Subject: Libel, Slander, "Criminal" and Misconduct Allegations,
Quotations, Internet "Publication," Regular Publication Information
Needed and Starting Discussion Thread Sought
My new book (currently a near final draft) makes as many as 100
criminal allegations against different people or parties. So my goal
of publishing it may have legal complications or result in lawsuits
Do libel or slander laws apply to my allegations against people or
quotations that I say they made in a draft copy of my book manuscript
if I deliberately make either the draft or final manuscript available
for download on a website, or if I deliberately post it to Usenet, or
if I deliberately make available for Napster-style file sharing? One
person told me that these laws do not apply! This person said they
only apply if the manuscript is published. So I am confused. Maybe
instead of publishing my book, I should simply "self-publish" on the
internet and then be free of legal consequences.
Can somebody summaries Internet Self-publication versus regular
publication legal issues?
I found ALL of the below information on the internet.
Please correct, comment, or reference better information or mistakes
in the below.
Libel and slander, Legal Terms And Concepts
libel and slander, in law, types of defamation. In common law, written
defamation was libel and spoken defamation was slander. Today,
however, there are no such clear definitions. Permanent forms of
defamation, such as the written or pictorial, are usually called
libel, while the spoken or gestured forms are called slander.
The term libel is also often used if a wide audience for the
defamation is possible. Courts have split over which category radio
and television are in; today's statutes generally categorize
defamation occurring in those media as slander. The offenses are alike
in several respects. The defamation : essentially exposure to hatred,
contempt, ridicule, or pecuniary loss : must directly affect the
reputation of a living person. It must be published, i.e., revealed to
someone besides the subject of the attack. It is no defense that the
defendant merely repeated but did not originate the defamation.
The plaintiff is required to prove the colloquium (circumstances of
utterance showing that the statement was directed against him or her
specifically) and, when necessary, the innuendo (the factors making an
apparently innocent statement defamatory). Generally, truth is an
absolute defense in a suit for defamation. A false defamatory
statement may be privileged if the actor was a legislator, executive
officer, or speaking in a court proceeding. The requirement of
colloquium makes unactionable defamation of a large group, e.g., a
racial or professional group.
Whether the charge is libel or slander is important. Most libels are
deemed injurious and give immediate ground for suit. However, only
certain types of statements are slanderous per se and do not require
proof of pecuniary damages; these include imputation of crime, of
loathsome disease, or of professional or occupational incapacity. In
other cases, there may not be any recovery unless the pecuniary loss
caused by the injury is proved. The award to the successful plaintiff
in a suit for defamation will usually include punitive, as well as
compensatory, damages if the defendant willfully lied or published the
In New York Times Company v. Sullivan (1964), the U.S. Supreme Court
provided a significant expansion of the protection of the press from
libel actions. Stemming from a case in which an elected official in
Montgomery, Ala., complained of defamation by civil-rights activists,
the court ruled that to protect the free flow of speech and opinions,
public officials could only collect damages for libel if falsehoods
were made with "reckless disregard" for the truth. This ruling has
since been extended to any celebrity before the public.
The Sullivan ruling shifted the burden of proof in many libel cases
from the defendant to the plaintiff, who must now prove the falsehood
was issued with actual malice, that is, with deliberate knowledge that
the statement was both incorrect and defamatory. The ruling was a
victory for the media, but left the plaintiff with the difficult task
of obtaining the sources for the allegedly libelous information :
sources that reporters often hold confidential. In most cases, the
court requires the plaintiff to show that a reasonable effort has been
made to obtain the information elsewhere before it requires the
reporter to divulge any sources.
In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed that only factual
misrepresentation is to be considered libel or slander, not expression
of opinion. It has also ruled that libel suits may be filed across
state lines, not only in the state where the plaintiff lives. Libel
suits apply not only to the media and public personalities but also to
businesses, which account for approximately 70% of all suits. In
recent years, producers of foods and other goods have succeeded in
urging more than a dozen states to pass laws allowing them to sue
critics of the safety or other aspects of their products; experts
predict such laws will be overturned, but they have in the meantime
had a "chilling" effect on public discussion in some cases.
See N. L. Rosenberg, Protecting the Best Men: An Interpretive History
of the Law of Libel (1986); R. A. Smolla, Suing the Press (1986); A.
Lewis, Make No Law: The Sullivan Law and the First Amendment (1991).