The right for freedom to speech is fine till a person crosses limits and defames someone. Defamation is a wicked act, which injures the reputation of the subject being defamed. Reputation is crucial for everyone. Professionals have spent years to build and nurture it.
Libel vs. slander
Statement in writing is termed as libel and oral speech is called slander. Internet usage has blurred the meaning. It is focused on permanency of defamatory statement. Technically text messages are written statements, but their nature is temporary, so it can be argued more similar to oral statements.
Podcast is an oral statement, but more similar to a written one, because of its permanent nature and can be easily circulated. This difference is crucial to establish damages. The permanency level of the statement decides the potential harm a plaintiff suffers and the amount defamer has to pay against this defamation cases.
Elements to satisfy defamation claim includes-
- Statement has to be defamatory
- Publication of the statement by the defamer
- Speech needs to be about the plaintiff
- Declaration has to be substantially untrue
- Statement is not privileged
Single vs. multiple publication
According to defamation removal law, publication requirement means communication of the insulting matter with 3rd person. Defamation occurs from the day it gets posted or published. Limitation period is 1 year, which also starts from the date libel got published.
Single publication rule
Any kind of mass communication repeatedly published in different formats, after the defamatory statement was originally released is defined as single publication.
The plaintiff can take action just once against the defendant, which is disadvantageous because the insulting matter will remain in public domain even after the plaintiff wins the case.
Multiple publication rules
Every time the defamatory statement gets published, a new and different cause of action is allowed. Each ‘click’ on the webpage creates new publication, and if by chance there is any defamatory material on that page, then a separate cause of action occurs.
The limitation period of each cause of action differs. It starts from time defamatory material got accessed. The affected party gets to take legal action even after many years the statement was first published, because if the material was archived, then an action follows for decades.
Facts vs. Opinion
Defamation statement needs to be a fact and not an opinion, because first amendment protects viewpoints. The difference between facts and opinion is hard, but often depends on the circumstance and situation, all together.
Court looks beyond the real words used to see if a reasonable listener or reader asserts the statement to be verifiable fact. However, courts have some exceptions about statements made in chat-rooms or message boards.
Public figure like a CEO, politician, or a celeb needs to prove that the defamer has published statement with malice.
Internet defamation case defenses
According to defamation removal law, if the insulted communication is actually a truth then it is not defamatory. If the defamer withdraws defamatory statement then some protection will be provided like plaintiff may be limited to damages.