Defenses

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There are significant defenses to a defamation claim, and thus you should seek experienced counsel if you plan to advance any legal claim to protect your name or reputation. Here are some of the primary defenses:

Statute of Limitations.  There is a very short, one years statute of limitations period to both obtain counsel and fie suit.  If, for example, you were defamed in a book, you have one year from the date of the first edition of said book, to bring suit, even if the defamatory statement was included in subsequent publications of the book.

Truth. It is an absolute defense to a claim for defamation (not invasion of privacy) if the defendant can prove that the statement he was true. This is where you need experienced counsel to prove to a judge or jury exactly why the statement or statements at issue were false.

Justification. A person may be justified in making a false statement about you if the statement was made innocently and for an important public purpose, such as reporting a crime, and the privilege is qualified, meaning, it is not absolute. No privilege will exist if the defendant acted with malice. Malice is defined a the intentional or reckless disregard for the truth. 

Free Speech. People have a first amendment right to expression absent government regulation in most instance. The courts must grapple with what constitutes “government” restriction of rights in the context of a civil defamation claim. This much is clear: no protection exists for statements known to be false at the time of publication.

Public Figure. There is a higher burden of proof to show defamation where the person bringing the action is a public figure (movie stars, athletes playing in national leagues, politicians, certain business owners who advertise regularly). A public figure must show actual malice on the part of the defendant. 

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law protects an individual from liability for comments posted by others on his site, blog, web forum, or re-posts of information received through an RSS feed. 

A Qualified Privilege. There are certain qualified privileges that can protect a person from liability for defamation of character. However, as the name implies, a “qualified” or “conditional” privilege is not absolute. There are instances where liability will exist.

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