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Publication and Libel Laws

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What Is Publication?

Publication is the delivery or announcement of a defamatory statement to another person through any medium. With respect to libel, the defamatory statement must be communicated through a tangible medium, generally meaning it is published in a:

  • Book
  • Pamphlet
  • Newspaper
  • Website

By contrast, with respect to slander, a statement is considered published when it is communicated orally.

When Does Publication Occur?

Generally, publication occurs once a single individual sees or hears the defamatory statement. However, America has a long history of protecting free speech. As a result, courts will sometimes require more action than just the act of seeing a defamatory statment in print to determine when publication occurs because of the First Amendment. Some courts have required that the time of publication in a libel case occurs in one of the following instances:

  • Once the defamatory statement is first mass distributed,
  • When the defamatory statement is made available to the general public,
  • When the defamatory statement is released for sale "in accord with trade practices", or
  • Once the defamatory statement is delivered to a wholesaler or distributor

Does the Time of Publication Matter for My Libel Case?

The exact time of publication is very important in a libel case. Generally, the time of publication will have an effect on a libel case in two ways:

  1. Statute of Limitations - Depending on when the publication of a defamatory statement took place, that is when the period of limitations begins to run. Knowing the exact time of publication can be very important if a statute of limitations is at issue.
  2. Damages - The time of publication can have a large impact on the damages a defamed person can recover. Generally speaking, the earlier the date of publication, the more damages a person has suffered.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you believe you are the target of libel, or you are being sued for libel, and the time of publication is an issue, it is highly recommended that you contact either a personal injury or Constitutional law attorney. Only an attorney will be able to explain any relevant issues, help determine when the publication took place, and assist in defending your rights.

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-26-2018 11:37 PM PDT

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