Copyright & Content Evaluation

What is the difference between a private and public figure in libel?

A private figure is an individual who is not in the public eye. A public figure is someone in the public eye who has actively sought to influence the resolution of a matter of public interest. There are varying degrees of public figures, which can also play a role.

If you make a claim about a private figure in your book and the individual wanted to charge you with libel, they would only have to prove ‘negligence’, or that a ‘reasonable’ person would not have published the statements. If you are discussing a public figure, or a person in the public's interest, they must prove negligence and ‘malice’, or intent to harm or knowledge that the statements were false, which is slightly more difficult to prove.