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How to draft a cease and desist letter in defamation which works

Cease and desist letter for defamation

In the majority of scenarios, issuing a defamation cease and desist letter is likely to lead to the successful removal of defamatory content from the internet. Sending a strong cease and desist letter in defamation cases is also a critical preliminary step in the legal process for addressing defamation. The sending of a defamation cease and desist letter constitutes an essential element of the pre-action protocol for defamation claims. It establishes the foundational action in initiating any defamation claim, signalling the seriousness of your intentions and laying the groundwork for potential legal proceedings if the situation escalates or the defamation persists.

How to draft an effective desist letter in a defamation case

The vast majority of the cease and desist letters that we send to authors or publishers of defamatory posts aren’t necessarily aggressive and uncompromising. Whilst this is what our clients would often like us to do from the outset, we have found that in many instances, those posting defamation only do so under the misguided belief that they are not breaking any civil or criminal law. After nearly 25 years of drafting and sending defamation cease and desist letters, one comes to realise that lack of education as to what you can and cannot do online is the main reason why so many defamatory publications are posted. Many authors of defamation do so under the genuine belief that they are entitled to post those libellous publications.

This is due to either having a misconception as to what may constitute defamation or as to what the actual legal defences to a defamation claim are. A well-drafted cease and desist letter will involve at least a degree of education, informing the defamer about the law and pre-empting the defamer, up to the point where they receive the letter, that their action in fact does constitute defamation and that their perceived defence to a claim is either misconceived or not applicable to the current circumstances. A well-drafted cease and desist letter will also offer the author of the defamatory post, a choice between a stick and a carrot, making it easier for them to first acknowledge that they have done wrong (now after this has been explained to them) and offering them a respectable way out of the situation that they unfortunately put themselves in.

This serves our clients very well as realistically very few people wish to go through litigation where they have a choice of having matters resolved amicably as soon as possible. An aggressive cease and desist letter may do the trick too. However, the defamer might still feel wronged and justified with the comments they had previously made and as a result, will sometimes just wait for another opportunity or way to try and cause harm to the reputation of the person they defamed in the first place.

How to draft an effective cease and desist letter to a website operator

A cease and desist letter directed at a website operator is a common defamation cease and desist letter that our firm sends . Often, the authors of defamatory content remain anonymous, making it essential to initiate contact with the website operator hosting the content. As a victim of internet defamation or online reputation attacks, you will discover that sending a defamation cease and desist letter to website operators, and sometimes to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), requesting the removal of slanderous statements, is an effective method of response. Read more on How to identify the owner of a website

However, an aggressive cease and desist letter sent to a website operator can also have an adverse effect and in some instances could cause more harm than good. Before sending a cease and desist letter in defamation to a website operator, it is important to understand who the operator is, where they are located and what their general approach towards such communications is. Most website operators who operate from the US, for example, will not appreciate an aggressive cease and desist letter coming from a lawyer in England. Many of them will not respond at all whilst others will make matters worse for the complainant. It is important to adjust the content of the defamation cease and desist letter, to each website operator, taking account of the website history and the country where the website is located. More often than not, a more friendly and, again, educational communication will do the job better than an aggressive cease and desist letter.

It all depends on the nature of the posts and the identity of the website operator. Many website operators prefer to avoid involvement in legal disputes and online abuse, especially since they stand to gain nothing from such conflicts. In our experience, a well-crafted defamation cease and desist letter that directly requests the removal of defamatory posts can often yield positive results, potentially avoiding the need for litigation. Under English law, website operators could be held responsible for defamatory posts made by third parties on their platforms, presenting two main avenues for the removal of such posts but under US law, this isn't necessarily the case.

So, if the website operator is operating from the UK, or most European countries, threatening the operators with direct legal action against them could be highly effective. Furthermore, when sending a cease and desist letter to a website operator, you can request that they pass on the letter to the author of the defamatory post. Often, the author, recognising the risk of legal proceedings and the potential disclosure of their identity, will choose to proactively delete their defamatory post.

How to draft a cease and desist letter with an intention to take legal action

A well drafted defamation cease and desist letter, signalling an intention to pursue legal action for defamation, can be a decisive tool in achieving the removal of libellous publications from the internet. The effectiveness of this letter hinges on its ability to clearly convey your determination to follow through with legal proceedings, whether to the website operator or the publisher of the defamatory posts. The defamation cease and desist letter itself, should follow the pre-action protocol for defamation cases as well as provide comprehensive details of the defamation complaint and an unambiguous way.

The letter should be clear about our commitment to resolve the matter, whether amicably or through the courts. A cease-and-desist letter that appears half-hearted or superficially drafted, or which is drafted by someone who isn't that familiar with this area of law, may convey a message of lack of resolve or preparedness to engage in a legal battle, potentially undermining its effectiveness. In contrast, a detailed and well-constructed defamation cease and desist letter would demonstrate seriousness and readiness to invest the necessary legal and financial resources to pursue the case. Investing in a thoroughly drafted defamation cease and desist letter may require you to invest initial resources, but this approach often leads to a swift resolution. It expedites the process of removing the defamatory content and often saves considerable time and expenses that might otherwise be incurred in prolonged legal proceedings.

What goes into a winning defamation cease and desist letter

An effective defamation cease and desist letter will usually begin with a clear and factual introduction of the involved parties. Following this, the letter should present the facts in a chronological order, beginning with the earliest incident and progressing through subsequent events. The core of the letter involves specifying the cause of action, such as defamation, malicious falsehood, or harassment. It's important to explicitly refer to each defamatory statement you are complaining about or to state clearly that you are only referring to a sample of defamatory incidents.

The reference would usually include stating the exact location of each statement on the internet, clarifying which part of the statement is deemed defamatory, and explaining why it is considered as such. Additionally, it's necessary to articulate the true context or position in relation to each statement. After outlining the defamatory posts, we would normally describe the type of damage caused, whether it is reputational, financial, or both. The next step is to clearly state the actions our client expects the website operator or the publisher of the defamatory statement to undertake to prevent the escalation of the matter into a legal dispute.

This includes listing all potential remedies that might be sought in court. It's also essential to establish a definitive timeline for the complete resolution of the matter, usually providing a minimum of 14 days for a formal response. While immediate action can be demanded, a reasonable response period is often more practical. The use of a defamation cease and desist letter should be seen as a genuine effort to resolve the issue swiftly and amicably, rather than merely a procedural step before initiating legal proceedings and this is precisely the way our team is treating the task. The goal is to communicate the seriousness of the issue and your readiness to pursue legal avenues if necessary, while also offering a chance for the matter to be resolved without resorting to court.

Get in touch today for more information, advice and support.

Call free 0800 612 7211

Get in touch today for more information, advice and support.

Call free 0800 612 7211

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Years of Internet Law Experience