Equity wins landmark defamation case
5 November 2012
The Equity Council welcomed news that Equity has won the landmark Craig Joseph v Jason Spiller defamation case after legal processes and hearings that took over four years and went as far as the Supreme Court.
Craig Joseph, together with his brother Jason and colleague Anthony Raymond, are known as the Gillettes a Soul/Motown tribute show. In 2007 the Gillettes had a contractual dispute with the agency, 1311 Events, run by Jason Spiller, which had been booking them into various venues. The dispute was over a re-booking clause in the agency agreement between the Gillettes and 1311 Events. The Gillettes agreed to play at Bibis restaurant in Leeds within 12 months of their previous gig there without going through the agency. This breached the re-booking clause of the agency agreement they had signed but Bibis had told the Gillettes that as a result of a breakdown in trust between them and 1311 Events they would no longer book acts through the agency.
Instead of taking the dispute to a court, Jason Spiller published defamatory comments on 1311 Events’ web site about The Gillettes. In particular, he misquoted what Craig had said in an email to him, and claimed that Craig “may sign a contract for your booking but will not necessarily adhere to it”.
The remarks were clearly intended to damage the Gillettes and Craig Joseph who, like his brother and Anthony, was a member of Equity and came to his union for help. Equity initiated an action for defamation.
At a hearing in the Royal Courts in October 2012 of Mr Justice Tugendhat, the UK’s senior media judge, held that The Gillettes had been defamed by Jason Spiller who had deliberately misquoted Craig on 1311 Events’ website. However, he awarded nominal damages to the Gillettes as a result of Craig Joseph being found to have misled the court about a cancelled gig for which he was claiming special damages.
Before the October 2012 hearing the case had already gone through two appeal hearings, one of them involving Associated Newspapers, owner of the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, Times Newspapers and Guardian Media Group, which resulted in changes to the defence of fair comment.
Mr J Tugendhat has ruled that, in the most important respects, Jason Spiller failed to prove the facts to support his defence of justification, and that his most damaging comments were not honestly made. This is an important decision as agents should not settle scores with performers by using their websites by saying untrue and damaging things about them.
The full details of the 36 page judgement are available at: www.equity.org.uk/documents/craig-joseph-judgement/.
The Supreme Court ruling is available here: www.equity.org.uk/documents/craig-joseph-supreme-court-judgement/.
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