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Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image. It is usually, but not always,[1] a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).

In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism. Related to defamation is public disclosure of private facts, which arises where one person reveals information that is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. "Unlike [with] libel, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy."[2]

False light laws are "intended primarily to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being."[3] If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading, then a tort of false light might have occurred.[3]

In most civil law jurisdictions, defamation is dealt with as a crime rather than a tort.[4]

History

In the later Roman jurisprudence, from which many of modern laws descend, verbal defamations are dealt within the edict under two heads. The first comprehended defamatory and injurious statements made in a public manner (convicium adversus bonos mores). The Praetorian Edict, codified cica 130 A.D., declared that an action could be brought up for shouting at someone contrary to good morals: "qui, advesus bonos mores convicium cui fecisse cuiusve opera factum esse dicitur, quo adversus bonos mores convicium Weret, in eum iudicium dabo." (Digest 47. 10. 15. 2.) In this case the essence of the offense lay in the unwarrantable public proclamation. According to Ulpian, not all shouting was actionable. Drawing on the argument of Labeo, he asserted that the offense consisted in shouting contrary to the morals of the city ("adversus bonos mores huius civitatis") something apt to bring in disrepute or contempt ("quae... ad infamiam vel invidiam alicuius spectaret") the person exposed thereto (Digest 47. 10. 15. 3-6.). Any act apt to bring another person into disrepute gave rise to an actio injurarum. (Digest 47. 10. 15. 25.) In such a case the truth of the statements was no justification for the public and insulting manner in which they had been made. But even in public matters, the accused had the opportunity to justify his actions by openly stating what he considered necessary for public safety to be denounced by the libel, and proving his assertions to be true. (Book 9, Title 36.) The second head included defamatory statements made in private, and in this case the offense lay in the content of the imputation, not in the manner of its publication. The truth was therefore a sufficient defense, for no man had a right to demand legal protection for a false reputation. In the first Satire of their second book, Horace alludes to this provision in a dialogue with the lawyer Trebatius, by punning on mala carmina at lines 82-84:

si mala condiderit in quem quis carmina jus est
judiciumque. esto, siquis mala; sed bona siquis
judice condiderit laudatus Caesare?

Horace's pun turns on the two possible meanings of mala, "evil and unlawful," or "of poor quality".

Roman law aimed at giving sufficient scope for the discussion of a man's character, while it protected him from needless insult and pain. The remedy for verbal defamation was long confined to a civil action for a monetary penalty, which was estimated according to the significance of the case, and which, although vindictive in its character, doubtless included practically the element of compensation. But a new remedy was introduced with the extension of the criminal law, under which many kinds of defamation were punished with great severity. At the same time increased importance attached to the publication of defamatory books and writings, the libri or libelli famosi, from which we derive our modern use of the word libel; and under the later emperors the latter term came to be specially applied to anonymous accusations or pasquils, the dissemination of which was regarded as particularly dangerous, and visited with very severe punishment, whether the matter contained in them were true or false.

Types of torts

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Slander and libel

The common law origins of defamation lie in the torts of slander (harmful statement in a transitory form, especially speech) and libel[5][6] (harmful statement in a fixed medium, especially writing but also a picture, sign, or electronic broadcast), each of which gives a common law right of action.

"Defamation" is the general term used internationally, and is used in this article where it is not necessary to distinguish between "slander" and "libel". Libel and slander both require publication.[7] The fundamental distinction between libel and slander lies solely in the form in which the defamatory matter is published. If the offending material is published in some fleeting form, as by spoken words or sounds, sign language, gestures and the like, then this is slander. If it is published in more durable form, for example in written words, film, compact disc (CD), DVD, blogging and the like, then it is considered libel." The debate whether Internet blogs or Bulletin Boards are publishers is a key subject being addressed, whereas an Internet based community is more akin to conversations in a bar or pub, with content being written as an ongoing dialogue that is generally not edited or regulated such as in the publishing industry.[8]

Criminal defamation

Many nations have criminal penalties for defamation in some situations, and different conditions for determining whether an offense has occurred. ARTICLE 19, a free expression advocacy group, has published global maps[9] charting the existence of criminal defamation law across the globe, as well as showing countries that have special protections for political leaders or functionaries of the state.[10]

The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) has also published a detailed database on criminal and civil defamation provisions in 55 countries, including all European countries, all member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the United States and Canada.[11]

Defenses

Even if a statement is derogatory, there are circumstances in which such statements are permissible in law.

Truth

In many legal systems, adverse public statements about legal citizens presented as fact must be proven false to be defamatory or slanderous/libel. Proving adverse, public character statements to be true is often the best defense against a prosecution for libel and/or defamation. Statements of opinion that cannot be proven true or false will likely need to apply some other kind of defense. The use of the defense of justification has dangers, however; if the defendant libels the plaintiff and then runs the defense of truth and fails, he may be said to have aggravated the harm.

Another important aspect of defamation is the difference between fact and opinion. Statements made as "facts" are frequently actionable defamation. Statements of opinion or pure opinion are not actionable. To win damages in a libel case, the plaintiff must first show that the statements were "statements of fact or mixed statements of opinion and fact" and second that these statements were false. Conversely, a typical defense to defamation is that the statements are opinion. One of the major tests to distinguish whether a statement is fact or opinion is whether the statement can be proved true or false in a court of law. If the statement can be proved true or false, then, on that basis, the case will be heard by a jury to determine whether it is true or false. If the statement cannot be proved true or false, the court may dismiss the libel case without it ever going to a jury to find facts in the case.

Under English common law, proving the truth of the allegation was originally a valid defence only in civil libel cases. Criminal libel was construed as an offence against the public at large based on the tendency of the libel to provoke breach of peace, rather than being a crime based upon the actual defamation per se; its truth or falsity was therefore considered irrelevant. Section VI of the Libel Act 1843 allowed the proven truth of the allegation to be used as a valid defence in criminal libel cases, but only if the defendant also demonstrated that publication was for the "Public Benefit".[12]

In some systems, however, notably the Philippines, truth alone is not a defense.[13] Some U.S. statutes preserve historical common law exceptions to the defense of truth to libel actions. These exceptions were for statements "tending to blacken the memory of one who is dead" or "expose the natural defects of one who is alive".[14]

It is also necessary in these cases to show that there is a well-founded public interest in the specific information being widely known, and this may be the case even for public figures. Public interest is generally not "what the public is interested in", but rather "what is in the interest of the public".[15] [16]

Noonan v. Staples is sometimes cited as precedent that truth is not a always a defense to libel, but the case is actually not valid precedent on that issue because for some reason Staples didn't argue First Amendment protection for its statements. (see footnote at bottom of page 15 of the courts decision) The courts often don't decide cases on issues not argued by the parties, and thus the court assumed for the sake of that particular case that the Massachusetts law was constitutional under the First Amendment.

Privilege and malice

Privilege provides a complete bar and answer to a defamation suit, though conditions may have to be met before this protection is granted.

There are two types of privilege in the common law tradition:

  • "Absolute privilege" has the effect that a statement cannot be sued on as defamatory, even if it were made maliciously; a typical example is evidence given in court (although this may give rise to different claims, such as an action for malicious prosecution or perjury) or statements made in a session of the legislature (known as 'Parliamentary privilege' in Commonwealth countries).
  • "Qualified privilege" may be available to the journalist as a defense in circumstances where it is considered important that the facts be known in the public interest; an example would be public meetings, local government documents, and information relating to public bodies such as the police and fire departments. Qualified privilege has the same effect as absolute privilege, but does not protect statements that can be proven to have been made with malicious intent.

Other defences

Defences to claims of defamation include:

  • Statements made in a good faith and reasonable belief that they were true are generally treated the same as true statements; however, the court may inquire into the reasonableness of the belief. The degree of care expected will vary with the nature of the defendant: an ordinary person might safely rely on a single newspaper report, while the newspaper would be expected to carefully check multiple sources. However in UK election law, a true statement made during an election campaign by someone who didn't know it was true is still actionable.[citation needed]
  • Opinion is a defense recognized in nearly every jurisdiction. If the allegedly defamatory assertion is an expression of opinion rather than a statement of fact, defamation claims usually cannot be brought because opinions are inherently not falsifiable. However, some jurisdictions decline to recognize any legal distinction between fact and opinion. The United States Supreme Court, in particular, has ruled that the First Amendment does not require recognition of an opinion privilege.[17]
  • Fair comment on a matter of public interest, arguments made with an honest belief in their soundness on a matter of public interest (such as regarding official acts) are defendable against a defamation claim, even if such arguments are logically unsound; if a reasonable person could honestly entertain such an opinion, the statement is protected.
  • Consent is an uncommon defense and makes the claim that the claimant consented to the dissemination of the statement.
  • Innocent dissemination is a defense available when a defendant had no actual knowledge of the defamatory statement or no reason to believe the statement was defamatory. The defense can be defeated if the lack of knowledge was due to negligence. Thus, a delivery service cannot be held liable for delivering a sealed defamatory letter.
  • Claimant is incapable of further defamation–e.g., the claimant's position in the community is so poor that defamation could not do further damage to the plaintiff. Such a claimant could be said to be "libel-proof", since in most jurisdictions, actual damage is an essential element for a libel claim. Essentially, the defense is that the person had such a bad reputation before the libel, that no further damage could possibly have been caused by the making of the statement.
  • No Third-party communication: If an employer were to bring an employee into a sound-proof, isolated room, and accuse him of embezzling company money, the employee would have no defamation recourse, since no one other than the would-be plaintiff and would-be defendant heard the false statement.
  • No actual injury: If there is third-party communication, but the third-party hearing the defamatory statement does not believe the statement, or does not care, then there is no injury, and therefore, no recourse.

In addition to the above, the defendant may claim that the allegedly defamatory statement is not actually capable of being defamatory—an insulting statement that does not actually harm someone's reputation is prima facie not libelous. Also, the public figure doctrine, also called the absence of malice rule, may be used as a defense.

Public figure doctrine (absence of malice)

Special rules apply in the case of statements made in the press concerning public figures, which can be used as a defense. A series of court rulings led by New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) established that for a public official (or other legitimate public figure) to win a libel case, the statement must have been published knowing it to be false or with reckless disregard to its truth, (also known as actual malice).[18]

Under United States law, libel generally requires five key elements. The plaintiff must prove that the information was published, the plaintiff was directly or indirectly identified, the remarks were defamatory towards the plaintiff's reputation, the published information is false, and that the defendant is at fault.

The Associated Press estimates that 95% of libel cases involving news stories do not arise from high-profile news stories, but "run of the mill" local stories like news coverage of local criminal investigations or trials, or business profiles. Media liability insurance is available to newspapers to cover potential damage awards from libel lawsuits.

Defamation and freedom of speech

Defamation laws may come into tension with freedom of speech, leading to censorship or chilling effects where publishers fear lawsuits, or loss of reputation where individuals have no effective protection against reckless or unfounded allegations. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights permits restrictions on freedom of speech when necessary to protect the reputation or rights of others.[19]

Jurisdictions resolve this tension in different ways, in particular in determining where the burden of proof lies when unfounded allegations are made. The power of the internet to disseminate comment, which may include malicious comment, has brought a new focus to the issue.[20]

There is a broader consensus against laws that criminalize defamation. Human rights organizations, and other organizations such as the Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, have campaigned against strict defamation laws that criminalize defamation.[21][22] The European Court of Human Rights has placed restrictions on criminal libel laws because of the freedom of expression provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. One notable case was Lingens v. Austria (1986).

Defamation laws by jurisdiction

Internationally

Article 17 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states

1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Asia

Azerbaijan

In Azerbaijan, the crime of defamation (Article 147) may result in a fine up to “500 times the amount of minimum salaries”, public work for up to 240 hours, correctional work for up to one year, or imprisonment of up to six months. Penalties are aggravated to up to three years of prison if the victim is falsely accused of having committed a crime “of grave or very grave nature” (Article 147.2). The crime of insult (Article 148) can lead to a fine of up to 1000 times the minimum wage, or to the same penalties of defamation for public work, correctional work or imprisonment. [23][24]

According to the OSCE report on defamation laws, “Azerbaijan intends to remove articles on defamation and insult from criminal legislation and preserve them in the Civil Code”[25].

Republic of Korea

For such laws as “Defamation” -Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Data Protection, etc. (Republic of Korea [internet and email related laws]) – Park, 2005 CHAPTER IX Article 61 (Penal Provisions) This may show defamation varies significantly from North American laws and in general by country and by case.

(1) Any person who has defamed any other person by alleging openly facts through information and communications networks [internet and email] with the purpose of slandering him shall be subject to imprisonment with or without prison labor for not more than 3 years or by a fine not exceeding 20 million won.

(2) Any person who has defamed any other person by alleging openly false facts via information and communications networks [internet and email]with the purpose of slandering him/her shall be subject to imprisonment with prison labor for not more than 7 years or the suspension of disqualification for not more than 10 years, or by a fine not exceeding 50 million won [approximately US$50,000 plus possible civil actions and related damages].

As of Dec 2009, cases were heard before Korean courts and individuals were fined w2,000,000 ($2,000) for true facts identified in Korea submitted by email to lawyers managing the said case in Canada - international “comity” procedure or “intent” seem unrelated.[26]

Singapore

Rights groups such as Amnesty International have argued that "the misuse of defamation suits by ruling People's Action Party (PAP) leaders has contributed to a climate of self-censorship in Singapore and restricted the right of those Singaporeans with dissenting opinions to participate freely and fully in public life".[27]

Owners of cybercafes may be held liable for libelous statements posted or possibly viewed in their establishments.[28]

In 2001, DBS Bank was fined S$2 million (approx. 1 million euros or 1 million US$ at the time) for accidentally publishing a mildly libelous statement during the heated discussion of a takeover bid for Overseas Union Bank. The mistake was corrected very quickly, and there was no intent to do harm. In fact, it was reported that no harm seems to have been done. Nevertheless, the offended parties were awarded SG$1 million each. Apparently confirming the stringency of Singapore’s defamation law, Business Times declined to report on the matter because one of the libeled parties objected.[29]

On September 24, 2008, the High Court of Singapore, in a summary judgment by Justice Woo Bih Li, ruled that Hugo Restall, as editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review defamed Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong by publishing an interview containing critical (and, in the court's opinion, defamatory) remarks by opposition leader Chee Soon Juan.[30]

Soviet Union

In the former Soviet Union, defamatory insults “could only constitute a criminal offense, not a civil wrong”[31].

Europe

The ecommerce regulations (EC Directive), The "mere conduit" defence[32]

Albania

According to the Criminal Code of Albania, defamation is a crime. Insulting (Article 119) can lead to a fine or up to six months of imprisonment (if in public, up to a year), while libel (Article 120) may result in a fine or up to a year of prison (up to 2 years when in public). In addition, defamation of authorities, public officials or foreign representatives (Articles 227, 239 to 241) are separate crimes with maximum penalties varying from 1 to 3 years of imprisonment.[33][34]

Austria

In Austria, the crime of defamation is foreseen by Article 111 of the Criminal Code. Related criminal offenses include “slander and assault” (Article 115), that happens “if a person insults, mocks, mistreats or threatens will ill-treatment another one in public”, and yet “malicious falsehood” (Article 297), defined as a false accusation that exposes someone to the risk of prosecution.[35]

Belgium

In Belgium, crimes against honour are foreseen in Chapter V of the Belgian Penal Code, Articles 443 to 453-bis. Someone is guilty of calumny « when law admits proof of the alleged fact » and of defamation “when law does not admit this evidence” (Article 443). The penalty is 8 days to one year of imprisonment, plus a fine (Article 444). In addition, the crime of “calumnious denunciation” (Article 445) is punished with 15 days to six months in prison, plus a fine. In any of the crimes covered by Chapter V of the Penal Code, the minimum penalty may be doubled (Article 453-bis) « when one of the motivations of the crime is hatred, contempt or hostility of a person due to his or her intended race, color of the skin, ancestry, national origin or ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, place of birth, age, patrimony, philosophical or religious belief, present or future health condition, disability, native language, political beliefs, physical or genetical characteristic, or social origin.” [36] [37]

Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, defamation is formally a criminal offense, but the penalty of imprisonment has been abolished in 1999. Articles 146 (insult), 147 (criminal defamation) and 148 (public insult) of the Criminal Code prescribe a penalty of fine.[38]

Croatia

In Croatia, the crime of insult prescribes a penalty of up to three months in prison, or a fine of “up to 100 daily incomes” (Criminal Code, Article 199). If the crime is committed in public, penalties are aggravated to up to six months of imprisonment, or a fine of “up to 150 daily incomes” (Article 199-2). Moreover, the crime of defamation occurs when someone affirms or disseminates false facts about other person that can damage his reputation. The maximum penalty is one year in prison, or a fine of up to 150 daily incomes (Article 200-1). If the crime is committed in public, the prison term can reach one year (Article 200-2). On the other hand, according to Article 203, there is an exemption for the application of the aforementioned articles (insult and defamation) when the specific context is that of a scientific work, literary work, work of art, public information conducted by a politician or a government official, journalistic work, or the defense of a right or the protection of justifiable interests, in all cases provided that the conduct was not aimed at damaging someone's reputation.[39]

Czech Republic

According to the Czech Criminal Code, Article 184, defamation is a crime. Penalties may reach a maximum prison term of one year (Article 184-1) or, if the crime is committed through the press, film, radio, TV, publicly accessible computer network, or by “similarly effective” methods, the offender may stay in prison for up to two years or be prohibited of exercising a specific activity.[40]

Denmark

In Denmark, libel is a crime, as defined by Article 267 of the Danish Criminal Code, with a penalty of up to six months in prison or a fine, with proceedings initiated by the victim. In addition, Article 266-b prescribes a maximum prison term of two years in the case of public defamation aimed at a group of persons because of their race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion or “sexual inclination”[41][42].

Finland

In Finland, defamation is a crime, according to the Penal Code, Chapter 24, Section 9, Clause (1), § (1), with a penalty of imprisonment of up to six months or a fine. When the defamation occurs in public, the crime is “aggravated defamation” (Chapter 24, Section 10), with a maximum punishment of two years in prison or a fine. In addition, there’s also a crime called “invasion of personal reputation” (Chapter 24, Section 8), that deals with the public dissemination of information that can harm one’s private life. However, personalities involved in the fields of politics, business, public office or public position, “or in a comparable position”, are specifically not protected by this article.[43][44]

Germany

In German law, there is no distinction between libel and slander. German defamation lawsuits are increasing.[45] The relevant offences of Germany's Criminal Code are §90 (Denigration of the President of State), §90a (Denigration of the State and its Symbols), §90b (Unconstitutional denigration of the Organs of the Constitution), §185 ("insult"), §186 (Defamation of character), §187 (Defamation with deliberate untruths), §188 (Political defamation with increased penalties for offending against paras 186 and 187), §189 (Denigration of a deceased person), , §192 ("insult" with true statements). Other sections relevant to prosecution of these offences are §190 (Criminal conviction as proof of truth), §193 (No defamation in the pursuit of rightful interests), §194 (The Application for a criminal prosecution under these paragraphs), §199 (Mutual insult allowed to be left unpunished), and §200 (Method of proclamation). Paragraph 188 has been criticized for allowing certain public figures additional protection against criticism.

Greece

In Greece, the maximum prison term for defamation, libel or insult is five years, while the maximum fine is € 15,000.[46]

The crime of insult (Article 361, § 1, of the Penal Code) may lead to up to one year of imprisonment and/or a fine, while unprovoked insult (Article 361-A, § 1) is punished with at least three months in prison. In addition, defamation may result in up to two months in prison and/or a fine, while aggravated defamation can lead to at least 3 months of prison, plus a possible fine (Article 363) and deprivation of the offender's civil rights. Finally, disparaging the memory of a deceased person is punished with imprisonment of up to 6 months (Penal Code, Article 365). [47]

Italy

In Italy, there are different crimes against honor. The crime of injury (Article 594 of the Penal Code) refers to offending one's honor and is punished with up to six months in prison or up to 516 Euros in fine. If the offense refers to the attribution of a determined fact and is committed before many persons, penalties are doubled to up to a year in prison or up to 1032 Euros in fine. In addition, the crime of defamation (Article 595, Penal Code) refers to any other situation involving offending one’s reputation before many persons, and has a penalty of up to a year in prison or up to 1032 Euros in fine, doubled to up to two years in prison or a fine of 2065 Euros if the offense consists of the attribution of a determined fact. When the offense happens by the means of the press or by any other means of publicity, or in a public demonstration, the penalty is of imprisonment from six months to three years, or a fine of at least 516 Euros.[48]

Finally, Article 31 of the Penal Code establishes that crimes committed with abuse of power or with abuse of a profession or art, or with the violation of a duty inherent to that profession or art, lead to the additional penalty of a temporary ban in the exercise of that profession or art.[49][50]

Norway

In Norway, defamation is a crime punished with imprisonment of up to 6 months or a fine (Penal Code, Chapter 23, § 246). When the offense is likely to harm one's “good name” and reputation, or exposes him to hatred, contempt or loss of confidence, the maximum prison term goes up to one year, and if the defamation happens in print, in broadcasting or through a especially aggravating circumstance, imprisonment may reach two years (§ 247). When the offender acts “against his better judgement”, he is liable to a maximum prison term of three years (§ 248). According to § 251, defamation lawsuits must be initiated by the offended person, unless the defamatory act was directed to an indefinite group or a large number of persons, when it may also be prosecuted by public authorities.[51][52]

Poland

In Poland, defamation is a crime that consists of accusing someone of a conduct that may degrade him in public opinion or expose him “to the loss of confidence necessary for a given position, occupation or type of activity”. Penalties include fine, limitation of liberty and imprisonment for up to a year (Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code). The penalty is more severe when the offense happens through the media (Article 212.2).[53] When the insult is public and aims at offending a group of people or an individual because of his or their nationality, ethnicity, race, religion or lack of religion, the maximum prison term is 3 years.[54]

Portugal

In Portugal, defamation crimes are: “defamation” (article 180 of the Penal Code; up to six months in prison, or a fine of up to 240 days), “injuries” (art. 181; up to 3 months in prison, or a fine up to 120 days), and “offense to the memory of a deceased person” (art. 185; up to 6 months in prison or a fine of up 240 days). Penalties are aggravated in cases with publicity (art. 183; up to two years in prison or at least 120 days of fine) and when the victim is an authority (art.184; all other penalties aggravated by an extra half). There is yet the extra penalty of “public knowledge of the court decision” (costs paid by the defamer) (art. 189 of Penal Code) and also the crime of “incitation of a crime” (article 297; up to 3 years in prison, or fine).[55][56]

Spain

In Spain, the crime of calumny (Article 205 of the Penal Code) consists of offending one's reputation knowing the falsity of the offense, or with a reckless contempt for truth. Penalties for cases with publicity are imprisonment from six months to two years or a fine of 12 to 24 months-fine, and for other cases only a fine of 6 to 12 months-fine (Article 206). Additionally, the crime of injury (Article 208 of the Penal Code) consists of hurting someone's dignity, depreciating his reputation or injuring his self-esteem, and is only applicable if the offense, by its nature, effects and circumstances, is considered by the general public as strong. Injury has a penalty of fine from 3 to 7 months-fine, or from 6 to 14 months-fine when it's strong and with publicity. According to Article 216, an additional penalty to calumny or injury may be imposed by the judge, determining the publication of the judicial decision (in a newspaper) at the expenses of the defamer.[57][58]

Sweden

In Sweden, defamation is foreseen in Chapter 5, Section 1, of the Criminal Code and consists of pointing out someone as a criminal or as “having a reprehensible way of living”, or of providing information about him “intended to cause exposure to the disrespect of others”. The penalty is a fine. Additionally, the crime of “gross defamation” has a penalty of up to 2 years in prison or a fine, where “gross” is characterized when the information, because of its content or the scope of its dissemination, is calculated to produce “serious damage” (Chapter 5, Section 2). Other insults not characterized as defamation or gross defamation constitute the crime of “insulting behavior”, punishable with a fine or, if it's “gross”, with up to six months of prison or a fine (Section 3). According to Section 4 of Chapter 5, defamation of a deceased person also results in liability under Sections 1 or 2.[59] Finally, according to the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act, Chapter 7, both criminal and civil lawsuits may be brought to court under the law on libel.[60]

Switzerland

In Switzerland, the crime of "calumny" is punished with a maximum term of three years in prison, or with a fine of at least 30 days-fine, according to Article 174-2 of the Swiss Criminal Code. There is calumny when the offender knows the falsity of his/her allegations and intentionally looks to ruin the reputation of one’s victim (see Articles 174-1 and 174-2).[61]

On the other hand, "difamation" is punished only with a maximum fine of 180 days-fine (Article 173-1).[62] When it comes to a deceased or absent person, there is a limitation to enforce the law up to 30 years (after the death).[63]

United Kingdom

England and Wales

Modern libel and slander laws as implemented in many but not all Commonwealth nations, in the United States, and in the Republic of Ireland, are originally descended from English defamation law. The history of defamation law in England is somewhat obscure. Civil actions for damages seem to have been relatively frequent so far back as the reign of Edward I (1272–1307),[citation needed] though it is unknown whether any generally applicable criminal process was in use. The first fully reported case in which libel is affirmed generally to be punishable at common law was tried during the reign of James I.[citation needed] From that time we find both the criminal and civil remedies in full operation.

English law allows actions for libel to be brought in the High Court for any published statements alleged to defame a named or identifiable individual or individuals in a manner that causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of them. Allowable defenses are justification (the truth of the statement), fair comment (whether the statement was a view that a reasonable person could have held), and privilege (whether the statements were made in Parliament or in court, or whether they were fair reports of allegations in the public interest). An offer of amends is a barrier to litigation. A defamatory statement is presumed to be false unless the defendant can prove its truth. Furthermore, to collect compensatory damages, a public official or public figure must prove actual malice (knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the truth).[citation needed] A private individual must only prove negligence (not using due care) to collect compensatory damages.[citation needed] To collect punitive damages, all individuals must prove actual malice.

Criminal libel was abolished on 12 January 2010 by section 73 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.[64] There were only a few instances of the criminal libel law being applied. Notably, the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta was convicted of criminal libel for denouncing the Italian state agent Ennio Belelli in 1912.

Scotland

In Scots law, as in other jurisdictions that base themselves on the civil law tradition, there is no distinction between libel and slander, and all cases are simply defamation. The equivalent of the defense of justification is "veritas".

Latin America

Argentina

In Argentina, the crimes of calumny and injury are foreseen in the chapter “Crimes Against Honor” (Articles 109 thru 117-bis) of the Penal Code. Calumny is defined as “the false imputation to a determined person of a concrete crime that leads to a lawsuit” (Article 109). However, expressions referring to subjects of public interest or that are not assertive don’t constitute calumny. Penalty is a fine from 3,000 to 30,000 pesos. He who intentionally dishonor or discredit a determined person is punished with a penalty from 1,500 to 20,000 pesos (Article 110).

He who publishes or reproduces, by any means, calumnies and injuries made by others, will be punished as responsible himself for the calumnies and injuries whenever its content is not correctly attributed to the corresponding source. Exceptions are expressions referring to subjects of public interest or that are not assertive (see Article 113). When calumny or injury are committed through the press, a possible extra penalty is the publication of the judicial decision at the expenses of the guilty (Article 114). He who passes to someone else information about a person that is included in a personal database and that one knows to be false, is punished with six months to 3 years in prison. When there is harm to somebody, penalties are aggravated by an extra half (Article 117 bis, §§ 2nd and 3rd).[65]

Brazil

In Brazil, defamation is a crime, which is prosecuted either as “defamation” (three months to a year in prison, plus fine; Article 139 of the Penal Code), “calumny” (six months to two years in prison, plus fine; Article 138 of the PC) and/or “injury” (one to six months in prison, or fine; Article 140), with aggravating penalties when the crime is practiced in public (Article 141, item III). Incitation to hate and violence is also foreseen in the Penal Code (incitation to a crime, Article 286). Moreover, in situations like bullying or moral constraint, defamation acts are also covered by the crimes of “illegal constraint” (Article 146 of the Penal Code) and “arbitrary exercise of discretion” (Article 345 of PC), defined as breaking the law as a vigilante.[66]

Chile

In Chile, the crimes of calumny and injury are covered by Articles 412 thru 431 of the Penal Code. Calumny is defined as “the false imputation of a determined crime and that can lead to a public prosecution” (Article 412). If the calumny is written and with publicity, penalty is “lower imprisonment” in its medium degree plus a fine of 11 to 20 “vital wages” when it refers to a crime, or “lower imprisonment” in its minimum degree plus a fine of 6 to 10 “vital wages” when it refers to a misdemeanor (Article 413). If it’s not written or with publicity, penalty is “lower imprisonment” in its minimum degree plus a fine of 6 to 15 “vital wages” when it's about a crime, or plus a fine of 6 to 10 “vital wages” when it's about a misdemeanor (Article 414).[67][68]

According to Article 25 of the Penal Code, “lower imprisonment” is defined as a prison term between 61 days and five years. According to Article 30, the penalty of “lower imprisonment” in its medium or minimum degrees carries with it also the suspension of the exercise of a public position during the prison term.[69]

Article 416 defines injury as “all expression said or action performed that dishonors, discredits or causes contempt”. Article 417 defines broadly “grave injury”, including the imputation of a crime or misdemeanor that cannot lead to public prosecution, and the imputation of a vice or lack of morality, which are capable of harming considerably the reputation, credit or interests of the offended person. “Grave injuries” in written form or with publicity are punished with “lower imprisonment” in its minimum to medium degrees plus a fine of 11 to 20 “vital wages”. Calumny or injury of a deceased person (Article 424) can be prosecuted by the spouse, sons, grandsons, parents, grandparents, siblings and heirs of the offended person. Finally, according to Article 425, in the case of calumnies and injuries published in foreign newspapers, are considered liable all those who from Chilean territory sent articles or gave orders for publication abroad, or contributed to the introduction of such newspapers in Chile with the intention of propagating the calumny and injury.[70]

North America

Canada

As is the case for most Commonwealth jurisdictions, Canada follows English law on defamation issues (although the law in the province of Quebec has roots in both the English and the French tradition). At common law, defamation covers any communication that tends to lower the esteem of the subject in the minds of ordinary members of the public.[71] Probably true statements are not excluded, nor are political opinions. Intent is always presumed, and it is not necessary to prove that the defendant intended to defame. In Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto (1995), the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the actual malice test adopted in the US case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Once a claim has been made, the defendant may avail themselves to a defense of justification (the truth), fair comment, responsible communication,[72] or privilege. Publishers of defamatory comments may also use the defense of innocent dissemination where they had no knowledge of the nature of the statement, it was not brought to their attention, and they were not negligent.

In Quebec, defamation was originally grounded in the law inherited from France. To establish civil liability for defamation, the plaintiff must establish, on a balance of probabilities, the existence of an injury, a wrongful act, and of a causal connection between the two. A person who has made defamatory remarks will not necessarily be civilly liable for them. The plaintiff must further demonstrate that the person who made the remarks committed a wrongful act. Defamation in Quebec is governed by a reasonableness standard, as opposed to strict liability; a defendant who made a false statement would not be held liable if it was reasonable to believe the statement was true.[73]

Criminal defamation

In Canada, the so-called « blasphemous libel» is a crime punished with a maximum term of two years in prison, according to Article 296-1 of the Canadian Criminal Code, as well as the crime of « defamatory libel » (Article 298), which receives the same penalty (see Article 301). In the specific case of a “libel known to be false” (Article 300), the prison term increases to a maximum of five years. According to Article 298, a defamatory libel “is matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published”[74].

The criminal portion of the law has been rarely applied. In the most recent case, in 1994 Bradley Waugh and Ravin Gill were charged with criminal libel for publicly accusing six prison guards of the racially motivated murder of a black inmate.[75]

According to a OSCE official report on defamation laws, 57 persons in Canada were accused of defamation, libel and insult, among which 23 were convicted – 9 to prison sentences, 19 to probation and one to a fine. The average period in prison was 270 days, and the maximum sentence was 1460 days of imprisonment.[76]

United States

The origins of US defamation law pre-date the American Revolution; one famous 1734 case involving John Peter Zenger sowed the seed for the later establishment of truth as an absolute defense against libel charges. The outcome of the case is one of jury nullification, and not a case where the defense acquitted itself as a matter of law. (Previous English defamation law had not provided the defense of truth.) Though the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was designed to protect freedom of the press, for most of the history of the United States, the Supreme Court neglected to use it to rule on libel cases. This left libel laws, based upon the traditional common law of defamation inherited from the English legal system, mixed across the states. The 1964 case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, however, dramatically altered the nature of libel law in the United States by elevating the fault element for public officials to actual malice—that is, public figures could win a libel suit only if they could demonstrate the publisher's "knowledge that the information was false" or that the information was published "with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not". Later Supreme Court cases dismissed the claim for libel and forbade libel claims for statements that are so ridiculous to be clearly not true, or that involve opinionated subjects such as one's physical state of being. Recent cases have addressed defamation law and the internet.

Defamation law in the United States is much less plaintiff-friendly than its counterparts in European and the Commonwealth countries. In the United States, a comprehensive discussion of what is and is not libel or slander is difficult, because the definition differs between different states, and under federal law. Some states codify what constitutes slander and libel together into the same set of laws. Criminal libel is rare or nonexistent, depending on the state. Defenses to libel that can result in dismissal before trial include the statement being one of opinion rather than fact or being "fair comment and criticism". Truth is always a defense.

Most states recognize that some categories of statements are considered to be defamatory per se, such that people making a defamation claim for these statements do not need to prove that the statement was defamatory.[77]

Record awards

The record libel verdict in the United States was rendered in 1997 against Dow Jones in favor of MMAR Group Inc. $222.7 Million,[78] whereas the record verdict rendered in favour of an individual was the award of $35.5 million against the Russian newspaper Izvestia [79] in favor of entrepreneur Alex Konanykhin, who also won a $3,000,000 judgment against Kommersant, another Russian newspaper.[80]

Defamation per se

The four (4) categories of slander that are actionable per se are (i) accusing someone of a crime; (ii) alleging that someone has a foul or loathsome disease; (iii) adversely reflecting on a person’s fitness to conduct their business or trade; and (iv) imputing serious sexual misconduct. Here again, the plaintiff need only prove that someone had published the statement to any third party. No proof of special damages is required.

Criminal defamation

On the federal level, there are no criminal defamation or insult laws in the United States. However, on the state level, 17 states and 2 territories as of 2005 had criminal defamation laws on the books: Colorado (Colorado Revised Statutes, § 18-13-105), Florida (Florida Statutes, § 836.01-836.11), Idaho (Idaho Code, § 18-4801-18-4809), Kansas (Kansas Statute Annotated, §21-4004), Louisiana (Louisiana R.S., 14:47), Michigan (Michigan Compiled Laws, § 750.370), Minnesota (Minnesota Statutes. § 609.765), Montana (Montana Code Annotated, § 13-35-234), New Hampshire (New Hampshire Revised Statute Annotated, § 644:11), New Mexico (New Mexico Statute Annotated, §30-11-1), North Carolina (North Carolina General Statutes, § 14-47), North Dakota (North Dakota Century Code, § 12.1-15-01), Oklahoma (Oklahoma Statutes, tit. 27 §§ 771-781), Utah (Utah Code Annotated, § 76-9-404), Virginia (Virginia Code Annotated, § 18.2-417), Washington (Washington Revised Code, 9.58.010), Wisconsin (Wisconsin Statutes, § 942.01), Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Laws, tit. 33, §§ 4101-4104) and Virgin Islands (Virgin Islands Code, Title 14, § 1172).[81]

Oceania

Australia

Australian law tends to follow English law on defamation issues, although there are differences introduced by statute and by the implied constitutional limitation on governmental powers to limit speech of a political nature established in Lange v Australian Broadcasting Association (1997).

Since the introduction of the uniform defamation laws in 2005 the distinction between slander and libel has been abolished.

A recent judgment of the High Court of Australia has significant consequences on interpretation of the law. On 10 December 2002, the High Court of Australia handed down its judgment in the Internet defamation dispute in the case of Gutnick v Dow Jones. The judgment established that Internet-published foreign publications that defamed an Australian in their Australian reputation could be held accountable under Australian libel law. The case gained worldwide attention and is often said, inaccurately, to be the first of its kind. A similar case that predates Gutnick v Dow Jones is Berezovsky v Forbes in England.[82]

Slander has been occasionally used to justify (and with some success) physical reaction, however usually the punishment for assault is only slightly reduced when there is evidence of provocation.

Among the various common law jurisdictions, some Americans have presented a visceral and vocal reaction to the Gutnick decision.[83] On the other hand, the decision mirrors similar decisions in many other jurisdictions such as England, Scotland, France, Canada and Italy.

Uniform legislation was passed in Australia in 2005 severely restricting the right of corporations to sue for defamation (see, eg, Defamation Act 2005 (Vic), s 9). The only corporations excluded from the general ban are those not for profit or those with less than 10 employees and not affiliated with another company. Corporations may, however, still sue for the tort of injurious falsehood, where the burden of proof is greater than for mere defamation, because the plaintiff must show that the defamation was made with malice and resulted in economic loss.[84]

The 2005 reforms also established across all Australian states the availability of truth as an unqualified defense; previously a number of states only allowed a defense of truth with the condition that a public benefit existed.[85]

Religious law

Related torts

Some jurisdictions have a separate tort or delict of "verbal injury", "intentional infliction of emotional distress", "outrageousness", or "convicium", involving the making of a statement, even if truthful, intended to harm the claimant out of malice; some have a separate tort or delict of "invasion of privacy" in which the making of a true statement may give rise to liability: but neither of these comes under the general heading of "defamation". Some jurisdictions also have the tort of "false light", in which a statement may be technically true, but so misleading as to be defamatory. There is also, in almost all jurisdictions, a tort or delict of "misrepresentation", involving the making of a statement that is untrue even though not defamatory. Thus a surveyor who states a house is free from risk of flooding has not defamed anyone, but may still be liable to someone who purchases the house relying on this statement. Other increasingly common claims similar to defamation in U.S. law are claims that a famous trademark has been diluted through tarnishment, see generally trademark dilution, "intentional interference with contract", and "negligent misrepresentation".

Criminal laws prohibiting protests at funerals, sedition, false statements in connection with elections, and the use of profanity in public, are also often used in contexts similar to criminal libel actions.

The boundaries of a court's power to hold individuals in "contempt of court" for what amounts to alleged defamatory statements about judges or the court process by attorneys or other people involved in court cases is also not well established in many common law countries.

See also

References

  1. ^ E.g., in the case the offense of defamatory libel under the common law of England and Wales, where prior to the enactment of section 6 of the Libel Act 1843 (defense of justification for the public benefit), the truth of the defamatory statement was irrelevant, and it continues to be sufficient that it is published to the defamed person alone.
  2. ^ Center for Visual Computing Invasion of Privacy
  3. ^ a b False light by Professor Edward C. Martin - Cumberland School of Law, Samford University
  4. ^ The Law Reform Commission of Ireland - Consultation Paper on the Civil Law of Defamation (see item 360 in bold)
  5. ^ from Latin : libellus ("little book") ("Webster's 1828 Dictionary, Electronic Version". Christian Technologies, Inc.. 1828. http://65.66.134.201/cgi-bin/webster/webster.exe?search_for_texts_web1828=libel. Retrieved 2006-12-31. 
  6. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=libel&searchmode=none. Retrieved 2006-12-31. )
  7. ^ 50 Am.Jur.2d libel and slander 1-546
  8. ^ "out-law.com". August 8, 2008. http://www.out-law.com/page-9330. 
  9. ^ Map showing countries with criminal defamation laws
  10. ^ ARTICLE 19 statements on criminalized defamation
  11. ^ OSCE Report - Libel and Insult Laws: a matrix on where we stand and what we would like to achieve
  12. ^ Folkard, Henry Coleman (1908). The Law of Slander and Libel. London: Butterworth & Co.. pp. 480. http://books.google.com/books?id=7C8WAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA579&ots=6o0ssMhlBM&dq=libel%20act%201843&pg=PA480#v=onepage&q=public%20benefit&f=false. 
  13. ^ Republic of the Philippines. "The Revised Penal Code". Chan Robles law Firm. http://www.chanrobles.com/revisedpenalcodeofthephilippinesbook2.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-24. "Art. 353. Definition of libel. – A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead." 
  14. ^ See, for example, Section 18-13-105, Colorado Revised Statutes
  15. ^ "Legal dictionary". findlaw.com. http://dictionary.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/results.pl?co=dictionary.lp.findlaw.com&topic=61/610d76026e388dc5e6c88e6a8ddcef8d#public%20interest. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  16. ^ "Legal Terms". legal.org. http://www.canona650.com. Retrieved 2004-10-22. 
  17. ^ Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1 (1990)
  18. ^ New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).
  19. ^ Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  20. ^ BBC News, reporting the comments of Professor Michael Geist, July 31, 2006
  21. ^ IRIS 2006-10:2/1: Ilia Dohel, Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Representative on Freedom of the Media: Report on Achievements in the Decriminalization of Defamation
  22. ^ PACE Resolution 1577 (2007): Towards decriminalisation of defamation
  23. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation (English version) – Section Azerbaijan
  24. ^ Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic English)
  25. ^ OSCE report – Libel and Insult Laws (see page 19)
  26. ^ Unofficial translation by Prof Whon-Il Park, Asst. Prof. of Law at Kyung Hee University, www.worldlii.org/int/other/PrivLRes/2005/2.html additions by Watts, S. [Dec. 30, 2005]
  27. ^ Document - Singapore: Defamation suits threaten Chee Soon Juan and erode freedom of expression Amnesty International
  28. ^ Libel On The Internet: An International Problem
  29. ^ The recent spat by the DBS bank is proof that the libel law in Singapore needs to be reformed
  30. ^ news.bbc.co.uk, Editor 'defamed' Singapore leader
  31. ^ Copyright, Defamation and Privacy in Soviet Civil Law (LEVITSKY, Serge L.) (Law in Eastern Europe, No. 22 (I) – Issued by the Documentation Office for East European Law, from the University of Leyden, page 114)
  32. ^ [1]
  33. ^ Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania – English version
  34. ^ European Council – Aperçu des legislations nationales en matière de diffamation et d'injure – English version – Section Albania
  35. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation (English version) – Section Austria
  36. ^ (French) Belgian Penal Code – Crimes against honour (see Articles 443 to 453-bis)
  37. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation – Section Belgium (French)
  38. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation (English version) – Section Bulgary
  39. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation (English) – Section Croatia
  40. ^ Czech Criminal Code – Law No. 40/2009 Coll., Article 184
  41. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation (English) – Section Denmark
  42. ^ OSCE report on defamation laws (English) (see page 51, item 6)
  43. ^ The Penal Code of Finland (English version)
  44. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation (English) – Section Finland
  45. ^ Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Police) Yearly Statistics 2006
  46. ^ OSCE Report on Defamation laws in Europe and North America (see page 68, items 6 and 7)
  47. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation (English) – Section Greece
  48. ^ (Italian) Italian Penal Code (see Articles 594-595)
  49. ^ OSCE Report on Insult Laws in Europe and North America (see page 79, item 8)
  50. ^ (Italian) Italian Penal Code (see Article 31)
  51. ^ European Council – Defamation Laws (English) – Section Norway
  52. ^ Norwegian Penal Code (English version)
  53. ^ European Council – Defamation Laws (English) – Section Poland
  54. ^ OSCE Report on Defamation Laws in Europe and North America (see page 117, item 6)
  55. ^ (Portuguese) Portuguese Penal Code (articles 180 to 189)
  56. ^ (Portuguese) Portuguese Penal Code (official version)PDF (641 KB) (full text)
  57. ^ (Spanish) Penal Code of Spain (Articles 205 thru 216)
  58. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation (English) – Section Spain
  59. ^ Swedish Penal Code (English version) (see Chapter 5)
  60. ^ European Council – Laws on Defamation (English) – Section Sweden
  61. ^ (French) Swiss Penal Code – Calumny (Article 174)
  62. ^ (French) Swiss Penal Code – Defamation (Article 173)
  63. ^ (French) Swiss Penal Code – Defamation and calumny against a deceased or absent person (Article 175)
  64. ^ Coroners and Justice Act 2009
  65. ^ (Spanish) Argentinian Penal Code (official text) – Crimes Against Honor (Articles 109 thru 117-bis)
  66. ^ (Portuguese) Brazilian Penal Code (official text)
  67. ^ (Spanish) Chilean Penal Code, Book II (see Articles 412 to 431)
  68. ^ (Spanish) IEstudiosPenales.com.ar – Penal Code of ChilePDF (578 KB) (see pages 75-78)
  69. ^ (Spanish) Chilean Penal Code, Book I (see Articles 25 and 30)
  70. ^ (Spanish) Biblioteca.jus.gov.ar – Penal Code of Chile (see articles 416-417 and 424-425)
  71. ^ Murphy v. LaMarsh (1970), 73 W.W.R. 114
  72. ^ Supreme Court of Canada - Decisions - Grant v. Torstar Corp
  73. ^ Société Radio-Canada c. Radio Sept-Îles inc., [1994] R.J.Q. 1811 canlii.org
  74. ^ (English) Canadian Criminal Code – Blasphemous Libel and Defamatory Libel (see Articles 296 to 317)
  75. ^ Moles, Robert N, PhD. "Canada reports: Libel case may set precedent". Networked Knowledge. http://netk.net.au/Canada/Canada15.asp. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  76. ^ OSCE Report on Defamation Laws (English) (see page 40)
  77. ^ Dancing With Lawyers
  78. ^ New York Times, "Firm Awarded $222.7 Million In a Libel Suit Vs. Dow Jones"
  79. ^ Awards $35.5 Million To Russian In Libel Case, The Washington Post, December 16th, 1999
  80. ^ U.S. Court Finds Kommersant Guilty of Libel
  81. ^ OSCE – Libel and Insult Laws: A Matrix on Where We Stand and What We Would Like to Achieve (see page 171; report on the United States provided by HELLER, Dave, from the Media Law Resource Center)
  82. ^ House of Lords - Berezovsky v. Michaels and Others Glouchkov v. Michaels and Others (Consolidated Appeals)
  83. ^ Letter From the Editor - Barron's Online
  84. ^ Australian Press Council - Press Law in Australia
  85. ^ Electronic Frontiers Australia: civil liberties online

External links

Look up defamation, slander, and/or libel in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Defamation article)

From Wikiquote

In law, defamation (also called vilification, slander, and libel) is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressively stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. Slander refers to a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism.

Sourced

  • 'Tis slander,
    Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
    Outvenoms all the worms of Nile.
  • King: So haply slander-
    Whose whisper o'er the world's diameter,
    As level as the cannon to his blank,
    Transports his poisoned shot- may miss our name
    And hit the woundless air.- O, come away!
    My soul is full of discord and dismay.
  • Every libel, which is called famosus libellus, is made either against a private man, or against a public person. If it be against a private man, it deserves a severe punishment.
  • Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret.
    • Translated: "Hurl your calumnies boldly; something is sure to stick".
    • Francis Bacon, De Augmentis Scientiarum (1623).
  • Slander is a poison which extinguishes charity, both in the slanderer and in the persons who listen to it.
    • St. Bernard, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 214.
  • I hate the man who builds his name
    On ruins of another's fame.
    Thus prudes, by characters o'erthrown,
    Imagine that they raise their own.
    Thus Scribblers, covetous of praise,
    Think slander can transplant the bays.
    • John Gay, Fables (1727), Fable XLV, "The Poet and the Rose"
  • When squint-eyed Slander plies the unhallow'd tongue,
    From poison'd maw when Treason weaves his line,
    And Muse apostate (infamy to song!)
    Grovels, low muttering, at Sedition's shrine.
  • Alexander von Humboldt (seeing a newspaper containing slanderous falsehoods against Jefferson on the President's desk) : Why do you not have the fellow hung who dares to write these abominable lies?
    Thomas Jefferson : What! hang the guardians of the public morals? No, sir, — rather would I protect the spirit of freedom which dictates even that degree of abuse. Put that paper into your pocket, my good friend, carry it with you to Europe, and when you hear any one doubt the reality of American freedom, show them that paper, and tell them where you found it.
    Humboldt : But is it not shocking that virtuous characters should be defamed?
    Jefferson : Let their actions refute such libels. Believe me, virtue is not long darkened by the clouds of calumny; and the temporary pain which it causes is infinitely overweighed by the safety it insures against degeneracy in the principles and conduct of public functionaries. When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.
    • Conversation reported in B.L. Rayner, Life of Jefferson (1834), p. 356. The exact date is not known, but the conversation took place in one of several meetings with the President during Humboldt's visit to Washington, D.C., from June 1 to June 27, 1804.
  • The breath
    Of accusation kills an innocent name,
    And leaves for lame acquittal the poor life,
    Which is a mask without it.
  • 'T was Slander filled her mouth with lying words,
    Slander, the foulest whelp of Sin.
  • Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.
    • Abraham Lincoln, reportedly when requested to dismiss Montgomery Blair, Postmaster-General, in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.
  • This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty ... what you will.
  • Silence to man and prayer to God are the best cures for the evil of slander.

External links

Wikipedia
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Look up defamation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SLANDER, a false tale or report, defamation. The word is a doublet of "scandal" and comes through the O. Fr. esclandre, which, through the earlier forms scandele, escandele, escandre, is derived from Lat. scandalum (see further Scandal). In law, slander is the malicious defamation of a person in his reputation, profession or business, by words (see Libel And Slander).


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