Was It Libel or Was It Slander? What’s the Difference?

Did someone make an untrue statement about you that was broadcast on the radio or television? Did your name appear in print, with assertions, allegations or other inferences that damaged your personal or professional reputation? Was it libel or slander? What’s the difference? Does it really make a difference?

The Similarities between Libel and Slander

Libel and slander are both forms of what the law calls “defamation,” any representation that damages your reputation. To succeed in a defamation action, you must show the following:

  • The defendant made a statement of fact (written or spoken) that was published
  • The statement was false
  • The statement caused injury to your reputation
  • The statement was not made with any legal privilege

The Difference between Libel and Slander

Essentially, the difference between libel and slander is that libel refers to written communications and slander refers to spoken communications. Because written communications can create a permanent record, and can be accessible for longer periods of time than spoken communications, libel is generally considered to be more serious than slander. Libel may include personal communications, including letters, as well as statements in different print media, such as books, newspapers or magazines. It need not involve actual words, but may result from a picture or image, including a cartoon. Likewise, slander has a definition that includes more than simply a spoken word, such as a gesture.

Confusion can arise because of the requirement that a statement be “published” to be defamatory. For purposes of slander, this simply means made available to a third party through some means, either through direct hearing (the person was the recipient of a statement, or the spoken statement was made to a group of people), or through some broadcast means, such as radio, television or recording.

Both libel and slander require an untrue statement of fact, rather than opinion. To recover compensation, you must be able to prove that the statement was objectively false.

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