What Is the Difference Between Slander & Defamation of Character?

By Paul Cartmell
State laws vary little on the terms of slander and defamation

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Defamation of character is a term encompassing the majority of forms of libel and slander, while slander is based in a false statements made verbally against a person or organization. When defamation of character is proven, a monetary award is often made by the court.

Defamation

Defamation of character is a premeditated written, visual or spoken attack on the reputation of an organization or person. Defamation of character can often bring in both the realms of slander and libel, any claim made in a court for defamation of character must prove the character of the individual or organization has been damaged by the attack. Defamation of character must be a false statement of fact, instead of being an offensive or insulting remark made with no basis in fact or perceived fact. Any statement that is made in any form of media that cannot be proven to be fact or fiction cannot be claimed against in a court of law, according to the Media Law Research Center.

Slander

The term slander generally refers to an oral statement or gesture made against an individual or organization that questions the integrity, honesty or personal character of the individual or group. Slander differs from libel in the fact that libel is usually a statement or visual depiction, any type of slander or libel must have been published to at least one other person and concern the plaintiff, the Media Law Research Center reports.

Awards

Where it is proven in a court of law that an individual or organization has been the subject of defamation of character or slander, a jury award or monetary award is usually made from the defendant to the plaintiff. In the U.S. claims made to a court regarding defamation of character and slander are made under state law under the rights awarded by the U.S. Constitution and decisions made by the Supreme Court. In the majority of states in the U.S., the statute of limitations for slander is shorter than those for libel, the Media Law Research Center reports.

Malice

Actual malice is a legal term used in cases where public figures, such as governmental officials, celebrities and other well-known people must prove a statement was made to have a negative impact on their career or personal life. Actual malice shows that a statement was made about a person in the public eye without any regard for the truth or was made with no basis in fact. In contrast, private citizens are required only to prove that a defendant acted in a negligent manner when making a statement.

About the Author

Paul Cartmell began his career as a writer for documentaries and fictional films in the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s. Working in documentary journalism, Cartmell wrote about a wide variety of subjects including racism in professional sports. Cartmell attended the University of Lincoln and London Metropolitan University, gaining degrees in journalism and film studies.