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Definition of Libel - Research Paper Example

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This essay discusses the laws governing libel which is deemed to have originated in England in the seventeenth century. More often than not, libel laws tend to conflict with the freedom of speech which ultimately results in a censorship effect, whereby many publishers fear lawsuits…
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Definition of Libel
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Download file to see previous pages This has an adverse effect of denying the public a chance to access important information, which they could have been freely exposed to, had there not been the stringent libel laws. However, according to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the requirements of the United Nation Commission on Human Rights, freedom of speech and expression has been guaranteed (Okrent, 2009). Thus, a myriad of jurisdictions has attempted to resolve the incumbent tension in various ways. Another emerging trend with regards to libel laws is the prevalence use of the internet to disseminate information, some which may constitute a libel. Consequently, many jurisdictions have had to extend the applicability of libel laws to incorporate libels committed over the internet. In the United States, libel is governed under the United States defamation law whose history dates back to the time of the American Revolution. Even so, due to the lack of an elaborate libel legal framework in the United States over a long time, the libel laws were largely contingent on the traditional English common law of defamation. However, a remarkable case that laid the framework upon which defamation law was laid in the United States is the famous and prominent New York Times Co. v Sullivan case of 1964, in which the Supreme Court explored defamation claims regarding a public official. It was held that “public officials” were required to prove “actual malice”. Three years later, the Curtis Publishing CO. v. Butts played a palpable role in extending the “actual malice” standard to incorporate “public figures” which is rather wide and includes politicians, celebrities and other persons of high profile. Another remarkable case is the Gertz v.Robert Welch, Inc. which guaranteed the power of the states to establish their own standards of liability in libel cases. Using these cases, I establish the background of libel with regards to the substantial changes in the legal framework which governs libel. Much emphasis is placed on the English common law which forms the basis upon which libel law of many countries is based. In addition, the various defenses for libel are discussed at length. Finally, I discuss the applicability of the incumbent libel law to internet libel. New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S 254(1964) A remarkable libel case is a case involving the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S 254(1964). This case involved the advertisement that featured in the New York Times, which sought to solicit funds aimed at defending Martin Luther King, Jr. who was facing charges of Alabama perjury inducement (Hall & Urofsky, 2011). Among other information in the advertisement, there were some inaccurate allegations including the mention that the Alabama State Police had arrested King several times. On the contrary, they had only arrested him on four occasions. Thus, the inaccurate criticism regarding the action of the police against King was regarded as defamation especially against the Montgomery Public Safety Commissioner named L.B. Sullivan by virtue of his position as the supervisor of the police department. The Supreme Court later overruled the decision by the state court in Alabama which had initially found the New York Times guilty of libel based on the information printed in the advert (Hall & Urofsky, 2011).  ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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