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In United States law, public figure is a term applied in the context of defamation actions libel and slander as well as invasion of privacy A public figure such as a politician, celebrity, or business leader cannot base a lawsuit on incorrect harmful statements unless there is proof that the writer or publisher acted with actual malice knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth The burden of proof in defamation actions is higher in the case of a public figure
The controlling precedent in the United States was set in 1964 by the United States Supreme Court in New York Times Co v Sullivan It is considered a key decision in supporting the First Amendment and freedom of the press
A fairly high threshold of public activity is necessary to elevate people to public figure status Typically, they must either be:
- a public figure, either a public official or any other person pervasively involved in public affairs, or
- a limited purpose public figure, meaning those who have "thrust themselves to the forefront of particular public controversies in order to influence the resolution of the issues involved" A "particularized determination" is required to decide whether a person is a limited purpose public figure, which can be variously interpreted:
A person can become an "involuntary public figure" as the result of publicity, even though that person did not want or invite the public attention For example, people accused of high profile crimes may be unable to pursue actions for defamation even after their innocence is established
A person can also become a "limited public figure" by engaging in actions which generate publicity within a narrow area of interest For example, Terry Rakolta were fair comments within the confines of her public conduct protected by Ms Rakolta's status as a "limited public figure"
- 1 See also
- 2 References
- 3 Further reading
- 4 External links
- Gertz v Robert Welch, Inc 1974
- Curtis Publishing Co v Butts 1967
- Associated Press v Walker 1967
- Hustler Magazine v Falwell 1988
- ^ Shiffrin, Steven H 2006 The First Amendment St Paul, MN: Thomson/ West pp 58–60 ISBN 978-0-314-16256-4
- ^ Aaron Larson: Defamation, Libel and Slander Law Expertlawcom, August 2003
- ^ "Associated Press v Walker, 388 US 130 1967" what-when-howcom Retrieved 2016-09-28
- Adams, Kate M "Redefining Public Officials and Public Figures: A Washington State Primer" Archive Seattle University Law Review Seattle University School of Law Vol 23:1155-2000 p 1155-1187
- Who is a public figure Bloggers' FAQ - Online Defamation Law, Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Legal definition of public figure via lectlaw
- List of public figures -
- Dotinga, Randy November 9, 2005 Are You a 'Public Figure' Wired
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