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Libel, Slander, Defamation Online: What's the Difference?

© 1997 Glenn Barry

Concerning a reaction against an online copyright violation, we discuss the expressions Libel! Slander! Defamation!

Libel is an action for causing hurt or damage to someones reputation. Just like assault is an action for physical harm or damage.

There are two forms of the Libelous action If the action is in writing, it is called "defamation": If the action is spoken, then it is "slander". But it is all "libel".

The truth is not always a defence in a libel action. The court can find against you even if you tell the truth if the damage can be proved and you the libeler cannot mount an adequate defence. This does vary a lot from country to country. The USA has laws that allow you to say quite a lot before a court would find against you.

You would have a number of defenses against a libel (Defamation, we will treat your email as the written word) in this case. (BTW the moderator would end up in court with you for "publishing" your "defamation"). The first would be "truth" good in the USA, not so good in Canada.

"Qualified priviledge"
(a) Performance of a duty (to your fellow list members)
(b) Protection of an interest (statments made in self defence)
(c) Common Interest (your fellow list members needed to be warned)
(d) Public Interest (Very good in the USA not so good elswhere).
(e) News "There is no stopping the publication of accurate news"-*Flemming the Law of Torts.544 para 4) (Whew goes the moderator)

All in all, an action probably would not succeed, it might only waste time and money. The man's retort to your complaint would go very much against him. If I were on the jury, you would have my vote.

Do not get carried away. What ever you say or write must not be any "improper motive" it must not be "malicious". The issue has been exposed. You have an action in copyright. You have said what needed to be said. You must now take that action or drop the issue (or at least the company and individual names.(unless you are responding or there is a further or continuing theft). Sorry for the length, but it seems an issue with a lot of interest.

A counter action for breach of copyright should seal the matter. If you win, the man is a thief! This time the court says he is a thief. He cannot sue the court for defamation (or slander for that matter).

Glenn Barry writes for Rolling Good Times Online, a Zine http://www.rgtonline.com/Nambling.html
He is not a lawyer; his advice is a lay explanation.

 

 

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