Are You Liable for Repeating a Rumor on YouTube

We all know that YouTube can sometime get a little nasty. Its often a little just too easy to repeat lies and hurtful things you’ve heard elsewhere. In a previous video, I discussed the legal tools YouTubers can use to fight against defamatory statements made online. Defamatory statements are an untrue statements about you which damage your reputation.

youtubers have the legal tools with which to fight defaming statements
— lior leser

If you’re interested in seeing that video, check out the following video on How to Fight Defaming Comments made on YouTube (YouTuber Law Series)

When we say, author, we mean the creator for the copyrighted video.So to create joint authorship or joint ownership of a YouTube video, the collaborators must (1) manifest an intention to create a joint work, (2) each contribute copyrightable elements and (3) their intentions would have had to be a single unitary video.

But many false statements made on YouTube are in fact not original. They are just repetition of false statements made by others. Does that matter? Are false statements, less defamatory just because they are repetitions of statements made by others? Are YouTubers or their viewers less liable when repeating statements then if they were the original speakers?

Thinking about this … I began to wonder. Can a person be held liable for simply repeating defamatory statements that someone else published? Case law shows us that a false statement is not less libelous just because it is the repetition of a rumor or gossip that others have made concerning the matter. If defamation is repeated, the person who repeated the statement and caused the harm is liable.

Why? It’s because the general rule is that every repetition of the defamation is a separate publication and hence a new and separate cause of action. It doesn’t make a difference if you mention the source. It doesn’t make a difference if you say that you heard this. If you repeat it, you are liable. It is even possible that the original speaker will not be liable due to a privileged communication (such as in court), but that the repeater will be liable.

So what do we learn? That a speaker will be held liable for making a false statement irrespective of whether it was an original statements or a mere repetition of someone loses statement. So YouTubers be careful out there when repeating wild theories you hear.