Putnam's Handy Law Book for the Layman

Telegraph and Telephone. - Though the business of a telegraph company is public in its nature, it is not a common carrier, and it may therefore set up reasonable regulations for the reception, transmission and delivery of messages. As it is a quasi public corporation, it must extend its services to all that apply therefor and offer to pay the charges. And if refusing it may be compelled to do these things. The company may charge more to one person than to another when the service is unlike, though not enough to amount to an unjust discrimination. The difference in charges must bear some relation to the different services rendered.

A telephone company cannot legally discriminate between two competing telegraph companies by giving one the telephone call word "Telegram" and thereby depriving the other telegraph company of business. Nor can a telephone company legally charge a higher rental for a telephone to a telegraph company than to any other patron. Nor can a telegraph company discriminate against another in refusing credit which is given to other responsible parties.

A strike may be a sufficient excuse for failure to have sent messages promptly, though not excusing a railroad company for failure to deliver freight as if no strike had happened. A state may impose a penalty on a telegraph company for failure to deliver promptly in the state messages coming from other states. And a state may impose a penalty on a telegraph company for failure to perform its clear common law duty to transmit messages without unreasonable delay, and this statute applies to messages to points outside the state if it relates to delay within the state. A state statute prohibiting telegraph companies from limiting their liability for [247]the transmission of telegrams within the state is constitutional. The state may prohibit a telegraph company from transmitting racetrack news. A telegraph company must transmit a message unless it contains indecent language. Nor is it liable for libel in transmitting a telegram stating that a person had been bought up.

It is reasonable for a telegraph company to close its office on holidays, except two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, and therefore is not liable for delay in transmitting a message because of this delay. The unauthorized writing out and sending of a telegram in another person's name is a forgery.

When a telegram must pass over two connecting lines the receiving company may require the sender to designate what route the message is to take, and to pay an extra charge for the words indicating such route. A telegraph company is not privileged in transmitting messages, but they should not be made public, except to produce them when legally required in court. Under the New York statutes it is a criminal offense for a telegraph employee to divulge the contents of a telegram to any other person than the addressee, except when it relates to unlawful business. In that case the employee may give information to the public officer who is prosecuting the unlawful sender. It is a criminal offense to open or read a sealed telegram, or to tap a telegraph wire in order to read messages in course of transmission.

In regulating the receipt, transmission and delivery of telegraph messages, the rules differ from those that are to be transmitted within the state from the rules for interstate messages. The rules with respect to the latter are governed by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1910, state messages are governed by the laws of their respective states. By the federal law, therefore, a telegraph company providing one rate for unrepeated messages, and another and higher rate for those repeated, may stipulate for a reasonable limitation of its responsibility when the lower rate is paid. And if the contract provides that for any damage resulting from sending the telegram, the sender must give notice within sixty days, he is bound by this stipulation, and is without redress if he delays to act beyond the time.


Do It Yourself Legal Forms
Law for the Laymen - Telegraph and Telephone
Page Updated 6:30 PM Saturday 4/4/2015