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Shor v. Billingsley

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Billingsley (Defendant), ad-libbed a defamatory statement about the Plaintiff, Shor (Plaintiff) on a radio broadcast. Plaintiff brought a defamation suit.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Defamation broadcast on the radio is actionable as either libel or slander, regardless of whether it is read from a script or ad-libbed.

    Facts. The Plaintiff sued the Defendant for an ad-libbed remark on a nationwide radio telecast. Defendant said that he wished he had as much money as Plaintiff owes.

    Issue. Can an action based on a telecast not read from a prepared script be actionable as libel or slander?

    Held. Yes. Motion to dismiss is denied.
    * Considering the large audience reached by radio today, the broadcast of defamatory utterances is as potentially harmful as a publication by writing. The element of damage is historically the basis for common law defamation. Therefore, both logic and policy support the conclusion that defamation by radio should be actionable per se.
    * Delivery of the same statement over a microphone at a stadium would still be treated as slander because of a history of past decisions. But the Court was not equally powerless to address defamation in the new media of radio and television.

    Discussion. This matter is generally regulated by statute today, with most statutes providing that any defamation broadcasted is to be treated as slander.


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