The Law: Who Is a Public Figure?

In matters of libel, public figures are not as other mortals, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a series of cases since 1964, the court has ruled that a public figure cannot collect libel damages without proving that "actual malice" was involved in the publishing of inaccurate and defamatory material. Actual malice, said the court, means publishing with knowledge that a statement is false or with "reckless disregard" of whether it is false or not. The average person, on the other hand, must show only that the publisher of such material was guilty of "some type of fault," as would...

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