Posted by Defamation Lawyers Perth on March 26, 2024

Defamations are some of the most complicated and tricky cases due to the delicate balance between the right to free speech and the exploitation of the same to disseminate harm. If you’ve been charged with defamation, getting one of the best corporate defamation lawyer in WA to represent you is indispensable.

In Australia, corporate defamations are dealt with under the Uniform Defamation Laws, which, as the name suggests, are uniform across all territories and states. This article is a breakdown of how corporate defamation can be defended in court.

What counts as defamation?

Defamation is essentially any act of communication that, when published to a third party, tarnishes or diminishes the reputation of the plaintiff. For any claim of defamation to be actionable, there needs to be three non-negotiable points:

  • An act of communication that must be published and made available to a third party
  • The communication should be able to identify the plaintiff, even if it doesn’t use the name
  • The communication must have proved harmful to the plaintiff’s reputation or esteem.

In other words, for any communication, be it writing, spoken words, video, etc., to be deemed defamatory, it must be made to a third party and cause harm to the identified plaintiff. The defamation cannot be claimed unless the plaintiff can prove all of these conditions. This is to ensure that the freedom of speech of customers and audiences is not quelled through arbitrary claims.

What defenses can the defendant use?

1. Defense of honest opinion

An important aspect to remember in any defamation trial is that just because a defendant criticized the plaintiff does not make their action defamatory. Whether or not the plaintiff found the communication of criticism offensive is also not a determining factor for defamation. This is part of the Uniform Defamation Law that protects the right to communicate opinion and is called the Defense of Honest Opinion.

This law applies to critics, reviewers, satirists, comedians, and anyone involved in social commentary. According to the defamation business law in Perth, to have the defense of opinion, you must prove:

(a) The communication made by the defendant is a personal opinion, not a fact.

(b) The communicated opinion is in the interest of the larger public.

(c) The opinion and communication is backed by evidence and material supporting it such as:

    • The material proving substantially true.
    • Protected under Absolute privilege, which offers complete immunity from defamation to members of the parliament
    • Protected under qualified privilege, which offers partial immunity when the defendant had reasons to believe their statement was true, moral, legally sound, and needed to be communicated as a part of social duty.

(c) The facts supporting the opinion are communicated along with the opinion to the third party so that they can form their own opinion.

2. Defense of Innocent Dissemination

This form of defense is available for people who are subordinate publishers of the claimed defamatory material. While the authors and publishers of the communication hold primary liability and full agency over their acts of communication, subordinate publishers may not be fully involved in the process. The defamation lawyers in Perth can guide you with proof that include:

  • You were not aware of the defamatory content
  • The ignorance was not caused as a result of negligence

3. Other Defenses

Apart from the two above defenses, other defenses in the face of corporate defamation include:

  • Exclusions in the liability according to common law
  • Publication of communication for matters contained in public documents for which you are free to comment or provide an opinion.
  • Communication made in the interest of fairness and public safety or interest
  • Proving that your communication is contextually or partially true

4. Apology

An apology goes a long way in safeguarding the defendant from complicated litigations. This is because the Uniform Defamation laws are aimed at non-litigious and fast resolutions. Hence, an offer or appeal to make amends can help the defendant escape serious consequences should the defamation trial turn against them. This amendment is negotiated between the plaintiff and the defendant, and if the plaintiff refuses the offer, it can work as a defense to the defendant.

Summing up

Corporate defamations are often convoluted, with numerous gray areas that make litigations lengthy and expensive. The top defamation solicitors in Perth, WA are experienced in providing effective defenses in your best interest. Contact the team for consultations today.