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Libel & Privacy Invasion

Student journalists can get in trouble when they carelessly collect and/or publish extremely private details or false information about an individual or entity that seriously harms their reputation. Knowing the basics of defamation law, which includes both libel (written defamation) and slander (spoken defamation), and invasion of privacy law can help you avoid such trouble.


Invasion of Privacy

  • SPLC Legal Brief: Invasion of Privacy Law. A concise summary of invasion of privacy law.

  • Naming Names: Identifying Minors. A discussion of the legal and ethical issues concerning publishing minor names and photos in student media.

  • FERPA and Student Confidentiality. Learn how to navigate federal student privacy law and gain access to important public documents.

  • Saying 'Yes'. What the law says about minors' ability to consent -- without parents' permission -- to stories that could invade their privacy or damage their reputation.

  • Sample Release/Consent Form for Minors. A sample written agreement for use by student media to obtain a minor's consent for the non-commercial use of material that might otherwise be deemed private. The form is intended primarily for use by high school-aged students.

  • Special Delivery. A legal guide to handling and publishing material that has (possibly) been illegally obtained and provided by third-parties.

  • Surveying the Law. A legal guide and practical guide for student media wanting to conduct and publish news and opinion surveys on campus.

General Liability Issues

Other Resources

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has published a number of excellent resources on libel and invasion of privacy, including:

SPLC Media Law Presentations

The PowerPoint presentations below, produced by the Student Press Law Center's legal staff, are intended for classroom or workshop use and provide students (and their advisers) with an introductory, practical guide for understanding and avoiding the libel and privacy problems most often confronted by high school student media. Each is accompanied by a set of Teachers' Presentation Notes in PDF-format that includes slide images and a presentation script.

  • Invasion of Privacy Law: This presentation helps student journalists understand and identify where the legal lines are drawn when gathering and publishing information that might be considered private. It examines each of the four different types of invasion of privacy and includes a number of true-to-life examples that will help reporters and photographers steer clear of the most common privacy trouble spots. (Apx. 45 minutes)(15 MB)
  • Libel Law: At or near the top of the list of legal topics any journalist needs to understand is libel. This presentation provides student journalists with a straightforward guide to understanding and identifying libel. It includes a number of true-to-life examples and ends with a list of practical suggestions that will help student journalists avoid common libel traps. (Apx. 45 minutes)(5.4 MB)
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