Internet libel laws in the UK could face drastic changes following a consultation that has been launched by the government.

Under the current 'multi-publication law', which date back to the 1840s, publishers can be sued within a year every time an article is clicked on by web users, even if the piece in questions was written years ago.

However, proposals from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), set out in a report entitled Defamation and the internet: the multiple publication rule, suggest the creation of the 'single publication' rule, which would ensure legal action could be bought just once within a specified time period after the article is published.

The MoJ also suggested the time limit be raised from once to three years.

The MoJ is currently holding a consultation on the law, which will end in December.

Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, said: "Existing defamation law needs to be updated so it is fit for the modern age, and it is important we listen to views on the best way to achieve this.

"Freedom to hold and express opinions is a right that is vital to democracy, as is respect for the rights and freedoms of others. How these principles are balanced in the fast-changing internet age is a fascinating debate."

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