December 11, 2002

Australian net libel case (Gutnick), info from AUSTRALIAN expert

[I'm posting this because it deserves to be better known, as high-quality, expert, information - this is commentary from a public mailing-list]

[ Irene Graham is the Executive Director, Electronic Frontiers Australia ]

>Net libel actions can be brought anywhere in world
> From Roger Maynard in Sydney and Frances Gibb
>The Times, 11 December, 2002
>A LEGAL ruling made by an Australian court yesterday could clear the way
>for worldwide libel litigation over internet material, lawyers and industry
>leaders say. The decision by the High Court of Australia, sitting in
>Canberra, in effect allows litigants to mount libel cases anywhere in the
>world over website material, not just in the website's country of origin.

I'd strongly recommend that anyone interested in what the Aust. High Court said, read the decision at: rather than relying on newspaper reports. To date, I haven't seen a single one that seems to me to accurately reflect what the Court actually said. So far, they all seem to exaggerate some aspects, and/or fail to mention pertinent aspects.

There's no doubt the situation is of concern relative to freedom of expression, but the Court decision is unsurprising - it merely confirmed existing decades-old law. Reading newspaper reports one could get the impression the Court changed the law or further 'developed' the common law. The Court did not, and the decision makes clear that the judges were well aware of the issues and on reading the lengthy judgment it becomes, imo, apparent that the Court had good reasons for making the decision it did. To do otherwise it appears the Court would have had to re-write the law. Imo, there's an urgent need for defamation law reform in Australia. The need has been 'urgent' for over 20 years, but despite various Law Reform Commission recommendations etc, the Parliaments in the various Australian jurisdictions have not done anything about it.


By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on December 11, 2002 03:58 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups

Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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