Do libel laws cause newspapers and publishers to kill stories that might land them in a libel suit, even if it can be defended in court? Court cases cost money and newspapers are businesses who want to make money. Same with book publishers. But what about our individual right for a reputation? Do we have a right to a reputation? Do we have an expectation that we can protect and defend our reputations? This debate happened in 1998, but is interesting to here the two libertarian sides of this coin. How might the pros and cons of libel law change in view of the free and open Internet? Is there no such thing as bad publicity? Is free speech absolute? Do we have to solve this problem in courts with punitive damages, or by lower arbitrators who can restore the truth of a reputation without punitive damages? Are government officials held to a higher standard, and should it be harder for them to bring libel suits? Do libel laws inadvertently stifle free speech because of the fear and/or unwillingness to litigate libel suits? Can we really say this is “settled” policy? Is it possible for speech to violate rights? What might our founders have thought of this?
The video below is long, but worth watching. It asks many of these questions and both sides attempt to answer them. What are your thoughts on the discussion? Are our libel laws violations of the first amendment? Is there a better alternative to the system we have? Is it better to let libel stand and have the victim defend it in the court of public opinion? Can a court truly restore reputation, which is merely public opinion?