A news report on Out-Law.com today indicates that the U.K. government is considering using a “single publication” rule for internet postings involved in defamation lawsuits. Under existing UK law, every “hit” on a web page constitutes a re-publication, which makes it very difficult and costly for publishers/defendants.
Although the single publication rule (which seems to be the approach in most cases here in the U.S.) has obvious advantages for defendants, consideration is being given to the needs of those who may have been defamed, e.g., if an individual doesn’t notice the offensive material within the statute of limitations, they might have no recourse and the material could remain online forever.
The Ministry of Justice has initiated a consultation (pdf) on the issue. Comments must be submitted by December 16.
As an alternative to a single publication rule:
The Government will also consider an intermediate approach which would keep the multiple publication rule but allow online archives a special status so that publication in them could not form the basis of action after a year has passed from initial publication.