Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary
Libel is false or malicious content which defames a person. By its definition libel is published, written or broadcasted. Personal injury claims may be filed for libel if a person can prove they have suffered loss or have lost their reputation and are unable to work in their profession. The amount of compensation which is rewarded will depend on the laws in the state, the details of the case and proof of the harm suffered. Consider, however, it can be very difficult to prove financial loss.
Common types of libel may include accusing someone for a crime they did not commit or claiming a person has a contagious disease. Because it is tough to win a libel case it’s important to talk to a personal injury lawyer. The injury lawyer can review your case and determine if your case is worth pursuing. Remember, it is not enough that someone published information which may be harmful to you it is important that you can prove some type of loss.
a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person
A form of Defamation in which imputations are made in a permanent, or reasonably permanent, form. Speech can not, in general, be libellous, but it may amount to Slander. Television broadcasts, audio and video recordings, and films, may amount to libel, as may any form of writing or printing. The libel need not even be in words: in Monson v Tussauds Ltd a wax effigy was held to be libellous.
The distinction between libel and slander can be important for the claimant because the claimant does not have to show special damage. This might make the claim easier to prove. Of course, the claimant still has to show that the imputation was, as a matter of fact, defamatory.
Technically, libel is a crime as well as a Tort. Prosecutions for the crime are extremely rare.
A libel may be defined to be a false and malicious defamation expressed in print, writing or by signs, tending to injure the reputation of another and exposing him to public hatred, contempt or ridicule. It is not, however, the mere writing of libellous matter which is actionable, but they must be a publication of the libel in order to entitle the party aggrieved by it to a civil remedy. The libellous matter must moreover be falsely and maliciously published; its trust may be specially pleaded in answer to the action. Where the natural tendency and import of the language used in any publication is to defame and injure another, the law will then presume that the publisher acted maliciously. Defamation pure and simply afford presumptive evidence of malice.
Libel is a false, defamatory and malicious writing, picture, or the like tending to injure the reputation of another, Slander is a false, defamatory and malicious verbal statement tending to injure the reputation of an other. A libel is of itself an infringement of a right, and no actual damage need be proved in order to sustain an action. Slander, on the other hand, is not of itself an infringement of a right, unless damage ensues, either actually or presumptively. In libel, the matter must be false and defamatory and must be maliciously published. In slander, there is one ingredient more viz, damage.
Still, some words are actionable without proof of damage, if maliciously spoken and false and defamatory. Thus falsely to impute to anyone that he has been guilty of any criminal offence, or that he is afflicted with any loathsome or contagious disease, as leprosy, etc., which would cause him to be shunned, or to speak falsely of a tradesman that he uses false weights, or to impute misconduct or gross ignorance or incapacity to professional men in the discharge of their professional duty, eg., to say of a medical man that he has misconducted himself with his female patients, or of a clergyman that he leads an immoral life. Such imputations, if the party is still in the exercise and practice of his trade or profession at the time, are actionable without proof of damage. All other slanders, unless followed by actual damage, the legal and natural consequence of it, is not actionable.
The matter must be false. To be actionable, the words, whether written or spoken must be false. Truth is an answer to the action, not because it negatives the charge of malice (for a person may, wrongfully and maliciously, utter slanderous matter though true, and thereby subject himself to an indictment) but because it shows that he is not entitled to recover damages in respect of an injury to character which he either does not, or ought not to possess. It is enough if the statement, though not perfectly accurate, is substantially true.
The definition of libel depends upon whom is asked. It is clear that the definition of libel in U. S. law revolves around defamation of character in the written form. One definition of libel may not be enough to satisfy most, so we’ve put together the top 10 definitions of libel from various legal resources.
As one can see, the legal definition of libel revolves around the maliciousness of the act and the harm it has caused. The act of libel, according to the law, has to be in a written or visual form such as an article or photograph and has to somehow damage the reputation of a person or business in some way where the courts are the natural place to resolve the claims.
For example, if you were to write and publish an article accusing someone without a criminal record or any other proof of being a “disgusting paedophile” this statement would be very libellous. The person’s reputation would be damaged and you would be open for a libel suit. If, however, you reported that you observed someone with a past criminal record of inappropriate behaviour towards children, in a public place engaging children with candy and games and wondered if this was legal, then this would be a much safer statement.
In a libel case, the hardest part is trying to interpret the intent of the defendant. If someone’s intent was clearly malicious, then a libel case has a good chance of succeeding. Libel is not libel when it is about and an un-definable group of people or organization. Saying all “CEO’s are crooks” is not libel, but specifically naming a person who is a CEO, most likely is.
The best defence in any libel case is “truth” as this element is thought to be something that mutual excludes libel. The concept of “truth” is different from “fact” so it is important to consult an attorney for the specifics.
He libelled her when he published that.
To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.
Definitions for Libel are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:
This glossary post was last updated: 6th April, 2020