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Many individuals have caused publication of defamatory through the Internet and other computer networks. Australian states have come up with a way of instilling laws to these individuals by instituting the defamatory law. Despite free communication of information being a fundamental value in information-rich societies, defamation law is used to protect the reputation of an individual, which the societal interactions shapes including interpersonal communication that puts a restriction in freedom of speech. Because of this, defamatory law should balance the protection of an individual reputation and protection of free speech.
These defamation laws establish rules in which communication is wrong and on which harmful communications are excusable. In a situation of a civil defamation, a plaintiff must establish three elements: that the defendant established the material, the material was defamatory, and the publishing of the material "of and concerning" the plaintiff.
This defamation law is largely the creation of the common law, which was formerly concerned with the spoken word and later changed due to the introduction of the printing press. Following this, was an introduction of dissenting pamphlets to censor the press, hence forcing the Star Chamber to exercise jurisdiction over individual libels that were criminal in nature. In 1641, this chamber abolished, and the Common-law courts asserted jurisdiction over printed materials in, which the common law libel regarded as tort.
In late seventeen century, a distinction of libel and slander was done by the common-law courts by drawing it from the jurisdiction division of the Common-law courts and court of Star Chamber. Libel is concern with the defamatory material in written or permanent form in that a plaintiff does not show actual damage to maintain an action of libel while in an action for slander; a plaintiff must establish "special" damage unless the action falls within an established exception. This distinction is relevant to the communication of spoken materials over computer networks, including the Internet.
Despite the difference in the law of defamation in the Australian states and territories, defamation law is a combination of common law and statute law, which attract both criminal and civil liability.