Libel and Slander Law

Libel and slander together represent the defamation law under the US legal system. The offence occurs when any person or an entity damages the reputation of another through his communication verbal, non-verbal or written.

Elements of Libel and Slander:

A complainant who wants to sue another person or entity has to prove the following in court to obtain justice:

  • He must prove that the defendant has indeed made a defamatory statement.
  • He must prove that the defamatory action was conveyed to at least one third person.
  • He must prove that the defamatory action was clearly indicated towards the plaintiff. In addition the third party (witness) must identify the same beyond doubt.
  • He must finally prove that the action has indeed affected the reputation of the plaintiff.

Defenses to Libel and Slander:

The person accused of libel and slander can establish his defense in four ways:

  • Truth is the ultimate defense. If what the accused has said is in fact true then it is a justification of the act.
  • If the plaintiff had at any point during the communication given consent for publication of the statement then it is a defense.
  • Publication of the communication accidently is also a defense.
  • Certain statements are circumstantial and are protected from defamation. These come under public policy and are a privilege of judges, jurors, lawyers and witnesses.

Difference Between Libel and Slander

Libel is a type of defamation where there is a permanent record to the action. This includes defamatory actions that are published in a newspaper, a website post, a letter or email; or telecast on TV or radio broadcasts.

Slander is a type of defamation that has occurred without any permanent record of the same. It could be a verbal or a non-verbal statement made by the accused.

Law treats these two offenses differently. In libel, the law presumes that the plaintiff suffered damages. But with slander the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff. He has to provide tangible evidence of the loss occurred in order to be granted compensation.


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