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Perlman v. Vox Media, Inc.

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  1. Libel and Privacy

Amicus brief filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 23 media organizations

Court: Superior Court of the State of Delaware

Date Filed: Dec. 19, 2019

Update: On June 24, 2020, the Superior Court of the State of Delaware granted Vox’s motion for summary judgment. The court held that claims based on 2012 articles were time-barred and that a 2014 article did not republish the 2012 articles, as the Reporters Committee argued in its brief. After the plaintiffs appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court, the Reporters Committee filed another friend-of-the-court brief on Dec. 7, 2020, again arguing that the hyperlink in the 2014 article did not republish the 2012 articles. On March 18, 2021, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision in favor of Vox. 

Background: Tech entrepreneur Stephen G. Perlman’s defamation case against Vox Media centers on three online articles published by The Verge, a publication owned by Vox that covers technology, science, and culture. The first two articles, published in 2012, reported on Perlman’s former video game streaming venture, OnLive. While the third story, published in 2014, focused on a new cellphone technology invented by Perlman, it also included a hyperlink and brief reference to one of the previous articles, which Perlman claims were defamatory.

Perlman failed to file his defamation lawsuit for the 2012 stories before the relevant one-year statute of limitations expired. But he contends that the hyperlinks and accompanying descriptions in the 2014 article essentially republished the earlier stories, extending the filing deadline he previously missed.

The case was transferred to the Delaware Superior Court after the state’s Chancery Court accepted Perlman’s argument in 2015. The Chancery Court denied Vox Media’s motion to dismiss, holding that the hyperlinks in the 2014 story had indeed republished the allegedly defamatory statements in the 2012 articles.

Our Position: The Delaware Superior Court should reject the plaintiffs’ republication theory.

  • Under the single-publication rule, which prevents every copy of a newspaper or every click on a website from giving rise to a separate cause of action, Perlman’s claims based on the 2012 articles are time-barred.
  • A republication rule that deters hyperlinking would deprive internet users of an essential tool for understanding information online.

Quote: “A rule that creates liability for hyperlinks would deter their use, reducing the free flow of information online and undermining the internet’s potential for disseminating knowledge. … Simply put, the internet is a richer information environment, particularly for journalism, when stories include relevant hyperlinks.”

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