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Libel - Libel In The Late 1990s

defamatory statements proving statement

By the end of the 1990s, alleged libel victims were required to satisfy certain conditions in seeking recovery of damages: 1) Did the speaker actually convey the defamatory statement to others; 2) was reference to the victim clear; 3) could the victim demonstrate some actual injury? In other words, at least one other person must have heard or read the comment and perceived it as defamatory and not in jest. In comparison to libel, proving slander required stronger proof of damages unless the statements refer to criminal or sexual behavior, disease, or business and professional references. Of course, many contended that the added requirement for public figures to prove actual malice was almost insurmountable to successfully sue for damages.

On the other hand, those accused of making libelous statements also had certain standards to satisfy in proving innocence. These factors included proving the defamatory statement was true, showing the target of the statement consented to it being published, publication was accidental, or if a privilege exists which provided immunity to the speaker. Those exempt, or privileged, from libel liability, included attorneys, judges, jurors, witnesses, and others conducting some relevant public business.

Liability for making libelous statements also extended to others who repeated or republished statements they knew were defamatory. This liability also extended to libraries, bookstores, and others who distributed materials. It was more limited for telephone companies and Internet service providers. While in common law only living persons could be defamed, some state laws also protected the deceased as well.

Libel - The Ongoing Libel Dilemma [next] [back] Libel - From Common To Constitutional Law

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