In COM135 class on Tuesday we talked about the term “libel.” I’ve heard the definition numerous of times, but I couldn’t quite tell you what it meant till now. I still am very up in the air on the whole term and what all it entails. According to our Journalism book libel means: “a publication of a false statement that deliberately or carelessly damages someone’s reputation.” That being said, I think to believe the definition can be easily justified. However, that is not the case.
To prove something “libel” you must also prove the following:
1. That it is a false statement.
2. It is found defamatory to the victim.
3. It was published.
4. Has identifiable plaintiffs.
5. That it was done out of fault by the defendant – malice or negligence.
When we talked about cases that were considered libel or not, I was surprised at many of things that weren’t. Even the cases that were denied. The definition makes it seem all so easy to testify someone and win.
When researching some libel cases that were tried, I found pretty much everything I found interesting. Take Britney Spears’s sex tape scandal for instance. Britney was scared that once the sex tape of her and her hubby would leak it would ruin her image. She took that notion to court and lost. Why? Because of identifiable plaintiffs and she obviously had proof that this event took place. I find that result completely bull shit. That video was leaked maybe not out of malice or negligence, but it was definitely done out of fault. The publisher was out to make money. They had no care for how they got there. I do know that Britney is a celebrity, and things like that should be easily watched by anyone. But, hasn’t anyone heard of mistakes? Invasion of privacy? There is no need for someone to post that nonsense just to make money. I’m not saying that that was the ultimate goal. I’m not psychic but I’m also not stupid.
I wish I was granted the opportunity to be the judge in the courtroom that day. I would have made more sense of the definition then that.
Colorado Libel Case
This story amazed me. A man was sent to trial after posting crude comments about his former girlfriend on Craigslist. Those comments were included on the “rants and raves” column and mentioned that the woman was a child abuser and was guilty for welfare fraud. He also mentioned awful comments about her sex life. The case was taken to court in 2008 and the man who wrote it all was found guilty. I believe that this case was executed right. What I don’t understand is how can this get by and a discretionary video of a couple that wasn’t meant to be leaked can’t? We are living in Web 2.0. Those comments could have easily came out of his mouth and we would have no reason to send it to trial. I do know that something has to be published to be considered “libel” but I think the courts are slacking way too much. Either change the definition and make it clear or get your acts together. Who knows now a days, could anything you say via web be considered libel or not? The definition sure doesn’t give me a faithful answer.