Full case report

Gutnick v Dow Jones & Co Inc

Reference [2002] HCA 56; (2002) 77 ALJR 255
Court High Court of Australia

Judge Gleeson CJ, Gaudron, McHugh, Gummow, Kirby, Hayne and Callinan JJ

Date of Judgment 10 Dec 2002


Summary

Libel – Publication – Internet – Single publication rule – Appropriate forum


Facts

The Respondent, an Australian businessman, brought libel proceedings in Australia over an article published by the Appellants in “Barron’s”, a weekly financial magazine, which had alleged that he was “the biggest customer” of a convicted money launderer. Importantly, the article also appeared on the Appellant’s website. The Respondent brought his action in the state court of Victoria. The Appellant had online subscribers in Victoria, but argued that the case should be heard where the article was uploaded, in New Jersey.


Issue

(1) Where publication of an article on the internet takes place.
(2) Whether the Victoria court was an appropriate forum for determination of the action.


Held

(1) Rejecting the single publication doctrine favoured in the US and put forward by the Appellants, publication on the internet takes place wherever the information is downloaded. (2) As the Respondent was claiming only for the damage to his reputation within the state of Victoria, there was no question of Victoria being an inappropriate forum for determination of the action.


Comment

The High Court of Australia applied fundamental principles of defamation and arrived at the unsurprising conclusion that Mr Gutnick, a resident of Victoria could sue in respect of Internet publication by the Defendants of a defamatory article in Victoria. The “single-publication rule”, a concept from US law, was rejected by the High Court in Australia, just as it has been in the UK by the House of Lords in Berezovsky.


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Instructing Solicitors

Gilbert & Tobin for the Appellants; Schetzer, Brott & Appel for the Respondent.