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Libel

Definition - What does Libel mean?

Libel refers to a method of defamation expressed in print, writing, pictures, signs, effigies, or any other physical form of communication that may injure a person's reputation or expose that person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or create damages to the person's business or profession.

In some jurisdictions special damages may be available. There is no need to prove special damages if they exist Special damages are not required in any jurisdiction if the statements is defamatory on its face.

The elements for libel are the same as the elements of defamation.

  • A defamatory (in this case a libelous) statement must be made by the defendant;
  • The statement was made about the plaintiff;
  • The statement met the legal qualification of publication related to libel;
  • The plaintiff must suffer damage;
  • The but-for test must be met: but for the libelous statement of the defendant, the plaintiff would not have suffered harm to their reputation.
Publication, in relation to libel, is done in print of some type. It does not have to be in a major newspaper or magazine. Even a blog post can be considered libelous if it holds a defamatory, false statement.


Libel may also be known as libel per quod.



Justipedia explains Libel

Libel is typically a tort governed by sate law. The common law in regard to libel allows for recovery of damages without proof of actual harm. Under the common law tradition, injury by libel is presumed just based on publication. The Supreme Court later held that the freedom of expression secured by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution limits a state’s power to award damages in an action for libel. Further to this, in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held that in cases of libel put forth by public figures, proof of actual malice is required in order for damages to be awarded.

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