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Researchers relieved as UK libel reform act becomes law

The Defamation Act 2013 became law in the UK on 1 January, introducing better protection for researchers who express opinions in journal articles and reducing the risk of them being sued.

The law specifically protects academics publishing peer-reviewed material in journals. It also provides protection for those who are publishing on a matter they reasonably believe is in the public interest. It also includes a new ‘serious harm’ threshold to discourage trivial claims for libel.

The Ministry of Justice said in a statement that journalists, scientists and academics have faced unfair legal threats for fairly criticising a company, person or product. Justice minister Shailesh Vara said: “As a result of these new laws, anyone expressing views and engaging in public debate can do so in the knowledge that the law offers them stronger protection against unjust and unfair threats of legal action.”

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