According to Gawker there's been a bit of a barney
in the US this week, between 'media futurist' Jeff Jarvis,
and a satirical knock off @ProfJeffJarvis. It went like this.
Esquire magazine published an article by "Prof.
Jeff Jarvis", although the biography stated that it was not
the real Jarvis. The photo showed a fat man in beer helmet. The
article itself was pretty obviously a joke, advocating the creation
of an Innovation Party, in which (among other things):
"Netizens will be co-opted to both fly drones over
Pakistan, East Africa, and other trouble spots, and also to make
the difficult call: Does this house really look like it is
harboring terrorists? And should we deploy a Hellfire missile at
the house or not? Cast your votes!"
The real Jarvis, although a firm advocate of free speech,
flipped out and said it was defamatory. Ultimately Esquire
pulled the article.
This all begs the question, can satire be defamatory? The answer
is yes. Satire can definitely be defamatory. And here is why.
First, the satire might not be obvious enough to avoid the
literal imputation. In this case, the literal imputation would be
that Jarvis holds those opinions. We reckon that wouldn't
arise. But there might be a secondary imputation that the real
Jarvis deserves to be compared to a person who holds those kind of
opinions. That can also be defamatory.
Here in Australia, when Chris Kenny and the Chaser had their run
in over the infamous dog snuggler image, the court rejected the
literal imputation, that Kenny snuggled dogs. But it accepted that
the secondary imputation might arise, i.e. that Kenny
deserved to be compared to a dog snuggler. The case ultimately
There has been an upward trend in damages awards for defamation
recently. Six figure judgments are rolling out left, right and
centre, even for Twitter posts. So if you're writing satire,
you want to have a good think about defamation risk. The Pisstake
Defence might not stand up.
We do not disclaim anything about this article. We're
quite proud of it really.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Solicitors should think carefully before disclosing sensitive information to experts in a letter of instruction.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).