This bill seeks to amend current defamation legislation and is progressing through Parliament. The main focus of the bill is to make sure that defamation legislation is fit for modern times. Please refer to our earlier posting at: http://www.jisclegal.ac.uk/ManageContent/ViewDetail/ID/1133/Defamation-on-the-Internet--Consultation-16-September-2009.aspx
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The proposals set out in the bill aim to address online publishing and may well have a direct impact on UK further and higher education institutions, particularly where they post or publish on the internet. One of the main features of the bill is to address the problems created by widespread use of the Internet including making changes to the limitation period of one year. As it stands at present re-publication of a a defamatory statement constitutes a new publication for the purpose of limitation. However, the bill seeks to address this problem by providing that where material is published by the same person on multiple occassions and the content is the same or largely the same then the date of publication will be the first date of publication. Indeed this constitutes a a radical overhaul of the current legal position. Accordingly, institutions may wish to familiarise themselves with the terms of the bill in relation to multiple publications. It can be accessed from the UK Parliament website at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldbills/003/11003.1-7.html#j10.
Furthermore, it is recognised that the current law is outdated and biased towards those who claim defamation. The government is seeking to address this balance on the basis that the status quo is hampering freedom of expression particularly in the case of academic and scientific debate, a view that will also be of interest to UK further and higher education institutions.