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Canadian Court Rules "Hyperlink" Is Not Defamation 120

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the don't-tread-on-my-links dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In a landmark ruling, a Canadian court has ruled that a web site's publication of hyperlinks to an allegedly defamatory web site is not in and of itself a 'publication,' and therefore cannot in and of itself constitute defamation. In a 10-page decision [PDF], Crookes v. Wikimedia, Sup. Ct., British Columbia, Judge Keller dismissed the libel case against Jon Newton, the publisher of p2pnet.net, which was based on the fact that his article contained links to the allegedly defamatory site, since hyperlinks, the Court reasoned, are analogous to footnotes, rather than constituting a 'republication.' Mr. Newton was represented in the case by famous libel, slander, and civil liberties lawyer Dan Burnett of Vancouver, British Columbia."
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Canadian Court Rules "Hyperlink" Is Not Defamation

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  • footnotes!? (Score:2, Informative)

    by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <{elmuerte} {at} {drunksnipers.com}> on Monday October 27, 2008 @07:09PM (#25534885) Homepage

    Hyperlinks are more like references rather than footnotes.

  • Two reasons:

    There are two issues for determination in this application. First, the defendant says that there is no evidence that any person followed the hyperlinks in question or read the words that are complained of. The plaintiffs have therefore failed to prove publication, one of the essential elements of the tort of defamation.
    Second, in any event, the defendant argues that creating a hyperlink to words that are defamatory is not publication of those words.

    No proof links were clicked:

    Regardless, the issue in this case is not how accessible the website is, but rather, if anyone followed the hyperlinks posted on the p2pnet site. Without proof that persons other than the plaintiff visited the defendant's website, clicked on the hyperlinks, and read the articles complained of, there cannot be a finding of publication. As in Crookes v. Holloway, the plaintiffs have not adduced any evidence to support this claim.

    Footnotes analogy:

    I agree with the defendant that footnotes in an article are an apt analogy. Where a footnote leads a reader to further material, that does not make the author who provided the footnote a publisher of what the reader finds when the footnote is followed.

    Not a libel loophole:

    It is not my decision that hyperlinking can never make a person liable for the contents of the remote site. For example, if Mr. Newton had written "the truth about Wayne Crookes is found here" and "here" is hyperlinked to the specific defamatory words, this might lead to a different conclusion.

  • Newton got lucky and got a judge that actually has a basic understanding of the Internet. Most Canadian judges are as bad, if not worse, than American judges, when it comes to understanding the "Internets." This is great news, however, because our libel laws in Canada are a lot more strict than the U.S. Any victory that broadens free speech is great news.
  • Not Goodwin (Score:5, Informative)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Monday October 27, 2008 @08:40PM (#25535729) Homepage
    Bzzzzzzzzt! Wrong, but thank you for playing!
    The OP does not, in fact, invoke Goodwin's Law. [wikipedia.org] That only applies when a poster either calls somebody a Nazi or makes an unfavorable comparison between that person and either the Nazis or Hitler himself. Just mentioning Hitler doesn't count.
  • Re:Of course not (Score:5, Informative)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday October 27, 2008 @08:58PM (#25535861)

    If you claim something is true, you're responsible for that claim even if the actual something was written by a third party.

    I write "TubeSteak is accurately described thusly: " and goes to one of the more interesting parts of the bible that talks about child molestation, it's not the bible (in that case) that's being defamatory.

  • Re:Of course not (Score:3, Informative)

    by MicktheMech (697533) on Monday October 27, 2008 @10:34PM (#25536593) Homepage
    Read the second last paragraph of the decision. The judge says that if you write "The truth about X is here". And [here] contains a defamatory you could be liable for lible.

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