ArticlesVolume 39, No. 4 (2016)

“Defamation Live”: The Confusing Legal Landscape of Republication in Live Broadcasting

Abstract

Live, broadcast defamation is a murky area of law garnering surprisingly scant scholarly attention. But because libel law typically creates republication liability for broadcasters who air defamatory statements uttered by third parties—even when news organizations have no idea what the third parties are about to say— broadcasters covering live, breaking news events face significant risks of liability for remarks by people at the scene. This Article analyzes the case law of live and spontaneous broadcast defamation, explores the statutory backdrop in such cases and, ultimately, proposes a solution in the form of a “breaking news doctrine” that relieves broadcasters of republication liability if five prerequisites are satisfied.