The notion that we live in a free country and, therefore, can say anything we want can lead to a court case. Some guidelines govern the freedom of expression just as there are rules about all of our other rights afforded by the Constitution. If you have been harmed by another person's words, you may have a course of legal action. Read on to find out more about defamation and the two subcategories of defamation, libel and slander.
Defamation, Libel, and Slander
When a statement damages your reputation, that is known as defamation of character. Any time a statement damages your personal relationships, your business or career, or leads to psychological harm, you might be entitled to monetary damages. Both libel and slander are two subcategories of defamation. Libel concerns the written word and slander applies to the spoken word. Both categories of defamation have a few important guidelines. To be a valid legal action that might result in monetary compensation, defamation must:
- Be untrue. If it's true and can be proven to be true, the utterance or written word does not meet the definition of defamation.
- Be heard or seen by others. For example, if you are sent letters with insults and allegations, as long as those letters are unseen by others outside your control, it's not defamatory.
Free Speech Has Its Limits
There has never been a better time to examine what it means to express yourself. The internet has given rise to a bombardment of opinions, criticisms, name-calling, allegations, and many more types of behavior that would have been unheard of previously. Unfortunately, the wide decimation of inaccurate assumptions has led to some falsely believing that they can say or write anything they wish due to their First Amendment protections. In real life, a person's right to spout off about others is limited by what the location or website allows. For example, you can be removed from private property by the owners and you can be shut-down by Facebook or Twitter if they object to what you are saying or it's thought to be defamatory. So, that leads to the question:
What is Not Protected by Free Speech?
The following forms of communication are not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution:
- Some forms of pornography
- Crime solicitations
- Inciting crimes
If you have been harmed by the written or spoken words of another, speak to a personal injury attorney about your situation and find out what you might be entitled to be paid.