Norway Media Law Guide

Defamation, Privacy and Data Protection


Per Danielsen

Per Danielsen

Partner - Advokatfirmaet Danielsen & Co. AS


Defamation and Privacy Law in Norway

Contributor: Per Danielsen (Partner, Advokatfirmaet Danielsen & Co. AS)


The rights to honour and reputation are protected in the Norwegian Civil Code, called “Skadeserstatningsloven”, in paragraph S3-6a.

The protection afforded to those rights also derives from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) jurisprudence, since Norway is a member of the Council of Europe. Norwegian courts are bound to follow the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and enforces these rights through its reliance of the related Convention rights: especially article 10, protecting freedom of expression and articles 6 and 8, protecting the presumption of innocence (including in libel cases), and the right to private life (including the rights to honour and reputation). That Norway is bound by the ECHR derives from a special civil code called the Law of Human Rights (“Menneskerettsloven”). As a consequence, the ECtHR’s jurisprudence also plays a decisive, if not vital role in national Norwegian jurisprudence.

Legal rights and remedies

Civil Law

A defendant may be entitled to obtain an injunction to stop libellous attacks if steps are urgently needed to be taken, e.g. to stop ongoing or increasing financial losses. It is also possible to get a restraining order against repetitions of libel or slander. It is also possible to get a temporary court order instructing a plaintiff to take down libellous accusations on the internet, until a final judgment is made.

The next step is then to follow up with a regular lawsuit, presenting compensation claims for actual financial loss as result of the libellous publications. Damages paid for distress and hurt caused by the tort are tax free.

Remedies-wise, if a defamatory statement is published online, a Civil Code called “E-handelsloven” gives a plaintiff the right to get libellous articles deleted from the internet.

A defendant has several defences available to such a claim:

  • Truth.  The truth is protected in itself, but in rare cases the libels is so serious that a higher standard of proof is required. Broadly speaking, the more serious the allegation, the more solid the factual basis has to be. If the allegation is of criminal nature, the defendant will have to prove the allegation beyond reasonable doubt, as in criminal cases, and always have the burden of proof.
  • Legality of publication.  As an alternative, a defendant may seek to show that the allegation is not unlawful (“rettsstridig”). This is shown by establishing the primacy of the right to freedom of expression following a balancing exercise between Articles 6 and 8, and Article 10 ECHR.

Privacy Law

The tort of invasion of privacy is protected in the same Civil Code article as defamation, in S3-6.

This tort also protects the plaintiff’s image.

As is the case for defamation, a plaintiff can complain and request damages for the financial loss suffered as a result of the tort, and for the payment of tax free compensation for the distress and hurt suffered as a consequence of the tort.

Criminal Law

Invasion of privacy is an offence under Norwegian criminal law. The relevant provision is found in the criminal code at § 267, which provides potentially cumulative sanctions: imprisonment up to one year and/or payment of a fine. There also exist related offences, including the wrongful distribution of private images (see criminal code § 267a, punishable by imprisonment for up to six months and/or payment of a fine), and the offence of ruthless behaviour (see criminal code §§ 266 and 266a.

The criminal law which established the criminal offence of defamation was abolished in Norway in 2005. Defamation is nowadays only a tort, for which there can only be civil remedies.

Limitation Period

The limitation period is three years for all civil claims. If articles on the internet are older than three years, they may still be deleted, but compensation claimed can only relate to a three-year period.

As stated above, since 2005 no criminal complaints can be brought in relation to defamation. Breaches of privacy can still be the subject of criminal complaints, which must be presented to the police within a period of 6 months, which runs from the date on which the plaintiff first heard about or read the statements complained of.


Where the plaintiff is successful, all legal costs are payable by the defendant. This can be ordered by the court order if requested. There is no jury in Norway in these cases.

Contributor: Per Danielsen

Advokatfirmaet Danielsen & Co. AS
No. 21C, St. Olavs gate
0165 Oslo

The material in this Guide is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice.

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