Canadian Court Rules That Linking To Defamatory Articles Isn't Defamatory

from the victory-for-free-speech-online dept

You may recall the story of Wayne Crookes, a Canadian businessman who is active in the Green Party in Canada. In 2007, he sued Google, Yahoo, Myspace, Wikipedia and some other sites, claiming that all were liable for content that he found defamatory. It's somewhat interesting to try to follow the trail of what the actual libel is -- as many of the lawsuits for libel are focused on stories about (you guessed it) him filing for libel lawsuits (which certainly appears to be true, rather than libelous). With at least some of those lawsuits, the Canadian Supreme Court tossed them out, though over jurisdiction issues, rather than on the merits of the case.

In one case, Crookes sued the website P2PNet for just linking to the material that Crookes found libelous. It seemed like a huge stretch to say that merely linking to content (even if you grant that it was libelous) is also libel. And, the good news is that a court has now agreed. It has sided with Jon Newton, the operator of P2PNet in noting that simply linking to libelous material is not, in itself, libelous. The ruling does note that if the link text had been libelous, that might be a different story -- but just linking to the text as part of a discussion about the lawsuits is hardly libelous. This is definitely a huge win for free speech in Canada -- though, Canada could take a big step forward in updating its defamation laws to make it clear that the liability for libel should be on those who actually were libelous, rather than those who host it or point to it.

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  • identicon
    KJ, 28 Oct 2008 @ 12:17pm

    Don't worry - free speech is alive and well in Canada. It's the ones that cost you, the ones by politicians that suck.

    We just had an election here and half of Canada was trying to figure out how to vote for Obama...

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

  • identicon
    curious commentator, 28 Oct 2009 @ 11:20am

    These suits are weird. It's very strange that anyone would sue over comments about his involvement in a political party, but even more strange that he involves his company (West Coast Title Search) as a plaintiff in every matter. How was his company involved in the Green Party, or in financing the Green Party, or did it benefit from any contracts from the Green Party? There are unanswered questions here.

    Crookes must know something we don't. His company must be involved somehow in a way that hasn't yet been revealed. Why else would he involve it when it wasn't criticized? It seems like a very stupid move for a businessperson involved in politics to drag the business and employees into court and expose them to whatever backlash the political fight will create. It also seems that someone would have to be very guilty and very afraid of exposure to engage in mass intimidation on this scale, suing Google and Yahoo and Wikipedia and so on. Some of the demands are outrageous, like Google being told it must never index the term "gang of Crookes" (didn't work, over 9000 hits right now). Who is Wayne Crookes or West Coast Title Search to set Google's policy? What are they terrified of?

    There's something here that smells very bad indeed. The courts must know it, they've thrown out several of his suits already, some with harsh words.

    We'll probably see much more about West Coast Title Search soon, maybe a boycott, maybe we'll see why it really sued.

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

  • icon
    lrobbo (profile), 30 May 2012 @ 1:01pm

    This man should not be allowed on the internet. I hope he has sorted himself out . . .

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

  • identicon
    F, 28 Mar 2017 @ 5:25am



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

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