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Phrase of the Week - Single Publication Rule

Single Publication Rule

British Columbia

Stated simply, the single publication rule is an American rule of law (adopted in many but not all states) under which several communications to a third party of a defamatory statement are held to be only one publication and the limitation period begins to run from the date of the first such communication: Firth v. State, 775 N.E.2d 463 (U.S. N.Y. Ct. App. 2002).

Carter v. B.C. Federation of Foster Parents Assn. |
2005 CarswellBC 1854 (B.C. C.A.) at para. 18 |
Hall J.A.


Many American States, either by judicial decision or statute, have adopted a “single publication rule” for mass publications. The 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. In other words, 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. See, for example, Churchill v. State (2005), 876 A.2d 311 (U.S. N.J. Super. A.D.); Gelbard v. Bodary (2000), 706 N.Y.S.2d 801 (U.S. N.Y.A.D. 4th Dept.); and Firth v. State (2002), 775 N.E.2d 463 (U.S. N.Y. Ct. App.); and [California Civil Code, ss. 3425.1-3425.5.]

Shtaif v. Toronto Life Publishing Co. | 
2013 CarswellOnt 8040 (Ont. C.A.) at para. 27 
Laskin J.A. (Juriansz and Tulloch JJ.A. concurring)
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