“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
-Attributed to Albert Einstein1
Defamation law is notoriously complicated—we have made it as simple and accessible as possible, but this is a complex subject. There are exceptions to almost every rule and many important questions don’t have definitive answers. The law is often ambiguous: the court will interpret the law based on context and prior case law and it can be very hard to guess how they will rule on any given question.
The law varies significantly from state to state: don’t assume that what is true in one state is true in yours. We have taken the liberty of discussing the details of Washington law because we happen to live in Washington. We have focused exclusively on American law: defamation is treated very differently in many countries, including most of Europe.
Some aspects of the law may seem nonsensical or unjust to you. You may be right, but cases are decided by what the law actually says, not what it ought to say.