Keith C. Buell


“Start Spreading the News”: Why Republising Material from “Disreputable” News Reports Must Be Constitutionally Protected

Keith C. Buell

While the common law of libel holds each republisher of false and defamatory statements equally as liable as the original author, many courts have followed the Second Circuit’s 1977 decision in Edwards v. National Audubon Society in recognizing a “neutral-reportage” privilege to protect the republication in neutral news media of potentially libelous statements made by reputable figures. In this Note, Keith Buell argues that the Edwards framework has become outdated in an age in which unsubstantiated and potentially false charges made by disreputable figures, publications, and Web sites play a significant role in the public forum. After surveying a number of recent events in which information from “disreputable” sources was widely available and influenced public debate, Buell revisits the Edwards test and argues for a revision of the neutral-reportage privilege that both protects the rights and reputations of defamed individuals and promotes the search for truth and the public’s right to be know about the statements and beliefs that shape public policy.