Archived news: 1 June 2011
The law as it stands can cause many unnecessary complications and much frustration for authors, particularly those who write about current affairs and/or living persons. Libel litigation favours claimants and is notoriously wearing, costly and unpredictable.
The Society gave its enthusiastic backing to an initiative of English PEN and Index on Censorship. After a year-long enquiry the two organisations concluded that English libel law has a seriously detrimental impact on freedom of expression. Their report, Free Speech is not for Sale, which has 10 specific recommendations, can be viewed at www.libelreform.org.
The Defamation Bill addresses some of the main concerns raised by those campaigning for reform, and its endorsement of a single publication rule (meaning that you can only be sued for libel for one year after the first publication of the work) is most welcome and long overdue as are provisions to prevent libel tourism.
However, there are other areas where the proposed bill does not go far enough, particularly in demanding a public interest element to the defence of honest comment, and in its protection of Internet Service Providers and other secondary publishers.
The Society’s full response to the consultation paper can be downloaded here.
A Joint Special Committee is currently taking evidence on the proposals and the Society’s response can be downloaded here
General guidance on the law of libel is given in our Guide to Libel, Privacy and Confidentiality, which can be downloaded from the members area of our website (or sent to members free of charge, on request).
- Click here for the response of Libel Reform
- Click here for the response of the Publishers Association
- Click here for the response of the Booksellers Association