Artists often have questions about whether their work defames someone. This information sheet describes the law of defamation (sometimes called libel or slander) and explains how to minimise the risk of defamation and what the defences are if you are threatened with a defamation action.
In this information sheet:
Defamation is a communication from one person to at least one other that harms the reputation of an identifiable third person, where the communicator (the publisher) has no legal defence. The law of defamation aims to balance the right of free speech with protecting a person’s reputation against harm. While the news media tends to be the main target for defamation actions, people have also sued over poems, novels, cartoons, paintings, photographs, artistic criticisms, songs and satire. Threats of defamation actions are often used to stifle criticism or to settle other grievances such as invasion of privacy (see also the Information Sheet: Privacy and the private sector).
Need more help?
If you have questions about any of the topics discussed above please contact Arts Law.
The information in this information sheet is general. It does not constitute, and should be not relied on as, legal advice. The Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) recommends seeking advice from a qualified lawyer on the legal issues affecting you before acting on any legal matter.
While Arts Law tries to ensure that the content of this information sheet is accurate, adequate or complete, it does not represent or warrant its accuracy, adequacy or completeness. Arts Law is not responsible for any loss suffered as a result of or in relation to the use of this information sheet. To the extent permitted by law, Arts Law excludes any liability, including any liability for negligence, for any loss, including indirect or consequential damages arising from or in relation to the use of this information sheet.
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You may photocopy this information sheet for a non-profit purpose, provided you copy all of it, and you do not alter it in any way. Check you have the most recent version by contacting us on (02) 9356 2566 or tollfree outside Sydney on 1800 221 457.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia has been assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.