Federal court shields scientific articles from defamation

The Second U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled that conclusions in research journals open to scientific debate could not be subject to defamation suits. “While statements about contested scientific hypotheses are in principle ‘matters of verifiable fact,’ for purposes of the First Amendment they are closer to matters of opinion,” wrote Judge Gerard Lynch for the unanimous panel. (Reuters, June 26, 2013, by Jonathan Stempel)

A pharmaceutical company sued over an article that claimed that a rival company’s drug was more effective, the suit arguing that the article contained factual errors and cherry-picked results that favored the rival company. But the judges concluded that it was up to the scientific community, not the courts, to investigate the experiments and dispute erroneous conclusions. (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, June 28, 2013, by Amy Zang)