District of Columbia courts recognize a number of privileges and defenses in the context of defamation actions, including the wire service defense, the fair report privilege, the opinion and fair comment privileges, and substantial truth.
It is not clear whether the D.C. courts recognize the neutral reportage privilege.
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
D.C. courts recognize the the fair report privilege. The privilege is applied broadly to statements made during proceedings before any court, agency, executive body, legislative body, and to reports of any official proceeding or action taken by a government officer or agency.
Wire Service Defense
D.C. recognizes the wire service defense, which precludes defamation liability for speakers who republish content from wire services. D.C. also recognizes the reverse of the standard wire service defense: wire services may rely on content from reputable newspapers without being held negligent. See Winn v. UPI, 938 F.Supp. 39 (D.D.C. 1996).
Neutral Reportage Privilege
District of Columbia courts have not ruled definitively on the availability of the neutral reportage privilege.