Who can be defamed?

The uniform defamation laws in each of Australia’s states and territories (Uniform Defamation Laws) generally only protect individuals from being defamed. Notwithstanding this, an individual or company may defame another party.

Defaming individuals

It is possible that a publication may:

  • defame multiple individuals at once; and/or
  • defame an individual indirectly through publishing information about a company or business that the individual is involved in. Indirect identification occurs when the identity of the person/company is inferred in the publication and a reasonable third party could identify the person/company from such inference.

Even where a publication defames an individual multiple times, this only gives rise to one defamation claim and not multiple.

Defaming companies

A company cannot be defamed under the Uniform Defamation Laws unless it is an ‘excluded corporation’ at the time of the relevant publication.

An excluded corporation is a corporation:

  • that is not a public body; and
  • either:
    • does not have an objective to obtain financial gain for its members or corporators, that is, a not-for-profit corporation; or
    • has fewer than 10 employees and is not an associated entity of another corporation.

Should a company meet the definition of ‘excluded corporation’, the company may make a claim for defamation in the same manner as an individual, noting that the company will need to prove its status as an excluded corporation in addition to the normal defamation requirements (see our prior article here for information on the defamation requirements).

A company that is an ‘excluded corporation’ may make a claim for defamation in relation to a publication in addition to any of its employees.

Companies that are not excluded corporations

Should a company fail to meet the definition of ‘excluded corporation’ and, accordingly, be unable to make a defamation claim, it is possible the company may have a claim for injurious falsehood.

We will be publishing an article in the future on injurious falsehood.

If you think you have been defamed, may be defaming others, or have any questions regarding defamation law, please contact Mark Schneider, Eliza Buchanan or Georgina Buckley of our litigation and dispute resolution team.


Special Counsel