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To circulate, distribute, or print information for the public at large.

In Libel and Slander law, to utter to a third person or to make public a defamatory statement; in Commercial Paper law, to present an instrument for payment or declare or assert that a forged instrument is genuine.

The meaning of the term publish differs according to the context in which it is used. In its broadest sense, the term publishing describes the act of making something known to the general public. A publication can be accomplished by speaking in a public place, printing information on paper and distributing it on the street, buying or otherwise securing time on television, placing information in a circulated newspaper or magazine, or other similar methods.

Laws can mandate specific forms of publication of certain information. For example, federal administrative agencies are required to publish their rules in the Federal Register. 5 U.S.C.A. sect; 552 (1996). These rules are later published in a subject-matter arrangement in the Code of Federal Regulations. Similarly, federal law requires that administrative agencies under the Executive Branch publish a notice in the Commerce Business Daily before entering into a contract worth more than $25,000 with a private business. 41 U.S.C.A. § 416 (1997). The notice must contain information that is relevant to the proposed job and give all qualified private businesses an opportunity to compete for the contract with the agency. An agency may use additional sources of publication, such as trade journals, magazines, newspapers of general circulation, and other mass communication media to advertise its intention to enter into a contract with a private business.

Publication of information is required by law in other areas as well. State laws require a mortgagee who has foreclosed a mortgage on real property to publish a notice in a local newspaper before conducting a sale of the property. Both state and federal laws require administrative agencies to publish notices of public hearings that will be held by the agencies. Before taking action that affects legal rights, administrative agencies hold public hearings to give members of the public an opportunity to be heard.

In libel law, a defamatory statement can give rise to civil liability if the statement is made public. To be libelous, a statement must appear in print, in a picture, or in a sign. To be considered published, the statement must be received by at least one other person apart from the speaker and the defamed person. In the law of slander, the term publish refers to defamatory statements that are spoken in the presence of at least one other person. A transitory, humiliating gesture that is defamatory also constitutes slander if it is published, or understood, by a third party.

The term publish has another meaning in the law of commercial paper. Commercial paper law relates to negotiable instruments such as bills of exchange, promissory notes, bank checks, and similar documents. In the law of commercial paper, publishing occurs when a check or other negotiable instrument is presented. Publication also occurs when a person vouches that a forged instrument is in fact genuine. By publishing a negotiable instrument, the publisher declares that the instrument is valid.

Further readings

Kunz, Christina L., et al. 2000. The Process of Legal Research. 5th ed. Gaithersburg, Md.: Aspen Law & Business.


Defamation; Libel and Slander.


v. to make public to at least one other person by any means. (See: publication)


verb advertise, air, announce, blazon, bring before the public, bring out, broadcast, call public attention to, circulate, communicate, cover, declare, deliver, diffuse, disclose, disseminate, distribute, divulgare, divulge, emit, expose, express, give out, give public notice of, go to press, have printed, herald, impart, inform, issue, issue a statement, issue for distribution, issue for public sale, lay before the public, make known, make public, praedicare, print, proclaim, proferre, publicize, put forth, put into circuuation, put out, put to press, report, reveal, run off, spread, state, tell, trumpet, utter, ventilate
Associated concepts: publish libel, publish slander
See also: adduce, annunciate, apprise, bear, circulate, communicate, convey, disclose, disseminate, divulge, enunciate, expose, herald, inform, manifest, notice, notify, post, proclaim, promulgate, propagate, report, reveal, signify, speak, spread, utter
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