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What Is Libel?

Libel is a legal term that refers to the defamation of character, one that is done in a published or fixed form. This is a civil liability where a person falsely impugns on the reputation or the character of another person or an empirical person that exposes them to public ridicule. Libel can appear in various types of media like books, newspapers, magazine or even on TV or radio. Libel can also be declared or seen in billboards or posters. There is also what is called online libel that covers the new media. This includes electronic forms like mailing lists, newsgroups, email, podcasts, chatrooms, vodcasts and web sites.

Libel revolves around the publication of false claims or statements with the explicit knowledge of one person. These false claims are presented as facts. In the United States, opinion is something that is protected under the Constitution as a part of freedom of speech and, thus, is outside the sphere of libel. Citizens have the right to say what they feel and comment on public figures, which include persons that are involved with the government. Parodies, editorials, critiques and entertainment that could manipulate the facts are also not seen as a libelous activity as long as these are presented in such a way that it is for amusement or as just a plain opinion.

A public figure must be able to meet a significantly higher standard in proving that libel happened compared to private citizens, who only need to prove an act of negligence. A public figure must be able to show actual malice in order to prove a case of libel.

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