Defamation and Libel in the Courts


Defamation means a false statement made by one person (Person A) about someone else (Person B). To constitute defamation, the statement must be hurtful and cause harm to Person B. To prove he or she has been defamed, Person B must prove all of the following:

Defamation may be oral or written.

Slander means defamation through verbal statements while libel means defamation in written form. Libel may be committed through any visible means such as print (newspapers, magazines), pictures, sculptures, films, television and an Internet website.

Defamation, libel and slander are torts. A tort is a civil wrong, an infringement of a person's civil rights. Unlike negligence, which is also a tort, defamation, libel and slander are intentional torts. Intentional torts are intentional acts that violate a person's civil rights. Some intentional torts, such as battery and assault, are also crimes.

Because defamation, libel and slander are torts, the person who has been defamed may seek damages from the perpetrator by filing a lawsuit. To defend him/herself against the suit, the perpetrator may argue that the statement was true, that it was made with the other party's permission, that the statement was privileged, or that it was communicated accidentally. The perpetrator may escape liability if he or she can prove any one of these arguments.

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