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Single publication rule

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Definition Edit

The statute of limitations for defamation is governed by the single-publication rule. Under that rule, "any form of mass communication or aggregate publication . . . is a single communication and can give rise to only one action for libel."[1] The rule applies "where communication is simultaneously available to multiple persons."[2] Under the single-publication rule, the statement is considered published and "the statute of limitations runs as soon as the communication enters the stream of commerce."[3]

Overview Edit

Examples of mass communication include "the publication of an edition of a book or periodical, or the broadcast of a single radio or television program."[4] Courts are still considering whether the single-publication rule should apply to the Internet as well. The vast majority of courts that have considered the issue to date, have agreed that the rule should apply to the Internet.[5]

The purposes behind the single-publication rule align well with the Internet as a means of communication. The desires to avoid "multiplicity of actions; to protect the defendant from excessive liability based on a single publication run; to allow the plaintiff to recover all of his damages at once; and to reduce the chilling effect that the common-law rule might have on the mass communication of ideas," are all applicable to Internet publications.[6]

The only variant seems to be the sheer scale of the Internet: (1) its infinite ability to amass information and (2) its ability to reach an immense and diverse audience. True, public websites can more easily be accessed on not only the initial day of publication but on subsequent days as well. Yet this ease of accessibility cuts two ways: while a defamed person's injury is potentially greater, but it is also easier for that person to identify defamatory content. Since no case law suggests that a defamed party must know of defamatory statements, or even subscribe to the publication in which they were defamed, no facts seem to persuasively distinguish the Internet from other publication sources.[7]

One major exception to the single publication rule is the doctrine of republication.

References Edit

  1. In re Davis, 347 B.R. 607, 611 (W.D. Ky. 2006) (full-text) (citing Mitan v. Davis, 243 F.Supp.2d 719, 722 (W.D. Ky. 2003) (full-text); Restatement (Second) of Torts §577A)).
  2. Id.
  3. Id. (citing Mitan, 243 F.Supp.2d at 722).
  4. Id.
  5. See, e.g., id. (applies); Mitan, 243 F.Supp.2d at 722-24 (same).
  6. Salyer v. Southern Poverty Law Center, 2009 WL 1036907 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 17, 2009) (full-text).
  7. Id.

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