Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Ben Dunlap Jr.


The Uniform Law Commissioners are preparing to begin debate on the most sweeping changes to libel law since New York Times v. Sullivan. The proposed Uniform Defamation Act, if adopted by the full commission in August 1993 and enacted by state legislatures, would introduce an action for vindication as a non-damages remedy for the aggrieved subjects of defamation. The Act would also attempt to codify many areas of libel law that heretofore have primarily been left to development in the courts. This article examines the central features of the Uniform Defamation Act and how its enactment might affect the current state of the law. The article also examines media criticisms of the Act, which focus on its central premise and the uncertainties it will engender. The author concludes that rather than a wholesale overhaul of libel law, specific incremental changes would better fulfill the commissioners' goal of providing greater opportunities for vindication as well as stem the runaway costs of libel for defendants.