Note: This page covers information specific to Virginia 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.
Virginia has a retraction statute, Va. Code § 8.01-48, that applies to "the publisher, owner, editor, reporter or employee of any newspaper, magazine or periodical" who face a libel suit for an "article, statement or other matter contained in any such newspaper, magazine or periodical." Although the statute does not specifically state whether it covers online publications, it does not require that the article be published in a specific medium (e.g. print only). Thus, if your role can be characterized as the publisher, owner, editor, reporter or employee of an online newspaper, magazine or periodical, you have a colorable argument that the retraction law applies you.
Handling Requests to Remove or Retract Material in Virginia
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 issue an "apology or retraction" with "reasonable promptness and fairness" so that you can avail yourself of the statutory benefit of limiting potential defamation damages. See Va. Code § 8.01-48.
If you comply with these procedures after receiving a retraction request and you are found to be liable for libel, the plaintiff's ability to recover damages from you will be limited. He or she will be able to recover only for his or her actual economic losses and will not be able to recover general damages (e.g., loss of reputation generally) or punitive damages.
Even if your online publishing activities do not fall within the scope of Virginia'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.