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Defamation laws set for internet amendments?

18th September 2009

The rules governing the content of books, publishers and news agencies could be changed depending on the outcome of a debate on defamation law.

Officials at the Ministry of Justice have launched a new consultation that will consider how the rules work in the internet age.

Under current UK law, part of which originates from the 1840s,
defamation claims must be made within a year of publication.

However, the internet allows content to be accessed for many years into the future, which may support a case for changes to the limit.

Justice secretary Jack Straw said that listening to views on how to update the law is the best way to make it fit the modern age.

He explained: 'Freedom to hold and express opinions is a right that is vital to democracy, as is respect for the rights and freedoms of others.

'How these principles are balanced in the fast-changing internet age is a fascinating debate.'

The web has already transformed the world of publishing - most recently, in Google's ongoing legal disputes regarding its plans to publish selected books online for free.

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