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Globalization of U.S. Law on Press Freedom: “Actual Malice" as a Balancing Test for Libel
Unformatted Document Text:  GLOBALIZATION OF U.S. LAW ON PRESS FREEDOM: “ACTUAL MALICE” AS A BALANCING TEST FOR LIBEL What sets the United States apart from the rest of the world? At the same time, what makes it relevant to other nations in internationalizing the law of freedom? These questions deserve more discerning attention now than ever because Americans mark the fortieth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s revolutionary decision, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. 1 In the landmark libel case of 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court, for the first time in American constitutional history, held that the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and a free press protects anyone sued for defamatory criticism of public officials. To a large extent, the Sullivan case epitomizes Americans’ commitment to the rule-of-law principles and practices. And it has made the actual or perceived discrepancy between law on the books and law in action less wide now than in the past. U.S. defamation law stands in sharp contrast with those of other countries because in America freedom of expression is protected as a constitutional right, but reputation is not. 2 As one legal commentator noted, “American constitutional law is distinguished by its protection of defamers, rather than the defamed.” 3 To some libel plaintiffs in the United States, it seems that the media-friendly libel law is used by the news media as a “legal license to lie.” 4 Most extraordinary about the balancing of freedom of the press with libel law in the United States is the Sullivan Court’s repudiation of seditious libel as incompatible 1 376 U.S. 254 (1964). 2 For a recent, readable critique of U.S. libel and related law, see William K. Jones, Insult to Injury: Libel, Slander, and Invasions of Privacy (2003). 3 Oscar S. Gray, “Constitutional Protection of Freedom of Expression in the United States as It Affects Defamation Law, “ 38 American Journal of Comparative Law 463, 463 (1990). 4 Kyu Ho Youm, “Guest Viewpoint: Current Libel Law Leaves Press Free To be Irresponsible,” Register- Guard, July 2, 2004, at A13.

Authors: Youm, Kyu.
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GLOBALIZATION OF U.S. LAW ON PRESS FREEDOM:
“ACTUAL MALICE” AS A BALANCING TEST FOR LIBEL
What sets the United States apart from the rest of the world? At the same time,
what makes it relevant to other nations in internationalizing the law of freedom? These
questions deserve more discerning attention now than ever because Americans mark the
fortieth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s revolutionary decision, New York Times
Co. v. Sullivan.
1
In the landmark libel case of 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court, for the first
time in American constitutional history, held that the First Amendment’s guarantee of
free speech and a free press protects anyone sued for defamatory criticism of public
officials. To a large extent, the Sullivan case epitomizes Americans’ commitment to the
rule-of-law principles and practices. And it has made the actual or perceived discrepancy
between law on the books and law in action less wide now than in the past.
U.S. defamation law stands in sharp contrast with those of other countries because
in America freedom of expression is protected as a constitutional right, but reputation is
not.
2
As one legal commentator noted, “American constitutional law is distinguished by
its protection of defamers, rather than the defamed.”
3
To some libel plaintiffs in the
United States, it seems that the media-friendly libel law is used by the news media as a
“legal license to lie.”
4
Most extraordinary about the balancing of freedom of the press with libel law in
the United States is the Sullivan Court’s repudiation of seditious libel as incompatible
1
376 U.S. 254 (1964).
2
For a recent, readable critique of U.S. libel and related law, see William K. Jones, Insult to Injury: Libel,
Slander, and Invasions of Privacy (2003).
3
Oscar S. Gray, “Constitutional Protection of Freedom of Expression in the United States as It Affects
Defamation Law, “ 38 American Journal of Comparative Law 463, 463 (1990).
4
Kyu Ho Youm, “Guest Viewpoint: Current Libel Law Leaves Press Free To be Irresponsible,” Register-
Guard, July 2, 2004, at A13.


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