I get emails from friends (and my younger brother) asking me if there is anything that he/she can do because someone posted something mean or untrue on Facebook or a blog entry. The question comes down to "Is there something you can do?" Hm... let me find my legal magic wand...
The Bill of Rights guarantees the rights of Americans by limiting the powers of the federal government. The 14th Amendment applied the Bill of Rights to state government. Rather than going into details about the Supreme Law of the Land, I'll focus on one area that affects everyone, even non-Americans. That's the FREEDOM OF SPEECH. It is adopted in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights in almost mirror image.
The First Amendment states in part, "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech. . ." What does this really mean? Well first off, it means that the law only prevents Congress from abridging the freedom of speech. Of course, today, it also applies to state government. While it looks like the law says the government can't make any law that limits the freedom of speech, we know today that it's not true. Over time, the Supreme Court has carved out exceptions on top of exceptions to the freedom of speech. Speech are either "protected", "unprotected" or "semi-protected". A speech that defames someone is not protected by the freedom of speech. The government can regulate or prohibit it.
Defamation is actionable (in court) when someone tells a lie about you to another person, and that lie caused harm to your reputation. This is a matter of state law, and each state has its own variation of this rule. To win, you have to prove to the court (or jury) that the "lie" is really a lie. That means that opinions (something that is unprovable) cannot be defamatory (even if its insulting). You ultimately have the burden of proving that something is not true. So let's say someone accuses you of stealing pencils from work. How do you prove that you didn't steal something that was never taken? It's almost impossible to prove a negative, so it's an uphill battle. You certainly do have a case if your former boss tells your prospective employer something untrue and that causes you to lose the job--but to prevail you have to prove that it was a lie (and not an opinion) to begin with.
There is an exception to the above rule. I remember it because my law professor called it the CLUB factors. If someone tells a lie that accuses you of committing a Crime, having a Loathsome disease, being Unchaste, or committing a Business wrongdoing, that person has the burden of proving that it's true. For example, if someone tells your boss that you have AIDS (assuming that you don't have it), and you sue that person for defaming you (and ruining your game), the burden is on that person to prove that it's true. If that person can't prove that it's true, you win. All you have to do is file the lawsuit alleging defamation. Again, some states have changed the default common law rule.
I won't go into details regarding the media because they have much more leeway. That is, they can be wrong when they report the news so long as it was an innocent mistake.
Although I'm discussing your rights here in an adversarial manner, I know that not everything calls for lawyers to resolve. As Judge Cardozo once said, even a dog can tell the difference between getting kicked and being tripped over. But certainly, see an attorney if you think you have something worth going into war over.
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very very informative... i really liked this post... now how about anonymous posts online on things that are not true that defame you and cause you to lose income?ReplyDelete
Interesting read, will definately pass this to my hubby and friends to read! ThanksReplyDelete
I like the picture of the book, my camera did well :PReplyDelete
Ahh, it's the internet. People who put them selves out there will obviously get a handful of "haters", if any. Especially if what they post is controversial. Trying to counter defamation is pretty hard, now that I think of it.ReplyDelete
I read somewhere that Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie were reported "divorced" by a British tabloid. They filed a lawsuit against them and won a LOT of money..of which they donated. Such nice people.. :D
Btw, what a professional looking ad! Cool banner :P
xx The Little Dust Princess
May I call you that?
I think you would have a grand old time sifting through the ancient laws that govern this land (UK).
Nice blog post. This is pretty well done said without using big vocabulary. ha ha! :) I always wondered what could you do about people who says things that are not true. Long story with me, but thank goodness its over. People just don't know when to quit it sometimes. But if I think about it, maybe they aren't worth my time so if taking them to court and going through the whole 9 yards then I might not risk it. o.O So time consuming unless its a real big thing, too bad I'm not a celebrity! ha ha, then maybe I will have a reason but otherwise, I do like the freedom of speech! It gives me a voice to speak my opinion. :DReplyDelete
Very interesting the more I read your blog the more I get interested and learn.ReplyDelete
Right on! I've never had anyone write me a hate note before but i can imagine how awful it is if what they are writing is untrue. Celebs take many cases like this to court for defamation and slander, so it's true that some justice can be found. Recently, they blamed Jillian Michaels for not being a true certified fitness trainer but she proved them wrong and whoever published the lie had to correct it.ReplyDelete
Likin the ad! :) Hope business is smooth :)
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I always thought it was interesting about proving a negative. I had this discussion in my Asian American studies class about how when the the Chinese men would bring their "wife" over to the US and Americans would accuse the "wife" of prostitution, so they would be sent back to China. Now, how would the said wife prove that she wasnt a prostitute. Kind if the whole proving a negative. Anyways, so which do you think is harder, proving a negative or proving the truth? I suppose it depends on what youre trying to prove right?ReplyDelete
I really like how your converted everything into laymen's terms. I'm definitely going to keep in mind about the CLUB factors!ReplyDelete
Good to know that there's always someone there to help you try to seek justice...ReplyDelete
Guess there's always a light at the end of every tunnel =)
This is good!! I never really took an interest in laws but this is interesting. I'll definitely continue to check your blog to learn more!ReplyDelete
i wanted to be a lawyer for a while... too much school. hehe :). is it hard?ReplyDelete
Unfortunately with the internet comes the freedom of speech because people feel braver hiding behind their computers/monitors when they make comments. Still hurts, but nothing a good ass kicking can't cure :)ReplyDelete
Just my thought...
Some people take 'Freedom of Speech' so literally to the point where other people's feet are stepped on. They are allowed their freedom of speech but I just wish they'd do it diplomatically instead of self-righteously.ReplyDelete
Very informative blog. So glad Steph blogged about this! Gonna take this opportunity to learn as much as I can from you. Thanks!
Burden of Proof. It's fantastic if you've commited a sneaky crime, you can leave it to the prosecutor to do all the work to prove you are at fault beyond a reasonable doubt. Media is always interesting to me, because you hear so many false information (especially about celebrity love-life), yet they get in trouble for it...and then continue to publish more "false information".ReplyDelete
It's terrible that such things happen to honest good people but I guess that's what happens when you become more of a success and they can't say the same for themselves.ReplyDelete
Wow you must get so many requests from family/friends asking you legal stuff all the time. "Is this legal??!!" Maybe you should really carry a law wand around with you everywhere. :) Great post! Very informative!! I love the ending "willing to go to war for"ReplyDelete
Very interesting read! I think that especially in regards to the internet, freedom of speech pretty much has free reign. The anonymous nature of the internet really makes it hard to file a lawsuit against someone in certain situations.ReplyDelete
So, by now, you've probably come to expect another comment from me telling you that my legal studies class is a killer. but I ACTUALLY KNEW WHAT YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT IN THIS POST!!ReplyDelete
...I remember because I messed up the question on a quiz and forgot that it can only be slander per se if what the person was saying wasn't the truth.
Haha, I love the CLUB abbreviation!ReplyDelete
But yeah, people write mean things over the internet cause they won't ever say it in real life to your face. Just ignore them... =/
first time to visit your blog and I've already learned quite a bit. =) my best friend plans on becomin a lawyer too so knowing more of things related to law brings me closer to her. thanks a lot Minh!ReplyDelete
yeah i often see a lot of people saying a lot of mean things but those mean comments should never be taken to heart. everyone has the right to say whatever they want but if you ignore them, they know that you're not affected so eventually they'll give up.
hhrrmmmm..... lawyers are REALLY REALLY smart. but this is so cool that you can just tell people about laws and amendmentss and just know this stuff. I feel like my head would explode. :)ReplyDelete
I'm actually studying this in school right now haha! So it's really cool to read your post on it. The part about the CLUB factor was very interesting, I'll definitely remember that (and the fact that it's in acronym form makes it much easier for me to remember!)ReplyDelete
Okay here is a question.ReplyDelete
I was accused of cheating on a ballot for president in school. I won the vote but they kicked me out because they said I cheated. I got kicked out of the club but later proven innocent. I was not allowed in office still.
Doesn't seen fair and I don't know what else to do.
A very informative post, will keep it in mind and perhaps to good use later on.ReplyDelete
I did have a situation earlier this year and was wondering what could be done. But of course with internet it's kind of hard to pin point who said what since people could very well just give fake information.
@Debberly Baby <3 I'm very excited to hear that I can help you study. Feel free to ask any question you want. I'm happy to help.ReplyDelete
@Old Cow Can you direct me to something to read?
@Puppet I'd be really upset if I were you. I'm not sure if there's anything you can do
@Everyone Thanks for visiting my blog!
This is a great post. I must use this useful information when it comes to people lying at my face when they clearly wanted confrontation and go vice versa on me.ReplyDelete
I learn new things every day from reading your blog. I'd just ignore the haters or block them from your site.ReplyDelete
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whoa...so many comments...nice...ReplyDelete
Thank you for the information! =) I do enjoy your writing style, easier for me to read handfuls of info on a blog rather than paragraphs in a textbook.ReplyDelete
ima new blogger here and got introduced by ur gf lol....after reading your post...you seem quite intelligent in knowing the law...i would like to ask you a few advice but i would really like to keep it more private...is that possible?
definitely an interesting read. waaay too much hateration (haha oh, mary j blige) going on these days. kind of sucks knowing that you can't REALLY do anything about it, but good to know the facts behind it nontheless.ReplyDelete
I remember having to take some law classes in college. It was pretty interesting, but confusing at the same time.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing this post! I'll definitely pass this onto my friend who is a victim of online bullying. Have you heard of "thedirty.com"? Someone posted untrue things of her on there and now rumors are spreading about her like wild fire =/ The mnemonic "CLUB" factors makes it easy to memorize the meaning behind it.
from Vancouver, Canada
It is disastrous when someone invents things about you and is counting on there. Once I rebaron email account and sent emails to my friends rare. It was embarrassingReplyDelete
Thanks for this post! Very informative! I have a few haters on my youtube account, but they don't bother me...lolReplyDelete
Very interesting...I learened a lot I didn't know before like CLUB. All I knew before was stuff pertaining to slander. Although I do think that with certain media sites like youtube and blogs, it's best to just delete the comment and move on. Unless the person is threatening you. But I think that by posting videos or blogs, you are opening yourself up to criticism/haters.ReplyDelete
It makes me happy that you break these terms down to make sense to a non lawyer... ya know? So is it true like they say in TV shows... if like a person creates a website on how to teach someone to rape someone... is that legal?ReplyDelete
You are a very clear writer. You get right to the point and make it very understandable for everyone. The postings are very informative and give everyone a basic understand so they know if they need to seek further help! BravoReplyDelete
Hmmm interesting blog... Luckily I have no reason to be "defamed" I ain't famous! lol how ignorant of me.ReplyDelete