Defamation vs. Slander vs. Libel | Bantle & Levy



Defamation vs. Slander vs. Libel: What’s the Difference?

Defamation and its subcategories, which include slander and libel, are incredibly complicated acts to accuse someone of. It’s understandable for someone to confuse them. They all fall under a category of laws related to debasing someone’s character. To understand the difference between defamation, slander, and libel, it’s best to explain what each one is and how they relate to each other, starting with defamation.

What is Defamation?

Defamation is the broadest of the three different terms. In fact, slander and libel are two subcategories of defamation. This means that every case of slander or libel is a case of defamation.

Defamation is best defined as a false statement presented as a fact to damage someone’s reputation. This statement does have to be negative or damaging to their character to be defamation, and it has to be untrue. If the statement is proven to be neither damaging to someone’s reputation or true, then it is not defamation.

This means that when in a lawsuit over defamation, the best argument for the plaintiff is to prove the statement untrue and for the defendant to prove the statement true, or believably true. You can focus on whether or not the statement was damaging or not, but this can be hard to prove either way.

What is Slander and Libel?

Slander and libel are both types of defamation, with the difference being how they are spread. Slander has to do with damaging and untrue statements being made orally, while libel is damaging and untrue statements being made in writing.

If you say something damaging or untrue on record, such as in a radio broadcast, a publicly available video, or some other type of non-written recording, this would be considered slander. Things you say in the privacy of your own home can be considered slander as well. Just because you told one person doesn’t mean it can’t spread and hurt someone’s reputation. If you are being charged with slander after talking to one person, it’s because someone told another person, who told another person, who told more. It doesn’t matter how private your words originally were if they spread.

Libel includes newspaper prints, books, and other physical media, but also includes digital print and images. This means if you create a picture, political cartoon, sign, effigy, or any image, it’s also considered libel. If this imagery is then posted online rather than in physical print, it is still considered libel.

How Do You Win a Defamation Case?

Slander is considered much harder to prove than libel since it requires witness testimony over physical proof. Regardless of the difficulty, one still has to meet the same criteria to prove that slander is taking place as libel, considering they’re both defamation laws. This criterion includes:

  • The false and damaging statement was made about you to at least one person. In the case of libel, it’s typically seen by far more than one person.
  • The defendant did not do their due diligence in finding out if the statement is true.
  • The statement was not privileged, which means it wasn’t legally private. Examples of this would be conversations between spouses, and during judicial proceedings.
  • You incurred social, financial, and/or physical damage due to these false statements. This can mean you lost friends, lost business, and/or were assaulted because of the false information spread about you. It does not have to be as extreme as these examples. The false statement did have to have a clear effect on you.

Damages for Defamation

The plaintiff can seek damages for a number of things if they prove they are a victim of defamation. This includes payments for:

  • Lost business and economic opportunities because your reputation was injured.
  • Medical expenses if you sought therapy to help process the ordeal.
  • Lost earnings and/or a reduction in future earnings because of the damage to your reputation.
  • Pain and suffering from the social consequences of your damaged reputation.

If the plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted maliciously, they can sue for punitive damages. They don’t have to prove that they suffered economic damages to get nominal damages as well, as long as it’s clear that defamation occurred.

Contact Our NYC Defamation Attorneys Today

Defamation can have a long-lasting effect on nearly every aspect of your life. Whether it’s your professional career, social life, or mental health that has been negatively affected, you can get justice and damages. No one should be judged by others based on lies others have spread. The attorneys at Bantle & Levy can help. Don’t wait to contact our defamation attorneys today.

Bantle & Levy
Bantle & Levy

Lee Bantle is a partner at Bantle & Levy LLP. He has extensive legal expertise, admitted to the bars of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. With a distinguished academic background and clerkship experience, he has been recognized as a top-rated civil rights attorney and esteemed lawyer. In addition to his successful career, he has actively contributed to various legal organizations and serves as a faculty member for NYU's Annual Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges.


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