The legal myth we are busting today is that you can say anything you want about anybody, as long as it’s true. Some people think that the truth is defense to defamation, now that may be true in some countries and even in some states in Australia, but in Queensland and some other states, that is certainly not true.
If you’ve published something, there will be a jurisdiction somewhere, where truth is not an absolute defense. I always say, be careful about what you say about people. The old adage of, if you’ve got a complaint, tell them privately, and if you’ve got a compliment, tell them publicly. Is a good one to stick to, because you can be in serious trouble, and may have to pay out quite a lot of money for defamation.
For example, somebody created a website for a client of mine, my client wasn’t happy. They thought the website was rubbish, it wasn’t to the standard they wanted it. A whole lot of things hadn’t been done, the client had paid, and they were just generally completely dissatisfied. In that situation, they said “should I name and shame them, to warn other people?”
That’s when the alarm bells should ring. If you said anything about naming and shaming, warning other people, or if your point is to get it out there because you’re angry and you want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anybody else, then you could be in trouble. Because the point of getting it out there is to lower that person’s reputation in the eyes of potential customers and that is the definition of defamation: “lowering somebody’s reputation.”
So in some places, yes, truth is an absolute defense and in some places, it is not a defense. So do not say whatever you want about people publicly or even privately, because if you privately message somebody, it doesn’t always stay private. You will be amazed at the amount of private messages that people send to me, they’ve taken a screenshot and they’ve gone, “my friend knows that person, who knows that person, who’s the actual person who received the message from the person who said the bad thing, and that person passed it to their friend, who passed it to their friend, who passed it to their friend, who passed it to me, who the message is about.”
My mum always said to me, if you couldn’t write it on a postcard for everyone to see, rather don’t say it. It’s not worth the effort, put your energy into something positive, be delightful, leave that person behind. But, don’t be taken advantage of, get legal assistance if you want to try and get your money back if they didn’t meet their obligations. But resist the temptation to name and shame, because it could come back to bite you, and you could be the one paying for it.
My name is Cathryn Warburton, I am The Legal Lioness, and it has been an absolute blast busting legal myths to protect your business so that you can lead the lifestyle that you deserve. If you want to hear more about busting legal myths, please go to ‘legallioness.com’.