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The crime involving a threat for purposes of compelling a person to do an act against his or her will, or for purposes of taking the person's money or property.

The term blackmail originally denoted a payment made by English persons residing along the border of Scotland to influential Scottish chieftains in exchange for protection from thieves and marauders.

In blackmail the threat might consist of physical injury to the threatened person or to someone loved by that person, or injury to a person's reputation. In some cases the victim is told that an illegal act he or she had previously committed will be exposed if the victim fails to comply with the demand.

Although blackmail is generally synonymous with Extortion, some states distinguish the offenses by requiring that the former be in writing.

Blackmail is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both.




n. the crime of threatening to reveal embarrassing, disgraceful or damaging facts (or rumors) about a person to the public, family, spouse or associates unless paid off to not carry out the threat. It is one form of extortion (which may include other threats such as physical harm or damage to property). (See: extortion)


noun exaction, extortion, hush money, illegal compulsion, oppressive exaction, protection, ransom, shakedown, taking by undue exercise of power
See also: coercion, compel, extort, extortion, graft, hush money, threaten


in English law, a person is guilty of blackmail if, with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, he makes any unwarranted demand with menaces and for this purpose menaces are unwarranted unless the person making it does so in the belief that he had reasonable grounds for making the demand and that the use of menaces is a proper means of reinforcing the demand. For Scotland, see EXTORTION.
References in periodicals archive ?
Permitting blackmail will encourage B to threaten a disclosure he would not make if blackmail were illegal.
By definition, permitting opportunistic blackmail does not cause any investment of resources, wasteful or otherwise, into acquiring information for blackmail purposes.
The Love of Gossip: Why a Blackmail Ban Produces Excessive Disclosure
Assuming perfect enforcement, the blackmail ban prevents the subject of information--the blackmail victim--from paying to preserve its secrecy.
Absent consideration of norms, I assume that this analysis is correct in concluding that the ban on blackmail will produce excessive disclosure.
Asymmetric Transaction Costs: Why a Lawful Blackmail Market Would Produce Excessive Secrecy
After B discovers V's secret, B can negotiate with V for a blackmail (secrecy) contract,(100) or with TP for a disclosure contract.
But a free market in blackmail would actually produce excessive secrecy.
In the blackmail scenario, there are likely to be more TPS than Vs.
106) Reputation is one solution, but in the context of opportunistic blackmail B is not likely to have a reputation as a person who always names a fair price for his information.
But while a contractual solution is effective in situations where TP's use of the information is easy to define and verify, much blackmail information concerns embarrassing facts that are useful merely by knowing of their existence.
Note that where B knows a secret of V-the blackmail situation--the law does not prohibit B from selling that secret to TP.