You should never need to think twice about protecting your personal brand or the reputation of your business. With the advance of social media platforms over the last 15 years, the damage that defamatory remarks can cause you and your business has significantly increased.
Defamation laws in Australia are not designed to prevent freedom of speech but are effective in protecting people from the spread of damaging remarks.
Although defamation actions are limited to individuals and small business (fewer than 10 full-time employees), larger business and companies have other rights under the Australian Consumer Law to protect their reputation. Larger companies can make a claim for misleading and deceptive conduct to protect them from any slanderous statements made against them.
Have I, or has my business been defamed?
The fundamental elements to an action for defamation are:
- The comments/posts/remarks are defamatory
- The defamatory material identifies you or your business (even if you are not specifically named)
- The defamatory material is ‘published’
For the material to be “published” it must be shared to another person, whether this is done orally or in writing. There are now numerous means by which material can be “published” including word of mouth, emails, Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, radio broadcasts and the list goes on…
The most significant development in defamation actions is that the publication of material online can now reach a significantly wider audience in an extremely short timeframe. This results in defamatory remarks having a far more devastating impact, which is harder to remedy.
I have been accused of Defamation. What happens now?
Threats of Court action and accusations of defamation are often brandished by parties to an argument without any intention of taking action. If you are concerned that an accusation has been levelled against you, we recommend keeping records of any emails, posts, text messages or making a diary note of conversations you have had.
If someone intends to commence a defamation action, the first step will usually be for them to send you correspondence in the form of a “concerns notice”. This sets out their compliance and provides you with an opportunity to resolve the matter before commencing Court proceedings.