The single publication rule states that the publication of a defamatory statement in a single issue of a newspaper, or a single issue of a magazine, although such publication consists of thousands of copies widely distributed, is, in legal effect, one publication which gives rise to one cause of action and that the applicable statute of limitations runs from the date of that publication.
At issue was whether, for statute of limitations purposes, the single publication rule was applicable to allegedly defamatory statements posted on an internet site and, if so, whether an unrelated modification to a different portion of the website was a republication. Appellant claimant argued that the rule should not be applied to defamatory publications posted on the internet in light of significant differences between internet publications and traditional media. Instead, he claimed that, because a website could be altered at any time by its publisher or owner and because publications on the internet were available only to those who sought them, each viewing should be considered a new publication that re-triggered the statute of limitations. The instant court disagreed. On appeal, judgment was affirmed.
Does the single publication rule apply to allegedly defamatory statements that are posted on an internet site and, if so, does unrelated modification to a different portion of the website constitute a republication?
A multiple publication rule would implicate an even greater potential for endless re-triggering of the statute of limitations, multiplicity of suits, and harassment of defendants. As to claimant's second argument related to the modification, the instant court concluded that such was not a republication. The mere addition of unrelated information could not be equated with the repetition of defamatory matter.