Category Archives: Internet Law

The Defence of “Fair Comment”

The threshold in Canada for a finding of defamation is not particularly stringent.  In order to prove defamation (libel or slander) against a particular defendant, a plaintiff must show on the balance of probabilities that: the statements were made to a third party, the words lowered the plaintiff’s reputation, and the words must be reasonably understood by others in a defamatory sense.

Types of Damages in Defamation Actions

In an action for defamation a plaintiff may be entitled to an award for the following types of damages: (a) general, (b) special, (c) aggravated, and (d) punitive.

General Damages

General damages in defamation cases flow from the defamatory publication and are to compensate the plaintiff for any harm to his or her reputation or emotional well-being. This is often referred to as compensation for the “sting” of the defamation.[1]

Libel & Slander Act v The Internet

Ontario’s Libel and Slander Act[1] contains certain notice and claim requirements and deadlines which, if not followed, will act as a bar against any potential action for defamation.  In particular:

  • Section 5(1) provides that no action for libel in a “newspaper” or in a “broadcast” lies unless a plaintiff, within six weeks after the alleged libel has come to the plaintiff’s knowledge, gives written notice to the defendant.
  • Section 6, for its part, states that an action for a libel in a “newspaper” or in a “broadcast” must be commenced within three months after the libel has come to the knowledge of the person defamed.

Defamation on Twitter

This week I appeared on a variety of CBC morning shows across the country to discuss a number of recent defamatory incidents on Twitter.  There is a write up on the CBC website you can check out here, or alternatively you can listen to one of the interviews in its entirety here.  Enjoy!

 

Anatomy of a Defamation Claim

The Court of Appeal has appropriately stated that “pleadings in defamation cases are more important than in any other class of actions”.1  This is because the law contains technical requirements for pleading defamation as a cause of action that must be strictly adhered to.  A misstep here or a misstep there can invalidate your claim.