David Howarth, ‘Libel: Its Purpose and Reform’

Discussion of libel often fails to define defamation law’s purpose and thus properly to assess its value. This article argues that defamation’s purpose relates to fundamental human interests in sociality, directly linked to important aspects of human health and well‐being. Protecting such interests is arguably required by the right to private life under ECHR article 8 and should not count as a violation of the right to freedom of speech. Some current reform proposals are criticised as failing to appreciate the importance of protecting sociality. ‘Business’ libel, however, often protects not sociality but purely economic interests. The article therefore argues that the protection of libel law, as opposed to that offered by malicious falsehood and the economic torts, should be withdrawn from purely economic reputation, starting with removing the rights of corporations to sue in defamation, a position compatible with the ECtHR’s decision in Karako v Hungary.

Howarth, David, Libel: Its Purpose and Reform (November 2011). Modern Law Review, Vol. 74, No. 6, November 2011.

First posted 2011-10-22 16:07:25

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