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Under English law, because companies are legal persons they can sue on the basis of libel the same as natural persons. On the other hand, as a defendant in the common laws of libel, proving the truth of the statement would be considered an affirmative defence.
Modern libel and slander laws as implemented in many (but not all) Commonwealth nations as well as in the United States and in the Republic of Ireland, are originally descended from English defamation law.
The earlier history of the English law of defamation is somewhat obscure; civil actions for damages seem to have been tolerably frequent as far back as the reign of Edward I (1272–1307).
The crime of scandalum magnatum (spreading false reports about the magnates of the realm) was established by the Statute of Westminster 1275, c.
34, but the first fully reported case in which libel is affirmed generally to be punishable at common law is one tried in the Star Chamber in the reign of James I.
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