TV company liable for host’s defamatory comments

by DLA Piper
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The Italian Supreme Court held that a TV company was liable for the defamatory comments from the host of one of their TV programs because they did not exercise the requested monitoring activity on him.

The case involves an Italian famous host that at the time of the events was a member of the Italian Parliament (MP) and was also running a TV program dedicated to the review of newspapers where however he had made 16 times during a period of over 3 years defamatory comments against an Italian judge which had brough a claim for damages against the TV company rather than the host.

The reason why no claim had been brought against the host himself was that under Italian law MPs cannot be challenged for their opinions as this would restrict their freedom in their political activity. However, despite of such circumstance the court held that such exemption did not exclude the liability of the TV company for the conduct performed by the host since the conduct itself still had taken place even if the author could not be convicted for that.

Also, Italian law provides for a regime of strict liability for TV companies in relation to the contents published on their channels on which they are obliged to perform a monitoring activity which according to the court had not occurred in the specific circumstances of the case also in the light of the lenght of the challenged conduct. Because of the breach mentioned above, the TV company was convicted to the payment of a fine of EUR 800,000.

This is an interesting case as in a context where most of the decisions involve activity performed on the Internet, this case reminds editors that a stricter level of control is required to TV companies on their contents as opposed to Internet service providers for which the general principle set out in the EU E-Commerce Directive 2000/31 is for the lack of any monitoring obligation even if this has been subject to different interpretations by the competent courts.

We will see whether courts will try to extend the same principles to the on-line sector.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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