Australian media firms join fight against Rebel Wilson's damages award

SYDNEY Australian media companies yesterday sought to join German magazine publisher Bauer Media in fighting a record A$4.56 million (S$4.71 million) defamation payout to Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent.

News Corp Australia, Fairfax Media, Seven West Media and Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation filed a joint motion to "intervene" in the case, their lawyer said, in a rare show of unity in an industry divided along political lines.

Last year, a court awarded the Sydney-born star of Pitch Perfect fame the country's highest defamation payout, smashing the A$389,000 maximum, by using the actress's global reach to justify a "special" damages payment.

The Supreme Court of Victoria found that Wilson missed out on roles as a result of articles published by Bauer that claimed Wilson had lied about her age, real name and childhood events, even after it knew the allegations were false.

In Australian law, companies are allowed to seek permission to intervene in a case if they believe the outcome affects their business directly.

"The concern is that Justice (John) Dixon found that where aggravated damages are awarded, the damages cap no longer applies," said Mr Justin Quill, representing the media companies. - REUTERS