A communication that harms the reputation of a person.
Evidence that the person’s reputation was harmed
At least a significant minority believes the person’s reputation was harmed
libel per se: a direct false statement, as opposed to libel per quod (innuendo, indirect)
Fault (public figures & public officials)
must prove actual malice:
actual malice: knowledge of falsity and reckless disregard for the truth, in regards for a
public official or public person
What is a public official?
Can be elected to office
Can be appointed to office
Can be hired to work in an official job, such as. . .
A police officer
A clerk in the courthouse
Consider “job” & “story”
What are the person’s job duties?
Does the person have power over people on the job?
Does the person have power over public money on the job?
What is the story about?
Does the story reflect the person’s job duties?
Does the story reflect person’s ability to do his or her job?
Public officials must prove actual malice:
Knowledge of falsity
Reckless disregard for truth or falsity
Public figures must prove actual malice
Two categories of public figures:
Allpurpose public figures
Limitedpurpose public figures
Standard of proof for a public person or figure is knowledge of falsity or reckless
disregard for truth or falsity.
A public person has to prove actual malice AND negligence
Negligence is a screw up
Actual malice is knowledge of falsity and reckless disregard for the truth
Actual malice is harder to prove than negligence
Negligence is easier to prove than actual malice
The person suing for libel wants to be a private person, because then the person
only has to prove negligence, which is failure to exercise reasonable care.
Limited Public Figure: U.S. Supreme Court’s Test
Was the issue of public interest before the person was involved?
Did the person become involved in the issue voluntarily?
Did the person seek to influence public opinion on the issue? Who is a Limited Public Figure? QUIZ ON THURSDAY
Gertz v. Welch (197 )
All purpose & limited purpose public figures
There exists such a thing as a limited purpose public figures.
Wasn’t until 1967 that public figures had to prove actual malice
In 1974, the idea of the limited purpose public figure was created by the courts
Time v. Firestone (1976)
The legal principle of this case: even though she gave all these press releases and
all these stories were made about her, she was still a private figure.
Just because there’s a bunch of publicity on you doesn’t make you a public
Issue: publicity & public figures
You could be written about on a regular basis, but it STILL doesn’t make you a
limited purpose public figure
Found to be a private person (Firestone, wife of Firestone Tires guy)
Hutchinson v. Proxmire (1979)
Hutchinson is a scientist hired by gov’t, sued for libel and he won
One of the arguments was that Hutchinson was being paid by the government,
and just because he was being paid by the govt doesn’t make him a limited
purpose public figure.
Issue: public controversy and news media bootstrapping
Wolston v. Readers Digest (1979)
Wolston had a police record and was found not to be a public figure.
Even if you’re named in a published thing or if you’re in a police record, that
doesn’t make you a public figure.
Issue: public records & public figures
NYT v. Sullivan (1964)
Public officials must prove actual malice
Associated Press v. Walker (1967)
Established the “actual malice” burden of proof for public figures.
PAGES 183 196
Fault (private person)
negligence: for private persons/officials;
Private persons need to prove ONLY negligence:
Failure to exercise reasonable care
“A good faith effort”
did reporter read documents?
was source trustworthy?
were obvious sources checked?
was story balanced?
CHAPTER 8 – Invasion of Privacy Publicity About Private Facts
It is illegal to publicize private information about a person if the matter that
o Would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and
o Is not of legitimate public concern or interest.
“Keyhole journalism”: the snooping, prying that we take for granted in both print
and electronic media, started at th