Universal Communication Network Inc trading as New Tang Dynasty v Chinese Media Group (Aust) Pty Ltd and Chan [2008] NSWCA 1

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Facts

    • Universal Communication Network Inc (UCM), based in New York, ran a television channel called New Tang Dynasty which broadcast Chinese language programming all over the world.
    • Chinese Media Group (Aust) Pty Ltd published an article which contained a number of defamatory imputations. It referred to ‘New Tang Dynasty with its headquarters in New York’
    • UCM sued for defamation.
    • Chinese Media Group responded stating that UCM was not identifiable in the article, as they had referred to its business name, rather than its corporate name.

Issue

    • Was UCM sufficiently identifiable to give rise to a defamation claim?

Held

    • McColl JA examined the history of identification, referring to the test that where a Plaintiff is not specifically identified, it is whether the audience of the defamatory imputations would reasonably be able to identify the Plaintiff.
    • This did not mean they had to know the exact name of the Plaintiff; for example, if an article said ‘David Jones stores are full of cockroaches’ then it is not fair that they are precluded from suing just because they didn’t quote their ACN instead.
    • In this case, even though the article did not refer to UCM, it was clear from the witnesses called, that the average audience member would know who “New Tang Dynasty headquartered in America” was referring to.
    • Therefore UCM succeeded in its claim.

Quotes

    • ‘The test of whether words that do not specifically name the plaintiff refer to him or not is whether the words are “such as reasonably in the circumstances would lead persons acquainted with the plaintiff to believe that he was the person referred to”:’ Steele [42]
    • “In my view the appellant’s argument that it was sufficiently identified by reference to its business name being used in the matter complained of was also open to it.” [64]

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