li·bel 1 /'lī-bəl/ n [Anglo-French, from Latin libellus, diminutive of liber book]
1: complaint (1)
— used esp. in admiralty and divorce cases
2 a: a defamatory statement or representation esp. in the form of written or printed words; specif: a false published statement that injures an individual's reputation (as in business) or otherwise exposes him or her to public contempt
b: the publication of such a libel
c: the crime or tort of publishing a libel see also single publication rule; new york times co. v. sullivan in the important cases section compare defamation, slander
◇ Although libel is defined under state case law or statute, the U.S. Supreme Court has enumerated some First Amendment protections that apply to matters of public concern. In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Court held that in order to recover damages a public person (as a celebrity or politician) who alleges libel (as by a newspaper) has to prove that “the statement was made with ‘actual malice’ — that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not” in order to recover damages. The Court has also held that the states cannot allow a private person to recover damages for libel against a media defendant without a showing of fault (as negligence) on the defendant's part. These protections do not apply to matters that are not of public concern (as an individual's credit report) and that are not published by a member of the mass media. A libel plaintiff must generally establish that the alleged libel refers to him or her specifically, that it was published to others, and that some injury (as to reputation) occurred that gives him or her a right to recover damages (as actual, general, presumed, or special damages). The defendant may plead and establish the truth of the statements as a defense. Criminal libel may have additional elements, as in tending to provoke a breach of peace or in blackening the memory of someone who is dead, and may not have to be published to someone other than the person libeled.
libel 2 vt -beled also -belled, -bel·ing, also, -bel·ling
1: to make or publish a libel against: to hurt the reputation of by libel
respondent's complaint alleged that he had been libeled by statements in a full-page advertisementNew York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964)
2: to proceed against in law by filing a libel (as against a ship or goods)
several French ships were libeled in Boston — J. K. Owens

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law. . 1996.

I noun accusation, aspersion, calumny, carmen famosum, censorious writing, defamation, defamatory writing, degradation, denigration, denunciation, disparagement, false accusation, false publication, false statement, falsehood, falseness, falsification, impairment of reputation, impeachment of virtue, injury to character, injury to one's reputation, invective, libellus famosus, malicious defamation, malicious falsehood, malicious publication, revilement, slur, smear, vilification, writing that discredits, written accusation associated concepts: actionable libel, libel per quod, libel per se, publication of libel, slander II verb accuse falsely, accuse in writing, asperse, besmirch, calumniate, censure, condemn, debase, decry, defame, defame by a published writing, degrade, denigrate, denounce, derogate, discredit, discredit in writing, disparage, expose to public contempt, impair one's reputation, incriminate, injure another's reputation, injure by a published writing, injure one's reputation, maliciously defame, malign, publish a falsehood, revile, ridicule, scandalize, slander, slur, smear, traduce, vilify associated concepts: absolute privilege, actionable libel, actual malice, criminal libel, defamation, defense of truth, disparagement, First Amendment, libel per quod, libel per se, privileged communication, publication, qualified privileged, republication, slander, trade libel III index aspersion, defamation, defame, denigrate, malign, slander, smear

Burton's Legal Thesaurus. . 2006

A written, printed, or published false and malicious statement that injures someone’s reputation; the written form of defamation.
libelous See also defamation, slander

The Essential Law Dictionary. — Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. . 2008.


Collins dictionary of law. . 2001.

An untruthful statement about a person, published in writing or through broadcast media, that injures the person's reputation or standing in the community. Libel is a tort (a type of civil wrong), and the injured person can bring a lawsuit against the person who made the false statement. Libel and slander (an untruthful statement that is spoken, but not published in writing or broadcast through the media), are both considered forms of defamation.
Category: Accidents & Injuries
Category: Small Claims Court & Lawsuits

Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary. . 2009.

(involving a written false statement, including statements transmitted on the Internet) and slander
(spoken, as opposed to written, false statements), are both forms of defamation.
1 A false and defamatory statement expressed in writing or in an electronic medium.
2 The first document or pleading filed in an admiralty action, which is now called a complaint.

Webster's New World Law Dictionary. . 2000.

Published defamation which tends to injure a person's reputation.

Short Dictionary of (mostly American) Legal Terms and Abbreviations.

   1) n. to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others. Libel is the written or broadcast form of defamation, distinguished from slander, which is oral defamation. It is a tort (civil wrong) making the person or entity (like a newspaper, magazine or political organization) open to a lawsuit for damages by the person who can prove the statement about him/her was a lie. Publication need only be to one person, but it must be a statement which claims to be fact and is not clearly identified as an opinion. While it is sometimes said that the person making the libelous statement must have been intentional and malicious, actually it need only be obvious that the statement would do harm and is untrue. Proof of malice, however, does allow a party defamed to sue for general damages for damage to reputation, while an inadvertent libel limits the damages to actual harm (such as loss of business) called special damages. Libel per se involves statements so vicious that malice is assumed and does not require a proof of intent to get an award of general damages. Libel against the reputation of a person who has died will allow surviving members of the family to bring an action for damages. Most states provide for a party defamed by a periodical to demand a published retraction. If the correction is made, then there is no right to file a lawsuit. Governmental bodies are supposedly immune to actions for libel on the basis that there could be no intent by a non-personal entity, and further, public records are exempt from claims of libel. However, there is at least one known case in which there was a financial settlement as well as a published correction when a state government newsletter incorrectly stated that a dentist had been disciplined for illegal conduct. The rules covering libel against a "public figure" (particularly a political or governmental person) are special, based on U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The key is that to uphold the right to express opinions or fair comment on public figures, the libel must be malicious to constitute grounds for a lawsuit for damages. Minor errors in reporting are not libel, such as saying Mrs. Jones was 55 when she was only 48, or getting an address or title incorrect.
   2) v. to broadcast or publish a written defamatory statement.

Law dictionary. . 2013.

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