The Basics of Defamation Law

Defamation law is one of many areas an entertainment lawyer has to study. All too easily, their celebrity client might say or do something that draws negative attention, and if their detractors go about it the wrong way, the attorney can step in and sue for defamation.

How does this work, though? Let’s take a look.

What is Defamation?

According to the legal definition, defamation is any statement that injures someone’s reputation. If the statement is spoken, you can categorize it as slander, whereas a written statement falls under libel.

If your client’s reputation suffers through a defaming statement, you can pursue a lawsuit against the one who made it. If your client makes a comment or declaration that injures another’s reputation, you should prepare to play defense and prove that the statement was not defamatory by definition.

Handling Defamation Law

In the entertainment law industry, attorneys may have to delicately handle numerous situations, like the one John Branca describes in this video.

John Branca on Being a Music Lawyer from John Branca on Vimeo.

For defamation suits specifically, the laws may change depending on the state, but a few general guidelines will apply. The prosecuting attorney must prove that each of the following elements is true.

  • The defendant did make the statement, as the prosecutor claims. A statement must be explicitly spoken or written to receive defamation treatment.
  • Someone published the offensive statement. No longer are libel and slander restricted to written text, though. If any third parties could read, watch, or hear the statement by any means, you may consider it published.
  • The statement caused injury to the prosecutor. A damaged reputation, loss of work, or otherwise harming the plaintiff’s name could all count as injury in a defamation suit.
  • The statement was false, and provably so. If you cannot provide evidence that the statement is untrue, it cannot fall into the category of defamation.
  • No privileged circumstances protect the defendant, such as providing evidence on the witness stand.

In a world of social media, defamation statements are prolific and damaging, and even false claims can spread far and wide in a matter of minutes. To protect your client from defamation suits, caution them to avoid making claims they cannot prove or injurious statements about others in power.

If someone makes defamatory statements about your client, evaluate the situation before pursuing a lawsuit. Written apologies, taking down a post, or financial settlements can all help you avoid a public and possibly messy trial.

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