Advertising Law Update January 2010

Although not strictly related to advertising law Ireland’s infamous anti-blasphemy law was enacted on 1st January 2010 as part of the Defamation Act, 2009. The Act makes it an offence to publish or utter matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion. Offences under the Act are punishable with fines of up to €25,000. The original Irish Constitution in 1937 extended certain protection to the Roman Catholic religion however the protection has now been extended and includes all religious faiths.

Advertisers will need to be aware of the legislation as advertisements or promotions which offend religious sensibilities could now be the subject of complaints under the legislation. Both the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission have regularly investigated advertisements in the past number of years arising from persons being offended on the grounds of religion. In 2005 betting company Paddy Power withdrew a billboard advertisement featuring Jesus and the Apostles gambling at the Last Supper following widespread complaints.

It remains to be seen if advertisements which would previously have been the subject of complaints to the ASAI or BCC will instead be the subject of complaints under the new law however advertisers will need to be aware of the need for consideration in this regard before launching any campaign.