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Definition of Actual malice

Actual malice Definition from Law Dictionaries & Glossaries
The 'Lectric Law Library
MALICE, ACTUAL - Publication of defamatory material "with knowledge that it was false or reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." The term originated in a landmark 1964 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that 'public officials' could not recover damages from defamatory material unless they established that it was published with actual malice. As opposed to "legal" or "common law malice", which connotes ill will, spite, etc.

Actual malice involves making a statement with "knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard as to truth or falsity." Masson, 501 U.S. at 511. See also Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc., 491 U.S. 657; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 244 (1986); New York Times, 376 U.S. at 279-280. A public figure must show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant "in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his [statements] or acted with a high degree of awareness of . . . probable falsity." Masson, 501 U.S. at 510 (quoting St. Amant v. Thompson, 390 U.S. 727, 731 (1968); Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 64, 74 (1964)) (internal quotations omitted).

The First Amendment requires a plaintiff who is a public figure to demonstrate actual malice by clear and convincing evidence. Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 111 S. Ct. 2419, 2429 (1991). "The question whether the evidence in the record in a defamation case is sufficient to support a finding of actual malice is a question of law." Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1, 17 (1990) (quoting Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc. v. Connaughton, 491 U.S. 657, 685 (1989)).

Courtesy of the 'Lectric Law Library.
Actual malice Definition from Encyclopedia Dictionaries & Glossaries
English Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia
Actual malice in United States law is a condition required to establish libel against public officials or public figures and is defined as "knowledge that the information was false" or that it was published "with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." Reckless disregard does not encompass mere neglect in following professional standards of fact checking. The publisher must entertain actual doubt as to the statement's truth. This is the definition in only the United States and came from the landmark 1964 lawsuit New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which ruled that public officials needed to prove actual malice in order to recover damages for libel.

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