Trade welcomes libel reform initiative

Trade welcomes libel reform initiative

<p>Legal specialists are calling for a single publication rule to be introduced in the UK, as the trade broadly welcomed deputy prime minister Nick Clegg&#39;s announcement of a draft defamation bill in the spring. </p><p>In a speech to the Institute for Government in London last week, Clegg announced his intention to address the &quot;high costs of defamation proceedings&quot;, and &quot;provide a new statutory defence for those speaking out in the public interest&quot;. He also called for a halt to libel tourism.</p><p>Maddie Mogford, legal director at Little, Brown, welcomed Clegg&#39;s proposal for libel law reform, but added bringing in a single publication rule, not mentioned by Clegg, would be &quot;a key thing for book publishers&quot;. This rule would confine the risk of a libel claim being made to within the 12 months following publication. She added: &quot;The last defamation act was in 1996 and the way in which information is disseminated has changed greatly since then. The law needs to take account of that.&quot;</p><p>David Hooper, partner at Reynolds Porter &amp; Chamberlain, also pressed for the single publication issue to be addressed. &quot;The most important thing for publishers to push for is that people should not be able to bring a libel case over a year after the publication of the book,&quot; he said. </p><p>Hooper and Mogford also agreed with Clegg&#39;s call for the cost of defamation proceedings to be brought down. Hooper said: &quot;The real damage libel has done is not in the cases brought against publishers&nbsp;.&nbsp;.&nbsp;. but more importantly in that publishers are put off publishing a book that is potentially libelous as it&#39;s not worth it [the legal fees are too high].&quot; </p><p>Kevin Taylor, director of strategy and intellectual property at Cambridge University Press, said: &quot;It will cause academic writers to feel less constrained. We&#39;re only really bringing the laws in line with other jurisdictions in which academic publishers operate, such as in America. It&#39;s time for a bit more consistency.&quot;</p><p>Independent Publishers Guild board member Jim Smith, who is also m.d. of Bloomsbury Professional, said though the proposed reforms were &quot;broadly speaking&nbsp;.&nbsp;.&nbsp;. to be welcomed by small publishers&quot;, it remains to be seen if the line between protecting the freedom of the individual and &quot;preventing large corporations from using current libel laws to scare off academics&quot; could be navigated.</p><p>Publishers Association chief executive Richard Mollet praised Clegg&#39;s stance on libel tourism. &quot;The book publishing sector is one of many industries that is restricted by the threat of libel claims,&quot; he said. </p><p>&quot;We whole-heartedly support Mr Clegg&#39;s stance on costs for defamation proceedings. We aim to work with government to provide practical suggestions and solutions to these issues,&quot; he added. </p>