Privileges and Defenses

Ohio courts recognize a number of privileges and defenses in the context of defamation actions, including substantial truth, the opinion and fair comment privileges, and the fair report privilege.

The Ohio Supreme Court has declined to recognize the neutral reportage privilege. The CMLP could identify no Ohio cases concerning the wire service defense.

There also is an important provision under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that may protect you if a third party -– not you or your employee or someone acting under your direction –- posts something on your blog or website that is defamatory. We cover this protection in more detail in the section on Publishing the Statements and Content of Others.

Fair Report Privilege

Ohio recognizes the fair report privilege, which is codified in two statutes, Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2317.04 and 2317.05.

Ohio Rev. Code § 2317.04 provides a privilege to accurate reports of state and local legislative and executive proceedings, as well reports reproducing the contents of any bill, ordinance, report, resolution, bulletin, notice, petition, or other document presented, filed, or issued in such a proceeding. A plaintiff can defeat this privilege by showing that the defendant acted with actual malice.
Ohio Rev. Code § 2317.05 provides a privilege to accurate reports of the return of any indictment, the issuance of a warrant, the arrest of any person accused of a crime, and the filing of any affidavit, pleading, or other document in a civil or criminal court case, as well as fair an impartial reports of the contents of these documents. A plaintiff can defeat this privilege by showing that the defendant (1) acted with actual malice, (2) failed to publish a reasonable written explanation or contradiction offered by the plaintiff, or (3) failed to publish, upon request of the plaintiff, the subsequent determination the lawsuit or case.

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