Difference between Slander and Libel
Slander and libel are types of defamation. What differentiates one from the other is how the defamatory statement is made. Defamation is slander if the defamatory statement is in transient form, that is, brief or short-lived. Therefore, defamation is slander if the defamatory statement is made using a gesture or a verbal communication that is not recorded, thus making it short-lived. Defamation is libel if the defamatory statement is in permanent form or written. Libel defamation is wider in scope than slander because it includes all defamatory statements broadcasted through channels, such as the radio, television, films, images, public performances of plays, and even e-mails and the Internet (Mann & Roberts, 2013, p. 122). This makes libel actions to be more common than those of slander. While libel is intrinsically actionable and damages can be demanded without a proof that loss was incurred, a claimant demanding damages in slander must prove that loss was incurred (Turner, 2013, p. 310). Libel and slander can also be differentiated by how they are prosecuted. While libel may be prosecuted as a crime and as tort, slander can only be prosecuted as a tort. A tort is a type of injury to a person. Libel is prosecuted as a crime if the defamatory statement is an offense to the public or society. In this case, emphasis is placed on the moral wrong of the defendant who issued the defamatory statement, rather than the victim’s injury and compensation claims. It is evident that libel is more serious than slander because of the enduring nature of its defamatory statement. The possible prosecution of libel as a crime is an additional proof that it is more serious than slander, as it is morally wrong and of public interest, rather than private interest only.
Difference between Defamation of a Public Figure and Defamation of a Regular Person
A public figure is often held to a different standard than a regular person in defamation cases. A public figure can only sue for defamation after providing a proof that the published defamatory statement was made with actual malice, that is, the originator of the statement knew the statement to be false, or issued it while totally disregarding the truth of its content. A regular person claiming defamation is only required to prove that the individual who made the defamatory statement just acted negligently, contrary to what is expected of a reasonable person. It is evident that the defamation standard for a public figure is higher than that of a regular person. The reason for this difference is statements made against a public figure are normally regarded to be of public interest. The reason for this is that actions taken by public figures often affect the society or public, either directly or indirectly. The higher standard for public figures has been placed to ensure that defamation suit is not used to compromise the freedom of speech enshrined in the constitution. The limited legal rights in the defamation of a public figure are meant to increase transparency and accountability in their actions. A public figure can only be held to this higher standard if the controversy he or she is implicated in existed prior to the publication of the defamatory statement, and the individual was qualified as a public figure when the statement was made.
Mann, R. A., & Roberts, B. S. (2013). Essentials of business law and the legal environment. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Turner, C. (2013). Unlocking torts. 3rd Ed. London: Routledge.