Blogger Sued, In Part, For Linking To Material Claimed To Be Defamatory

from the link-it-up dept

We've pointed in the past to some rather ridiculous situations in Canada concerning libel law. One key case involved a guy named Wayne Crookes, who not only sued major internet sites like Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia and MySpace for hosting content he believed to be defamatory towards himself, but he also sued Jon Newton of the site P2Pnet.net for merely linking to the content Crookes believed to be defamatory. A court in Canada eventually ruled that merely linking to potentially defamatory material is not defamation, and an appeals court agreed. Last I heard, the case had moved up to the Canadian Supreme Court. That case is still ongoing, but it looks like there may be a similar case brewing as well.

Reader JC points us to a short blogpost about another Canadian, named Richard Warman (interestingly, both Warman and Crookes have ties to the Canadian Green Party, though, I'm going to say that's likely a coincidence), who apparently is suing some bloggers for (in part) linking to material he finds defamatory. Unfortunately, in all the sites talking about this, no one seems to be willing to state the full story of the lawsuit, or show the full filing. Instead, they just show parts of the filing. But, at least in that part, it does appear that one of the complaints is that the blog in question linked to a site that Warman believed to be defamatory. It's unclear what else is involved in the lawsuit (and if anyone has the details, please pass them along in the comments). However, just the snippet provided is troubling enough.

Even if the content in question was totally defamatory, it certainly raises some pretty serious questions about whether merely linking to content itself can or should be seen as defamatory as well. As noted in the Newton/Crookes case, so far, Canadian courts have been rejecting such claims, and hopefully that holds up with the Supreme Court ruling. But in the meantime, it certainly sounds like others are still making similar claims, which certainly feel like efforts to stifle freedom of expression.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:34pm

    Semi-Related Question

    "(and if anyone has the details, please pass them along in the comments)"

    Given the charges of defamation being thrown around, and knowing that you'd have to comply with a valid legal request to disclose commentor information, would someone who knew the full story and stated it be risking themselves to a search and litigate threat on Techdirt? And, legally speaking, would your request for disclosure in comments have any effect?

    What I'm wondering (and I'm not saying that you're in any way doing this) is whether bloggers/commentators can get stories they want revealed on their sites w/o opening themselves to risk by getting their communities to do it for them in an anonymous way....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:36pm

    Linking in the Clear

    Linking to anything anytime should be perfectly legal. It should be this way if not for the simple fact that the linkee can change what you linked to any time they like. You really have no control over the linked material. What was linked to yesterday may not be the same today when you check what you linked to. They may change it to be a redirect to a rickroll. How are you to know without constantly checking every link on a website constantly?

    At least it seems like the courts there are getting it right that linking is fine. However, it really should be that way for everything, not just defamation but also files, webpages, forum posts, etc.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Linking in the Clear

    Tell that to Mininova.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    currently

    what JOHN of p2pnet got last in court was this.....
    ITS the users responsibility to click on links that lead to copyright, and illegal activity

    if this changes it will destroy whats left of our overpriced, capped to death , throttled internet in canada.

     

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  5.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    Re: Semi-Related Question

    Given the charges of defamation being thrown around, and knowing that you'd have to comply with a valid legal request to disclose commentor information, would someone who knew the full story and stated it be risking themselves to a search and litigate threat on Techdirt? And, legally speaking, would your request for disclosure in comments have any effect?

    Not asking anyone libel anyone. I'm asking for the details of the lawsuit -- purely factual information, such as the full filing. That's all.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 1:02pm

    I saw Dark Helmet at the Rally To Restore Sanity. I think.

     

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  7.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 1:22pm

    In the news today ...

    Not Three strikes related Nicolas Sarkozy

    Not Piracy related Lily Allen

     

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  8.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Semi-Related Question

    Yeah, I get that, which is why I said I didn't mean to suggest that's what you were doing. What I'm wondering is if this isn't a method by which blogs can actually fulfill the 4th Branch promise that the main stream press used to....

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Semi-Related Question

    A clearer answer to your question is the obvious "yes".

    It might be worth considering what information techdirt could/would hand over ; even for anonymous comments techdirt records IP addresses of contributers and can link comments from the same source.

    If that scares you then techdirt is probably not a good place to spill your info' - you might be better of with a more dedicated and rigorous news site such as Wikileaks.

     

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  10.  
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    Fred Bauder (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 3:16pm

    Malice

    Having experienced this, my thought is that linking carried out with malice perhaps should be actionable. Malice on the part of a defendant who did the linking, of course; not someone who hosts a site and is probably unaware of the linking.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 3:27pm

    How does someone get sued "in part" because of linking ?. Surely if you are sued for linking that is an unambiguous part of the suit, and if it's ambiguous then that's not what youa re being sued for ...

    This is entirely non-obvious and isn't helped by the fact that you don't seem to have any actual details of the filing (just hear-say).

    For someone who often criticizes reporters I have to say that's a pretty piss-poor performance.

     

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  12.  
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    Freak, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 3:59pm

    Re:

    There's always someone like you who doesn't quite get it; Mike never claims to be better than or equal to a reporter.
    He admits his limitations and bias rather than to pretend he has none.

    Would you rather he just post the story, and not admit he doesn't have the full filing? And then to forget about it, rather than asking for the specific information that would let him figure out what's going on and amend any errors later?
    If this were purely a news blog, perhaps he should have the full story before publishing. But he uses this blog to research as well; by asking questions and seeing if anyone in the audience knows the answer. And also for soapboxing, but you knew that; he admits as much.

     

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  13.  
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    Stuart (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:02pm

    Re: Linking in the Clear

    I mostly agree with you.
    But ...
    "Linking to anything anytime should be perfectly legal."
    May be stretching it a bit far.
    Could I for example link to child pornography on an Elmo fan club website?
    While I believe in freedom and linking...Linking to anything anytime is not good.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Semi-Related Question

    Or just use a proxy or two. In different jurisdictions. Or go nuclear and use Tor.

     

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  15.  
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    Will Sizemore (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 4:50pm

    Wait, so if News Media links to something defamatory, can THEY be sued?

    What about those sites that show sex offenders' faces and addresses? Can the offenders sue them too?

    I stand by my comment last week that people who waste the court's time with crap suits should have to pay the government's costs for processing said crap.

    :D

     

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  16.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 1st, 2010 @ 5:28pm

    Re:

    How does someone get sued "in part" because of linking ?. Surely if you are sued for linking that is an unambiguous part of the suit, and if it's ambiguous then that's not what youa re being sued for

    It appears he was sued for a few things, and one aspect of that was linking.

    This is entirely non-obvious and isn't helped by the fact that you don't seem to have any actual details of the filing (just hear-say).

    No, I do have one small part of the filing, which shows that part of the complaint was what the blogger linked to.

    Not sure what your complaint is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Jon Noowtun, Nov 1st, 2010 @ 11:18pm

    You should do a story about how I'm Canada's champion of free speech!!!!! By fighting this lawsuit, I'm protecting freedom of speech on the net, in Canada and the world!!!!!

    Just please don't mention the fact that I delete comments willy-nilly just because they don't measure up to my standards. I really do believe in free speech, I just believe that I should be the one to decide what speech is worth hearing. After all, it's my site and I can do what I want!!!!!

    So drop by my site and donate to my cause!!!!! Just don't,criticize anything I say or I'll delete your post.

    Free Speech Forever!!!!!

    www.Pee2PeeNet.net

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 2:07am

    Re: Re:

    "No, I do have one small part of the filing..."

    You only have a rather bad scan of what someone claims to be part of the filing, and you don't know what part and there is not enough context to understand if that is a material part - you don't even consider that there might be some spin involved or a reason why the blogger doesn't include the whole filing (perhaps religion is making you blind ?).

    You could probably write a reasonable story along the lines "I've heard this rumor can you readers help me find out if there is any substance to it ..", but that's not what you wrote, rather you just know it's an outrage because that's what your religion demands.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Roger Lancefield, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 2:47am

    Regarding "freedom of speech"

    @Jon Noowtun

    Let's say you attend a talk on a university campus. The talk is open to the public. During the Q&A session after the talk an anonymous guest jumps up and announces that his new car repair business is offering discounts on certain services. That person is quickly asked to leave by the organiser of the talk. Has his "free speech" been affected?

    Someone else stands up and starts questioning the speaker in a manner that is mocking, rude and disrespectful. Her manner (as opposed to her points) makes other guests feel uncomfortable and her behaviour spoils the atmosphere of the debate. She is also asked to leave. All of the points she was attempting to make could have been made in a respectful, reasonable manner and if she had chosen to make them in that way, she would (in most institutions I'm sure), have been allowed to state her case, however awkward or challenging it may have been for the speaker.

    In my experience, when people (especially guests who, for whatever reason, decline to identify themselves) demand to be heard on sites that they don't run, more often than not it's their rude, overbearing behaviour that gets them banned, and not what they are trying to say.

    Besides, free speech is something guaranteed constitutionally or by statute. Nothing Mike does here can affect whatever rights you have to it. Perhaps you are confusing freedom of speech with the right to reply, or possibly even, with the right to troll?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Jon Hansen (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 6:29am

    Wayne Crookes’ lawsuits disconcerting and perhaps even frivolous, but are they a necessary exercise in the establishment of Internet accountability?

    Here are my thoughts based on continuing and extensive research; http://wp.me/pydAP-1Fm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 8:23am

    Re: Wayne Crookes’ lawsuits disconcerting and perhaps even frivolous, but are they a necessary exercise in the establishment of Internet accountability?

    "That said and even though I am of the opinion based on what Masnick has written..."

    I stopped reading there; I can get second hand Masnicki opinions here without trawling through so much verbiage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Jon Hansen (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 8:37am

    You proved my point Anonymous Coward . . .

    The key is in the details including related case references. There are no shortcuts or quick answers without investing more than a cursory scan of a headline and related story.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:37am

    Re: You proved my point Anonymous Coward . . .

    You seem to miss the point : a worthwhile opinion needs to be yours, and it is conventional to base opinions on facts and your understanding of them. Unfortunately you seem happy to omit identification and understanding of facts and simply blog on top of other bloggers outputs, thus confirming all that is contemptible about blogs and bloggers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Jon Hansen (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:56am

    What?

    Obviously you once again failed to read my post in it's entirety Anonymous or, the concepts presented elude your grasp .. . that's okay because you seem content to operate in a solipsistic world of your own making.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Jon Noowtun, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:22am

    Re: Regarding "freedom of speech"

    In my experience, when people (especially guests who, for whatever reason, decline to identify themselves) demand to be heard on sites that they don't run, more often than not it's their rude, overbearing behaviour that gets them banned, and not what they are trying to say.


    They don't even have to be rude for me to delete them. You see, I'm an expert on what's worth reading and what isn't, so if I don't like a comment, obviously it's not worth reading and I delete it. Sure, I could leave them and let the other users defend their own viewpoints, but since anyone with any brains would naturally side with me, why should I trouble all the good users with having to read what is obviously worthless drivel? I'm doing them all a favor by deleting all these worthless messages before anyone has a chance to see them. I also make sure to delete any responses to them. After all, I can't have them thinking that others agree with them.

    Just look at how messy this site is!!!!! People call Mike names and tell him that he's wrong all the time!!!!! I'd never stand for that. They should give me administrator access here so that I could get rid of all these worthless comments. It would be so much nicer if all you had to read were comments from sensible posters who agree with the articles.

    www.Pee2PeeNet.net

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re: Linking in the Clear

    What if you were an individual who accidentally stumbled across this and was pointing it out to not go there and you reported it to officials. Would you still think you should get in trouble for linking to it when you are reporting it to the officials. I can see extremely few, not even filling up one hand, types of cases where it should not be okay. And even then, legally I think it should be fine. Socially acceptable is something else entirely. The same way we should not outlaw being a jerk.

    As was my original point, you have no control over what you linked to. What if you linked to a website that told you how to cook a mean chicken noodle soup, and then they changed it. Without you rechecking the link you are now unknowingly linking to child porn. That is the point I was trying to make about why it should not be illegal. Under your idea it almost sounds like you would still be liable, even though you didn't know. Perhaps a little clarification on your part for when it isn't okay to link will help me better understand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anthony Calleja, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 1:36pm

    I think it depends on the intent

    I Guess it is important to check those linking in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Online Media Legal Network, Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 12:21pm

    Pro Bono Assistance for Online Journalism Ventures

    If you are an online journalist, blogger, or other digital media creator who has received a cease and desist letter or is facing another legal problem, please contact the Online Media Legal Network (OMLN) through www.omln.org to receive pro bono or reduced fee legal assistance from the network’s affiliated attorneys.

    The OMLN is an initiative of the Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP), an affiliate of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, provides assistance, education and resources for individuals and organizations involved in online and digital media. Thes Legal Guide, available at www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide, is a comprehensive resource that allows users to learn about topics such as:
    • Forming a Business and Getting Online
    • Dealing with Online Legal Risk
    • Newsgathering and Privacy
    • Access to Government Information
    • Intellectual Property
    • Risks Associated with Publication

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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