyers can immediately initiate legal proceedings to seek an injunction to prevent the publication of the alleged defamatory material. It is crucial to get immediate legal advice to prevent any damage to your reputation.
If you have been accused of making a defamatory comment or publication, you should contact Judicate Lawyers immediately as there may be consequences for not responding in the required timeframe.
This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It does not purport
to be comprehensive or to render legal advice. No reader should act on the basis of any matter contained in this article without first obtaining specific professional advice.
For any information concerning this article, please contact Josephine Ziino, Solicitor, Judicate Lawyers – Barristers and Solicitors of Unit 11 / 233 Cardigan Street, Carlton, Victoria, 3053. Her contact details are as follows: