• Lex Specialis

LIBEL, SLANDER AND THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THEM UNDER THE LAW OF TORTS

- Monika Mehra


Libel and slander are types of defamatory statements.


LIBEL


A written, printed, or pictorial statement that unjustly defames someone publicly. Prosecution of libel as a punishable offense puts some measure of restriction on freedom of press under the First Amendment is a libel. The law of libel originated in the 17th century in England. With the growth of publication came the growth of libel and development of the tort of libel.


To meet the Supreme Court's definition of libel involving a public figure, a quotation must not only be made up or materially altered. It must also defame the person quoted, and damage his or her reputation or livelihood. It is relevant to note that in 1987 the suit against Ms. Malcolm was dismissed … in a narrow ruling that stated that even if the quotations were "false and mischievous," Ms. Malcolm's alterations did not represent malicious intent and therefore did not constitute libel


In reality, you won’t see too many potentially libelous comments in published written letters to the editor because editors are generally very careful in screening out such letters. It is on the internet where people can get into trouble with libel. While some web sites screen posts for inflammatory or illegal content, the screening systems are not geared to examine every post for libelous content. In such cases, the plaintiff can recover even without having to specifically demonstrate that he has suffered actual economic harm. If the defamatory statement is the kind of communication which generally results in harm to reputation, the law presumes such harm, and the plaintiff may recover.


SLANDER


Also known as oral or spoken defamation, slander is the legal term for the act of harming a person’s reputation by telling one or more other people something that is untrue and damaging about that person. Slander can be the basis for a lawsuit and is considered a civil wrong.


Slander represents the verbal or spoken version of defamation. Defamation occurs when someone’s words cause harm to another person’s reputation or livelihood. Slander is different from libel (written or broadcast defamation). Slander is considered more temporary than libel since it involves speech and is not written or published. Although broadcast typically involves spoken words, it is considered libel because, in theory, it reaches a large audience just as written words do, making it less temporary.


For slander to occur, the statement made must be presented as fact, not opinion. In addition, the statement must be made to a third party. In the case of public figures, proving slander also requires the public figure to prove the statement was made “with malice.” There are a few exceptions to this requirement of “special damages” when it comes to slander. Certain types of defamatory statements are considered so egregious in their potential to destroy a reputation that the plaintiff does not need to present specific evidence of harm.


The basic difference between libel and slander is that libel is published defamation, while slander is fleeting, mostly verbal. In the court of law, both are considered defamation—that is, the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, or group. Some countries also have defamation laws that protect religions; these are usually known as blasphemy laws.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIBEL AND SLANDER DEFINITION


Libel- Defamation (communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation) in printed words or pictures.

Slander-Defamation (communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation) in spoken words or gestures.

FORM

Libel- Tangible: Print, writing or pictures.

Slander-Intangible: Spoken words or gestures. BURDEN OF PROOF

Libel- On defendant in English law; On plaintiff in American law.

Slander- On defendant in English law; On plaintiff in American law. CAUSE OF ACTION FOR SUIT

Libel- A defamatory statement; Published to a third party; Which the speaker knew or should have known was false; That causes injury to the subject of the communication.

Slander-A defamatory statement; Published to a third party; Which the speaker knew or should have known was false; That causes injury to the subject of the communication.


NEGATION

Libel- If the statement in question stands to be the truth.

Slander- If the statement in the question stands to be the truth.

PUNISHMENT

Libel-Generally civil, monetary. Seditious libel – crime to criticize public officials

Slander-Generally civil, monetary.


LEGAL IMPLICATIONS


Libel- No need to prove financial damages


Slander-No need to prove financial damages


LIMITATION

One year from the date of the event in both.


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