The balance between one person’s right to freedom of expression and the right of another person to protect one’s integrity is often fragile. It is difficult to correctly state the personal comments are in order and which go against the rule of diffamation. The word diffamation has as many meanings as diffamation has. It is an all-inclusive term which includes any declaration which damages the name or reputation of someone else. Defamatory comments may be written or oral. Written and released defamation is referred to as diffamation in corporate law and the general practice of law. On the other hand, upsetting statement that is delivered orally is called slander. Defamation is majorly concerned with how people or business organizations view each other. Defamation accounts can be made intentionally or unintentionally. However, majority of the cases that involve defamatory statements especially in the business sector are treated as intentional because they always affect an organization that has been referred to negatively. In most countries, defamation is not considered as a crime, but as a civil wrong. The sufferer of a defamatory statement can sue the individual or the group that made the statements.
There have been arguments about the right criteria to use determine what kind of a statement amounts to defamation. Some people maintain that any negative report concerning another person or group of people ought to be treated as defamation. The accounts can include bitter verbal exchanges between two groups or individuals in which one party makes hurtful utterances against the other. However, some law experts reiterate that not all negative or spiteful utterances should be handled as defamation. The professionals argue that the most significant aspect that that should be put in consideration is the intention of making the accounts as well as the probable impacts on the victim. Only statements that seem to aim at achieving a particular intention that will negatively affect the targeted party and benefit the individual making the utterances should be handled as defamation. Defamation is common in the business sector because some business groups use it as a competition strategy to beat their close competitors. Under the the business law, such strategies amount to unfair competition among organisations. When one business applies similar techniques to edge out its competitor or competitors, the affected groups are obligated by the law to take the necessary legal actions. There are several instances in which companies have engaged in law suits against their competitors for using means that harm their reputations. In most cases, media groups are involved in cases that involve damage of reputations between business groups. Business might use the media to spread propaganda against their major competitors. When such cases emerge, the legal battle is normally between the affected company and the media group because it is normally not clear on who is behind the actions of the media house (Miles and Dowler 73).
Defamation is treated as a serious concern in business because reputation is viewed as an essential asset for a corporate organization. For any company, a damaged reputation could mean serious hardships or even closure of the business. When a business makes direct statements that will have serious consequences on another organization, it will be held responsible for the losses incurred by the affected company. However, concerns arise when it comes to determine the level of truth behind the statements. Some people assert that the utterances must not be categorised as defamation if they contain some realities. Such people are of the opinion that only false statements without tangible proof should be treated as defamation. A case in which statements that were considered as defamatory turned out to benefit the general public was in 1996 when allegations about presence of harmful microorganisms in Odwalla juice. At the first, the company sued its competitors for trying to harm its reputation. However, statements were proved to be true when E.coli happened in the United States and other parts of the world where the juice was consumed. The case is commonly used as a reference point for person that believe only false statements should be considered as offence (Rolph 102).
Defamation is treated differently from one country to another and between states within a country. The differences are as a result of differences in interpretation of the defamation law between nations. In some parts of the world, it is taken as a minor issue that should not be handled with gravity. In other regions, defamation is classified as a serious offense because of their impacts in business and politics. Despite the variations in the applicability of the law across stets, there are common principles. A statement is believed to be defamatory under the law if it is published, injurious, false, and unprivileged. A defamatory account can be in form of a gesture, a picture, a publication, or a spoken statement. Published statements are taken with seriousness than other forms because the effects are stern when they are in a formula that lasts for long. In the courts of law as well as the insurance companies, libel are considered as more harmful than slander. In defamation law, a published statement implies that a third party, other than the person who made the allegation or the party the statement was about heard or saw it. Publication of a defamatory statement does not necessarily mean that it was printed in a book. An utterance is considered to be published when other people can access it through television, radio, speeches, print media, or the social media platforms. Words are only taken as defamatory when there is proof that they are false. If the communication contains elements of truth, it is not deliberated as damaging. Most opinions fail to count as defamation because they cannot be objectively false. Negative opinions of consumers do not amount to be defamation because there is no way of demonstrating that they are false (MacIntyre 123). The fact that defamation law especially in business is concerned with taking care of injuries to character. For expressions to qualify as defamation under the business law, it must be injurious. A business entity that sues another for damage of its image ought to have tangible evidence concerning the effects of the statement on its operations. The proof can be demonstration of how the business lost customers or employees as a result of what was said against it. An offending expression is treated as a practice of defamation if it is unprivileged. The gives room to excuse some people from defamation charges even if they make utterances that can be proved false. Such situations include some witnesses who give false statements in the court of law and are not punished because the action of testifying in a trial is privileged.
In the contemporary business world, cases of harming reputations of competitors are mostly experienced via the social media. The channel through which the statements got to the general public determines the outcomes of the expressions on the operations of the targeted party. However, it has been proved that social media platforms are the most prevalent channels where defamation of character happens. Considering the number of people who have access to dissimilar social media platforms, it is the most preferred space for business organizations to engage in their unfair competition acts (Baker 76). It can be done through formulation of videos, audio clips, pictures, or written statements that go viral across the world. In most cases, it is not possible for the offended factions to counter or contain the spread of the harmful information about them and the consequences are normally perilous.
One of the factors that affect proper implementation of defamation law is the thin line between the right for freedom of speech and the right for protection of reputation. A person or group of people can make damaging expressions about a business organization and evade charges of defamation on the grounds of right for freedom of speech. On the other hand, a company can sue its competitor or individuals for making speeches that hurt its image on the basis of the right to protect one’s image. There is need to shed more light on the laws and regulations pertaining to defamation because people and organizations take advantage of the varied interpretations of the law to hurt other organizations’ reputations.
Baker, Roy. Defamation Law and Social Attitudes: Ordinary Unreasonable People. Edward Elgar Pub, 2012.
MacIntyre, Ewan. Business Law. Pearson Education, 2012.
Miles, Christine, and Warwick J. Dowler. A Guide to Business Law. Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia Limited, 2012.
Rolph, David. Reputation, Celebrity and Defamation Law. Routledge, 2016.