8 December 2010

U.K. libel reform group puts out libel guide for bloggers

Picture this: someone writes, emails or phones you to say that something you wrote on your blog is libellous and is threatening to sue. Do you take it seriously? Do you take down your material? Do you say you're sorry? Or do you face your nemesis in court? The independent charitable trust Sense About Science has put together a guide entitled "So you've had a threatening letter. What can you do?"

"So you've had a threatening letter" explains exactly what defamation is, and what to do if you are threatened with it. For instance, the guide proffers that how you react in the first few weeks after you receive a threat is crucial in deflecting an unfounded claim or correcting something you got wrong.

"Stay calm, review the material, and be friendly and open in your correspondence. Lawyers say the best way to avoid ending up in court is to write letters that would go down well if read out in court," says the guide.

The guide is specifically designed for bloggers in the U.K. and has been published as part of a campaign to reform English libel laws. In a recent survey, Sense About Science found that service providers and bloggers are increasingly vulnerable because of their unfamiliarity with media law.

Sense About Science cautions that the guide is not a substitute for legal advice, but "it does provide information which other bloggers and writers who have been through the experience say they wished they had known at the outset."

The guide was compiled in association with Index on Censorship, English PEN, the Media Legal Defence Initiative, the Association of British Science Writers and the World Federation of Science Journalists.

Read "So you've had a threatening letter" here.

Sign a petition for English libel law reform here.

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The Libel Reform Campaign

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