Defamation and 1st Amendment Considerations
Balancing Freedom of Speech with Defamation
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Table of ContentsHow does the 1st Amendment Affect Defamation Law?How does defamation apply to celebrities or public figures?Discussion QuestionPractice QuestionAcademic Research
How does the 1st Amendment Affect Defamation Law?
Defamation laws have the effect of limiting free speech. Because of this, there is a limit on defamation laws. There is no prior restraint of speech. That is, one is free to make defamatory statements. These laws, however, allow an individual to recover for the harm suffered because of a defamatory communication.
How does defamation apply to celebrities or public figures?
Special rules apply to the defamation of celebrities and public figures and defamation by the news media.
The media is not liable for the defamatory untruths they print unless the plaintiff can prove the untruths were published with malice (evil intent that is the deliberate intent to injure) or with reckless disregard for the truth.
Likewise, for a celebrity or public figure to recover for defamation, she must demonstrate that the defendant defamed her with malice or with reckless disregard for the truth.
Do you believe that defamation laws violate the 1st Amendment? Why or why not? How should the rights of individuals against defamation be balanced against individual freedom of speech? Do the higher standards for defamation against celebrities, public figures, and the media effectively balance those rights? Why or why not?
- Lasson, Kenneth, Racial Defamation as Free Speech: Abusing the First Amendment (1986). Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 1, 1986. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1166882
- Ardia, David S., Freedom of Speech, Defamation, and Injunctions (August 8, 2013). 55 William & Mary Law Review 1 (2013); UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2307744. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2307744