Public Person vs Private

Public Person vs Private

Postby Darksider » September 28th 2009, 8:52am

Are people like Jim Skelton, Michael Davis, the technical advisor for Invicta or any TV host or person appearing on public or private airwaves "Public figures", and not private ones?


Public Figure

A liberal rule applies to this category: To prevail in a libel case against you, in addition to showing that your statement is untrue and caused significant harm, a public figure must also prove "malice" -- that you acted in reckless disregard to the facts known to you and with intent to harm.

Obviously, because of this stipulation, you enjoy considerable protection when it comes to public personages, since proving malice (intent to harm) places a heavy burden on the prosecution.

Who are these public people? The status of "public official" is relatively easy to determine from public records. The trick comes in determining who falls into the category of "public figure."


A "general purpose public figure" is someone who enjoys social prominence. Entertainers are in this category.





As an FYI to participants of any and all forums. You are free to comment with wide latitude about "public figures" including tv personalities, movie stars etc. Now you cannot call them a killer just because you do not like them, but they are held to a higher standard as far as Libel & slander go.

Also as an FYI, forum owners have your personal information entrusted to them. Imagine that a forum owner of as an example a Weasel forum does not like your comments about your position on fur coats. Now imagine that forum owner using the information entrusted to him to run background checks on you or obtain your personal information. You never have thought about that have you?

What if the information they find suggests that although you espouse position sof Christian values, you are really a muslim. Or instead of being married you are really not, just living in sin. What if you are Gay and are still in the closet? Imagine that the forum owner(s) threaten to out you as Gay to that military forum you belong to, or that you really smoke a pipe to the cigar forum members. Now imagine they decide to email that information to thousands of people world wide.

Well if you are a public figure and that happens to you, not much you can do. On the other hand, if you are joe blow public, get a good lawyer and learn the lesson that you should think twice before giving that on-line blog/fora your real name or anything else.




A "general purpose public figure" is someone who enjoys social prominence. Entertainers are in this category.


Examples of libel

Libelous (when false):

Charging someone with being a communist (in 1959)
Calling an attorney a "crook"
Describing a woman as a call girl
Accusing a minister of unethical conduct
Accusing a father of violating the confidence of son


Not-libelous:

Calling a political foe a "thief" and "liar" in chance encounter (because hyperbole in context)
Calling a TV show participant a "local loser," "chicken butt" and "big skank"
Calling someone a "bitch" or a "son of a bitch"
Changing product code name from "Carl Sagan" to "Butt Head Astronomer"


TV hosts (personalities) such as Ellen, Leno or even someone selling things in an informercial are considered Public Figures by the law. I am not one, and you are not one either for the great majority of you.

On line defamation is the same as doing so in the mainstream media.


What is "Libel Per Se"?

When libel is clear on its face, without the need for any explanatory matter, it is called libel per se. The following are often found to be libelous per se:

A statement that falsely:

Charges any person with crime, or with having been indicted, convicted, or punished for crime;
Imputes in him the present existence of an infectious, contagious, or loathsome disease;
Tends directly to injure him in respect to his office, profession, trade or business, either by imputing to him general disqualification in those respects that the office or other occupation peculiarly requires, or by imputing something with reference to his office, profession, trade, or business that has a natural tendency to lessen its profits;
Imputes to him impotence or a want of chastity.


What is a "false light" claim?

Some states allow people to sue for damages that arise when others place them in a false light. Information presented in a "false light" is portrayed as factual, but creates a false impression about the plaintiff (i.e., a photograph of plaintiffs in an article about sexual abuse, because it creates the impression that the depicted persons are victims of sexual abuse). False light claims are subject to the constitutional protections discussed above.




Public Figure

A liberal rule applies to this category: To prevail in a libel case against you, in addition to showing that your statement is untrue and caused significant harm, a public figure must also prove "malice" -- that you acted in reckless disregard to the facts known to you and with intent to harm.

Obviously, because of this stipulation, you enjoy considerable protection when it comes to public personages, since proving malice (intent to harm) places a heavy burden on the prosecution.

Who are these public people? The status of "public official" is relatively easy to determine from public records. The trick comes in determining who falls into the category of "public figure."


A "general purpose public figure" is someone who enjoys social prominence. Entertainers are in this category.





On the other hand, when a group of people, say the owners of a quilting forum and their staff, in an attempt to stop someone from taking pokes at them on other forums pay to access your private information at one of the many sites that sell that for profit. Then they try to threaten you because they erroneously think they have something on you, that is a civil conspiracy as defined by law. Now when they send out your information in an email blast, wrong information, correct information, does not realy matter, that is invasion of privacy. And if they go one step further, and continue to make false alegations and send that out also as fact or imply it as fact, that is libel.

In law, defamation–also called calumny, libel (for written words), slander (for spoken words), and vilification–is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. It is usually, but not always, a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).



In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism. Related to defamation is public disclosure of private facts, which arises where one person reveals information that is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. "Unlike [with] libel, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy."

False light laws are "intended primarily to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being." If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading, then a tort of false light might have occurred.
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