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MAIN Arrow to Legal Advisor Home Legal Guide Arrow to Defamation, Libel and Slander Personal Injury Arrow to Defamation, Libel and Slander Defamation, Libel and Slander

In the legal system, slander is form of defamation, or a statement that makes a false claim that may harm a reputation, or put an individual or group, a business or product, a government, or even a nation in a negative light in some way.

Slander refers to all the various kinds of spoken defamation, while libel, the other major form of defamation, refers to written statements.

Slander laws are very important in society, and actually have their roots in ancient Rome, where slander was against the law and carried serious penalties.

Today, defense against slander and libel can take several forms. In the majority of United States jurisdictions, truth is an absolute defense, which means that if a statement is said to be slander but the statement turns out to be true, the charges are automatically dismissed.

Another common defense against slander charges is privilege, which is typically used for statements made in court or in the legislature. It is important, in these environments, for people to be able to freely express themselves, and so their statements are protected.

Slander may also be successfully defended against by claiming that the statement was made with the honest belief that it was true. Obviously the details of such cases will vary widely. Journalists, for instance, have a duty to diligently check their facts and thus are held to a much higher standard.

Cases of slander and libel may also be defended against if the statement can be shown to be an opinion, rather than a fact, the reason being that an opinion cannot be proved to be false, it is merely an opinion. (Some jurisdictions do not recognize any difference between fact and opinion, so this defense may not always work.)

In fact, slander and libel laws can vary widely depending by state or country, and so one should always be aware of the local laws when defending or prosecuting a libel or slander case. Today, even location jurisdiction may not apply since the advent of the Internet — where conditions are rife for online defamation — resulting in law makers having to deal with the Web's inherently borderless nature.

More about slander & libel around the Web:

Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) about Defamation
- Extensive FAQ touching on the legal definition of slander and libel with information on the elements of a defamation case, with related examples and precedents.

Defamation Law Made Simple - Clear discussion on what constitutes defamation in all forms with information on why public figures have a harder time filing a lawsuit, with a brief history of defamation and the First Amendment.


The information provided on these pages is intended as reference
only and does not constitute professional legal advice.


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