Wire Service Defense

If you republish a news item from a "reputable news service," you may be covered by a privilege called the "wire service defense." This defense to a defamation claim is distinct from the immunity provisions in the section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (commonly referred to as CDA 230 immunity), which may also cover if you republish content from a third-party. See the section on Publishing the Statements and Content of Others for more information.

Generally speaking, in states that recognize the wire service defense, it will apply if:

  1. You republish a news item from a reputable news agency;

  2. You did not know the information was false;

  3. The news item on its face does not indicate any reason to doubt its veracity; and

  4. You do not substantially alter the news items when republishing it.

In the Internet context, it is not clear how wide a net is cast by the term "reputable news agency." Traditional wire services such as the Associated Press and United Press International would likely be covered, but courts have not yet looked at the wire-service defense in light of RSS feeds and similar distribution tools.

Keep in mind that rewriting news items in a blog format will limit your ability to invoke the wire service defense. When you choose to modify and comment on the material, you will likely lose the ability to assert this defense.

Not all states recognize the wire service defense, so you should consult your state defamation section of this legal guide for more information.


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