Entertainment Law

You can't handle the truth!

Jack Nicholson famously said in A Few Good Men (1992): “you can’t handle the truth!” But how much trouble will I be in if I reveal an unpleasant truth about someone? Or alternatively, what if I bend the truth to show them in a negative light?

Defamation as a body of law treads a line between protecting ones reputation and upholding the democratic promises of free speech.


But what is defamation? To defame someone is to make a communication about them that causes them to be exposed to ridicule, their public perception to be lowered or that causes others to shun or avoid them. Liability for defamation lies with the individual and/or the entity that published the defamatory material. This means that any person involved in the publication, from the director to the producer may face liability. You can imagine that anyone working in the media industry needs to tread very carefully when communicating about a third! After all, in showbiz, reputation is everything.


An individual may bring an action in defamation if they have been the subject of defamatory material that has been communicated to a third party. In most cases a corporation does not have a cause of action in defamation, but caution should be exercised in the event there are other avenues of legal relief.


These principles remain the same across all media platforms, whether in film, a YouTube hit, newspaper article or an Instagram post.


What if you are writing fiction, but using real life personalities as inspiration? The practice of fictionalising real individuals is an effective protection against defamation claims only when the individuals are no longer identifiable.


If you need to get a handle on defamation law, please contact the Entertainment Department at Marshalls+Dent Lawyers.