A rather interesting case on online defamation has turned up.
The basic facts are as follows: Christopher Carrie is the author of a book in which he makes claims that he was sexually abused by a Father John Tolkien (a priest) son of the famous writer JRR Tolkien (author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings).
Carrie had been publishing on a blog under a pseudonym promoting his book and website, JRR Tolkien’s grandson had posted a comment on the blog claiming that Carrie was lying and had tried to defraud the Catholic Church and the Tolkien family. Royd Tolkien also claimed that Carrie had previously admitted to lying about sexual abuse to attempt to extract money from the church.
Carrie denied these claims on his blog but did not delete them, Tolkien argued that this lack of action by Carrie effectively amounted to consent for the publication of the comments.
Mr Justice Eady Stated: “No explanation was offered for [Carrie] having taken no steps to delete it until his witness statement of 18 November 2008 was served…the explanation given, however, of putting the words ‘in context’ does not in any way detract from the validity of a defence of authorisation or acquiescence. The fact remains that he could have removed it at any time over the last 22 months.”
The Court ruled that Carrie effectively consented to the publication of the remarks from the time that he responded to them. This provides an interesting precedent for future cases and to protect yourself from any such defamatory material the best course of action would be to delete such material as soon as it is posted.