E-mail and libel (fwd)

Mary Lanser (MEL5@PSUVM.PSU.EDU)
Mon, 11 Apr 1994 09:57:00 EDT

One of the students at our law school has provided the following
regarding a recent Australian case of email defamation , and I will post
further information she obtains.

Archie Zariski *
(zariski@csuvax1.murdoch.edu.au) * *
Senior Lecturer, School of Law * * *
Murdoch University * * *
Murdoch, Western Australia 6150 * * *
Ph +619 360 2761 Fax +619 310 6671 * * * * * *

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 7 Apr 1994 08:44:40 +0800 (WST)
>From: Inge Lauw <ilauw@cleo.murdoch.edu.au>
To: zariski@csuvax1.murdoch.edu.au
Subject: E-mail and libel

Archie, I've just found something in the paper. I'll have a look for the
actual judgement as soon as I can. Do you know how long it takes for the
judgement to become available in libraries?

>From _The West Australian_ : Saturday, April 2, 1994

by Margot Lang

Sacked University of WA Academic David Rindos has won $40 000 in a
Supreme Court action against Derby anthropologist Gil Hardwick, who
defamed him in a computer bulletin distributed worldwide.

Dr Rindos' lawyer, Robert Castiglione, said he did not know of another
case in which damages had been awarded for defamatory language on a
computer message network.

"Computer users who use these worldwide bulletin-boards should be aware
that they could be exposing themselves to defamation actions," he said.
"It's an informal system where people say quite personal things, but
making allegations of paedophilia and bullying is going too far."

An elated Dr Rindos said it was the first of many defamation actions he
planned, adding: "I have to clear my name."

About 23 000 people worldwide, mainly academics and students, have access
to the science anthropology bulletin board on which Mr Hardwick's message

Dr Rindos, who has a doctorate from Cornell University in the United
States, became the centre of an international controversy after he was
sacked from UWA last June. The University dismissed him on the ground
of insufficient productivity. Protests poured in from academics at
international archaeological institutions, many of who [sic] described Dr
Rindos as eminent in his field.

US anthropologist Hugh Jarvis put his protest in a message on the
computer network. Three days later an answering message appeared from Mr

Justice David Ipp said it contained the imputation that Dr Rindos's
professional career and reputation had not been based on appropriate
academic research "but on his ability to berate and bully all and

He said that the message also suggested that Dr Rindos had engaged in
sexual misconduct with a local boy. The inference was that these matters
had some bearing on his dismissal from the university.

"I accept that the defamation caused serious harm to Dr Rindos's personal
and professional reputation," Justice Ipp said. "I am satisfied that the
publication of these remarks will make it more difficult for him to
obtain appropriate employment.

"He suffered a great deal of personal hurt. The damages award must
compensate him for all these matters and vindicate his reputation to the

Mr Hardwick did not defend his action. He wrote to Dr Rindos's lawyer:
"Let this matter be expedited and done with ... I can do nothing to
prevent it, lacking any resources whatsoever to defend myself."