This is the recent case of Elton John’s spoof diaries written by Marina Hyde. In Elton John v Guardian News & Media Ltd  the High Court heard the claimants (in this case Elton John) submission that the use of innuendo in the spoof diary would have been understood to mean that Elton John had been insincere, dishonest or false in relation his fund raising activities associated with White Tie & Tiara Ball and his long standing commitment to the Elton John Aids Foundation (EJAF). In addition, a claim for aggravated damages was pleaded further to the claim for malice. These claims may have arose from the fact that this was a ‘spoof diary’ and inevitable use of material exaggerated for comicalexpression along side the use of actual fact on the part of Marian Hyde when writing the the diary.
Mr William McCormick (Carter Ruck) for the claimant submitted the judgment of Millet LJ in Berkoff v Burchill that “The question, however, is how the words would be understood, not how they were meant, and that is pre-eminently for the jury”.
Justice Tugendhat undertook the critical and highly beneficial approach to the media defendant of examining the newspaper as a whole. Noting that the newspaper is split into various supplements such as Fashion, Food & Drink, Features. In particular the spoof diary of Elton John appeared under the the “Weekend” section, thus Justice Tugendhat took the common sense approach of respecting that different styles of speech and the extent of its factual basis with be dependant on what area of the newspaper supplement the complained of article appears. Thus, it was held that the Guardians Weekend section is not the news section of the paper.
Justice Tugendhat accepted the submissions of Mr Millar (for the defence) that it could not be understood by a reasonable reader of The Guardian Weekend supplement that the ‘spoof diaries’ contained such a serious allegation. Rather such factual statements would be adept in more factual parts of the newspaper.
Thus, the Guardians ‘victory’ was much to the satisfaction of Marina Hyde who argued that “We British have a rich tradition of irony and satire but there is very little case law protecting [it]” and the Guardians readers would clearly have read the diary as obvious teasing.
The ability of the media to make parodies, irony and satire has regularly been ignored by legislature in terms of both libel and copyright law. The social benefits of these forms of entertainment has long felt the hand of those who wish to protect copyright and libel defendants. Perhaps Elton John v Guardian News & Media Ltd  is a step towards a more open and free speech parody defence that exists in the USA.
Decide for yourself, read a small extract of Elton Johns spoof diary written by Marina Hyde.