Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of
articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online. The
origins of United States defamation law pre-date the American
Revolution; one famous 1734 case involving John Peter Zenger
established some precedent that the truth should be an absolute
defense against libel charges. (Previous English defamation law had
not provided this guarantee.) Though the First Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution was designed to protect freedom of the press, for
most of the history of the United States, the Supreme Court
neglected to use it to rule on libel cases. This left libel laws,
based upon the traditional common law of defamation inherited from
the English legal system, mixed across the states. The 1964 case
New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, however, dramatically changed the
nature of libel law in the United States by establishing that
public officials could win a suit for libel only if they could
demonstrate publishers' "knowledge that the information was false"
or that it was published "with reckless disregard of whether it was
false or not."
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