Canadian Appeals Court Says Linking To A Site Is Not Defamation
from the phew dept
Way back in 2007, we wrote about a Canadian business man/politician, Wayne Crookes, who was suing a bunch of websites, including Google, Yahoo, MySpace and Wikipedia, because he was upset about what some people had posted about him on those sites, claiming it was defamatory. We found it odd that he was suing these companies, rather than the individuals who supposedly posted defamatory material (oddly, many of the stories that he claimed were defamatory were about him supposedly filing defamation lawsuits!). In some cases, it reached ridiculous levels, such as the fact that the same guy also sued Jon Newton, the operator of P2Pnet.net for merely linking to text that Crookes considered defamatory.
It was troubling enough to sue a company that was hosting a conversation where someone may have said something defamatory, but to take it to another level, where someone merely linking to the actual text as a part of reporting on it was also accused of defamation could have a serious chilling effect on free speech and open communications in Canada. Luckily, last year, a Canadian court found that merely linking to potentially defamatory content is not defamatory. Apparently that ruling was appealed… and the appeals court has agreed that linking to defamatory content is not, itself, defamatory. This is a big win for free expression in Canada. The case could still be appealed, and some are noting that the appeals court ruling still had some problems. There was a dissenting judge who seemed to think that because people may have clicked on the link, just putting up a link was the equivalent of publishing the content on the other side of the link (yikes!). That last link also discusses some other serious problems with libel law in Canada (similar in some ways to the problems in the UK), which is in desperate need of a modern update.