The law of defamation consists of two separate torts: libel and slander.
The general distinction between libel and slander is that libel is based on the publication of a written communication, a communication that embodies the words in a physical form, or some other means of communication having the likely harmful qualities of defamatory printed words.
Slander is based on the publication of defamatory matter by spoken words, transitory gestures, or any form of communication that is not sufficient for libel.
Every person has a right to remain free of the harm caused by another's writings, utterances, or other communications that are false.
The minimum elements of a defamation action that the plaintiff must allege and prove are as follows:
- that the defendant made a defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff,
- that the statement was false, and
- that the statement was published to a third person causing injury to the plaintiff.
An essential element of any defamation claim is that the alleged defamatory communication must be false. Publication is also an essential element of a defamation action. Publication is the communication of the defamatory matter to a person or persons other than the one claiming to have been defamed.