Defamation Doesn’t Mean Name Calling

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If defamation is like name calling, can you defame someone if you never actually mention his name?

Think you have a bad mother-in-law? Neil Schon, drummer for 80s band Journey has filed a lawsuit against his now ex-mother-in-law for defamation claiming that she trashed him online by calling him a deadbeat dad. The ex-monster-in-law denies the claims, stating that she never mentioned him by name. So? All you have to do to prove a claim for defamation is to show that someone made a false statement of fact about you that harmed your reputation or ability to earn a living, and so long as the person about whom you’re speaking can be identified – a name does not need to be used.

For example, if I talk about the founder of Apple, the man who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or the drummer of Journey, you’ll know who I mean. Unless you’re under 40. Then none of those (except maybe Steve Jobs) will mean anything to you. But if you’re blogging as the under 40 crowd is wont to do, either make only true statements of fact, be clear that you’re giving an opinion, or spend less time blogging and more time studying history – and classic rock.

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