Defamation on the Internet
Frequently asked questions
Can you sue someone who has written a blog or publication that is defamatory?
A publication created by a blogger that is defamatory may be sued upon. In this case blogger can be sued. Similarly, publications on websites that are defamatory of the plaintiff can be sued upon.
Does it matter where it is published?
This issue is where debate has been focused in the recent past. The rule in Australia is that publication on the internet is made at the place of download.
So, if the publication is uploaded onto a server in South Australia but is downloaded in New South Wales, the place of publication is New South Wales.
Similarly if statements are uploaded onto a server in the United States but downloaded in New South Wales then the place of publication is New South Wales.
From the perspective of the plaintiff, if a delivery of defamatory material by download or by sale of a newspaper occurs in the same place then the rule on publication is the same.
The authority for the of Dow Jones & Company Inc v Gutnick (2002) 210 CLR 575.
A story in the Wall Street Journal which was published by Dow Jones & Company Inc in the USA was downloaded in Victoria, and Mr. Gutnick claimed he had been defamed, and brought action in the Supreme Court of Victoria against the publisher, Dow Jones.
An application to the Court to set aside Mr. Gutnick’s action on the basis that the publication occurred in the United States and that Victoria was not an appropriate forum failed. The publication was held to have been made at the place it was read and understood, in this case where it was downloaded, in Victoria.