Retraction Law in New York

Note: This page covers information specific to New York 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.

New York has a retraction statute, N.Y. Civ. Rights Law § 78, that applies to the publication of libelous statements. Although the statute is silent on what constitutes publication, New York's Court of Appeals has broadly defined to signify any communication of a defamatory statement to a third party. See Ostrowe v. Lee, 175 NE 505 (N.Y. 1931) for the court's rationale. The Court of Appeal's expansive definition in Ostrowe suggests that a future court will likely find that the retraction statute covers an online publication.

Handling Requests to Remove or Retract Material in New York

If someone contacts you with a retraction request, you should first determine whether a retraction is warranted; review the steps under the handling a retraction request section of this guide for help in making this assessment. If you determine that a retraction is appropriate, you should publish one so that you can avail yourself of the statutory benefit of limiting potential defamation damages.

Under the N.Y. Civ. Rights Law § 78, you can use your retraction, and even your offer to publish a retraction, to show mitigating circumstances for the jury to consider in determining damages. The jury may use the retraction to reduce punitive damages but not compensatory damages.

Even if your online publishing activities do not fall within the scope of New York'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.


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