Our team of expert litigators help individuals and organisations who are faced with reputation management, privacy and media law issues.
Sadly, a reputation which has taken years to build up, can be irreversibly damaged in moments, by adverse and intrusive online or social media activity.
Taking a common sense yet innovative approach, our tenacious lawyers act quickly to help protect our clients’ reputations, aiming wherever possible to rapidly shut down any threats from traditional or social media sources. We have an impressive track record of advising organisations, high net worth individuals, celebrities and those in the public eye.
Our team can help with all stages of advice and representation, to consider the options on becoming aware of a defamatory statement and/or act of harassment/blackmail, from sending/responding to a letter of claim or a cease and desist letter, acting to obtain/resist an urgent injunction application, through to pursuing a claim to trial and dealing with any subsequent enforcement action.
Defamation and malicious falsehood claims, unfortunately, often emanate from competitors, ex-partners, disgruntled employees or ex-employees and anonymous web users who resort to making defamatory statements that causes damage to reputations. Our clients, therefore, sometimes also require the help of our family and/or employment teams. We work closely with our colleagues across the firm to deliver a seamless service across these practice areas.
The law relating to defamation is complex, highly nuanced and is constantly changing, especially to keep up with the continuously developing world of social media. It is, therefore, recommended that formal legal advice from a lawyer with expertise in this area of law is obtained as early as possible.
Our expertise includes:
- Pre and post publication advice
- Defamation (libel and slander) – for both claimant and defendant
- Malicious falsehood
- Privacy and misuse of private information
- Harassment and blackmail
- Online reputation management
- Cyber security and data protection (including GDPR, ‘right to be forgotten’ SARs and IP)
Frequently asked questions
The term “defamation” covers two types of defamatory actions: libel and slander. Both concern the publication of defamatory material that is something that adversely affects a person / company’s reputation.
The defamatory statement has to diminish or undermine the victim’s reputation in the eyes of right thinking members of society.
- What is the difference between libel and slander?
The distinction between the two types of defamation are:
Libel - where a publication is in writing or other permanent form such as print, online or broadcasting the action; and
Slander - where a publication is spoken or in some other temporary form such as gestures.
- Can a company or other organisation be defamed?
Yes, it is not just individuals who can bring a defamation claim. In order to protect its business reputation, a company or other legal entity can indeed bring libel and / or slander proceedings.
However, it is not enough to show that a statement has merely caused reputational damage; the victim will need to show that the libellous or slanderous publication has caused serious financial loss.
- Can I sue for defamation in England and Wales if I am based abroad?
Yes, if the perpetrator is domiciled in this jurisdiction. Where the perpetrator is also based outside the jurisdiction, different rules apply depending on whether they are domiciled within the EU or a contracting state to the Lugano Convention, or outside those territories, so careful consideration will need to be given to establish whether England and Wales is the most appropriate place to bring your claim.
- Can I sue over defamatory publications on social media?
Yes, libel covers all written publications, wherever they are published, provided they have caused or are likely to cause serious harm to your reputation. Although social media is often less permanent than other forms of publication as posts and comments can be deleted and removed, defamatory words published on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can be just as detrimental to reputation as words published in a newspaper or magazine. It is important to note, however, that operators of websites are given certain protections if they were not responsible for publishing what has been posted on their website.
- What compensation or redress can I expect?
If you decide to bring a defamation claim against a perpetrator in libel or slander, and are successful either at court or in a settlement, you will usually be entitled to some compensation. How much compensation you get depends on how serious the defamatory statement is, and what harm has been caused. Where the case is decided in your favour by the court it may also be possible to get an injunction order preventing further publication of the defamatory statement. If the case is settled between the parties out of court you can seek certain undertakings from the perpetrator, such as not to repeat the allegations made in the defamatory statement. It is also usual to ask for an apology from the perpetrator and sometimes, if necessary, for the apology to be published by the perpetrator in the same source the original defamatory statement in order to ‘set the record straight’. A court cannot usually force a perpetrator to apologise. However, where a case goes to trial, vindication is achieved through a public judgment in your favour and the award of damages which the perpetrator must pay. If successful, it is also usual for the court to order the perpetrator to pay a proportion of your legal costs.
- Something defamatory is about to be published - can I stop it?
It is very rare to get an injunction preventing publication on the basis of potential libel because of the long-established English law rule against prior restraint. However, it can be possible to prevent the publisher from going ahead with publication by securing an injunction order in certain circumstances. However, if you cannot stop publication completely, you may be able to change what is published about you by engaging with the publisher before publication and outlining what the true facts are.
- What privacy rights do I have?
In the UK the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) applies, even though the UK has left the European Union. This contains an article affording UK citizens a 'right to respect for private and family life', sometimes known as the 'Article 8 right'. However, this right conflicts with another ‘freedom of expression’, which is commonly used as a defence in privacy law cases.
- What can I do if someone has published private information about me?
Once private information has been published you can claim damages and obtain an injunction preventing any further publication of the private information.
- How can I stop private photos or videos appearing online or in the media?
You may be able to get an injunction preventing publication or get the agreement of the person threatening to publish not to do so, if you have not consented to publication and the publication would amount to an infringement of your privacy. You also may own the copyright in photographs and videos, and as an individual you have rights under the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR to protect your personal data, including photographs and videos.
- Is there a time limit for bringing proceedings for defamation (libel or slander)?
Yes, a claim for defamation against any person or company must usually be issued at Court within one year of the date of publication. In the case of material that continues to be re-published online, the time limit starts to run from the date the material was first published.
- Is there a time limit for bringing a claim for breach of privacy?
Yes, a claim for breach of privacy must be brought within 6 years of the private information being published.