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Defamation/ Slander/Libel

DEFAMATION
At the Law Offices of George E. Bourguignon, Jr. we know how damaging defamation can be. We specialize in helping people address those damages, in and out-of-court, with a multi-faceted approach. We stress that defamation is a subject matter that is deceptively complex; people may think they have a viable claim when they do not. People also can take actions in response to the defamation that can harm themselves and their legal claim and not know it. In addition, many times there are hidden legal hurdles to overcome that can defeat your claim. Finally, defamation is not a common practice area for attorneys, even in large firms. (You should ask attorneys: is defamation actually a practice area of yours?)

For these reasons, we encourage you to find a competent specialist that lists defamation itself as a practice area. We will now provide a brief definition of defamation, slander, libel, and Internet defamation.

Defamation is a collective term for both slander, which is the publishing of a falsehood to a third party that is damaging to someone without privilege; and libel, which is the same, except it is done in writing. As stated, defamation can mean either one.

SLANDER
Slander is defamation by spoken word. Just because someone slanders another does not necessarily mean that the victim has a legal claim. Generally, a slander victim must show economic damages to have a claim. The exception is when the content of the false statement(s) falls into certain categories that the law presumes damages, which is termed slander per se, or slander by law.

LIBEL
Libel is defamation by writing. As opposed to slander, all libel is actionable. In other words, damages are presumed by law. A writing can take the form of a letter, email, facsimile, Internet posting, newspaper article, or more.

INTERNET DEFAMATION
It appears that there is no agreed upon definition for “Internet defamation” and it seems that the term can have various meanings. Although there appears to be a more specific definition emerging, it can be said that Internet defamation is as simple as someone defaming you on the Internet. As far as legal categories, there is only slander and libel, and there is no such legal recognition or category known as “Internet Defamation.”  Since communication using the Internet is done electronically, which is considered a writing, Internet defamation is most accurately legally described as libel.

Despite any proper legal terminology, he term Internet defamation continues to be used. It is frequently used when someone posts a defamatory review on one of the plethora of websites that allow for people, presumably prior customers of the business, to post reviews. With the use of search engines to “google” someone, a libelous statement can appear as the only item for some people, or at least near the top of the searches. Obviously, this can be damaging and raises much concern on the part of the victim.

Another use of the term Internet defamation is for a libel that appears on the Internet where the publisher is unknown. It is interesting to note, there have always been people slandering or libeling others and attempting to hide their identity, and there was not a special definition used to describe it. Nothing like “slander/libel by unknown person” has arisen. But increasingly the author comes across the use of Internet defamation for a case where the defamer is unknown. This unknown part of the scenario may someday become part of an official definition for Internet defamation, or we might read in the dictionary of the future “often associated with an unknown publisher.”

However Internet defamation is defined, we handle it at the Law Offices of George E. Bourguignon, Jr.