Find the right lawyer now

Publication and Libel Laws

Find a Local Government Lawyer near You

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: 08-11-2014 11:43 AM PDT

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.