Home Defamation Laws

Defamation Laws

Defamation of Character At A Glance

Defamation of Character At A Glance

Defamation of character is a term that is often used to describe an accusation of slander or libel. Slander is a verbal statement that in some way demeans an individual or company in an unjust manner, whereas libel refers to a written derogatory statement. 
A charge of defamation of character is difficult to prove in court because of the haziness of intention or “true-meaning.” Although the term is quite evident and damaging, the ability to prove the true intentions of the individual charged with the act is notoriously arduous. 
Any verbal or written attack that destroys or damages one’s character is considered a defamation of character. This term is more relevant in regards to society or the interpretation as oppose to a legal system’s interpretation. 
The problems which revolve around proof in a legal setting are also coupled in with the protection of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. That being said, in most cases of defamation of character, a court will generally agree that an opinion or slanderous statement, no matter how damaging, in not a stated fact.

Quick Guide to Defamation Law

Quick Guide to Defamation LawDefamation laws aim at protecting people’s reputations and
character from unfair and unjust attacks. In practice, defamation laws
aim to hinder free speech to protect public figures or powerful
individuals from hateful speech and scrutiny.

There are two
types of defamation: oral defamation, known as slander, which is
hateful speech, and published defamation, referred to as libel. Any
speech that cripples an individuals reputation, in either form, is
considered defamation. If a comment brings a person into disrepute or
contempt, it is likely to be illegal according to defamatory law. In
these instances, the person who makes the ill-advised comments will
face a defamation suit. 

Typically the defamation laws focus on the
aftereffects of the comment and the tone in which they are delivered.
If the attack is violent and has the intent of damaging someone’s
reputation or their career a defamation proceeding will commence.

Understanding Character Defamation

Understanding Character Defamation

Defamation of character is a term that is often used to describe an accusation of slander or libel. Slander is a verbal statement that in some way demeans an individual or company in an unjust manner, whereas libel refers to a written derogatory statement. 
A charge of defamation of character is difficult to prove in court because of the haziness of intention or “true-meaning.” Although the term is quite evident and damaging, the ability to prove the true intentions of the individual charged with the act is notoriously arduous. 
Any verbal or written attack that destroys or damages one’s character is considered a defamation of character. This term is more relevant in regards to society or the interpretation as oppose to a legal system’s interpretation. 
The problems which revolve around proof in a legal setting are also coupled in with the protection of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. That being said, in most cases of defamation of character, a court will generally agree that an opinion or slanderous statement, no matter how damaging, in not a stated fact.

Legal Definition of Defamation

Legal Definition of Defamation

There are several defamation terms, including slander and liable. However, in some cases, there is no need to determine whether an incident involved slander or liable specifically and instead, the courts refer to defamation terms.
 
A defamation term may come into play during a civil trial. For example, a defamation term may have been used to bring a civil cases against an individual or entity in cases where an individuals reputation was harmed by another individual or entity.
 
Defamation of charterer for example, can include more specif charges. It may for example, be alleged that an individual distributed materials that were harmful to the reputation of another individual or entity. Those materials may be included under specific terms such as slander or liable, or the more broad defamation term. 

Civil laws has more information about defamation.

Easy Guide to Defamation Law

Easy Guide to Defamation Law

What is Defamation?

Defamation is a common law tort, governed by state law, in which an individual makes a “publication” of a defamatory statement of and concerning the plaintiff that damages the reputation of the plaintiff. Defamation comes in two forms: slander and libel. Slander involves the oral “publication” of a defamatory remark that is heard by another, which injures the subject’s reputation or character. Libel is the written “publication” of a defamatory remark that has the tendency to injure another’s reputation or character.

What are the elements of a cause of action for defamation?

The elements of a defamation suit; whether slander or libel, are:

1. A defamatory statement;

2. Published to a third party;

3. Which the speaker knew or should have known was false;

4. That causes injury to the subject of the communication


Libel vs. Slander

Libel vs. Slander

What is the difference between libel
and slander?

Libel and
slander are both forms of defamation. 
Defamation is a common law tort, governed by state law, in which an
individual makes a “publication” of a defamatory statement of and
concerning the plaintiff that damages the reputation of the plaintiff.  The distinction between slander and libel
comes in the form of the publication.

Slander
involves the oral “publication” of a defamatory remark that is heard
by another, which injures the subject’s reputation or character.  Slander can occur through the use of a hand
gesture or verbal communication that is not recorded.  Libel, on the other hand, is the written
“publication” of a defamatory remark that has the tendency to injure
another’s reputation or character.
 Libel also includes a
publication on radio, audio or video. 
Even though this would be considered oral, or verbal, communication to
someone it is actually considered to be libel because it is published in a
transfixed form.


What are the elements of a cause of
action for libel or slander?

The elements
of a defamation suit; whether slander or libel, are:

1.     A defamatory statement;

2.     Published to a third party;

3.     Which the speaker knew or should have
known was false;

4.     That causes injury to the subject of
the communication


Litigation differences

Slander and libel lawsuits differ in the way that a prima
facie case must be proven.   In the case of slander, the defendant doesn’t
have to prove that the statements he made are true; instead the plaintiff
 has to
prove that the defamatory statements made against him are false. In other
words, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.

In making a prima facie case for
libel
first, the
plaintiff needs to prove that the statement was false.  This can be difficult to prove, especially if
evidence has disappeared.  For some
claims that fall within “libel per se” these are easier to prove.  The accusation that one is a criminal can be
easily proven false by submitting a lack of a criminal record.  Proving falsity in a slander case can be
difficult, especially if evidence has disappeared.  For some claims that fall within
“slander per se” these are easier to prove.  The accusation that one is a criminal can be
easily proven false by submitting a lack of a criminal record.

Second, in
both a slander and libel case the plaintiff needs to prove that the statement
was published by the defendant.  Libel
cases are easier to prove than slander cases. 
A perfect example is when a newspaper makes libelous statements.  There is a printed copy of the statement,
with the authors name usually right under it. 
Slander, however, does not create the same tangible evidence.  Often slander involves a “he said, she
said” situation.  Unless the
publisher admits to having made the slanderous statement there is often no
proof that it was ever said.  If one is
contemplating a slander action then witnesses should be gathered far before any
decision to file a lawsuit.


Damages

Differences
exist in the amount of damages that are awarded in slander and libel
actions.  In a libel action, unless the
plaintiff is a public official or public figure, the plaintiff does not need to
prove financial damages.  The common law
has made a policy determination that the publication of defamatory statements
in a transmittable, affixed form that is capable of widespread and simple
dissemination will certainly cause damage and therefore damage to one’s
reputation or character is enough for a court to impose damages.

A slander
action is different.  The threat of a
single publication through a medium incapable of mass dissemination, longevity,
or permanence shall is not considered to be as grave as that of a libelous
publication.  Therefore the common law
requires that the plaintiff prove, not only damage to his/her reputation, but
also financial damage. 


Is defamation on the internet libel
or slander?

It is
unclear at this point whether the transmittal of defamatory statement over the
internet constitutes libel or slander. 
This may not seem like an important distinction but it is important,
especially as to the awarding of damages. 
Some cases throughout the U.S. court system have tried to answer the
question.

In Varian v. Deflino
& Day
two former employees had libeled Varian executives by posting
more than 14,000 defamatory messages on over 100 different websites.  The jury found that the defendants liable for
defamation as well as misappropriation of the executives names.
  

In 2006 a
Florida court awarded a plaintiff $11.3 million dollars when the defendant
posted numerous comments on message boards defaming the plaintiff and her
business reputation.  The court did not
specify whether the cause of action was based on libel or slander.

Due to the
courts unwillingness to specify a specific form of defamation associated with
internet use it can be perceived that the court system has not yet determined
how to deal with the matter.  Cyberlaw is
a new and important field of law and as more cases come to trial stage the
answer to this question may come with it.

 

Defamation of Character Defined

Defamation of Character Defined

Defamation of character is often a term used in a legal context to describe situations regarding slander, libel, or a combination of both.  However, both slander and libel are considered to be statements or forms of communication that are made for the purpose of causing harm by portraying a person, country, business, product, or government in a negative manner. In the case of defamation of character, the accusations of libel, slander, or both are in regards to a particular person.
Legal Applications – Defamation of character accusations will involve issues of slander or libel, in which the false and damaging statements are made in verbal form through slander, or in written form through libel.
In the United States, such accusations, upon being deemed as true by the courts, are punishable by law. Typically speaking, lawsuits involving defamation of character are made to seek compensation for any damages incurred by the derogatory and false statements made by another individual or party.
Issues with Defamation of Character – One of the main concerns revolving around defamation of character is the fact that they have been notoriously known to be quite difficult to prove in a court of law.
Even if the effects of the defamatory comments or statements are evident and substantial, the plaintiff must provide for substantial and compelling evidence that the defendant not only made such comments, but the comments are also false and done with the intention of causing some sort of harm or injury.
Another constantly debated issue in regards to defamation of character arises from a Constitutional perspective. In accordance to the First Amendment, free speech is a natural right that is afforded and protected by the United States Constitution.  Though this has been an aspect which has been debated, it is generally agreed that a defamation of character accusation does not violate First Amendment rights.
Defamation of Character Lawsuits – As mentioned, winning a defamation of character lawsuit has been proven to be a difficult task. However, it should be noted that most defamation of character cases or accusations will rarely enter the courts as a formal complaint or lawsuits.
Typically, the involved parties will usually settle outside of the courts. This is common, particularly when at least one of the involved parties is widely and socially recognized, such as a celebrity or famous actor.
Defamation of character disputes and lawsuits will prove to be most commonly presented in the entertainment industry, most notoriously involving the media and tabloid publications. Even though defamation of character, by definition, consists of false statements, the accusation can also apply in situations even the statements made are factual. If a truthful statement is made, but is done with ill intentions, it can sometimes be considered as defamation of character in certain situations.