Note: This page covers information specific to Ohio and should be read in conjunction with the general section on retraction in the section on Correcting or Retracting Your Work After Publication which has additional information applicable to all states.
Ohio has a retraction statute, Ohio Rev. Code § 2739.14, which applies to a "newspaper company" that prints, publishes, or circulates a false statement in its "newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication." Under § 11 of the statute, a newspaper company refers to "[a]ny person, firm, partnership, voluntary association, joint-stock association, or corporation, wherever organized or incorporated, engaged in the business of printing or publishing a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical sold or offered for sale in this state." (Emphasis added.) Because the statute does not state that the false statement must be made in a specific medium (e.g. print only), a future court may be persuaded to find that the retraction law applies to a publisher's online periodical publication that is sold or offered for sale in Ohio.
Handling Requests to Remove or Retract Material in Ohio
If someone contacts you with a retraction request, you should first determine whether a retraction is warranted; review the steps under the section of this guide for help in making this assessment. If you determine that a retraction is appropriate, you should follow the procedures outlined in the Ohio retraction statute so that you can avail yourself of the statutory benefit of limiting potential defamation damages.
Under the Ohio retraction statute:
- A plaintiff must send a demand letter informing the publisher of the false statements and detail the true statements;
- If the plaintiff swears to the veracity of the statements, the publisher must "print, publish, and circulate" the corrected statements provided by the plaintiff in the next regular issue of the periodical or within forty-eight hours; and
- The statements cannot be altered, and must be published in a manner as similar as possible to the original article (e.g. it must be published in "the same color of ink, from like type, with headlines of equal prominence," and placed in the same position as the original article.)
If you comply with these procedures after receiving a retraction request and you are found to be liable for defamation, the plaintiff's ability to recover damages from you will likely be limited. Under the retraction statute, you will be able to use your retraction to show your good faith and the jury will be able to consider your retraction as a mitigating circumstance to reduce damages.
Even if your online publishing activities do not fall within the scope of Ohio's retraction statute, your willingness to correct past errors in your work will provide several benefits. It will make your work more accurate and reliable, which will increase your credibility, influence, and (hopefully) your page views. It will also diminish the likelihood of your being sued in the first place, as it might placate the potential plaintiff. Furthermore, courts and juries may find a retraction shows your good faith, which will benefit you in a defamation suit.