Legal Question about Slander...

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by bobindashadows, Sep 3, 2003.

  1. bobindashadows macrumors 6502

    Mar 16, 2002
    I'm just trying to understand slander laws...

    What exactly composes slander laws?

    As far as I understand... I can't write "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" as a newspaper headline... but I can write a book about it?

    There are plenty of books along these lines, including Ann Coulter's "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" and Peggy Noonan's "The Case Against Hilary Clinton".

    Leave your opinions about these 3 people to yourselves - or another thread - I'm just wondering how the law works.
  2. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    this is all from my laymen's understanding...

    because it's in print, the question would be if it's libel.

    there's a couple things that prevent it from being libel:
    1. the figures are all in the public eye, so they can be satirized
    2. libel kicks in when the statements made about them interfere w/ their ability to earn a living
  3. bobindashadows thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 16, 2002
    Hmm... so I run a business, and someone says "BOBINDASHADOWS IS A SATAN WORSHIPPER" as a headline to a local newspaper and all my clients are Christians, I could sue for libel? What if none of my clients are Christian, and don't believe in the devil?
  4. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Non legal def.

    Publishing or spreading knowingly false information about a company and/or individual is slander.

    If you 100% believe someone to be an idiot/crook/liar/etc., then it's most likely not slander.

    Especially if every your own experiences tend to support your opinion.

    But it won't stop anybody from suing you for slander to shut you up.


    There's a lot more to it, and when you drag in intent to cause harm to a reputation and/or business.

    The case will probably last longer than the first couple court dates.
  5. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    one can _always_ sue, whether or not there is a case is a different matter.

    regarding the headline, there's a difference between an opinion piece and news. so if the headline is a headline for a reported story, there may be a case. if it's op/ed, that's different.
  6. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    Re: Non legal def.

    I believe libel and slander in the US is subject to a three-part test:

    1. You have to be shown to have made the remark.

    2. You have to know it was false.

    3. The libeled or slandered party must show that they were harmed.

    This is what I recall from a high-profile libel case a number of years ago -- I think it was against the National Enquirer. It's a very steep hill to climb and rarely successful. OTOH, in the UK it is relatively easy to prove. Not sure why that is.
  7. pseudobrit macrumors 68040


    Jul 23, 2002
    Jobs' Spare Liver Jar
    One must prove actual monetary losses in most cases. Not just theoretical, but actual money gone.

    It's a civil action, not a criminal one, so it's subject to more grey areas within the courts.

    Perhaps mccrain could give us a bit more...
  8. buddha macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2003
    Somewhere too cold
    As someone already stated, libel is when it is in print and slander is when it is transmitted orally. The historical distinction was that libel was treated much more harshly as it had a much greater potential of harm via its lasting nature and its potential distributor abilities. However, this has become very blurred with T.V. and radio.

    As to the elements, while each state is different, they generally require that the statement be false, that you knew or should have known it to be false, and that some type of damage occurred.

    As to the damage, you generally must show express economic damages, but if the damage was that of a moral character, it is really more of a question for the jury as to the offensiveness of it. Also, the falsehood must be one that people would generally be upset with. If you are a hedonist of first caliber and someone falsely claims you live "cleanly" it would be very unlikely you would be able to win, as most people view clean living as a good thing.

    If the individual is a celebrity, or some other person who has thrust themselves into the spotlight then the standards are much higher. If I remember correctly, the falsehood must be either intentional or flagrantly negligent.

    Oh, and as to such a phrase as "Rush Limbaugh is an idiot", such a phrase is merely an opinion, and protected. Now, "Rush Limbaugh is a child molester" would be a statement of fact, and therefore capable of being prosecuted under slander/libel laws.

    Individuals can also protect themselves by displaying all the facts that they know that made them come to a decision on "facts". Say, you saw neighbor X walking around late at night all in black, and the next day find out someone's house was broken in to, you could say, "Because of X facts, I believe he is a thief." However, if you simply state that he is a thief, and such a decision could be deemed unreasonable, you could then be liable.

    Hopefully this helps a bit (amazing how much I've forgotten from last semester already)
  9. mcrain macrumors 68000


    Feb 8, 2002
    Nice explanation. I can't add much b/c I too have forgotten a lot of the details.

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