Friday, June 15, 2007

Food critics/defamation

Reviews and defamation are topics of intrigueing interest to writers and publishers so the case of the restaurant Coco Roco v food critic Matthew Evans/Sydney Morning Herald was food for thought. Matthew had among other things described Coco Roco's oysters as "jangled like a car crash" - nice turn of phrase. The jury had found in favor of Matthew initially but that was overturned on appeal and High Court supported the appeal court 6-1 (no mean majority):
" Business capacity and reputation are different from personal reputation. Harm to the former can be as here, inflicted more directly and narrowly than harm to a person's reputation."
Perhaps as a business I should feel warmed by the court's view. In my experience the law tends to support business over the individual - which maybe why we can describe our economic system as capitalist.
John Lethlean said it would raise concerns from journos "whether they comment on restaurants or cinema or theatre or literature, whatever" The restaurant review is a singularly potent influence on the success or failure of a restaurant - maybe it's to do with the size of the market a restaurant draws upon - its local - in comparison to a film or book where many reviewers are (hopefully) at work.
The dissenting judge was Michael Kirby who admitted judges didn't know much about food: "jurors are much more likely to reflect community standards, many of whom like myself, have no special interest in culinary matters, expensive restaurants or cuisine generally. Astonishingly judges may occasionally lack sense of irony or humour." So Mr Kirby is coming out in defence of the jury system with a delicate self-deprecating flourish.

I'm trying to remeber the case when another Sydney food critic was hauled over a flaming lobster.

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