“Defamation” is the legal term for publishing disparaging information about a person in verbal or written form with the intent to damage the reputation of that person. Whether the defamation attempt is considered “libel” or “slander” depends on how the defamation attempt is published.
Libel is a defamatory remark that is published in writing, on the radio, or in audio or video form.
Slander is a defamatory remark that is published orally via a gesture or verbal communication that is not recorded.
The person who is the target of defamation by either libel or slander can file suit against the defamer by with court action to prove:
1) that a defamatory statement was made;
2) that the statement was published (as outlined above) to a 3rd party;
3) that the defamer knew or should have known that the statement was false;
4) that injury was caused to the target of the defamation.
Unlike the usual court cases where someone is “innocent until proven guilty”, in defamation court cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff or the person who is the subject of the defamatory publication.
That is why it is imperative for creative freelancers and other business owners who provide services to clients to ensure that they are protected with detailed and legally binding contracts and that they have complete documentation of any and all communications–just in case.
The person who intends to defame, even “casually”, should also be prepared to defend their claim as they can very easily be counter-sued by the original plaintiff.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. Please consult your own legal professional for detailed information on libel and slander.
- What Can I Do About Defamation of Character on the Internet? (tcattorney.typepad.com)