Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Note On Ontario Defamation Law defamation on-line:

Single Publication Rule Rejected in Ontario

The Court rejected the defendants' argument that the American "single publication rule" for mass publications should apply. This rule holds that a plaintiff alleging defamation has a single cause of action which arises at the first publication of an alleged libel, regardless of the number of copies of the publication distributed or sold. As the Court explained, "the entire edition of a newspaper, book or magazine is treated as a single publication when it is first made available to the public. Later distributions of the same edition are relevant to the assessment of damages but do not create a new cause of action or a new limitation period." If the single publication rule were to apply in Shtaif, the limitation period applicable to the plaintiffs' claim – including both the print and online articles – would have expired six weeks after the print article was first published.

Following courts in England, Australia, and British Columbia, the Court rejected the single publication rule in Ontario as being inconsistent with the limitations provisions of the LSA, and because the Court had previously affirmed the traditional English rule that "every republication of a libel is a new libel." Even if the single publication rule were to be considered in Ontario, the Court stated that it should not be applied across different mediums of communication. This aspect of the ruling was motivated by a concern of a potential injustice that might arise where the original publication was in print form, perhaps in a magazine with a limited circulation and lifespan, as opposed to a republication of that same publication on the Internet, where its circulation may be vast and its lifespan potentially unlimited. In this portion of the ruling, the Court echoed prior statements to the effect that defamation on the Internet is potentially more harmful than defamation through traditional print media.

Shtaif makes clear that where an alleged libel is republished across different mediums, including the Internet, those republications will be treated as distinct libels. As a result, plaintiffs retain significant flexibility in choosing which allegedly libelous publications they might wish to sue upon.

So there you have it.

No comments: