In everyday use, the terms slander and libel are often used interchangeably. However, while they are both types of defamation (speaking falsely about an individual or entity in a way that negatively affects their wellbeing), in a legal setting, crucial differences exist between slander and libel that can affect the way in which a case is presented.
Slander is the oral form of defamation. In the absence of audio recordings, it is generally the trickier of the two to establish, as evidence often relies on first-hand testimony. Slander can arise in personal conversations or in public settings. As with libel, it must target either a specific entity (e.g. the name of a company) or individual to be considered defamation. In other words, simply saying that “all movie critics are worthless hacks” would not constitute slander, as this names a general group of people.
Traditionally, libel was considered more or less slander in print form. This would generally take the form of a written claim, such as “so-and-so (say, the founder of a prominent bank) cheats on his wife,” presented as fact without any actual basis. However, with the advent of mass media, the law has begun to consider audible defamation via television or radio as libel instead of slander.
The biggest barrier to proving a case of defamation is the cherished American idea of freedom of speech. The plaintiff in this sort of civil suit must clearly demonstrate that the defendant went beyond his or her guaranteed right of criticism, with the result of unfairly damaging the plaintiff’s reputation.
Freedom of speech is important, but so is the protection of you or your company’s character from insults and malicious public lies. If you believe you have been the victim of slander or libel, contact the Sheboygan personal injury lawyer at the law firm of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® for more information by calling (920) 459-8000 today.