Defamation Isn’t A Crime Exclusive To Celebrities
If you’re living in, or even visiting Australia at the moment and have been keeping a close eye on the local news, you’ve likely heard of the latest celebrity lawsuit; regarding defamatory comments aimed towards Oscar winning, Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush. Mr. Rush is best known for his roles in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, The King’s Speech and in the 1996 movie Shine; where he won the Oscar for best actor in a leading role the following year. The defamation lawsuit went in to courts earlier last week and was filed by Mr. Rush against the Daily Telegraphs publisher, Nationwide News and a journalist; following two news articles published in late 2017, that the Australian actor claims to label him as a sexual pervert and predator.
However, with the media circus that is currently following the case, it can become relatively easy to forget that defamation isn’t just a crime that only effects celebrities and massive corporations. In fact, the opposite is more true; according to a study conducted earlier in the year at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), an everyday, average Australian is more likely to be both be suing over and being accused of, defamation. Furthermore, the study found that only roughly 26% of defamatory cases involved media companies, while at a slightly smaller 21% of defamatory cases involved an individual who could be considered a public figure.
Despite significantly more defamation cases occurring between your average Australian citizen, we only hear of the celebrity cases because typically, the lawsuits involve higher stakes and the parties involved are relatively well known among the general public.
The question remains:
“Why are so many Australians getting involved in Defamation lawsuits?”
The average person probably isn’t aware of what classifies as defamation and a small portion of those who are aware of defamation, might not realise what can be classified as a publication. 51% of the defamatory cases in the study were digital cases. So, something relatively as simple as a post on a social media website, such as; Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, can make an individual equally as liable to defamation, as a newspaper article or a gossip tv show can make journalist or presenter liable.
While that is relatively easy to understand, as social media posts are typically known to be public and far-reaching; but what may come as a surprise to some, is that some methods of communication that are considered relatively private can also be classified as a publication. More specifically, simple, one-on-one methods of communication, such as; a text message, a direct message, an email or something completely devoid of the digital landscape like talking to a friend in person over coffee, are all classified as forms of publication under defamatory law. Even though the message may be intended to be private and only shared between two people; it still has the potential to spread via word of mouth and have negative repercussions on an individual.
In today’s world, we have the potential to reach out and communicate to almost anyone else in the world, and are able to do conveniently with devices that fit into the palms of our hands. It is crucial you think about what you are writing on social media, in emails and on text messages; to ensure you do not get accused of defamation. If you think you’ve become a victim of defamation, contact us.