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Rebel Wilson’s defamation win is a warning for other publishers

4 12 0
14.09.2017

It’s not uncommon for a publisher or journalist, particularly in the celebrity gossip space, to be threatened with a defamation suit.

But when Rebel Wilson won her case against Bauer Media, many in the industry were eating their words after declaring the publisher would emerge triumphant.

Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect

That ruling has potentially fundamentally shifted the rules of engagement for a lucrative section of the publishing world, and set a legal precedent for future defamation cases in this space.

On the face of it the case was straightforward – Wilson argued articles posted across Bauer print and online titles painted her as a serial liar who had misled the public about her age, name and upbringing, which had ruined her reputation, cost her movie roles, with claims she could have commanded $5m-plus per film.

Wilson said the case wasn’t a tilt to squeeze money from the publisher, but to set the record straight. She wanted the implicated publications – Woman’s Day, Australian Women’s Weekly, New Weekly and OK Magazine – to understand there should be consequences to printing made-up claims about people.

To me though, this case wasn’t about the money.

— Rebel Wilson (@RebelWilson) September 13, 2017

But this isn’t a simple case of fact versus fiction.

The public often take claims in weekly gossip magazines with a grain of salt – how many times has Jennifer Aniston been pregnant now?

However in this case, many industry insiders and consumers held the belief that Wilson had frequently lied about her age and background to create a more interesting and Hollywood-friendly narrative around herself.

Indeed, Mamamia caused its own mini media storm back in 2015 when it “revealed” Rebel’s real age and details about her past.

The women’s network’s founder Mia Freedman was forced to defend the decision to publish the information, arguing there had to be consequences to being in the public eye and sharing falsehoods.

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