Website Libel and the Single Publication Rule

Sapna Kumar
2003 The University of Chicago Law Review  
The single publication rule was created to compensate libel victims for reputational harm without crippling the publishing industry. During the nineteenth century, American courts followed the multiple publication rule.' In 1849 an English court established this rule, 2 which states that each delivery of a libelous statement to a third party constitutes a new publication of the libel, which in turn gives rise to a new cause of action.' As mass publishing became more common during the twentieth
more » ... ring the twentieth century, courts faced a dilemma. The multiple publication rule was adopted when communities were small and circulation of printed materials was limited,' thus inherently limiting the burden that publishers accused of libel could face. But with technological breakthroughs such as the modern printing press, a single libelous statement could now reach millions of readers and lead to a staggering number of lawsuits.' Courts became concerned that the statute of limitations would no longer be effective if it were renewed every time a new party saw the libelous statement. A rule was needed that would give libel victims adequate means to seek redress without forcing publishers to face countless lawsuits for an indefinite span of time. Consequently, courts began to adopt the single publication rule. Under this rule, a libel victim would have only one cause of action for the mass or aggregate t B.S., B.A. 1999, University of Texas; J.D. Candidate 2003, The University of Chicago.
doi:10.2307/1600592 fatcat:vm3zaguvnrfmnf7a5qtxszbb7y