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“A Private Life is a Happy Life”

Because private individuals generally choose to stay out of the public sphere, they are naturally afforded greater privacy under defamation law. While public figures must prove that a publisher of a defamatory statement acted with actual malice, private individuals must only demonstrate that the publisher acted negligently in publishing the statement.

The Supreme Court established the negligence standard for defamatory statements regarding private individuals in the 1968 case of Gertz v. Welch.

After Chicago police officer Robert Nuccio shot and killed a youth named Nelson, the boy’s family hired…

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  • Defamation
  • May 16, 2017

It’s Not All Fun and Games

Not all individuals are treated equally under defamation law. Public figures like celebrities, business moguls, and public officials are more often in the public consciousness, and members of the press generally have more leeway when covering them. Public figures also have a greater ability to defend themselves in the public arena because of their access to media outlets, and thus are not extended the same rights granted to private individuals.

In 1960, the landmark defamation case New York Times v. Sullivan set the precedent for libel requirements concerning public…

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  • Defamation
  • May 10, 2017

“It Wasn’t Me”

Even if each of the previous factors has been established, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is actually at fault for the defamation. The Supreme Court established this final factor as a safeguard against the chilling of the freedom of expression, while also encouraging responsible journalism.

Though the “fault” element can be at issue in private matters, it is most relevant to stories published by the press regarding controversial matters of public interest. It is not just the original source that can be sued for defamation; every contributor…

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  • Defamation
  • May 03, 2017

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