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Proving Defamation Takes A Little Extra For Public Figures

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck|May 20, 2015

In the U.S., proving defamation as a public figure is often harder than it is for people who live their lives outside of the public eye.

Proving Defamation Takes A Little Extra For Public Figures

In the U.S., proving defamation as a public figure is often harder than it is for people who live their lives outside of the public eye.

Stars struggle in proving defamation all the time.  Therefore, if you are considering filing a lawsuit alleging libel or slander, it is important to understand exactly what needs to be done when it comes down to proving defamation.

What is Defamation?

Defamation, at its core, is a simple concept. It is a false statement made about a person – whether written or oral – that causes harm to the individual, damages his or her reputation and puts the individual in a position to be ridiculed.

Though it is a simple concept, proving defamation can be a complicated process. To prove that a statement was defamatory, one must show a few key points to be true. If you can’t fulfill all of the criteria, the statement legally wasn’t an act of defamation. For public figures, however, actual malice must also be proven due to their unique positions as subjects of societal interest and discussion.

What Constitutes a Public Figure?

There are two kinds of public figures in regard to defamation suits – those who have some sort of fame and those people who have thrust themselves into the spotlight, often in regard to a specific issue. In the latter case, the court considers a number of factors such as whether any businesses open to the public are affected by the issue, whether a public relations firm had been hired and how receptive the individual was to media attention, as well as appearances the plaintiff has made in the public sphere. In addition to proving actual malice, the plaintiff also has to fulfill the regular criteria of a defamation case.

How do I Prove Defamation?

The fundamental element in proving defamation is to demonstrate whether the statement was false – this makes up a good portion of the whole concept. For example, if an individual accuses you, as an athlete, of using growth hormones and you are, in fact, taking steroids, then that is not defamation. It is simply a fact. Whether it impacts your reputation in a negative manner is not a crime. If you were accused and there are no factual grounds for that allegation, then you have a foundation to pursue a defamation case. In addition to showing that the statement was false, you will also have to demonstrate that it has caused damage to your reputation or could damage it in the future. If the statement won’t be harmful, it will be difficult to prove the statement as defamatory.

Additionally, the statement in question has to be published in a public medium to be considered defamatory. Whether someone said it on a television show or wrote it in a newspaper, the defamation has to be available to an audience.

But how do I prove defamation if I’m a public figure?

When something false and harmful is written or said about an individual and published via an accessible channel, (usually the media) it could easily be defamatory. In the case of public figures, however, the burden of proof is a little different. When someone is talked about often – an individual who is the subject of fan fiction magazines, forum discussions, talking head back-and-forths and more – chances are something false will be said. If the requirements for proving defamation were the same for everyone, public figures would likely be filing lawsuits right and left. Unlike regular persons, individuals who live their lives in the public eye have to prove actual malice.

The Burden of Proof

The burden of proof for public figures in a defamation case is definitely greater than that of regular persons, but it is not impossible to overcome. To prove actual malice, one must show that the disparaging statement was published with full knowledge of its falsehood. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the person was out to cause harm, but that the source of the defamation knew that the claim wasn’t true at the time of publication.

If all of this can be proven, then there is a shot at winning the defamation case. If there are still questions about whether a defamation suit is feasible, it would be wise to contact an attorney. Often, this is the best source of advice on specific situations. For public figures, defamation can take some extra effort, but if the actual malice is evident, that is a step in the right direction.

Proving Defamation Takes A Little Extra For Public Figures

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck

Stars struggle in proving defamation all the time.  Therefore, if you are considering filing a lawsuit alleging libel or slander, it is important to understand exactly what needs to be done when it comes down to proving defamation.

What is Defamation?

Defamation, at its core, is a simple concept. It is a false statement made about a person – whether written or oral – that causes harm to the individual, damages his or her reputation and puts the individual in a position to be ridiculed.

Though it is a simple concept, proving defamation can be a complicated process. To prove that a statement was defamatory, one must show a few key points to be true. If you can’t fulfill all of the criteria, the statement legally wasn’t an act of defamation. For public figures, however, actual malice must also be proven due to their unique positions as subjects of societal interest and discussion.

What Constitutes a Public Figure?

There are two kinds of public figures in regard to defamation suits – those who have some sort of fame and those people who have thrust themselves into the spotlight, often in regard to a specific issue. In the latter case, the court considers a number of factors such as whether any businesses open to the public are affected by the issue, whether a public relations firm had been hired and how receptive the individual was to media attention, as well as appearances the plaintiff has made in the public sphere. In addition to proving actual malice, the plaintiff also has to fulfill the regular criteria of a defamation case.

How do I Prove Defamation?

The fundamental element in proving defamation is to demonstrate whether the statement was false – this makes up a good portion of the whole concept. For example, if an individual accuses you, as an athlete, of using growth hormones and you are, in fact, taking steroids, then that is not defamation. It is simply a fact. Whether it impacts your reputation in a negative manner is not a crime. If you were accused and there are no factual grounds for that allegation, then you have a foundation to pursue a defamation case. In addition to showing that the statement was false, you will also have to demonstrate that it has caused damage to your reputation or could damage it in the future. If the statement won’t be harmful, it will be difficult to prove the statement as defamatory.

Additionally, the statement in question has to be published in a public medium to be considered defamatory. Whether someone said it on a television show or wrote it in a newspaper, the defamation has to be available to an audience.

But how do I prove defamation if I’m a public figure?

When something false and harmful is written or said about an individual and published via an accessible channel, (usually the media) it could easily be defamatory. In the case of public figures, however, the burden of proof is a little different. When someone is talked about often – an individual who is the subject of fan fiction magazines, forum discussions, talking head back-and-forths and more – chances are something false will be said. If the requirements for proving defamation were the same for everyone, public figures would likely be filing lawsuits right and left. Unlike regular persons, individuals who live their lives in the public eye have to prove actual malice.

The Burden of Proof

The burden of proof for public figures in a defamation case is definitely greater than that of regular persons, but it is not impossible to overcome. To prove actual malice, one must show that the disparaging statement was published with full knowledge of its falsehood. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the person was out to cause harm, but that the source of the defamation knew that the claim wasn’t true at the time of publication.

If all of this can be proven, then there is a shot at winning the defamation case. If there are still questions about whether a defamation suit is feasible, it would be wise to contact an attorney. Often, this is the best source of advice on specific situations. For public figures, defamation can take some extra effort, but if the actual malice is evident, that is a step in the right direction.

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