–Video by on YouTube

The video is a good wrap-up of definitions and laws related to defamation.


Defamation, Libel and Slander

To understand the definition of libel, we should firstly see the definition of defamation.

“Defamation is expression that tends to damage a person’s standing in the community through words that attack an individual’s character or professional abilities. Defamation also can cause people to avoid contact with the person attacked.”  

“Traditionally, written or printed defamation is libel , whereas spoken defamation is slander .”

Law of Public Communication by Kent R. Middleton & William E. Lee

 To learn more about background and history of defamation, see more at Defamation, Libel, and Slander: Background.


Law of Defamation

The  law of defamation “protects a person’s reputation and good name against communications that are false and derogatory.” See more at Defamation, Libel, and Slander: Background

Defamation is usually considered as a civil wrong instead of a crime.

Generally speaking, there are several standards plaintiff has to meet in order to win a defamation suit.

There are six elements of a libel suit most plaintiffs have to satisfy.

  1. “defamation—that there was defamatory language”
  2. “identification—that the defamation was about the plaintiff”
  3. “publication—that the defamation was disseminated”
  4. “fault—that the defamation was published as a result of negligence or recklessness”
  5. “falsity—that the statement was false, a burden only for persons suing for defamation related to matters of public concern”
  6. “personal harm—such as a loss to reputation, emotional distress, or the loss of business revenues”

— Law of Public Communication by Kent R. Middleton & William E. Lee

To learn more, see Elements of Libel and Slander.

What we should pay special attention to is that opinions in two Supreme Court cases have distinguished cases in which the plaintiff is a public figure or when the matter is of public concern from other cases. See New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) and Hustler v. Falwell. If the plaintiff is a public official or public figure, or the communication at issue is about public matters, the plaintiff has to prove “actual malice” in defamation cases.

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