DefamationThe potential dangers of writing something down <br />By Clay Hanback and Fred Bush<br />
Definition<br />Defamation - any statement that negatively affects ones reputation.<br /> Libel – a form of written or published defamation.<br /> Slander – spoken defamation.<br />Defamation is a tort defined by civil law, meaning one can be brought to court for its violations but cannot be criminally punished. <br />A victim claiming defamation must be able to prove ….<br /> -the statement was made<br /> -the statement was published<br /> -the statement is false<br /> -the statement was injurious<br />
Brief History of Defamation<br /><ul><li>Defamation was first noticed during Roman Times.
The Romans believed that unneeded words and actions against another person were avoidable, and should not be condoned.
New York Times v. Sullivan is the most important case of Defamation in our nations history. (See Slide 4)
This case has changed the way that Freedom of the Press is performed. Journalists are now weary of writing information that may harm another's name.
It is one of the most important cases in our nations history. </li></li></ul><li>New York Times v. Sullivan<br />FACTS: On March 29, 1960, the New York Times carried a full-page advertisement entitled, “Heed Their Rising Voices,” which contained several paragraphs describing unfair treatment of Alabama State College student protestors, two of which specifically mentioned unfair treatment by the police. Respondent L.B. Sullivan was one of three commissioners of the city of Montgomery, Alabama. One of his main duties was the supervision of the city police department. Although none of the statements made within the advertisement directly named Sullivan, he argued that, as supervisor of the city police department, he was being accused of allowing the described treatment of the students.<br />It was found that some of the statements contained in the two paragraphs in question were not accurate descriptions of what had actually occurred and placed the police department in a very unfavorable light. Additionally, all witnesses who testified stated that they did not believe the statements in reference to the respondent.<br />Respondent Sullivan brought a claim of libel against four of the individuals whose names, among others, were in the advertisement and against the New York Times for publishing the advertisement.<br />HISTORY: The trial court found for respondent and awarded him damages of $500,000 against all defendants on the grounds that the statements in the advertisement were libelous per se [legal injury being implied without proof of actual damages], false, and not privileged. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the decision. Plaintiffs appealed to the United States Supreme Court.<br />ISSUE: Can a public figure receive damages in a civil libel action, if malice is not proven?<br />RULING: No. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case.<br />RULE/ANALYSIS: The Supreme Court held that petitioner was protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. As such, a public official [respondent] was prohibited from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless it could be proven that the statement was made with actual malice.<br />SUMMARY: Respondent presented no evidence to show petitioner was aware of erroneous statements or was reckless in that regard, and therefore could not prove malice. In the absence of malice, respondent could not recover damages.<br />Case details taken from:<br />http://www.4lawschool.com/torts/ny.shtml<br />
Relating to Communications Professionals<br />It is important to note that here, in America, we hold Freedom of Speech very dearly.<br />But Defamation has made it possible for people to consider that what they are saying may cause harm to others. <br />In Public Relations we encourage the freedom of expression. However it is very important to not cross the line. <br />If you do cross the line, there is a very good chance you will be sued for Defamation of Libel. <br />It is important to exercise freedom of thoughts and expressions, however it is very important to realize whether or not those expressions will affect another’s name. <br />
Keys for Communication Professionals<br />Freely express your thoughts and opinions<br />Keep in mind that what you say may harm another’s name or image.<br />It is easy, especially with the mass amounts of technology, to write something about a person or organization and think that you will not get in trouble.<br />Defamation is something that people take very seriously, and it is important to always remember who you could possibly effect.<br />Freely express your ideas, but always be aware of how another will interpret those words that are written down. <br />You may say whatever you feel about a person or organization.<br />If written down and it could possibly harm another’s name or image, you could be accused of committing Defamation. <br />
Credits<br />Wikipedia (Starting Point) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation<br />4lawschool: Torts Brief http://www.4lawschool.com/torts/ny.shtml<br />Expert Law http://www.expertlaw.com/library/personal_injury/defamation.html<br />Defamation Libel v. Slander, the Elementshttp://www.angelfire.com/ca2/defamation/defamation.html<br />