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CGLIs have following paragraph to define insurance trigger for advertising injury:

Oral or written publication, in any manner, of material that slanders or libels a person or organization or disparages a person's or organization's goods, products or services;

Since many insurance policies usually don't define what is "publication", then how have courts in the past interpreted for something to qualify as publication?

As more concrete examples:

  1. Are there precedents where facebook posts on person's timeline qualify as written publication? Does it make difference whether facebook timeline was visible publicly or protected (i.e. visible only to friends)?
  2. Are there precedents where phone calls qualify as oral publications if done to a targeted group?
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"Publication" is interpreted as meaning communication to a third party, but you have to read the entire policy to see whether particular publications are excluded, you cannot just look at one clause. Here is a sample, which contains the standard personal and advertising injury definition. You also have to read section 2 on exclusions. This clause specifically excludes certain social media "publications":

"Personal and advertising injury" arising out of an electronic chatroom or bulletin board the insured hosts, owns, or over which the insured exercises control.

So while "publication" is a very simple concept, computation of what is covered requires looking at the entire contract.

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Publication is telling any third party

For me to defame you I must communicate the untrue disparaging remarks to a third-party. However I do that is “publication”.

  1. Are there precedents where facebook posts on person's timeline qualify as written publication? Does it make difference whether facebook timeline was visible publicly or protected (i.e. visible only to friends)?

Yes, defamation can occur and has been sued over social media posts. A recent example is Unsworth v Musk and while the plaintiff was ultimately unsuccessful, no one argues that there had not been “publication”. The threshold for defamation is telling a single third party so, unless your post is limited strictly to the person you are saying nasty things about, it doesn’t matter how small it is. The number of people who do or could have seen it will factor into the amount of reputation damage cit caused.

  1. Are there precedents where phone calls qualify as oral publications if done to a targeted group?

Defamation can be written (libel) or verbal (slander) so, yes, you can do it over the phone.

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