Defamation Law

Subject LAWS70181 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2015.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment:

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


For more information:

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

There is no international consensus as to an appropriate balance by defamation laws between freedom of expression and the protection of reputation. The increasingly cross-border nature of communications has heightened the potential for conflict between different jurisdictions’ laws. This subject examines Australia’s defamation law and practice alongside a close analysis of other important common law jurisdictions, particularly United Kingdom and North America, to enable students to analyse, apply and critically evaluate defamation laws in contemporary contexts.

The subject brings together two leading media law experts. Jason Bosland is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Media and Communications Law and researches in all aspects of media law. Dr Matt Collins is an Australian barrister and author of a leading international text on the application of defamation laws to digital media.

Principal topics will include:

  • Free speech and reputation: Australia and the United States
  • Choice of law and jurisdiction
  • The Anglo-Australian plaintiff‘s case: What is defamatory?
  • United States defamation law: The legacy of New York Times v Sullivan
  • Australian defences: Truth and opinion
  • Privilege and fair reports
  • Pre-publication advice and litigation
  • Remedies.
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject should have:

  • A detailed understanding of the ways in which Anglo-Australian and United States defamation laws regulate free speech in relation to reputation
  • A professional ability to synthesise and apply the legal principles and respond to challenges posed by defamation law in relation to contemporary media practices
  • Well-developed techniques for evaluating the law and analysing divergent legal norms in Australian and US defamation law
  • A critical awareness of important defamation law reform proposals, drawing on comparative materials.
  • Take-home examination (100%)
  • 10,000 word research paper (100%) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

Prescribed Texts:

Core subject materials will be provided free of charge to all students. Some subjects require further texts to be purchased. Details regarding any prescribed texts will be provided prior to the commencement of the subject.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

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