Libel Different types, how to avoid it This is how you keep your job What it is • Libel occurs when a false and defamatory statement about an identifiable person is published to a third party, causing injury to the subject's reputation. • A libelous statement can be the basis of a civil lawsuit brought by the person or group allegedly defamed or, in rare cases, a criminal prosecution. Defamatory Communication • A defamatory communication is one that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, lowers him in the esteem of his fellows, causes him to be shunned, or injures him in his business or calling. • A headline, cutline, or photo can also be defamatory. Publication • Publication occurs when information is negligently or intentionally communicated by newspapers, magazines, books, radio or television broadcasts to someone other than the person defamed. • Service providers, however, are not responsible for libelous information posted by their customers unless they exercise editorial control over it. • The media can be liable for the republication of a libelous statement made by another person or entity.4 Falsity • It often has been said that truth is an absolute defense to libel. • Private individuals suing for libel also must prove the statement was false if it involved a matter of public concern. Identification • Plaintiffs must prove that the alleged defamatory publication refers to them. • Governmental entities cannot bring libel claims, nor can members of large groups (usually 25 or more). Harm • The heart of a libel suit is the claim that the plaintiff's reputation was injured – and that person has to prove it. Fault • All plaintiffs must demonstrate that the news organization was at fault in some way. • Public officials and public figures are required to show the highest degree of fault. • Celebrities and others with power in a community usually are considered public figures. • The Court also said that while failure to investigate facts does not necessarily prove actual malice, a "purposeful avoidance of the truth" may. Defenses • Truth – obvious • Fair report – libelous statements made by others in certain settings, if made in good faith, are allowed. • Neutral report - statements made by one public figure about another public figure are allowed if the paper is not biased. • Opinion is still protected speech under the First Amendment. • Consent. If a person gives permission for the publication of the information, that person cannot later sue for libel. • The statute of limitations for bringing libel suits varies from state to state. Generally the time limit for filing a libel lawsuit starts at the time of the first publication of the alleged defamation. • A retraction is not usually considered an absolute defense to a libel claim, it may reduce the damages a defendant must pay if found liable for defamation Product libel • Journalists who write about consumer products should be aware that their reports may be subject to product disparagement laws. Emotional distress • Individuals sometimes sue the news media for emotional distress caused by the publication of embarrassing, truthful facts.