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Defamation is Defecation to your Reputation
Defamation, defamatory, slander, slanderous, libel, libelous and well I think we can also mention vilification in the same breath. That is if you haven't run out of breath before getting to the end of that very long keyword stuffed opening sentence. And also calumny. Calu-wut? OK, that's another name for defamation. Calumny is when the law admits proof of the alleged fact and defamation is when law does not admit this evidence. So one is fact the other.... alleged.
I be guessin' you can't just say "you're bein'.... calumnious" when its not proven. For it to be calumnious you need that slanderfication totally lawmented before you can honestly say you've been libelified (see all that, that's legalese, normal people won't understand it).
But its a crap word anyway.... calumny. It lacks the sexiness of SLANDER (if its to do with stuff that's spoken) or the punch of LIBEL (if its written down).
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes that the right to freedom of expression cannot be unlimited and must be subject to restrictions that recognize the "rights and reputations of others".
In our society it is the law of defamation that attempts to balance the interests of free speech and expression with the interests of the individual in his reputation. Although the law may differ from place to place it is regarded as being repressive of good journalism and honest online opinion rather than primarily concerned with respect for reputation.
A defamatory statement is one which excites feelings of hatred, ridicule or contempt, tends to lower the prestige of the person concerned or causes him to be shunned or avoided. It is traditionally said that these effects must be engendered in "right-thinking men", "people who think rationally and ethically" or "the general public". Mind you, not any specific public, but the general public.
It must be to a third person and may be made in writing, orally or even by conduct. So that means, if I were to say to you and you alone "you're a bastard who regularly beats your wife and kids" then it's not defamation, because no one else heard it.
Of course if I said that and it wasn't true you'd likely punch me in the face. Or if I said it and it was true, I'd still cop that face full of fist massage. Because that's what people like that do ya know.
The distinction between libel and slander is in the method of publication. The former being in a more permanent form than the latter, usually the written word as distinct from the spoken word. Most jurisdictions have now abolished any distinction between them as far as the civil law of defamation is concerned but no slander can be a criminal offense. Imprisonment is the ultimate sanction for criminal libel, and although it is a potentially strong kick in the bollocks, it is rarely invoked.
But the imposition of damages can be avoided where the defamation was unintentional, if those responsible make reparation by apology and correction. If the court finds that sufficient steps in that direction were taken, it can hold that such reparation is sufficient. Most jurisdictions have abolished the ability of the jury to punish the defendant by the award of punitive damages. As a result of the uncertainty of the ambit of the law, the different laws in each jurisdiction, and the possibility of heavy penalties, most writers and publishers usually take great precautions in order to escape any possible suit. Nowadays though with the ease of use and speed of the interwebs, people tend to say stuff before they think.
Generally speaking if the words are true in substance and in fact and the opinion expressed is fair, that will be your best defense against such an allegation.
But take all this with a grain of salt. If you're finding yourself in a bit of a pickle, this is just legal information, not legal advice. So find yourself professional legal representation if the need arises. But for goodness sake, don't say anything silly in the meantime and you might find yourself flying under the radar and not having to part with good money to a lawyer. Because they're greedy bastards. Or so me old nan says. So if there's any lawyerly types who got offended by that, take it up with her!