As a friend of the Court, the ACLU-NJ asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to affirm the Appellate Division's holding that the single publication rule applied to internet publications. Additionally, the ACLU-NJ urged the Court told hold that where an author edits time-barred content on the Internet, "republication," which triggers a new time limitations period, does not occur unless 1) the author intended to and did reach a new audience when it edited the old content; and 2) the edits constituted "material and substantial" changes to the old content. However, even where edits may be considered "material and substantial," if they were made to remove the sting of allegedly defamatory material or to soften the tone of the material, the single publication rule should still apply. Here, a website reported on a lawsuit that had been filed alleging that an employer had forced employees to read “white supremacist materials.” After the statute of limitations had run for a possible defamation suit, the website was edited to clarify that allegation was that the materials in question were “anti-religion, anti-minority, anti-Jewish, anti-[C]atholic, anti-gay.” The ACLU-NJ contended that such changes were not substantive.
On May 7, 2018, the Supreme Court held that the single publication rule applies to an internet article. A majority of the Court held that there existed a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether a substantial change was made between the first and second articles. Three concurring Justices believed that no material issue existed.
- Petro: Amicus Brief (673 KB pdf)